As the official start of the 2012 regular season approaches, all eyes could quickly be shifting to Louisiana, if Judge Helen G. Berrigan lifts the bounty suspensions of Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove.
Judge Berrigan could — and should — make a decision today. A request for a temporary restraining order makes time of the essence. The players believe they’ll be irreparably harmed if they aren’t permitted to play on Sunday. Even if Judge Berrigan disagrees (and her statements at the August 10 hearing in the case suggest that she agrees), she should make a ruling before Sunday. Otherwise, no ruling will operate as a rejection of the motion to lift the suspensions until the case concludes.
By waiting, she gives the NFL less time to appeal the decision. The problem is that, with each passing day, the suspended players will miss another practice in preparation for Sunday’s games.
If Judge Berrigan has a flair for the dramatic, a decision will come in the next hour, just in time to steal some of the league’s thunder as a new season launches.