Union says NFL offered new hearings on bounty suspensions

Getty Images

In a brief submitted on the question of whether NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler’s relationship with the union creates a conflict of interest regarding his representation of three of the players suspended in connection with the Saints’ bounty scandal, Kessler makes a somewhat surprising disclosure.

Kessler writes that, in late August, the NFL offered to provide Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma with a new hearing before Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding Vilma’s one-year suspension.  Per Kessler, the league also indicated that a new hearing would have been available for the other suspended players — Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and former Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove.  The new hearings would have been provided without a dismissal of the pending legal actions filed by Vilma and the other players.

The offer to “reopen” the appeal initially came in a letter dated August 21, eleven days after the hearing at which Judge Helen G. Berrigan said she would rule in Vilma’s favor if she could legally do so.  The letter from NFL general counsel Jeff Pash to Vilma indicated that the hearing would commence two days later — on August 23 at 1:00 p.m. ET.  The letter from Pash also suggests that Vilma specifically had asked for a new hearing.

In response, the NFLPA explained that the league had no authority to “reopen” the hearing, but that the NFLPA would be willing to meet with Commissioner Goodell for the purposes of engaging in confidential settlement talks, and that anything discussed or disclosed during the meeting would not be used as part of the ongoing legal proceedings before Judge Berrigan.  The parties were unable to come to terms on the parameters of a reopened hearing.  One of the unanswered questions was whether the league would be producing any additional evidence or witnesses in support of its contentions — and likewise giving the players a chance to cross-examine key witnesses.

Some will regard the league’s offer as an indication that the NFL has concerns regarding the quality of the hearing that was provided.  The league would surely say that it was merely reacting to a request that Vilma made, and that the Commissioner had indicated a willingness to consider any evidence the players may want to introduce, even after upholding the appeals.

The decision from Judge Berrigan that most likely will be coming at some point today could, in theory, compel the league to conduct new hearings before a third-party arbitrator who would make a final decision based only on the evidence that the NFL decides to present.  If she chooses to order the league to proceed in this fashion, she would most likely lift the suspensions pending the outcome of the new hearings.

28 responses to “Union says NFL offered new hearings on bounty suspensions

  1. One more time the league has given these rogue players the opportunity to be heard and the players refused. It’s rather obvious the players goal is to refuse to honor the CBA that they agreed to…….this will ultimately be their undoing when the case makes it way to the Federal Appeals Court.

  2. Goodell has already won. The heels were dragged long enough. The suspended players will be in no condition to play. Vilma will be lucky to be ready by late October by now. Truly shameful.

  3. “In response, the NFLPA explained that the league had no authority to “reopen” the hearing, but that the NFLPA would be willing to meet with Commissioner Goodell for the purposes of engaging in confidential settlement talks, and that anything discussed or disclosed during the meeting would not be used as part of the ongoing legal proceedings before Judge Berrigan. ”

    I would reject such response from the Union as well if I am the NFL Counsel. That is just utter rubbish. If I accord you a second hearing, then what transpired during that second hearing can and will be used during the trial as well. Now to me this is clear there’s conflict with Kessler.

  4. Looks like the Union wants total victory or total defeat. It also explains why the Judge thought there was a conflict of interest among the lawyers.

    It was in the best interest of the players for them to participate in a reopen the appeal but the NFLPA isn’t interested in what’s best for the players, they are only interested in a scorched earth policy regarding the enemy (the NFL).

    It’s clear that DeSmith really hates everything the NFL stands for and fortunately for him, he was elected to a position in which he has free reign to do whatever he wants about it.

  5. Kessler just admitted that, as Judge Berrigan has asked, the NFL attempted to work with the players towards a settlement.

    But the union and the players refused to do so.

    This could just be the nail in the players coffin as far as Berrigan is concerned.

  6. “a third-party arbitrator who would make a final decision based only on the evidence that the NFL decides to present”

    You can count on the NFL doing whatever it takes to conduct the hearings; otherwise, Goodell will get hammered by a THIRD-PARTY arbitrator since he has NO evidence to present.

    It’s a violent game and the commissioner cannot produce any evidence other than pay-for-performance, which was prevalent with all 32 teams.

  7. If she orders new arbitration in front of a third-party, there’s no way the league wins this. Hopefully, she’ll overturn ALL the suspensions related to this case, including the coaches. The league has been disingenuous, to say the least with regards to their ‘evidence’. We’ve had ‘confessions’ thrown out. We’ve had ‘video evidence’ thrown out, we’ve had ‘facts’ misrepresented to serve the NFL’s needs. Roger Goodell has gone rogue and needs to be slapped down. There has been NO EVIDENCE OF GUILT presented to anyone at this point.

  8. The league has been more than reasonable with these guys. The case should be dismissed.


    At this point it’s only partly about the suspensions. It’s now also about the fact that Goodell has let the genie out of the bottle and, with the help of ESPN and friends, completely asassinated their character.

    It’s obvious just looking at the comments that a portion of the public believes that Vilma is dirty even Roger Goodell has yet to prove it.

  9. Considering the players agreed to this type of discipline, they basically want the judge to overrule them and their bad decision making….

    What’s funny is the reason they agreed to the current discipline process is because the NFLPA said that changing it would only affect a handful of players, and a few players getting punished isn’t worth disrupting the other players and game of football.

  10. If arbitration was a fair process, I’d think that was an option. It’s not a fair process.

    The judge has essentially determined that the players are innocent, or that there is insufficient evidence of wrongdoing. She is merely holding off judgment because of the ridiculous contract signed by the union. In addition, there are undertones that the ayers weren’t properly represented by counsel.

    The nfl punishment process is a joke.

  11. Goodell offered another sham hearing just like the first one. Not surprising that the union and the players refused to be part of a smoke and mirrors presentation.

    Goodell has assaulted the players name and reputation and hasn’t even produced ONE piece of damning evidence. He lied and said there were admissions.(Players and coaches all deny this)

    He hand picks his puppets in the media to leak misleading and fabricated “evidence”. Then he counts on the simple minded fans of rival teams to spread out the tall tales he has spun.

    The players refused to be a part of Goodells clown show the first time, because the league would not provide evidence the players could defend or disprove. But every piece of “evidence” leaked by Goodell to his puppets HAS been disproven.

    The judge has already acknowledged that Goodell put on a sham hearing just for P.R. purposes and already acknowledged the players had no chance to defend themselves against Goodells Circus Courtroom.
    Time to smackdown Goodell, and get ready for Mr. Benson to sue as well.

  12. The players don’t want a new hearing in front of Goodell. They want a fair hearing.

    That’s all they have ever wanted. All they wanted it what they are entitled to under the CBA. Just because Roger thinks he can move everything under the “conduct detrimental” clause doesn’t mean that is what the CBA states.

    The reason this case is in court is because the league is trying to interpret the CBA to state they don’t have to be fair with the players. The CBA allows Goodell to appoint a fair arbitrator, but he’s trying to hide behind his office.

    I can’t understand how a fan of any team can’t seem to grasp that 10 players and coaches testified that there was no pay to injure scheme or bounties on players. That the league is the one trying to hide the truth by saying one thing in the court room and another thing in the media.

  13. I can not believe this discussion is still going on, it is clear that what was happening in NO was a bounty system, however there is no proof to back this up that would stand up in a court of law.
    Fortunately for the NFL it doesn’t have to, just like drug/dui/assault/weapon charges in the courts, a player does not have to be found guilty to be punished.
    You know there guilty, just shut up and take your punishment, worse than dealing with 5 year olds.

  14. Where is the repot from the ex FBI guy. I know it’s private between him and Benson. But, if it cleared the players and coaches of wrong doing, don’t you think Benson would release it. No news on the report is bad news for the Saints

  15. It’s hard to determine exactly what’s the most irritating about this whole issue: (1) anything Kessler says and does; (2) the constant droning of Saints fans that can’t look at the issue objectively; (3) the public whining of the punished parties; (4) the “leaked” stories by the NFL; or (5) the media for giving all these dopes a forum.

  16. The players are getting what they deserve for being jerks. The NFLPA is getting what it deserves by continuing to allow Smith to do anything. The guy is a hack that is more interested in sound bites and appearances than actual legal precedent.

  17. “Conduct Detrimental”
    If there was ever such a thing for the NFL, this mess is it. Accusal and penalty with out proof or due process is wrong, the NFLPA stonewalling is wrong, the NFL/CBA arbitration format is wrong (arbitrator fired the week before by MLB for a negative ruling) there not being an appeal board in place until Aug. is wrong, the appeals board with one thing to do, can’t get it done is wrong, no decision on a temp. restraining order to date is wrong. These 4 players are the pawns for this ugly game being played and in my opinion “it stinks!”

  18. All u fans on here if you have a kid who plays HS football just ask yourself. WHat do you tell your kid to do when he is playing DEF. U tell him to “Hit the Rb or WR and hit him hard” Make him feel it when you hit him. Dont deny it either. Event he judge said. The hits were legal.

  19. I love the argument that it wasn’t a bounty program…just a pay for performance program. It’s the same damn thing, and it’s clearly wrong. You don’t like the word “bounty” – call it whatever you want if it makes you feel better. Bottom line is players were offered extra incentive to cause an opposing player to have to leave the game. It’s wrong. Shut up, take your punishment like a man, and move on.

  20. A new hearing, this must have been that ‘deal’ this site kept wrongly reporting on. Throw it to the wall and see what sticks. And why isnt that POS Warren Sapp contributing here?

  21. Roger is smart not to release all the evidence he has. Any good lawyer can twist and turn it with time. Goodell has a hammer in his back pocket that he hasn’t revealed yet and will only do so when the players come to the hearing so that he can get a first hand, immediate response from the players themselves. And the players know it. And that’s why they won’t meet with him until they know everythin he has so that their lawyers can lawyer up their responses.

  22. It’s completely nonsensical to still maintain there’s no evidence of a bounty program. Quite to the contrary, there exists the strongest evidence recognized by the judicial system: a confession.

    Judge Berrigan commented from the bench that she agrees that Vilma confessed, under oath, to participating in the bounty program as alleged by Goodell:

    “it seems to me that there is a confluence here that what Mr. Goodell says Mr. Vilma did was in effect admitted at the hearing a couple weeks ago,”

    Judge Berrigan is convinced the bounty program existed the way the NFL has contended all along. Game over.

    All that remains are the issues related to the discipline and how it was meted out.

  23. Regardless of how anybody might see this case or what opinion you may have this is america and everybody including criminals are entitled to a fair trial that is there rights and no one is higher than the law of the land not even the commissioner! If anything that is what sunk the nfl case no juge wants to sit around and see or would let the nfl play judge and jury its insulting to there profesion! what was the league thinking although not always the smartest these guys make enough money to get good legal counsel! And these players need to get some better representatives cause the ones that they have meesed up big time with the currant cba. Most importantly goddell needs to remember not even the nfl is above the real law.

  24. i find this whole thing hilarious personally. the process by which goodell has gone about accusing and defaming all these players/coaches (guilty or not) isn’t so different as the approach president bush took to getting us to go to war with iraq. no real evidence, propaganda through corrupt media outlets, and full on lies and slander. i think more suspensions should be handed out, in particular to nfl leadership…..

  25. I personally would like to see these players be tried for “Assault”….sure, the NFL is violent….but, “Crabtree’s ACL”….”little #10’s concussions”…”Davis’ ankles on the pile”…

    All of the above go beyond any imagined view of Saints fans “pay for performance.”

    Gregg Williams has admitted, and then apologized for, unappropriate behavior since his early days in the NFL.

    You folks claiming there’s no evidence…get with program, if this Saints fan Judge could find ANY way of clearing these players, she would have done it by now…she has admitted as much.

  26. jghupertester says: Sep 7, 2012 10:38 AM

    I can not believe this discussion is still going on, it is clear that what was happening in NO was a bounty system, however there is no proof to back this up that would stand up in a court of law.

    Do you remember what they are accused of? Targeting Favre, Warner, Rodgers, Newton. Holding$10,000 ($5000 in each hand) and offering to anyone who knocks Favre or Warner out of a game.

    That is stating pretty specific stuff not to have evidence to back the statements.

    At drew05 – So would the players. They would love nothing more than to be tried.

    Also Judge Berrigan is from New York.

  27. Goodell’s offer to give Vilma another hearing was nothing more than a cheap litigation tactic. Knowing that Vilma will reject, Goodell can offer 10 hearings and say to Berrigan….”look, I tried, what more can I do”. Goodell is pathetic.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!