NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was poised to suspend New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork due to his prior illegal hits over the past two seasons, but a DVD from the Patriots' video department helped save him from at least a forced week off this season, sources told ESPN.
Wilfork's wife, Bianca, who joined Wilfork for the meeting, handed Goodell the DVD with a different camera angle that showed the alleged unnecessary roughness on Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler on a play in the Oct. 20 meeting between the Broncos and Patriots may not have been so rough. In the video, Cutler could be seen picking himself up and patting Wilfork on the helmet after the play.
Wilfork did accept blame on his controversial hit against Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman last season that injured Losman's knee. Upon review of the play during his meeting with the commissioner, Wilfork admitted he didn't realize the ball had left Losman's hand as early as it did but said he had no intent to make a late hit, sources said. That play drew a $12,500 fine.
The NFL did not have indisputable visual evidence that Wilfork hit Cutler in the head, as it first believed, but still determined that it was unnecessary roughness. Instead of a suspension, Wilfork was docked with a $35,000 fine.
Vince and Bianca Wilfork wrote a thank you letter to Goodell at the end of the week. They also copied Ray Anderson, senior vice president of football operations, and Gene Washington, director of football operations, who were instrumental in the disciplinary action.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.