In many respects, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s effort to block his suspension while his lawsuit unfolds looks a lot like the successful attempt to delay the StarCaps suspensions. But Vilma’s case has one significant difference.
Along with the obvious (and potent) contention that there’s no way to restore the lost games to Vilma’s career if he ultimately is exonerated, Vilma claims that the suspension will jeopardize his medical condition.
The motion and the signed affidavit from Vilma, copies of which PFT has obtained, explain that Vilma has an injury that requires rehabilitation under the supervision of the Saints medical staff.
Vilma explains that he suffered a knee injury on September 16, 2011, during a non-contact practice drill. “I was affected by that injury throughout the remainder of the Season and I believe I was only able to play at 70-75 percent,” Vilma alleges. “I was forced to miss five games due to the injury and played in three or four other games against the advice of doctors.”
Vilma explains that he underwent arthroscopic surgery in November, and that after the 2011 season ended he underwent osteoarticular transfer system surgery. “Essentially,” Vilma explains, “the surgeon removed cartilage from the non-weight bearing side of my knee and placed the cartilage into the weight-bearing part of my knee where I had lost cartilage.” The surgery aims to have the replaced cartilage become absorbed into the side of the knee where it is needed.
The affidavit details Vilma’s rehab, which included not being able to run for four full months. Eventually, he received a recommendation from Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for a doctor in Germany, who removes anti-inflammatory agents from the patient’s blood and then injects the anti-inflammatory agents back into the patient.
Vilma says that he underwent the procedure during the week of July 2, and that it immediately helped reduce the swelling, allowing Vilma to begin running.
To continue his rehab, Vilma says he needs to have access to Saints trainer Scottie Patten, who supervises Vilma’s efforts on a daily basis. “I am very concerned that being unable to work with Mr. Patten will jeopardize the rest of my football career and that my condition could deteriorate without his supervision and guidance,” Vilma contends.
It’s an intriguing argument. Though access to Patten should have no bearing on whether Vilma’s suspension is upheld, it’s another strong reason to delay the suspension until Vilma’s lawsuit aimed at overturning the suspension is resolved. If, in the end, he wins the lawsuit, Vilma necessarily would have lost important access to a man who can help Vilma work together being healthy enough to further risk his health playing football.
The only problem with the argument is that it gives rise to a potential baby-splitting outcome from Judge Helen G. Berrigan. She could decide to allow the suspension to remain in place as to practices and games, but to order the NFL to permit Vilma to have access to Patten while the lawsuit proceeds.
Either way, a decision is needed soon. The Saints open camp in eight days — and Vilma is already nearly two weeks removed from being able to work with Patten.