Vilma's defamation suit against Goodell dismissed

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in connection with

the bounty case was dismissed by a federal judge on Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan in New

Orleans ruled in favor of Goodell's motion to dismiss Vilma's complaint,

which

was filed in May and set out 11 claims. Vilma had argued that

Goodell made false statements, tarnishing the player's reputation,

in connection with the league's investigation of what it

determined was a system that offered cash bonuses to Saints players

for big hits from 2009-11.

"Even though this matter has been pending only since May ... it feels as protracted and painful as the Saints season itself,

and calls for closure," Berrigan wrote in her decision. "The Court nonetheless believes that had this matter been handled

in a less heavy handed way, with greater fairness toward the players and the pressures they face, this litigation and the

related cases would not have been necessary."

Goodell initially suspended Vilma for all of

the 2012 season — although he wound up being able to play while

appealing — and

three other players received shorter bans: Saints defensive end

Will Smith and two former Saints, Cleveland linebacker Scott

Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. But Paul

Tagliabue, Goodell's predecessor as commissioner, heard

a final round of player appeals and threw out the suspensions last

month.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said neither he nor Goodell would have any comment Thursday about Berrigan's ruling.

Peter Ginsberg, a lawyer for Vilma, wrote in an email: "We are obviously disappointed, strongly believe that the CBA does

not give anyone — including a commissioner — a license to misrepresent and to manufacture facts, especially at the expense

of another person's reputation — and are considering our options."

Berrigan wrote that "Vilma maintains that

Goodell is responsible for the allegedly offending statements in his

individual

capacity." The judge rejected that as "unpersuasive," saying: "The

Court finds that all of the allegedly offensive statements

were made by Goodell as Commissioner of the NFL in conjunction

with the investigation resulting in the now well-known discipline

against Vilma and others associated with the Saints."

Vilma's lawsuit pointed to six statements made by Goodell — including in NFL news releases, memos to the league's 32 teams,

and an interview with the NFL Network.

"While the Court is extremely disturbed by

the fundamental lack of due process in Goodell's denying the players the

identities

of and the right to confront their accusers, that was

substantially rectified later in the process," Berrigan wrote. "So while

the process was initially procedurally flawed, the statements were

ultimately found to have enough support to defeat the defamation

claims."