Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma watches the final seconds tick away during… (Ross D. Franklin / Associated…)
Suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma filed a defamation lawsuit Thursday against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, claiming the league's top executive made false statements that tarnished Vilma's reputation and hindered his ability to earn a living playing football.
The suit in U.S. District Court in New Orleans claims Goodell, "relied on, at best, hearsay, circumstantial evidence and lies" in making comments about Vilma while discussing the NFL's bounty investigation of the New Orleans Saints.
Goodell has said Vilma was a leader of the team's bounty program that put up thousands of dollars for hits which took out opposing teams' star players from 2009 to 2011, including $10,000 each on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre during the playoffs in 2010.
Vilma wrote on his Twitter account that, "As I've said before..I NEVER PAID, NOR INTENDED TO PAY ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY, TO ANY PLAYER FOR INTENTIONALLY HURTING AN OPPONENT."
Goodell has suspended Vilma, an eight-year veteran and defensive captain, for the entire 2012 season. Vilma and three other current of former Saints who received shorter suspensions — defensive end Will Smith, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and linebacker Scott Fujita — all have appealed their punishments. Hargrove now plays for Green Bay and Fujita is with Cleveland.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic overcame a poor first set and a smashed racket to beat Juan Monaco, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, and reach the Italian Open quarterfinals in Rome.
Also through at Foro Italico were five-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena and Venus Williams and French Open champ Li Na.
Defending champion Suzann Pettersen of Norway didn't last long at the Sybase Match Play Championship at Gladstone, N.J., and neither did three well-known Americans.
Pettersen, the world's No. 3-ranked player, was eliminated 3 and 1 by Jodi Ewart of England on Thursday in the first round. Paula Creamer, Brittanny Lincicome and Michelle Wie were upset by fellow Americans.
Finnish forward Jesse Joensuu's winning goal with nine seconds left lifted Finland past the United States, 3-2, for a place in the semifinals of the hockey world championships in Helsinki.
Finland meets Russia on Saturday in the semifinal.
Old Dominion is leaving the Colonial Athletic Assn. and joining Conference USA.
The move will be effective July 1, 2013, school President John R. Broderick said in a release Thursday. The Monarchs, who restarted their football program only three seasons ago, will play at the Bowl Subdivision level after one more year in the Championship Subdivision.
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from an incident in which police used pepper spray to subdue him after an off-campus party.
Rees, who turns 20 next week, is charged with one count of battery, two counts of resisting law enforcement and one count of illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor.
Chivas USA General Manager Jose Domene pulled off two of the biggest trades in franchise history Thursday, adding talented striker Juan Agudelo from the New York Red Bulls and veteran U.S. national team defender Danny Califf from the Philadelphia Union in separate deals. Both Agudelo and Califf are expected to be available to play in Saturday's SuperClasico with the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.
The price for Agudelo was steep, with Chivas giving up All-Star defender Heath Pearce. But in Agudelo, who notched his first goal for the national team at age 17, Chivas may now have the scoring punch it lacked in its first 10 games, when it scored a league-low six times.
"I am certainly excited to have Juan Agudelo joining our team," said Chivas Coach Robin Fraser, who has been under fire during a start in which his team has been held scoreless five times. "He's a dynamic forward who has an incredible future ahead of him."
The loss of Pearce led Domene to immediately go out and get 32-year-old defender Califf, who has played in the Danish Superliga and as well as with the U.S. national team. Chivas sent midfielder Michael Lahoud, a former first-round draft pick who has been plagued by injury this season, to Philadelphia in return. In addition, Chivas sent allocation money to both New York and Philadelphia to complete the deals.
— Kevin Baxter