Vilma’s offer to meet with Goodell has clear strings attached

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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.

28 responses to “Vilma’s offer to meet with Goodell has clear strings attached

  1. vilma most likely wants to offer Goodell bounty money to get him to reduce the penalties. Vilma is a disgrace to the NFL & should not be allowed to play!!!!

  2. If you didn’t do it. Just go meet with Goodell. You don’t need to see what he has against you ahead of time. You’ll easily be able to dismiss it with the truth.

  3. If i were Goodell I’d simply offer to reduce the suspensions only if Ginsberg and Vilma promised to never speak about the NFL in a public forum again.

  4. If do think it’s important for the accused players to avail themselves of this latest opportunity to either meet with Goodell, or provide any information that might tilt the scales in their favor. Otherwise, in the absence of anything new, Goodell may issue—perhaps as early as this week—revised discipline letters re-imposing the suspensions in a manner consistent with the Appeals Panel’s ruling.

  5. It is pretty standard that anything discussed in settlement talks cannot be brought in as evidence. The NFL and Goodell want all the rules bent their way. The whole discipline process seems like such a sham and kangaroo court.

  6. The league needs to really evaluate the credibility of its evidence and witnesses. Remember Vilma had many witnesses testify in Federal Court that there was no pay to injure program. If all Roger has is evidence of a pay for performance program (which I think most folks concede happened) the league will not look good and Judge Berrigan might grant the injunction.

  7. I think it is interesting that the league (who it is being said is hiding something) wants everything out in the open and that the Players and the PA are the ones that want confidential talks.

    What does that say about the players, they kept asking for evidence to be shown but they want it only in private, does that mean that they have been posturing the whole time?

    If I were the players, and if I were innocent, I would be asking for the meetings to show evidence and that it be in the open.

    Hiding anything now, makes them look guilty. Be careful what you wish for.

  8. ghlatty says:

    “The league needs to really evaluate the “credibility of its evidence and witnesses. Remember Vilma had many witnesses testify in Federal Court that there was no pay to injure program. If all Roger has is evidence of a pay for performance program (which I think most folks concede happened) the league will not look good and Judge Berrigan might grant the injunction.”

    FYI – it has been widely reported that in Judge Berrigan’s opinion (and she is the judge that is presiding over this) the “pay for performance” that you and the players have admitted to – is a bounty.

    Vilma’s “witnesses” really didn’t testify to anything that vindicates him, or the other players, of anything.

    As long as Berrigan uses her own publically stated opinion that a “pay for performance” program that targets specific players is in fact a bounty – Vilma and his buddies are rightfully subject to suspensions.

  9. If Judge Berrigan rules that she can here the case and does so, with the fact that the case is currently an active suit in federal court, why would anything in the settlement negotiations be admissible in court? Because there is a CBA, can this trump the Federal Rules of Evidence? It is definitely being presented as a offer for a settlement negotiation, which includes settling the current pending lawsuit, which would appear to be protected by F.R.E. 408. I understand the whole jurisdictional issue relating to the CBA and who has the ability to hear these cases complicates matters, not to mention the dichotomy of what has been decided by the league (not part of the court system) versus what will be decided in federal court, which I thought always is bound by the rules of civil procedure and evidence. Florio, is it possible for you to placate the legal nerds out here and explain this from a truly legal perspective?

  10. Funny……Vilma wants the Goodell and the NFL to be transparent with all of their evidence but he wants his meeting/evidence to be kept secret and not allowed in any future court hearings. This alone tells you the idiot is a liar and manipulator.

  11. talk about white trash. vilma is a bum. oh sorry he isnt white. im suprized that vilma isnt making this race related. what a loser. him and de smith are whats wrong in football.

  12. The bottom line is that while players agree to submit to discipline from the league pursuant to the CBA, this in no way means that the league has the right to defame players. If Vilma truly feels that this is what happened here, then he should continue to pursue this in the courts.

  13. What evidence does Vilma have? He doesn’t posess any evidence. All he has to say is that he didn’t do it. The burden of proving he did something is on the NFL. Vilma has no evidence to hide or share. But goodell has to prove that he did something this time around instead of just saying that Vilma did it. If goodell is changing it to a pay for performance violation like he is saying it is now, he needs to go ahead and turn it over to the arbitrator and let them decide. But you can’t suspend players for a pay for performance violation per the CBA. Also even if Judge Berrigan says that a pay for performance system that pays for injuries is a bounty, show us a list of players that the Saints injured and got paid for doing it. Oh yeah there isn’t one.

  14. Ginsberg: “We only hope the Commissioner keeps an open mind and doesn’t feel restricted by his previous and clearly erroneous conclusions.”

    Ginsberg is an attorney? He makes the above public remark and expects not to alienate the Commissioner? Mr. Goodell has all the leverage. Here how it unfolds. The Commissioner agrees to meet with Vilma and Ginsberg if they agree to allow any and all information provided and discussed to be used in any pending and future cases related to this situation. Otherwise Vilma will be deemed uncooperative and a hindrance to any further investigation.

    I anticipate another forthcoming suspension based clearly and exclusively on conduct detrimental to the game. The reasoning is all within the realm and authority of the Commissioner’s office. Vilma needs a new legal representative.

  15. “Vilma’s “witnesses” really didn’t testify to anything that vindicates him, or the other players, of anything.”

    The members of the defense testified, while missing the first day of training camp in a FEDERAL COURTROOM, that the accusation of Vilma holding up 10,000 and waving it around never happened.

    According to NFL’s statements in the appeal that this accusation was made by Vitt, Ornstein, Williams and the unnamed witness. Vitt and Ornstein both made statements ASAP stating that they had said no such thing. Williams can’t / won’t talk and the “unnamed witness” well that speaks for itself as far as credibility goes.

    Yes, their testimony counts!

  16. Vilma is probably guilty but it is more complicated than that. The League and the NFLPA signed a binding agreement which included broad powers for the commissioner. These powers are now being challenged and if successful could lead to the agreement being trashed and the players locked out again until further negotiations are agreed upon. I don’t belive most players in the league want that or want to support Vilma and crew at the expense of anther lock out. Vilma’s lawyer is getting rich and Vilma rots on the PUP. So far noone wins but in the end the league will force the issue. To me the players lose again and Vilma gets to take the year off with no pay. That’s why the coaches are keeping their mouths shut and accepting the punishment.

  17. gtodriver,
    What have you got against the Saints? Every time I see something negative about the Saints your name pops up… Maybe you should try GETTING A LIFE and moving out of your mommas basement one day… Jealous turd!!!

  18. Goodell was just taking it easy by disciplining the players for circumventing the salary cap. Now he is just going to punish them for conduct detrimental to the game. Which one sounds worse?

    And if he does punish for detrimental conduct, the players can complain and whine all they want to in court, but it is fully in Goodell’s power to suspend the players for that reasoning- which will make it nearly impossible (only possible because the court case was filed in Louisiana) to get the suspensions overturned.

    If the players really had legal standing before (not just a technicality of the CBA on their side), Berrigan wouldn’t have had to take so long to make a decision.

  19. Will Peter Ginsberg appear on Jonathan Vilma’s football card this year ?

    Sad….football was once a man’s game; now instead of standing up and telling the truth, they scurry and hide behind their lawyers….

  20. mrpowers88,

    You have a lot of catching up to do on this story. He already did go the conduct detrimental route – that’s why his verdict was overturned in NY by the panel that is set up and paid by the NFL. He was the one violating the CBA – not the players. Now, according to Friday’s ruling, he can not bring pay into the conversation at all (it falls under salary cap and thus into another’s jurisdiction). He has to prove “intent to injure” which he has not been able to do thus far.

    Berrigan did not rule – she has set the cases before her aside rather than dismissing them. Goodell will have to tread carefully with a federal judge looking over his shoulder. All the fans or players want is a fair process.

  21. gennieleko: You might want to re-read the panels decision. It didn’t overturn anything, that is the problem for the players. The difference is huge, an overturn means that it is done, to vacate (which is what they did) means a redo.

    They didn’t say he was wrong, they said they weren’t sure that he was completely right. So they told him what he needed to do in order to be completely right.

    You are correct, he can’t say anything about money changing hands. Which both good and bad for the players. Good because it means that he has to revise what he said, and theoretically it means that he needs to start over and redo the hearing fairly. It is very bad because now all he has to do is prove how being a member a pay for play system can be detrimental, since then all of those lawsuits from former players are clear evidence that it is detrimental, and the biggest problem for them is that he can now use all that has been said in the media since then – you know the whole “we weren’t part of a bounty system only a pay for play” as well as Judge Berrigan saying that a Pay for Play system is the same as a bounty system.

    This really became easier for Goodell.

    He can just say that the players admitted to partaking in a pay for play system (which they did to the world) and since he was applying the suspensions for player safety, and the current lawsuits show that what they players were doing is a clear detriment to the league.

    And that Berrigan has no chance at all of overturning and having it stick.

    The process in and of itself is and was applied fairly. The players didn’t take part in it. You have to play the game to have a chance at a fair game, if you forfeit, you have no chance and that is what the players did.

    Blame Goodell all you want, but know that it was the players that didn’t play by the rules not Goodell. Evidence was to be shown at the hearing – that none of the players attended.

    At the appeal hearing, he only needed to show them the evidence that he used in order to form his opinion. All of that showing that the evidence was contrived or whatever is what they should’ve been doing at the hearing they skipped, not in the public forums.

    Remember when dealing with a judge it is his perception that he need to worry about, or a juries, not the public. They chose not to at either turn.

    Remember the process was agreed upon by the players and the league. It doesn’t matter what we the fans think, they agreed on something that they viewed as fair. All 4 of those players signed that agreement, so they agreed that it was fair. Their problem not Goodell’s.

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