NFL submits requested information in Vilma case
Saints linebacker claims defamation of character
Federal judge Ginger Berrigan requested more information from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the league's timeline for handing down discipline to players, coaches and executives in the Saints' bounty scandal.
The NFL responded Thursday by submitting a letter from the NFLPA along with a sworn statement from Goodell, according to NBCSports.com. The NFL submitted a March 7, 2012, letter from former NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen to NFL general counsel Jeff Pash in which Bethelsen requested a 60-day delay for disciplinary proceedings, according to the report.
The NFL seems to suggest this indicates the NFL did not improperly prejudge the four players suspended in the bounty investigation.
Goodell also issued a sworn statement indicating he was ready to administer the player discipline on March 21, the same day he announced suspensions for coaches and executives. But Goodell's statement says he agreed to delay announcing the player suspensions following a conversation with DeMaurice Smith, head of the players' union.
The case, in which Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has claimed defamation of character, requires showing Goodell acted with malice or reckless disregard for the truth.
The NFLPA and Goodell had until Friday to turn over details after Goodell intimated that he was ready to deliver punishment for players on March 21, when he announced suspensions for Saints coach Sean Payton, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, assistant head coach Joe Vitt, general manager Mickey Loomis and owner Tom Benson. However, the players' union asked Goodell not to rule on player punishment at that time.
The NFL obliged, and now Vilma's representatives argue that Goodell had already determined his own course of action and thereby also assumed guilt -- Vilma's and other players -- before he had all the facts.
Berrigan, a U.S. District Judge in Louisiana, isn't expected to rule immediately.
Berrigan suggested last week that she is in favor of Vilma receiving an injunction against his year-long suspension but isn't sure she has the authority to do so. That's because the league's collective bargaining agreement clears Goodell as the all-empowered disciplinarian in NFL matters.
However, a three-member panel is reviewing whether that arrangement is just and whether the pay-for-performance payments should be viewed as "on-field behavior" when the majority of evidence came from meeting rooms and locker rooms.
The Sports Xchange