Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 08, 2012 7:00 PM
Did they or didn’t they? Only the very few know for sure.
The strange and ever-ongoing case of Jonathan Vilma vs. the NFL had yet another bizarre twist this week.
It was reported that the league offered Vilma a deal, or was willing to sit down and discuss a deal, or made no deal at all.
Confused? Join the group.
Depending on which party you believe, any one of those scenarios might be right. Heck, all could be right by now.
Backroom politics have nothing on this group.
You get the feeling somewhere a Vilma man is meeting with an NFL man in the back of a New Orleans saloon, cigar smoke filling the air and a heated exchange full of finger pointing taking place.
Well, maybe more text messages and email now, but I like the old image better.
What originally seemed like a simple open-and-shut case just keeps growing and going.
At first Vilma appeared guilty as charged in the Saints “Bountygate.” His refusal to even meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell was like taking the fifth in court.
His silence seemed to speak volumes toward his guilt.
Now, well who knows?
Given a season-long suspension for what the league called his leadership role in the pay-for-pain scandal, Vilma had the book thrown at him by judge, juror and executioner Goodell.
Seemed like a fair deal. Goodell was more than willing to sacrifice Vilma and a few others to save the shield. He wants a happier NFL; a safer NFL.
Goodell has no choice, he is being sued from all sides by former players claiming the game injured them for life.
Their lawyers seem to have forgotten these guys chose this profession.
So Goodell made an example of Vilma. Only problem, he didn’t go quietly into an unpaid season off. He hit Goodell where it hurts — sending him a lawsuit.
Want to get Goodell’s attention, serve him some papers.
Vilma is willing to take his case to court to clear his name, maybe earn back some playing time this fall, and make Goodell pay if he wins the defamation of character suit, too.
Three strikes and the NFL would be out.
So it appeared earlier this week that the commish and league were ready to make a deal.
But the Saints linebacker seems to want his day in court. NFL spokes folks raced to say there was no such offer.
Now one begins to wonder just what is going on. It would seem Vilma would be the big winner in a deal, but that would also mean he had to accept the fact that he was wrong and a major player in the bounty stuff.
He seems a long way from doing that. For Vilma, his reputation, along with a large sum of cash, is on the line.
As for the NFL and Goodell, much more is at stake.
First, the league will likely have to show its evidence against the Saints, putting pressure on them and leaving their sources exposed.
Next, the reputation of Goodell is also on the line. He has proven to be a tough-nosed commissioner who has cleaned up the game. Some would say he has overstepped his boundaries to do so.
For the NFL, a loss to Vilma would mean the power Goodell had gained over the years — and that Teflon image — had begun to change.
There is a lot riding on this case.
Vilma is the first player to stand up to Goodell and his authority.
Now, you get the feeling a lot of players are waiting for the outcome, and more than a few are probably pulling for Vilma.
Jim Gazzolo is American Press managing sports editor. Email him at email@example.com
Posted By: Roy Paul On: 8/11/2012
Title: Vilma vs NFL
Goodell overplayed his hand, now he will have to show his cards in a game he started according to his rules but, that Vilma has now changed by requiring truth and due process, The commish will have to move on because his integrity became less important than his exercise of power no matter how worthy his intent. Sad, very sad to see the NFL deal so harshly with players like Vilma, Sints coaches and maybe more importantly Saints fans who are still searching for a fair and respectful NFL Management.