Finally, the two men who have become adversaries will meet face-to-face on Monday. Jonathan Vilma, the New Orleans Saints linebacker whose year-long suspension was overturned, will meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who imposed the penalty for Vilma’s alleged role in a bounty program to injury players.
ESPN reported that the men will meet on Monday. On Tuesday, Goodell will convene with the other three players accused in the pay-for-injure program: Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita and Will Smith.
An NFL investigation found the New Orleans Saints operated a bounty system rewarding between 22 and 27 players for hard hits and injuring opposing players.
Vilma, who made the choice and decision, originally had been scheduled to meet with Goodell on Tuesday.
The other three players alleged to have been involved in the Saints’ bounty scandal still will meet with Goodell on Tuesday in New York, a source with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN.
All the players are facing renewed suspensions. The original suspensions of those four players were vacated Friday by a three-member appeals panel. Vilma originally was suspended for the season, Hargrove for eight games, Smith for four games and Fujita for three games.
The NFL on Thursday issued a statement to clarify the ruling from the internal appeals panel under the collective bargaining agreement.
“In light of some confusion surrounding the ruling of the CBA Appeals Panel, it is important to understand what the panel did and did not rule,” the league says. “The panel did not overturn the suspensions and did not say Commissioner Goodell overstepped his authority.”
Ginsberg disagreed with the league’s take.
“It is interesting and illuminating that it took the NFL almost one week to develop a publishable rationalization of the Appeals Board decision,” Ginsberg said in a statement. “Contrary to the NFL’s media statement, the Appeals Panel voided the suspensions — it did not ‘put the suspensions on hold,’ as the NFL now pretends. And the Appeals Board is clearly based on the conclusion that the Commissioner overstepped his jurisdiction.”
Vilma on Tuesday said in a text message to ESPN’s Ed Werder: “I’m expecting a fair meeting, unlike the June 18 appeals hearing,” Vilma said in the text. “We can all benefit from transparency regarding evidence and witnesses instead of using conjecture or hearsay to come to inaccurate conclusions. I look forward to getting this accomplished.”
Ginsberg told ESPN on Tuesday that he has not been provided any assurances the league would allow the players and their legal representatives the opportunity to review evidence or cross-examine witnesses.
Those issues prompted Vilma to walk out previously.
“We want to see the evidence and confront the witnesses,” Ginsberg said. “When the commissioner produces less than 1 percent of the evidence gathered in the investigation, it became abundantly clear we were not being offered a fair opportunity to present to him in a very strong and detailed manner what in fact took place and decided not to participate in what was clearly a charade.”