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Vilma Proceeds With Defamation Suit Against Goodell

jonathan vilma
Chris Graythen, Getty Images

After two rounds of appeals, and a summer long court battle, the suspensions of four former and current players for the New Orleans Saints were vacated by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Tuesday. The decision is essentially meaningless because all four players in question either played or were injured while the case was being litigated. Federal Judge Ginger Berrigan repeatedly declined to rule in the case while urging the parties to reach an out of court settlement.

The damage is done. The Saints season is wrecked. The matter would appear to be closed.

It isn’t for Jonathan Vilma. The other three players in this used used legal counsel provided by the NFLPA. Vilma hired his own attorney, and additionally filed a defamation suit against Commissioner Goodell earlier this year.Vilma’s suit alleges Goodell made inflammatory and defamatory public statements about Vilma before the appeals process began. Vilma has petitioned to move forward with the suit.

Vilma has dropped his case against the NFL’s disciplinary process, but continues to pursue damages from Goodell. Vilma is alleged to have put up a ten thousand dollar cash bounty on opposing quarterback Brett Favre during the Saints’ Superbowl run. The linebacker has repeatedly denied the allegations and alleges his reputation has been tarnished by the NFL’s bounty probe of the New Orleans Saints. Two key pieces of evidence in the NFL’s case against Vilma are sworn statements from former Saints assistant coaches Gregg Williams and Mike Cerullo. Parts of those statements contradict one another.

Former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue threw out the suspensions of Vilma and three other current and former Saints on Tuesday. None of the players were exonerated. Tagliabue said the penalties were heavy-handed.

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