The battle lines were drawn early Monday. ESPN’s Ed Werder, Adam Schefter, and Chris Mortenson jointly reported that the NFL has offered to slice Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s suspension from 16 games to eight. The NFL denied the report, adamantly.
Werder addressed the situation during an appearance on ESPN’s NFL Live.
“As we reported, settlement discussions have taken place,” Werder said. ”Was there a formal offer? Was there a hypothetical offer? I don’t think anybody can be quite sure exactly the form this took. And while the NFL has vehemently denied the accuracy of the story at all, I can tell you that the other side — the sources who provided this information to us last night — have been equally adamant that we stand our ground, that the information is correct, that there have been settlement discussions, and that the NFL has offered to significantly lessen Jonathan Vilma’s suspension is he agrees to drop the defamation suit.”
That’s a fair and accurate response. And Werder maybe should have stopped right there. Because he thereafter opted to riff, and it made him seem more than a little defensive.
“Now, lawyers are obviously expert and make millions of dollars manipulating semantics so there’s no question some of that may be involved here,” Werder said, with a gratuitously inaccurate generalization that: (1) all lawyers are rich; and (2) all lawyers manipulate semantics. (Actually, only the rich ones do.) ”And as a reporter I can tell you that, you know, the Cowboys vehemently denied my Terrell Owens story a couple of years ago and insisted Jerry Jones did that he remain on the team, and three months later he was released, despite an enormous salary cap hit.”
We don’t doubt the accuracy of the Werdscheftenson report. And we think that the dispute is a matter of semantics. No formal offer was made, but an eight-game reduction was (and still may be) available.
Still, Werder may have gone a bit too far in painting lawyers with a broad brush and then pointing to a three-year-old scoreboard.
(Photo credit: ESPNMediaZone.com)