Each of the four players suspended in connection with the bounty case need a so-called preliminary injunction in order to delay their suspensions once the regular season begins. For three of them, a ruling isn’t needed until Week One, since Saints defensive end Will Smith, Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita can participate in training camp and the preseason before sitting out games.
For Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, time is of the essence, because his suspension begins right away, blocking him from training camp and the preseason.
And so Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, currently is trying to get a temporary restraining order pending a hearing on the preliminary injunction.
It’s a separate question than whether the players will get their suspensions overturned. The issue turns on whether the players should be permitted to keep working while the legal process unfolds.
It’s the same analysis that delayed the StarCaps suspensions several years ago. Though several factors apply, the key question is whether the players will suffer “irreparable harm” if suspended now and vindicated later. In other words, is there anything the court could do after the fact to put the toothpaste back in the tube?
In StarCaps, the answer was no. Though the players’ pay can be refunded, there’s no way to allow the players to go back and play in the games they missed.
Given that the review of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of the appeals shouldn’t take much time (as legal cases go), the bigger question becomes whether the injunction would continue on appeal, if the players lose at the district court level. If so, there’s a good chance none of the suspensions will be served this year, since the appeal process typically takes several months to complete.
Still, with the Hall of Fame game exactly one month away (the Saints play the Cardinals on August 5) and New Orleans training camp coming in just a couple weeks, Vilma needs an injunction sooner rather than later.