Vilma suspension letter might tie league’s hands

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Earlier tonight, we pointed out that the decision of former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to allow former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo to testify at the bounty appeal hearing at a time when Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Saints defensive end Will Smith aren’t available to attend and observe and assist their counsel could give Vilma and Smith potent arguments to raise in court when attacking any decision from Tagliabue to suspend them.

Vilma may have an even stronger argument.

Further review of his October 9, 2012 suspension letter suggests that the league may have painted itself into a corner.  In the letter, Commissioner Roger Goodell says that Vilma will be suspended “for the remainder of the 2012 season.”

Vilma could (and perhaps should) argue in response that his suspension must be concluded if at all by the end of the 2012 season, and that he’s free to return in 2013.

That said, Goodell conditions the suspension on the resolution of the appeal in a “timely manner.”  From Vilma’s perspective, however, the process has been timely.  By all appearances, the delays have come from Goodell’s decision to hand the baton to Tagliabue, and other matters beyond Vilma’s control.

Indeed, if Taliabue doesn’t issue a ruling until, for example, three weeks remain in the 2012 season, will Vilma be suspended only three weeks at the most?  Or will Tagliabue then ask Goodell to make yet another decision on the duration of the suspension?

If Vilma ultimately ends up with only a brief suspension due to the terms of his second suspension letter, it will be the second time that imprecise letter writing has worked to the benefit of the suspended players.  For now, it’s unclear how this will play out.  First, Vilma has to make the argument; if he does, things could get even more interesting.

In the end, Vilma’s original one-year suspension could become a fraction of that.

7 responses to “Vilma suspension letter might tie league’s hands

  1. If I recall correctly, the league’s position is that this is an Article 46, Section 1(a) “conduct detrimental” hearing, and NOT an Article 46, Section 1(b) “unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct on the playing field” hearing. And while Article 46, Section 2(d) specifically states, “Any discipline imposed pursuant to Section 1(b) may only be affirmed, reduced, or vacated by the hearing officer, AND MAY NOT BE INCREASED (emphasis added),” there appears to be no such limitation for discipline imposed pursuant to Section 1(a). Doesn’t that raise the question of whether Tagliabue is even constrained to abide by the parameters set out under Goodell’s October 9, 2012 suspension letter? I’m inclined to think that Tagliabue has wide latitude here not only in terms of the length of the suspensions, if any, handed down by him, but also with respect to when the clock starts and stops on those suspensions.

  2. Regardless what happens with the suspension…Vilma has now injured two players who’s injuries have placed them on IR for the remainder of the season. I’m wondering who is going to step up and take responsibility for that? The judge that granted the injunction allowing him to play, or Goodell for mucking up the process so badly that the injunction was granted in the first place? He should not have been playing, and had he not been playing those players would still be on the field and not on IR.

  3. Mike, are you a reporter or Vilma’s internet legal counsel? You should really settle on one profession or another before the NFL decides to start putting pressure on NBC to not renew you’re contract. I love your reporting. I’d hate to see that happen. You’re a smart guy. You should try to restrain you’re inner lawyer and stick to football. It would serve you better in the long run. Just some advice from someone who has paid the price for being right on many occasions…… 🙂

  4. This guy is malicious and he proved it in last sunday’s game.. Go watch that game again and look at the play where he injured Hunter..

    You saints fans can thumb down all you want but if you’re not a biased fool.. just watch the play again and then try to find an argument to defend this guy.

  5. The 49ers have to be the most head hunting team in the league right now. For any injury Vilma might have caused while playing good football, your guys were obviously hitting to try and hurt someone. There you go, you got your revenge for the GWilliams speech. Now get over it, 49ers were hitting way dirtier that whole game. Don’t dish what you can’t take.

  6. No matter what, Vilma will be suspended in the end. He has already admitted his guilt.

    Goodell has said (and the judge in court has agreed) that one aspect of a ‘bounty’ is that players were paid when they caused another player to have to leave the field with an injury. This is not as bad as trying to intentionally hurt a player, but being rewarded when you unintentionally hurt them is still a ‘bounty.’

    All the coaches and and all four players have admitted to doing this through the “cartoffs’ part of the pay for performance program.

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