NFL EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF LABOR AND GENERAL COUNSEL JEFF PASH
PRO FOOTBALL TALK LIVE with MIKE FLORIO — PROFOOTBALLTALK.COM
June 22, 2012
On working as hard as he did during the lockout but receiving more than a $1 salary:
There is always a bright spot, even on a rainy day. The other good news is I get to talk to you again.
On uncertainty that Hargrove stated, ‘Bobby, give me my money,’ if you watch the video clip multiple times:
I suppose you could watch anything enough times and come up with different conclusions, but we didn’t discipline Anthony Hargrove for taking any money in the context of this program. What that video tape rather clearly demonstrates is two things: one, there was a program and it corroborates rather clearly that there was a program where a player could be rewarded for making a play that resulted in an injury to an opponent – you were basically making that point during the break; second, it demonstrates Mr. Hargrove’s awareness of the program and his understanding that it existed, and it demonstrates that his statements to our investigators in early 2010 denying the program and saying there was nothing like that in existence were false. That is the basis on which the commissioner imposed discipline on Mr. Hargrove.
On evidence showing the Saints intended to injure opponents:
Intent is never a part of our disciplinary process. A lot of times when players are disciplined for actions on the field – a helmet-to-helmet hit, a hit on a defenseless player or a late hit on a quarterback – the player will say, ‘Hey, I didn’t intend to hit him. I didn’t intend to hit him with the helmet.’ We have always consistently, going back for decades, going back to when Pete Rozelle was commissioner, not made intent a part of the disciplinary decision because you can’t read someone’s mind. You can only look at the objective evidence, and the objective evidence establishes the existence of a program; it establishes the presence of financial incentives for things like cart offs, which everyone agrees was a play on which an injury occurred to an opposing player; and that there was funding provided for cart offs, knockouts and things like that by members of the Saints.
On it being a player’s normal goal to hit an opponent’s head throughout the game and possibly cause injury:
You are not supposed to have a bounty program that encourages or rewards that conduct. That rule has been in the league for decades. Everyone understands that rule. It is not the same as rewarding someone for recovering a fumble, a pick-six or something like that. If we are trying to create a culture of safety – De was very eloquent on this point and he is spot on – trying to encourage player safety and trying to get unnecessary and gratuitous violence out of the game and make it an exciting game, a safer game, a game that people aren’t worried about playing in colleges, high schools or at youth levels, we have to address these kinds of issues in an aggressive way. That basically is the message – I am sure you heard it – from some third parties who have looked at it, starting the other day with Senator Durbin, who is a friend of organized labor. He is someone who has a very long track record of supporting workers in this country and labor unions in this country. He was very aggressively looking into the bounty program. He was very thorough in looking at how we responded to it. His comments on Wednesday afternoon showed that objective third-party observers believe that we handled this in a very responsible and hopefully effective way.
On evidence of gratuitous conduct by Saints players as a result of the program:
In the (2009) NFC Championship Game that has been the subject of so much discussion, there were a number of penalties and fines imposed on members of the Saints defense for late hits on (Vikings QB) Brett Favre – for driving him into the ground, for late hits at his knees and things like that. Yes, several players were fined tens of thousands of dollars for illegal hits on the quarterback in that game.
On evidence of a bounty placed on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers or Panthers QB Cam Newton:
There is evidence that at least one individual pledged money towards a bounty on (Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers and (Panthers QB) Cam Newton. We stand by that evidence. There is no evidence of injury inflicted on either one of those players in those games, fortunately, but there is evidence of at least one person posting a specific bounty on those two quarterbacks.
On if he is referring to Mike Ornstein’s e-mail regarding the Rodgers bounty:
I am referring to two separate communications at separate times during the season on both of those quarterbacks.
On if Ornstein is involved in both bounties:
I am not going to get into more detail on it, but there were two separate transactions, two separate transmissions documenting two separate bounties.
On the need to eventually identify witnesses as is done in murder and other legal cases:
Let’s remember we are not talking about a murder case here. This is not a criminal court. This is a workplace disciplinary setting. The procedures that are followed here, as De indicated quite candidly and correctly, are procedures that have been in place for decades. If you look at the collective bargaining agreement back when Commissioner Rozelle was in office, the language of the agreement concerning commissioner discipline is almost identical to what it is in the current agreement. The reason for that is there has been a long-standing recognition that when you are addressing issues of integrity of the game, public confidence or player safety, there needs to be a clear and consistent authority and a clear and consistent manner of dealing with the issues. That authority has been reposed in the commissioner by agreement with the players for decades. The process here is exactly what everyone has understood it would be for decades, and it is exactly what was followed in this case.
It is also very important – you understand this as a journalist – that if you turn every informant into a witness, pretty soon you run out of informants. Every single day, we read articles about people from all parts of the political spectrum with a ‘D’ after their name or an ‘R’ after their name who are saying that the leaks of classified information coming out of the government right now concerning foreign policy is terribly dangerous and terribly damaging, both in the short term and the long term. This isn’t at that level, but it is the same concept. If we expose people who have the courage to come forward, and the next time it could well be a player who comes forward, that player is entitled to protection as well.
Here, we have a process where the players and the union have basically elected not to participate. The union told us they did an investigation. They told you they did an investigation. We asked as recently as Monday at the hearing, ‘Please share your information with us. You don’t have to tell us who your sources are. You don’t have to go point by point, but tell us what the findings were.’ That has never happened.
If we want to encourage safety, if we want to encourage changing the culture of the game, we are going to have to be willing to give people some protection, some assurance of confidentiality and stand by it, just as journalists do it and have the courage to go to jail in order to protect the confidentiality of their sources.
On Smith potentially asking Commissioner Goodell to restart the investigation and the willingness to do so:
I, of course, don’t speak for the commissioner. If Mr. Smith speaks to the commissioner, obviously, we listen to what he has to say and what his thinking is with great respect. I wish that he would have come to the hearing on Monday because he would have seen how earnest an effort the commissioner personally made to have the players comment and tell him what their side of the story is. I think he would have been very impressed by the presentation Mary Jo White made. De, as a former federal prosecutor, knows Mary Jo. I am sure he holds her in the same high regard that lawyers and judges across the country hold her and understands what a consummate professional she is. He would have had an opportunity to see the evidence and hear the witness statements and how it all weaves together, which is how a good prosecutor puts a case up. It is a mosaic. Focusing on any one piece of the mosaic may not tell you very much. When you put it all together, it paints quite a clear picture. If De had been able to be here Monday and participate in the hearing, he would have a different view perhaps than what he has today.
On if Williams can speak publically and openly about the bounty program and his testimony to the NFL and Ornstein’s recent statement denying reports regarding his testimony:
Of course he is able to do that. There is no gag order here. Gregg Williams… Mike Ornstein – talk about a guy we have no control over – was free to come and tell the commissioner what he apparently has told the media. People who gave press conferences outside our office were free to tell the commissioner that. There is a lot being said but nothing being said in the context of the process that everyone has agreed to and in response to repeated requests to come in and talk.
On implementing HGH testing at the beginning of the 2012 season:
It would be a nice surprise.
On his pessimism:
I am certainly not optimistic.
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