Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has huffed and puffed on Twitter regarding Commissioner Roger Goodell’s failure to issue a ruling on the appeal of Vilma’s one-year suspension for involvement in the Saints alleged bounty program. Now, Vilma once again will try to blow the league’s house down, via a lawsuit.
According to the Associated Press, Vilma filed a civil action Saturday night in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, attacking among other things the 13-days-and-counting delay in the issuance of a decision after a hearing in which Vilma didn’t present a substantive defense. The complaint specifically states that a decision should have come by Monday, June 25, the first business day after the record of evidence was closed. (The league gave the players until 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday, June 22 to submit written materials in support of their positions.)
The lawsuit also attacks the evidence on which Goodell relied in making the initial suspension decision, claiming that Goodell “undermined ‘the integrity of the NFL and the Commissioner’s office” by relying on flawed and/or unsubstantiated evidence. Vilma points out that the players have seen less than one percent of 18,000 documents (consuming 50,000 pages) that the league claims it has accumulated. Vilma also contends that the creation of a typewritten version of handwritten notes constitutes “alteration” of documents, proving that “the NFL cannot substantiate the suspension, and undermines the integrity of the process.”
Vilma contends that the handwritten notes, which the NFL claims have been withheld to protect the identity of their author, were created by former Saints assistant coach Mike Cerullo. Vilma alleges that Cerullo had been fired by the Saints after the 2009 season, and that Cerrullo “resented that the Super Bowl ring he received had been made with imitation (cubic zirconia) diamonds.” The notes, per Vilma, were created “well after the 2009 NFC Championship game and in an effort to gain revenge against the Saints.”
The suit also contends that Cerullo has retracted his claims “in a communication directly with Goodell that occurred in April 2012.” (If true, that’s obviously huge news.)
Vilma also claims that the NFL has ordered former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams not to speak with suspended Saints players, coaches, or officials as a condition of his reinstatement.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order (and, presumably, a preliminary injunction), which would allow Vilma to continue to practice and play if the suspension is upheld, and until the lawsuit is resolved.