Saints’ Vilma meets with Goodell
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma spent Monday afternoon having a ”very frank, very truthful” meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about his suspension that was temporarily lifted.
Vilma was one of four players suspended by Goodell in the bounty scandal. But an appeals panel earlier this month said Goodell must clarify his rulings to ensure no part of his decisions was based on salary cap violations. That would be the jurisdiction of special master Stephen Burbank.
Vilma, suspended for the entire season, requested a separate meeting.
”Today everyone was afforded an opportunity to start over,” Vilma said outside the NFL’s Park Avenue offices more than three hours after he went in. ”It was in our best interest to meet today. We spoke truthfully, honestly, bluntly.”
The NFL presented Vilma and his attorney with a sworn statement from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams saying the linebacker placed a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre.
”What Gregg Williams said in his most recent affidavit is the same falsity he has previously provided,” lawyer Peter Ginsberg said.
”I don’t know what Gregg Williams’ motives are, but I do know that any suggestion by Williams that Jonathan put up $10,000 as an incentive for his teammates to injure another player is absolutely false.”
Vilma tweeted on Monday night that Williams was ”bullied to sign the affidavit,” saying Williams signed it on Friday.
Williams is now with St. Louis, though he has been suspended indefinitely. An associate of his said Williams did not want to talk to the media.
Vilma, who denied in court that he offered money in exchange for injuring the former Vikings quarterback, was one of four players suspended by Goodell in the bounty scandal.
”We appreciate Jonathan Vilma taking the time to meet today and look forward to seeing the other players tomorrow,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
Goodell must show that the basis for the discipline was inappropriate conduct, such as intent to injure, rather than any secret monetary compensation. In that case, he has full authority to impose the suspensions.
”I’m going to make sure the Commissioner realizes our position is consistent with the truth,” Ginsberg said, reiterating that Jonathan never intended to hurt any players.
Players and coaches implicated in the bounty pool have testified under oath in a related federal court case they never intended to injure opposing players.
New Orleans defensive end Will Smith (four games), Browns linebacker Scott Fujita (three) and free agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove (eight) are expected to have their meeting Tuesday.
”We had a very frank, very truthful, very frank hearing,” Vilma said. ”We definitely had some communication today and that’s, I guess, in everyone’s best interest.”
Smith played in each of the Saints’ first two games and Vilma is on the physically unable to perform list. Fujita made his season debut in Cleveland’s loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. Hargrove was cut by Green Bay during the preseason.