Saints coach Vitt claims witnesses lied during NFL investigation

METAIRIE (AP) — Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Thursday witnesses in the NFL's bounty investigation of the New

Orleans Saints have lied about him and the organization, and that their stories might change in federal court.

Alluding to a defamation lawsuit filed by

Saints linebacker Jon Vilma against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Vitt

angrily

said he feels the truth about the pay-for-pain system will come

out before U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan, who is presiding

over the pending case in New Orleans.

"If anybody's keeping a scorecard here,

let's take a look at this," Vitt said. He referred back to his first

meeting with

reporters after the NFL released its bounty probe findings last

March, in which he said, "At no point in time did our players

ever cross the white line with the intention of injuring, maiming

or ending the career of another player. That never took

place."

Then, recounting his witness appearance in Vilma's case last summer, he added, "I've testified before a federal judge with

my hand on the Bible."

"What's going to happen now is all

participants, all these accusations, are going to go to federal court,"

Vitt continued.

"They're going to go to a judge, and from top to bottom, she's

going to hear testimony, and the penalty for perjury with her

is going to be jail time."

Vitt's comments came a day after The

Associated Press reported that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg

Williams testified

in recent NFL appeal hearings that he tried to stop the Saints'

bounty program, only to be overruled by Vitt. The AP obtained

transcripts from the closed-door hearings, which were held for

Vilma and three other players who had been punished in the

bounty probe.

Those same transcripts show Vitt later denied Williams' allegation and offered to take a lie detector test, adding, "There's

a lot of lying going on right now."

Vitt called Williams a liar repeatedly during his appeal hearing testimony, even saying Williams "has lost his mind in some

situations."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been

defending the integrity of his coaches, saying Wednesday it was hard to

believe the

NFL based its case on the testimony of Williams and former

defensive assistant Mike Cerullo, "two disgruntled employees that

were fired here because they did not fit the mold of what we are

about."

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was

appointed by Goodell to handle the players' appeals, and on Tuesday

overturned

their suspensions. However, he affirmed many of the findings of

the bounty probe and found that three players, with the exception

of former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, committed "conduct

detrimental" to the league.

Vitt has been serving as the Saints' interim head coach this season, except for six games when he was suspended. Saints head

coach Sean Payton was suspended the entire season and general manager Mickey Loomis eight games.

The players had fought their bounty punishment with the help of their union, through the NFL's collective bargaining agreement

and in federal court.

"Myself, Sean and Mickey didn't have that

right," Vitt said, referring to the fact they did not have union

representation.

"I've already served my time. Mickey has already served his time.

And to be quite frank with you, I don't know what door to

knock on Park Avenue (where NFL headquarters are located) to get

my reputation back. But again, I'm going to defend our players,

I'm going to defend this organization and I'm going to defend our

ownership."

Vitt declined to say on Thursday whether he

expects to bring any legal action of his own, though he had testified

before Tagliabue

that he will sue Cerullo.

Although Vilma's case is pending, the judge

denied the linebacker's request this week to begin the discovery process

that

includes the gathering of evidence and deposing of witnesses, and

she is still considering an NFL motion to dismiss the case.

When asked if he could take action against Goodell or the league, Vitt responded, "There's nothing. It's history," but then

added, "We'll all be before a federal judge. That's coming. We'll all be before the federal judge. And the one great thing

about this country — the truth is going to prevail."