The NFL Players Association said it had detailed knowledge of the video and audio tapes in which former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams implored his team to target specific San Francisco 49ers players for injury in this year's NFL division playoffs before the tapes became public on April 4.
Scott Fujita, a former Saints linebacker now with the Browns and a member of the union's executive committee, provided the NFLPA with the details of Williams' speech and the tape that independent filmmaker Sean Pamphilon had made accessible to him, according to sources.
"We learned of the tape as part of our effort to obtain any and all
information related to an alleged pay-to-injure scheme," NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah said in a statement. "We had no control of the
content and did not make a determination on the method of its release. To date,
the NFL has not provided the NFLPA with detailed evidence of the existence of
such a program."
Fujita is among the players who face disciplinary action from commissioner Roger Goodell for participation in a "pay for performance" pool that also served as a bounty program aimed at targeting opposing players for injury, which the league said was administered by Williams.
Fujita has publicly denied that he participated in any bounty program that targeted opposing players for specific injuries. He could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Fujita and Saints quarterback Drew Brees are among a handful of NFLPA executive committee members who are meeting Monday in New York with league officials, including commissioner Roger Goodell. Brees and Fujita also have been impacted by the NFL's findings in the Saints' bounty scandal.
A union source confirmed that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined Brees, Fujita and other executive committee members but that the talks were not exclusive to the bounty scandal and a larger meeting was scheduled to discuss other undisclosed matters.
Atallah said that the NFLPA never possessed a copy of the tape, but Smith and union lawyers had discussed the merits of using Williams' speech as a strategy to dissuade Goodell from handing down stiff penalties that could include suspensions to Saints players.
Goodell's disciplinary action related to more than 20 players could be announced this week. Williams has been suspended indefinitely by the commissioner while Goodell denied the appeals of Saints head coach Sean Payton (one year), assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six games) and general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games).
The internal NFLPA discussions related to the Williams tapes have focused on the potential argument that Saints players ignored Williams' exhortation to target such 49ers as quarterback Alex Smith, tight end Vernon Davis and wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams for specific injuries. A union source said that a review of the Saints-49ers game tape from Jan. 14 does not show Saints defenders targeting the injuries that Williams had suggested the previous night when Pamphilon was in the team's meeting taping the defensive coordinator's inflammatory speech.
The NFL reportedly is trying to secure a copy of the tapes, which became public April 4 when Pamphilon released them. Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports used Twitter on Sunday to reveal that Pamphilon claimed he had been contacted four times on Friday by NFL security officials in an effort to acquire the tapes.
A league source said it would be protocol for NFL security to attempt to possess the tapes for forensic purposes to determine authenticity and to ascertain whether any additional information is available and to add to its investigative record. The source said the NFL was already aware of Williams' speech that occurred on the eve of the 49ers-Saints game but conceded it was unaware of Pamphilon's tape until it became public. The source did not divulge how the league attained its information related to the speech.
Furthermore, the source said, Williams already had been questioned about the speech before the public airing of the tape and eventually acknowledged to league investigators that his pregame rhetoric mentioned specific targets for injury.
Pamphilon, according to Silver, wants Goodell to "answer real questions" apparently before he considers handing over the tapes. Pamphilon also expects the tapes to be subpoenaed, according to Silver.
A league source said Pamphilon has made several rejected requests even prior to releasing the tapes to interview Goodell for a documentary. The commissioner will not conduct an interview as a condition for the league securing the tapes, the source added.
One union official admitted the NFLPA was "somewhat disappointed" Pamphilon publicly released the audio tape of Williams before it could discern its strategic worth either in its own investigation, communication with the NFL or in the anticipated appeals process for disciplined players.