Jonathan Vilma (Chris Graythen/Getty)
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said the NFL bullied former Saints coordinator Gregg Williams into signing an affidavit saying Vilma placed a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre. Plus, the replacement refs are under scrutiny around the league and the Bucs bring kneel-down etiquette to the forefront.
The NFL presented Jonathan Vilma and his attorney with a sworn statement from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams saying the linebacker placed a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre during the Saints’ NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Vilma met with Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday in New York about his suspension, which has been temporarily lifted. Attorney Peter Ginsberg said they were given an affidavit at the meeting.
“What Gregg Williams said in his most recent affidavit is the same falsity he has previously provided,” Ginsberg said.
“I don’t know what Gregg Williams’ motives are, but I do know that any suggestion by Williams that Jonathan put up $10,000 as an incentive for his teammates to injure another player is absolutely false.”
Vilma tweeted on Monday night that Williams was “bullied to sign the affidavit,” saying Williams signed it on Friday.
Williams is now with St. Louis, though he has been suspended indefinitely. An associate of his said Williams did not want to talk to the media.
Vilma, who denied in court that he offered money in exchange for injuring the former Vikings quarterback, was one of four players suspended by Goodell in the bounty scandal.
RIPPING THE REFS
One official was pulled from duty because he’s a fan. Another negated a touchdown without ever throwing a penalty flag. Several others had difficulty with basic rules.
Upon further review, the NFL’s replacement officials came up short in Week 2.
Coaches and players around the league are losing patience and speaking out against the fill-in officials following a slew of questionable calls in the games Sunday and Monday night.
Some players are even joking about dipping into their own pockets to settle the contract dispute and get the regular officials back on the field.
“I don’t know what they’re arguing about, but I got a couple of (million) on it, so let’s try to make it work,” Washington defensive back DeAngelo Hall said, kiddingly, on Monday. “I’m sure the locker room could put up some cash and try to help the cause out.”
The NFL locked out the regular officials in June after their contract expired. Negotiations with the NFL Referees Association broke down several times during the summer, including just before the season, and the league is using replacements for the first time since 2001.
The results have been mixed.
Just hours before kickoff Sunday, the NFL removed side judge Brian Stropolo from the New Orleans-Carolina game because it was discovered he’s a Saints fan.
Then came the on-field problems.
In Philadelphia’s 24-23 win over Baltimore, two game-altering calls left quarterback Joe Flacco and linebacker Ray Lewis fuming, though it appeared on replay that both calls were accurate. That didn’t make them any less controversial.
Flacco’s scoring pass to receiver Jacoby Jones in the fourth quarter was called back because of offensive pass interference. The official who made the call didn’t throw the yellow flag, though he immediately signaled a penalty.
“I might sound like a little bit of a baby here,” Flacco said, “but for them to make that call, I think, was a little crazy.”
There was confusion later during Philadelphia’s go-ahead drive. First, the two-minute warning occurred twice. Then, quarterback Michael Vick’s forward pass was called a fumble inside the Ravens 5. It was ruled incomplete following a replay, and Vick scored on the next play after a few anxious moments.
“It’s extra stress when you have to sit there and wait,” Vick said. “The one thing you don’t want to do, you don’t want to put the game in the officials’ hands.”
Lewis, like many players around the league, has seen enough.
“The time is now,” he said. “How much longer are we going to keep going through this whole process? I don’t have the answer. I just know across the league teams and the league are being affected by it. It’s not just this game, it’s all across the league. And so if they want the league to have the same reputation it’s always had, they’ll address the problem. Get the regular referees in here and let the games play themselves out.
“We already have controversy enough with the regular refs calling the plays.”
The problems continued Monday night when Peyton Manning led the Denver Broncos against the Atlanta Falcons.
The officials missed a call on Denver’s first touchdown, ruling that Demaryius Thomas was pushed out of bounds. The replay clearly showed he got both feet down, and the call was reversed after a review.
The Falcons’ first score also was reversed, this time with the officials ruling, with help from a replay, that Michael Turner actually landed short of the goal line. He wound up scoring on the next play.
In the second half, the officials got mixed up on where to place the ball after a defensive holding penalty on Champ Bailey. The crowd booed while the officials conferred, finally moving it a few yards forward to the proper spot.
It was those sort of delays that helped the game drag on for nearly 3½ hours.
Despite the public outcry, the league backed the replacement crews, a collection of small-college officials who have been studying NFL rules since the summer.
“Officiating is never perfect. The current officials have made great strides and are performing admirably under unprecedented scrutiny and great pressure,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email to The Associated Press. “As we do every season, we will work to improve officiating and are confident that the game officials will show continued improvement.”
While some of the mistakes on Sunday were judgment calls — such as a pass interference penalty on Pittsburgh defensive back Ike Taylor in which he appeared to miss a New York Jets receiver — the more egregious errors appear to be misinterpretations of rules.
In St. Louis’ 31-28 victory over Washington, Rams coach Jeff Fisher challenged a second-quarter fumble by running back Steven Jackson near the goal line and it was overturned. The Rams ended up kicking a field goal, which was the margin of victory.
The problem there was a coach is not allowed to challenge a play when a turnover is ruled on the field. It should’ve been an automatic 15-yard penalty on Fisher. Also, if Fisher threw the red challenge flag before the replay official initiated the review, then a review is not allowed and the Redskins would’ve kept the ball.
“I just think that they’re just so inconsistent that it definitely has an effect on the games,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. “You were hoping it would get better, but everybody is having to dealing with it.”
In the Cleveland-Cincinnati game, the clock continued to run after an incomplete pass by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the second quarter. A total of 29 seconds ticked off, and the Browns ended the half with the ball at their 29. Perhaps an extra half-minute could’ve helped the drive. The Bengals won 34-27.
“Missed calls & bad calls are going to happen,” Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, an NFLPA executive council member, wrote on Twitter. “That’s part of the deal & we can all live with it. But not knowing all the rules and major procedural errors (like allowing the clock to run after an incomplete pass) are completely unacceptable. Enough already.”
The Colts were incorrectly told at the end of their game that accepting an offside penalty would start the clock. So, quarterback Andrew Luck spiked the ball to stop it and set up Adam Vinatieri’s 53-yard field goal that gave Indianapolis a 23-20 win over Minnesota.
The NFL says coach Greg Schiano didn’t break any NFL kneel-down rules in Sunday’s game, and he still isn’t apologizing for going after the New York Giants when they were lined up in victory formation.
“To me it’s a clean, hard, tough, finish-the-game play,” Schiano said Monday.
The coach instructed his defensive lineman to plow into the Giants’ offensive line.