As Jonathan Vilma marches into a Louisiana courtroom in the hopes of being able very soon to march onto the field with the rest of the Saints, he will bring with him eight potential witnesses.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Vilma plans to call interim head coach Joe Vitt and current/former teammates Scott Shanle, Jonathan Casillas, Roman Harper, Sedrick Ellis, Troy Evans, and Randall Gay.
We’re told that Darren Sharper also could be a late addition, if he can get to court in time.
Not on the list is Drew Brees, who has submitted an affidavit in support of Vilam’s effort to lift his suspension while the lawsuit challenging the one-year ban proceeds.
Also not on the list but submitting an affidavit is Pierson Prioleau, who played with the Saints from 2009 through 2011 and with three other teams coached by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Prioleau explains that Williams’ pre-game rantings “were exactly the same for every team.” Prioleau says the players regarded the tough talk as a motivational speech, and that the players “were always reminded to never hurt the team with illegal or selfish play.”
“I’ve never seen anyone rewarded for any illegal action or for injuring another player,” Prioleau says.
Prioleau’s affidavit doesn’t mention whether Williams used a pay-for-performance system that rewarded players for rendering opponents unable to continue via good, clean, legal hits.
Vilma also plans to introduce more than 20 exhibits, consisting of among other things portions of the league’s investigation file and letters exchanged regarding the suspension and Vilma’s decision not to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell before or after the suspension was imposed.
Whether Vilma is likely to eventually win the war is one of the factors that Judge Helen G. Berrigan will consider in deciding the outcome of this key battle. Others include whether he’ll suffer “irreparable harm” if he’s suspended now and later wins the case, and whether more damage will be done to Vilma with the suspension kept in place or to the NFL with the suspension lifted. Also, the “public interest” is a common, but often nebulous, factor in efforts of this nature.
The StarCaps litigation resulted in the a court blocking multiple suspensions until the litigation was resolved. In that case, the “irreparable harm” factor drove the outcome. It could, in this case, be the determining factor, too.
Judge Berrigan could rule on the motion at the hearing, or she could take the matter under advisement and rule later. Either way, time is of the essence; Vilma can’t participate in any practices or preseason games unless and until the suspension is lifted.