The NFL has spoken. Again.
Two weeks ago, ESPN’s three-headed journalistic monster known unofficially as Werdscheftensen reported that the NFL had offered to slice the suspension of linebacker Jonathan Vilma in half. The league swiftly denied it.
Last night, a source with knowledge of the situation told PFT that the offer “definitely” had been made. Again, the league swiftly denied it.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello made his case via a couple of tweets, and he also sent an email to PFT.
“No settlement offer has been made by the league to Jonathan Vilma,” Aiello said. “These reports are untrue.”
As we’ve explained, there’s a way to make an offer without making an offer. If the NFL officially had offered to cut Vilma’s suspension from 16 games to eight, the NFL would have inevitably been squeezed off that number if/when further discussions occurred. Instead, the NFL apparently made a non-offer offer, making it clear to Vilma’s lawyer that, if Vilma would accept a reduction from 16 games to eight games, the NFL would do it.
Moreover, the judge has been leaning on the parties to resolve their differences. In such cases, it’s important for both sides to appear reasonable. So while the NFL may have never made a formal, written offer, confidential settlement negotiations undoubtedly have included something other than “you’ll get nothing and like it.” Otherwise, when the judge asks in her chambers or on a conference call what the league has offered and what Vilma has proposed (and, yes, judges do this) and the NFL says “he’ll get nothing and like it,” the NFL risks alienating the person who will be making some fairly important decisions, fairly soon.
So if the league truly has made no offer of any kind in any form or fashion, maybe that’s the bigger story.
All that said, we understand why the league is taking great pains to avoid creating the impression that it has made an offer to Vilma. When the average fan (or player) hears that an offer was made, the average fan (or player) regards that as an admission by the league that the league in some way bungled the internal disciplinary process.
Then again, absent a settlement, the judge may soon be declaring that, in her view, the league bungled the internal disciplinary process.