Like last year’s federal litigation involving the NFL and the NFLPA, a magistrate judge will try to broker a settlement. Unlike last year’s antitrust lawsuit that sparked a lockout, the settlement effort in the cases challenging the Saints bounty suspensions likely will go nowhere.
According to Ryan Jones of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a settlement conference has been set for July 23, before Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Per the report, the case filed on behalf of Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been consolidated with the case filed on behalf of the other three players suspended by the NFL: Saints defensive end Will Smith, Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita. A source with knowledge of the litigation tells PFT that it’s not yet clear that all cases will proceed in front of Judge Helen G. Berrigan, and that it’s likewise not clear the settlement conference encompasses all pending claims among the various parties.
Regardless, a settlement of any of the claims will be difficult if not impossible to negotiate because the players believe there should be no suspension at all, and because the NFL surely wouldn’t wipe out the suspensions entirely. That leaves no middle ground for a compromise.
It’s possible that, before July 23, a hearing will be conducted regarding the players’ request for a preliminary injunction blocking the suspensions pending the outcome of the litigation. Since Vilma’s one-year suspension is effective immediately, he can’t report for training camp absent an injunction preventing the suspensions from being implemented.