During NBC’s Football Night in America, we said without hedging or hesitation or qualification that it’s coming.
And it’s here.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has filed a motion to vacate his re-issued bounty suspension, three days after filing an appeal with Commissioner Roger Goodell. Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that the paperwork has been filed.
Among other things, Vilma will be attempting to delay the suspensions pending resolution of the court proceedings.
The new documents are expected to contain fresh attacks and allegations against the league’s overall process. Friday’s filing before Goodell included a request that he recuse himself from the internal appeal; the filing in court could be aimed at pressuring Goodell to exercise his right under the labor deal to designate responsibility for the internal appeal to someone else.
The smart move for the league would be to delegate the effort to someone who has had no connection to or involvement with the bounty investigation. Having someone truly impartial and unbiased (or, as a practical matter, as close to impartial and unbiased as any league employee ultimately answerable to Goodell can be) would undermine one of the players’ strongest arguments — that Goodell is too close to the case, that he knows too much regarding evidence not introduced as part of the formal process, and that he simply isn’t inclined to have an open mind.
The fact that any internal designee would feel pressure to agree with Goodell’s decision almost makes it necessary to give the power to someone outside the league in order to avoid the inevitable argument that any other league employee would be biased by association. It’s highly unlikely, however, that Goodell would ever voluntarily submit his authority to someone not directly connected to the league.
And so, thanks to the new filing, Goodell will continue to involuntarily submit his authority to someone not directly connected to the league.