Goodell hears bounty appeals from players

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NEW YORK (AP) - The NFL insists it has evidence galore in the New Orleans Saints bounty program, and even made some of it public on Monday. The players and lawyers involved weren’t impressed.

On a strange day that included a morning adjournment of the hearings with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, followed by one of the suspended players, Jonathan Vilma, opting not to return for afternoon sessions, the league showed reporters some of the 20,000 documents it says investigators uncovered.

Among the things the league revealed: a prize of $35,000 for knocking Brett Favre out of the NFC championship game in January 2010.

The $35,000 offered to sideline Favre included $10,000 pledges from Vilma, former Saints defensive lineman Charles Grant, and Mike Ornstein, an outsider and convicted felon the NFL says was involved in the bounty program. Assistant coach Joe Vitt pledged the other $5,000.

A video from that game shows Vitt telling defensive players on the sideline that Favre was out with a broken leg following a vicious hit. Defensive end Anthony Hargrove is shown turning to teammate Bobby McCray and saying, “Hey, Bobby, give me the money.”

Hargrove was flagged and subsequently fined $5,000 for a flagrant hit on Favre, who returned to the game.

The league also displayed a computer slide it obtained from the Saints, dating from before a playoff game against Seattle the following season, showing photos of three Seahawks with “Now it’s time to do our job. Collect bounty $$$!. No apologies. Let’s go hunting” printed on it.

The evidence included handwritten notes, documents from the Saints‘ computer system and witness testimony.

“It takes a lot of courage for people to speak up,” NFL counsel Jeff Pash said. “If people want to disclose something … whoever it is _ player, coach, former employee, staff member _ asks for protection, some sort of confidentiality, we ought to give it to them.

“Otherwise, people will not be willing to come forward.”

First to come forward was then-Minnesota coach Brad Childress, who heard of a bounty on Favre in the championship game from a player.

“A lot of people are taking a hit here, starting with the NFL,” Pash added. “Does anybody think this is how we wanted to spend the offseason after the year we had in 2011?

“But this came to us and we had the responsibility to address it, and in a way that was fair to everyone involved.”

The players don’t see it that way.

Vilma, who is suspended for the 2012 season for his role in the bounty program, and current Browns linebacker Scott Fujita (three games) spoke of their frustration. Hargrove, now with Green Bay and suspended eight games, and DE Will Smith (four games) did not comment.

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