The Commissioner’s re-issued bounty discipline resulted in, as a practical matter, a $564,000 gift to Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, given that his one-year ban has been reduced to 10 games without pay, following the completion of his six-week stint on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
But Vilma isn’t happy.
“Rather than fairly and impartially evaluate the evidence, the Commissioner instead has wrapped his arms around the architect of pay-for-performance programs, Gregg Williams, and attributes Williams’ inflammatory language and bizarre slide shows not to Williams but to the players Williams coached,” Vilma said in a statement released by his lawyer, Peter Ginsberg.
“Jonathan Vilma did not offer a bounty or any incentive to any teammate to injure an opposing player,” Ginsberg said. “Commissioner Goodell has now called every one of the dozen or more players and coaches a ‘liar’ who has played the games with Jonathan and been in the locker room with Jonathan and who has sworn under oath to that fact.”
Vilma then points to the failure of Goodell to examine evidence proving that Vilma did not withdraw $10,000 from his account at any point during the 2009 postseason, in specific response to the contention that Vilma physically offered a pair of $5,000 stacks to any player who knocked former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of the 2009 divisional playoffs or who knocked former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC title game.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways a guy can get his hands on $10,000, without use of his ATM card. The money could have come from the bounty pool. Or it could have come from someone else altogether. The core question is whether Vilma made the offer — and the NFL believes he did.
Vilma believes he didn’t.
“Commissioner Goodell has further damaged Jonathan’s reputation, compromised his career, and cast an unfair cloud over a fine and decent man,” Ginsberg said. “It is unfortunate that the process exhibited by the NFL has had no decency.”
In other words, a vigorous appeal is coming before the Commissioner. And after the appeal process ends, it’ll be time to go back to federal court. And all of this will surely be hanging around for weeks and months to come.