NFL opposes Vilma's hearing request
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
The NFL has opposed Jonathan Vilma's request for an expedited hearing as he attempts to delay or overturn his season-long suspension.
Tuesday's motion filed in U.S. District Court in Louisiana claims that the New Orleans Saints linebacker did not ''exhaust the dispute resolution procedures'' in the collective bargaining agreement. Vilma was suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in the team's bounty program and has since sought a restraining order. He also has sued Goodell for defamation.
Vilma and the other three players suspended - Saints defensive end Will Smith, current Packers DE Anthony Hargrove and current Browns LB Scott Fujita - did not defend themselves at their appeals hearing before Goodell last month. Goodell then upheld the suspensions.
Saints coach Sean Payton, like Vilma, is suspended for the 2012 season.
The NFL also says Vilma is incorrect in stating he can't have the Saints' medical staff monitor and guide his rehabilitation. He can, as long as it is at a private facility and not at the team's training complex.
Interim coach Joe Vitt, who will serve a six-game suspension when the season begins, filed an affidavit Tuesday with the court in support of Vilma's request. Vitt, who did not fight his suspension imposed by Goodell, also called the bounty program ''nonexistent'' in the affidavit.
Vitt said he wanted ''to refute that the Saints ever had a bounty program or that any member of our defense, including Mr. Vilma, ever placed a bounty on an opposing player or set out to injure anyone or to encourage any other Saints player to injure anyone.''
On Monday, Vilma's attorneys ask U.S. District Judge Helen ''Ginger'' Berrigan to hear their request for a temporary restraining order before the Saints' training camp opens July 24.
Berrigan has not ruled on Vilma's hearing request.