I know, we’re confused too, and I realize that this is a pretty sour note to end a week on. I’d much rather just post a picture of some guy’s grotesque back tattoo, and call it a Friday. But here we are.
As you’re undoubtedly aware due to past unfortunate rantings regarding the thick forest of bickering that bountygate has become, Jonathan Vilma was seen as the mob boss as far as the Saints players are concern, and has consequently been suspended for a full season. He’s since not only appealed that suspension, but also filed a grievance which brings into question Roger Goodell’s jurisdiction to deny him the right to play pro football for a year.
Now that our little recap/clip show is over, let’s get to the latest bit of disagreement. Embrace the fun.
Vilma has been criticized for saying thanks but no thanks to an opportunity to meet with Goodell and defend himself prior to the announcement of the player suspensions. Why wouldn’t he want a meeting? Why didn’t he speak up? Does he like hot dogs? These are all questions we asked about Vilma.
He spoke to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com in a story published last night, and the linebacker explained his decision. Share your wisdom with us please, Vilma.
“We asked for evidence and he wouldn’t give it to us,” Vilma told NFL.com. “How can I defend myself when I don’t know what I’m defending against? It’s just logical, things that people decided to ignore.”
Asked specifically whether the union told him not to cooperate, Vilma said he asked for evidence, Goodell would not share it, and he responded, “How can I defend myself if I don’t know what I’m defending against?”
This makes sense. What say you, league spokesman/mouthpiece Greg Aiello?
“He was invited to come in with his attorney to discuss the evidence prior to any decision on discipline. He declined. He has another opportunity to do so in his appeal. The union has been shown evidence.”
Common ground is a strange, forbidden place in bounty land, and after Vilma’s statement had time to simmer overnight and throughout the day today, his lawyer had a rebuttal to Aiello’s rebuttal.
“Mr. Aiello clearly has not been allowed to participate in the process,” Peter Ginsberg tells PFT via email. “We were invited in but explicitly told that the Commissioner had no obligation to allow us to view the supposed ‘evidence’ and that the Commissioner would not be showing us the ‘evidence.’ And, in fact, the Commissioner has not provided us with any evidence.”
Vilma also spoke with conviction and definitively told Rapoport that despite accusations that he placed a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre, he was never involved in a bounty, and a bounty program didn’t exist in New Orleans.
Choose to believe whomever you wish, but the lack of clarity shows a cavernous divide. When litigation and reputations are involved, clarity should be too, so it’s easy to understand why Vilma was hesitant to participate in a process that may not have given him a legitimate opportunity to defend himself.
Seems to me we’ve got a good ol’ fashioned donnybrook on our hands here. Cue the fight anthems…