NEW ORLEANS — Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt says a piece of evidence recently made public in the NFL’s bounty investigation falsely portrays him pledging $5,000 for knocking then Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC title game.
In a statement issued by the Saints on Wednesday, Vitt said he has never pledged money for any type of performance incentives, let alone the cash-for-hits bounty program that the NFL says the Saints ran from 2009-11 under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
“The NFL never accused me of such conduct because I did not pledge any money for any incentive, pay for performance, bounty or any other alleged program in connection with any game, including the 2010 NFC Championship,” Vitt’s statement said. “The Commissioner confirmed that there is no such allegation or suspicion in a conversation that we had today and the NFL has publicly sought to clarify that the document that has been mischaracterized was not intended to implicate me — formally or informally.”
Vitt also told The Associated Press that he told the commissioner he was willing to take a lie detector test if anyone doubted his assertion that he never pledged to a pay-for-performance pool.
Vitt has been suspended for the first six games of the season in connection with the NFL’s bounty investigation. Nonetheless, is handling head coaching duties while Sean Payton serves a suspension spanning the entire season.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to go into detail about what Vitt and Goodell discussed Wednesday, saying the commissioner considered the conversation private. However, NFL officials have said that the presence of Vitt’s name on a ledger concerning the 2010 NFC title game was not a factor in the coach’s suspension because it was not corroborated by a second source.
In his statement, Vitt said he supports the commissioner’s goals of making pro football safer. However, Vitt also stood by earlier assertions that while coaches may have used inappropriately violent language and imagery during motivational speeches, Saints players never did anything wrong.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended the entire season in connection with the bounty probe, while Saints defensive end Will Smith has been suspended four games. Former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, was docked eight games and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, was suspended three games.
“It cannot be emphasized enough: None of our players, particularly those who are facing suspensions, ever crossed the white line with the intent to injure an opponent,” Vitt’s statement said. “I am proud of our players and stand behind them 100 percent and will do whatever I can to help restore their good names.”