Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who last week was suspended for all of 2012 for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal, has filed his appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
In so doing, Vilma has also made clear that he does not believe Goodell should have final say over the matter.
“[W]e do not believe the Commissioner’s Office has jurisdiction over this issue, and we are filing the instant Appeal without waiving Mr. Vilma’s right to challenge the arbitral jurisdiction,” Vilma’s lawyer wrote in a letter to Goodell. “As you are aware, the National Football League Players Association (“NFLPA”), acting on behalf of Mr. Vilma and other players, has filed pleadings in two other forums seeking to resolve the issue of the proper jurisdiction to address the instant dispute.”
Although the NFL has indicated that Vilma would not provide the league office with information about the bounty program in New Orleans, attorney Peter R. Ginsberg suggested in his letter to Goodell that there is significant information that Vilma would like to provide if an appeal hearing does take place.
“I expect the Appeal Hearing, if it occurs, to last at least two and perhaps three days,” Ginsberg wrote.
Ginsberg also made clear that he believes the NFL has been less than forthcoming.
“The NFL has refused to provide a single piece of evidence to us,” he wrote. “That approach to this serious matter was reflected in the NFL’s outside counsel’s disturbing recent statement to the media that the players’ requests to review and understand the alleged evidence against them is a “red herring.’ Rather, to be able to share, discuss and analyze the supposed evidence that has been gathered is a fundamental cornerstone of a fair and just process, and a vital prerequisite to uncovering the truth. Indeed, the failure of the NFL to conduct itself in a just manner has compromised the process and resulted in erroneous and damaging conclusions.”
Among the pieces of information the Vilma camp is requesting is “The names and identification of all persons interviewed by the NFL and all persons acting on behalf of the NFL during the course of the ‘bounty program’ investigation.”
From Goodell’s perspective, he gets to decide whether Vilma plays in the NFL this year. From Vilma’s perspective, this is a long way from over.