Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/17/12

NEW YORK - APRIL 22: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces that the St. Louis Rams selected quarterback Sam Bradford from the Oklahoma Sooners first overall during the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
The New Orleans Saints and the organization’s vehement supporters may crack a smile this week.

After months of bounty banter, the courts now seem to question the legitimacy of the commissioner’s claims against the Saints’ current and former defensive players and coaches.

On Wednesday, Judge Helen G. Berrigan issued an order that the NFL furnish evidence of the specific date on which the NLFPA indicated that they wanted to pursue their own investigation into the NFL’s bounty allegations.

This date’s importance to the Saints lies in its ability to prove possible bias in the nature of commissioner Roger Goodell’s ultimately harsh punishment for the alleged offenders.

March 21, 2012 - a day that will live in bountiful infamy - marks the day defensive coordinator Gregg Williams got the boot, head coach Sean Payton begrudgingly accepted a year with his nose in the corner, and the GM and other coaches received varying degrees of suspension.

It also marks the commissioner’s landmark foot-in-the-mouth interview with ESPN and NFL Network. Goodell stated that he would have also disciplined the players the same day but deferred the punishment due to the NFLPA’s request for their own investigation.

Here, the plot thickens two-fold. First, if the NFL had not actually decided to suspend the players on or before Goodell’s announcement on March 21st, then, according to AP’s Mike Florio, his comments may be viewed as "unnecessary to the discipline process," as well as “completely beyond the scope of the labor agreement’s arbitration procedures.”

Laymen’s? Goodell shot his mouth off about potential player punishments before anything was officially decided by the league. Thus, he would have defamed the names of these players - lending credence to Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against the NFL - and preemptively swayed the opinions of the now misinformed media and NFL fan base.

Or, if the decision to discipline the players indeed had been decided on or before March 21st, then such a decision was both made and essentially announced before any proper union investigation took place. In the eyes of the court and anyone still following this debacle, these statements may be seen as an outright admission of bias.

These shenanigans, plus the simple fact that not a shred of verifiable evidence has surfaced to support any of these claims, ooze with the funky, fishy smells of shamefully rotten seafood. But from a legal standpoint, it’s perhaps understandable that Goodell and his cronies might “hold their cards,” for a big, surprise smack-down in the courtroom.

Now for the moral standpoint: you don’t sacrifice the careers of hard-working players and coaches so you can save face and secure your own asses. I mean assets. Lest we forget that the former players’ injury lawsuits against the NFL are the whole reason for this bounty bonanza in the first place.

To some, including yours truly, this would appear to be complete disregard for the “innocent until proven guilty” trademark of our country’s judicial system. Granted, this is the NFL, not the Supreme Court. But in this case, Goodell is in fact not judge, jury, and executioner - though he’d unabashedly like you to think so.

Luckily for the Saints’ organization, Saints fans, and all who respect the honor of professional football, judge Berrigan has already made a strident effort to set that particular record straight.

The NFL responded to the judge’s request Thursday afternoon. This story, to be continued…

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