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Does the Saints' Jonathan Vilma stand a chance of being reinstated?

July 30, 2012
  • New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, shown arriving at NFL headquarters in June, has been suspended a year for his alleged role in a bounty program.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, shown arriving at NFL headquarters… (Mark Lennihan / Associated…)

Writers from around the Tribune Co. are discussing whether or not the New Orleans Saints' Jonathan Vilma might see the field this season after receiving a year-long suspension for his alleged role in a bounty program.

Check back throughout the day for their responses and feel free to join the discussion with a comment of your own.

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times

There's certainly a chance that Jonathan Vilma could obtain a legal order forcing the NFL to lift the suspension, at least temporarily. We saw that last year in the back and forth of the lockout, with the league and the players claiming and reclaiming the upper hand.

The question with Vilma: Even if he were allowed to play, could he? The 30-year-old linebacker sustained a ligament injury to his left knee during a Friday walk-through last September and since November has undergone three procedures to repair the joint. The knee caused him problems throughout last season, and in the off-season he traveled to Germany for a blood-spinning procedure in hopes of accelerating his recovery.

All this was revealed in an affidavit as part of the bounty case. The primary reason the Saints signed linebacker Curtis Lofton in March was they weren't sure Vilma could return soon enough to play, not because of the anticipated bounty sanctions. So even if Vilma wins a legal stay, it might all be academic.

Chris Korman, Baltimore Sun

Lawyers for the NFL have not bothered to even try to prove to the federal judge hearing Jonathan Vilma’s claims of unfair treatment that Commissioner Roger Goodell acted within his rights and based on solid information. Instead, they have said the court has no place ruling on a process that was collectively bargained. Vilma and his brigade of teammates, meanwhile, steadfastly deny that a bounty system ever existed.

What a quagmire.

Goodell did, in fact, base his ruling on overwhelming evidence, both in the form of testimony and records found on the Saints’ computer systems. About the only argument Vilma has is that the process was unfair; Goodell, he has said repeatedly, should not be judge, jury and appellate judge. A nice sentiment, but also a moot one because Vilma’s own peers negotiated the system into existence.

At this point, Vlima is fighting for his reputation by trying to cloud the narrative established by Goodell’s unprecedented punishments. It might make some difference in public opinion, but it won’t get him back on the field.

[Updated at 11:53 a.m.:

Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune

A federal judge might not have anything to say about Jonathan Vilma’s future. Whether or not Vilma can play in 2012 appears to be completely in the hands of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and in that case, Vilma will remain suspended.

Vilma’s own players' union gave Goodell and the NFL the right to play judge and jury in cases like this.  His power was collectively bargained for, and it does not appear to be a matter for the courts to decide.

So it might not really matter if Vilma was never a part of a bounty system in New Orleans, as he maintains, or if Goodell’s unprecedented punishment was unduly harsh. All that matters is Goodell acted within the power that was granted to him by NFL players.]


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