Vilma goes to court with former coach's email
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The attorney for New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma has filed a court brief in the bounties case with an email from a former assistant coach who called the Saints a "dirty organization."
The email from Mike Cerullo to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello is part of a motion that seeks to block former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue from hearing appeals of the alleged program to pay for injury-producing hits. Vilma claims that Cerullo had a vendetta against Saints interim coach Joe Vitt after being fired.
The motion by Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsberg, also challenges the NFL's plan to have Cerullo and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams testify by telephone at the hurricane-delayed appeals hearing. Ginsberg writes that both men should be at the hearing if it goes forward.
Vilma was suspended for the entire season - the stiffest suspension of four players named in the bounties case - but he was allowed to suit up while appealing. Tagliabue was scheduled to hear the case this week, but it was delayed because of Superstorm Sandy. The other players are Saints defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove.
Cerullo's email, dated Nov. 2, 2011, tells Aiello that he has information on Vitt lying to an NFL investigator about a bounty program "along with proof!!" Cerullo has been fired by the Saints after the 2009 season, which Vilma claims led him to seek revenge against Vitt and the Saints.
"I was there, in the cover up meetings, with players and Joe," Cerullo wrote. "I love the NFL and want to work there again, but I am afraid if I tell (the) truth I will never coach again in NFL. But I was fired for a situation the Saints encourage."
Cerullo said he was hoping to be hired by another NFL team and if talking with Aiello jeopardized his chances, "I will have to get back to you, but The Saints are a Dirty Organization."
Details of the email were first reported by ProFootballTalk.com.
Ginsberg said the NFL has agreed to make Cerullo and Williams, the alleged mastermind of the scheme, available by telephone for the appeals hearing. The attorney said that won't do.
"Given their importance to this matter, testimony by telephone is not an adequate substitute," Ginsberg wrote. "The NFL should be required to produce for in-person testimony any witness upon whom it intends to rely during the upcoming hearing so that the witness can be adequately examined and his or her credibility adequately evaluated."