With Week One done, it’s time to refocus on the bounty case. And ESPN is doing it in a big way, via Ed Werder’s report that the lawyer for Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma will inform the league that he’s willing to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Though it would be the first time Vilma and Goodell meet on the issue, it’s not the first time Vilma has offered. And it’s unclear what lawyer Peter Ginsberg really wants.
“If the Commissioner feels sitting down with Jonathan and discussing matters will lead to a quick and fair resolution, Jonathan has been and continues to be willing to cooperate in any way that helps the truth come out,” Ginsberg told Werder. “We only hope the Commissioner keeps an open mind and doesn’t feel restricted by his previous and clearly erroneous conclusions.”
Reference to a “quick and fair resolution” suggests that Vilma wants to engage in settlement talks. That’s precisely what Vilma requested last month (via a letter signed by Vilma and obtained by PFT). The effort to meet in August fell apart with the two sides unable to agree on the parameters of the meeting; Vilma and Ginsberg wanted the exchange to be confidential, but the league wanted the evidence discussed to become part of the overall body of proof that would be introduced to Judge Helen G. Berrigan, who is presiding over the legal challenges to the bounty suspensions.
Now that the process is starting from scratch due to a technicality in the labor deal, it will be much more difficult for Vilma to insist that the information exchanged not be used in court. The evidence developed before the NFL will be the crux of the information that will be considered once the case goes back to Judge Berrigan.
And it’s clear that Ginsberg wants more information this time around.
“We want to see the evidence and confront the witnesses,” Ginsberg told ESPN. “When the Commissioner produces less than 1 percent of the evidence gathered in the investigation, it became abundantly clear we were not being offered a fair opportunity to present to him in a very strong and detailed manner what in fact took place and decided not to participate in what was clearly a charade.
“We hope that now as we regroup that we are provided a fair and appropriate avenue to a just resolution.”
It’s still not clear how Ginsberg envisions that happening. And it’s possible that he’s simply posturing, laying the foundation for another refusal to meet with Goodell either before the suspensions are reissued or another refusal to participate in the internal appeal process over which Goodell will preside.
That’s precisely what happened the last time around. Vilma wouldn’t meet with Goodell pre-discipline because the league wouldn’t show any of its cards. Then, Vilma wouldn’t participate in the appeal hearing because the league had shown only a few of its cards.
Given that the league used Vilma’s failure to cooperate against him in court, Ginsberg needs to make it even more clear this time around that Vilma is willing to meet with Goodell, but only if the league is willing to share meaningful information regarding the evidence of guilt that it has developed. If the league won’t share any evidence with Vilma, don’t expect Vilma to share any evidence with the league.