Four players are patiently (or otherwise) waiting for Judge Helen G. Berrigan to rule on the question of whether they will be able to play on Sunday. Because, however, she has waited until Friday to make her ruling, the bigger question becomes whether they will be able to go without the benefit of participating in practice all week.
Of the four suspended players who may be unsuspended by the close of business on Friday, one of them definitely will play. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Saints defensive end Will Smith will suit up and participate in the Week One game against the Redskins, if he gets legal clearance from Judge Berrigan — and if the league is unable to get the ruling overturned by Sunday.
As to the other players, their status is up in the air. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been battling knee problems, and Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune suggested during Thursday’s PFT Live that Vilma would land immediately on the Physically Unable to Perform list. One source who is familiar with Vilma’s current mindset believes that he will do whatever it takes to play, even if he’s only in for a couple of snaps.
As to Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, it’s unknown whether he would be available to play against the Eagles; the fact that some teams believe that a player must practice at least once in order to play could be much more of a factor for the Browns than it would be for the Saints, who would love nothing more than to trot out Smith and Vilma for the first post-bounty game in the Superdome. For free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove, the issue is moot because he has no team.
Of course, the other side of this coin is that, if/when Smith, Vilma, and Fujita are able to play, they will displace a player who currently has a job. While the league routinely grants roster exemptions in situations like this, putting a player on the active roster wipes out the exemption.
So, basically, there are a couple of Saints players hovering near the bottom of the roster who likely are hoping that Smith and Vilma aren’t permitted to play on Sunday. They, and the rest of us, will know more by the end of the day.
And even if Judge Berrigan doesn’t issue a ruling today, she will have necessarily issued a ruling. A failure to grant the motion to lift the suspensions pending a final outcome of the case (or to overturn the suspensions completely) will as far as Sunday is concerned operate as a denial of the players’ effort to get back on the field.