The four players suspended by the league for their roles in the Saints bounty program are still waiting to hear from Judge Helen G. Berrigan about whether or not their suspensions will be upheld.
Berrigan threw a curveball into the process Wednesday by issuing an order requiring lawyer Jeffrey Kessler to explain if has a conflict of interest as a result of representing both the NFLPA and three of the suspended players. Berrigan also said that she’s “disappointed” that both sides have failed to engage in serious discussions to settle this case without the help of the court.
Saints defensive end Will Smith, suspended four games by the league, released a statement on Thursday in response to Berrigan’s ruling. Smith argues that there’s no conflict of interest and that the NFL has been at fault for the lack of settlement conversations.
“As we get closer to kick-off Sunday, I am disappointed my playing status remains in limbo. I respect Judge Berrigan’s order and my legal team has been diligent in responding. The NFLPA has represented the players inline with their valued role in serving a unique group of professionals, we have been personally involved in every part of this process and there is no conflict of interest to speak of. Irreparable harm has already been levied on me and the players. We have been unfairly labeled and punished by this process. While we believe in mediation and settlement, the NFL has never expressed a genuine interest in a mediation process that would provide the players with a fair venue that could be trusted, nor made a settlement offer for us to professionally consider, at any time.That is why we have asked the court for just relief. It is my sincere hope to have this matter resolved as quickly as possible so I may return to my job, teammates and fans, as we take the field against the Redskins.”
A decision from Berrigan is still expected before the start of this weekend’s games, although it’s unclear if that would help Smith and the others get on the field in Week One.