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All four players are appealing their punishment with the help of the NFL Players Association, which has stated that it has not received any hard evidence that players took part in a bounty program.

Richard Smith, the union’s lead outside counsel, also decried the NFL’s portrayal of Ornstein’s email.

“The NFL has not provided the players with any information like this,” Smith said. “It is unfortunate that they continue to withhold evidence that can show players’ innocence. This email proves what we have feared: what they’ve been selling to the media as evidence doesn’t match up with the truth.”

Ornstein’s rambling note summarizes his impressions of the team’s preseason, then describes his six months in prison as “the tuffest (sic) 6 months of my life for sure.” Ornstein writes of how he will be a better father and better person when he gets out. He notes that he lost 55 pounds and tells Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer: “No more fat jokes.” After offering a variety of advice to various coaches about how to beat the Packers, he writes, “I love you guys. It would be great to be sitting here in this God terrible place and be able to have a smile on my face at least for one night.”

He concludes by saying he expected to be released in 18 days and would visit the Saints soon. Then comes the final line about Rodgers.

Now living in Los Angeles, Ornstein said by phone that he had joked with Williams about bounties on other star players, including one other time in an email about Cam Newton. He said he never would have pledged the kind of money he joked about for any pay-for-performance program, never mind one that promoted injurious tackles.

“As long as I’ve worked with people in the NFL, everyone who knows me knows that the only things I’ve ever done for players is things that help them, not hurt them,” Ornstein said. “First of all, I don’t have $5,000 to put down. When I wrote that email, I was in jail. How was I going to pay for it? In stamps? I’m in federal jail in Florence.”