The lawyer for suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma hit back at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday, accusing Goodell of being "misguided and irresponsible," in a statement obtained by NFL.com's Steve Wyche.
The statement comes a day after the existence of an alleged "ledger" was leaked to the media as key evidence in the team's "bounty" scheme that gave cash rewards to defensive players who injured opponents.
"Commissioner Goodell accuses Saints players of putting money on the head of specific opposing players -- the so-called ledger, as described by the anonymous sources, identifies no players, either Saints or opposing players," Peter Ginsberg said in a statement.
The ledger is to have kept track of the money earned by Saints defenders for types of hits -- dubbed "cart-offs" and "whacks" -- that injured opponents, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports. A hit that knocked an opponent out of the game was reportedly worth $1,000.
Ginsberg alleges that Goodell was told the ledger wasn't used for a bounty program but for rewarding clean play with small sums of money, saying the "'whacks' and 'cart-offs,' though regrettably named, were descriptions of good, clean, legal plays, and that any dirty or penalized play resulted in fines to players, not awards."
Vilma, who has been suspended for the entire season by Goodell for his role in the pay-to-injure program, has sued the commissioner for defamation.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said he had no comment on Ginsberg's statement.
"The facts are plain and simple," Ginsberg said. "During the three seasons in question, Jonathan Vilma was one of the least penalized players not only on the Saints but in the NFL. There is not one instance in which Jonathan Vilma set out to injure a player or gave any incentive to another player to injure an opposing player."
Vilma laughed off the ledger as evidence of a bounty program on his Twitter account Sunday by saying: “I've been asking the nfl for evidence for 2mos and got nothin but somehow a ledger gets "leaked"...and the leak was wrong! lol I love it”
Three other current players have been suspended by the league for their role in the bounty program, which is said to have run from 2009 to 2011 by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Saints defensive lineman Will Smith has been suspended four games, while Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita was suspended three games and Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove suspended eight games. Fujita and Hargrove were members of the Saints at points of program's life span.
All four players have appealed their suspensions, and the NFL Players Association has filed two separate grievances questioning Goodell's authority to rule on such matters.
Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year, general manager Mickey Loomis eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games. Williams, the architect of the program, has been suspended indefinitely.