Not so fast, says the NFL. Reports that it has offered to reduce the suspension of New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for his role in an alleged bounty program are ”completely inaccurate,” it says.
Vilma, suspended for the upcoming season for his leadership position in the Saints’ pay-for-injury arrangement, has repeatedly claimed the program did not exist. Citing anonymous sources, ESPN.com reported the league offered Vilma an eight-game suspension if he would drop his defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
”No such settlement offer has been made,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. ”We will continue to respect the court proceedings on this matter and have no further comment at this time.”
A judge has ordered the league and Vilma’s representatives to hold confidential settlement talks. A person familiar with those talks told The Associated Press he had ”not heard anything that concrete from anyone at the NFL” regarding cutting Vilma’s suspension to eight games.
It is uncertain if Vilma would consider such a reduction in the suspension as he fights to have it overturned.
Vilma’s Saints’ teammates are hopeful a deal can be struck to get him back onto the field this season..
”Even the thought of getting him back is exciting for us and I really hope that this thing works out in his favor, because we all have his back 100 percent. We support (him),” safety Malcolm Jenkins said.
Peter Ginsberg, Vilma’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But he filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Louisiana on Monday on behalf of his client, seeking ”judicial attention” to comments Goodell recently made.
The filing claims ”the NFL breached its CBA obligation to produce all evidence to be considered by the arbitrator in a ‘conduct detrimental’ proceeding; Goodell acted in an impermissibly biased manner; and, Goodell created and permitted a process tolerated neither by the CBA nor by federal law.”