Slowly, ever so slowly, we’re reaching the point where the players who were allegedly involved in the Saints’ (umm, alleged) bounties will be left to do little more than shrug their shoulders, and accept their fate. That started today, when settlement talks broke down between the league and Jonathan Vilma, who was the mob boss of sorts among the four players who have been punished.

A hearing is still scheduled for tomorrow regarding Vilma’s request for a temporary restraining order that will allow him to work until all legal proceedings are complete, which includes his defamation suit against Roger Goodell. The settlement talks were of the court-ordered variety, and when two adversaries — which is what Vilma and the league have become — are forced to speak in a legal setting, the animosity is often overpowering, and the league likely had little desire to negotiate.

That’s what a source told’s Steve Wyche, who was the first to report the absence of a settlement:

The league never formally offered Vilma a reduction in his suspension in an effort to end this portion of the bounty scandal, the NFL and another source familiar with the settlement talks said.

In addition to his defamation suit, Vilma has also filed a motion asking for his year-long suspension to be overturned. Both decisions will creep along slowly, as is the nature of the legal system, but tomorrow a judge could rule on whether or not Vilma can return to practice and preseason games as a final decision on his legal claims is pondered.

The other three players who were punished (Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Scott Fujita) have had motions filed on their behalf by the players’ union, and those proceedings will begin after the preseason schedule is completed.

Meanwhile, we’ll all return to caring far more about football games that are meaningless.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • It’s finally here, you guys. With six games tonight, the true return of football has arrived, and so has the wide release of early depth charts. So commence questioning, and we’ll start in Green Bay, where Brandon Saine is apparently holding off Alex Green for the right to be James Starks’ backup. [Acme Packing Company]
  • Another reason to show your schoolgirl giddiness proudly: Peyton Manning is making his Broncos debut tonight. But tune in early, and please refrain from blinking. Predictably, Manning won’t be on the field long. [Bill Williamson]
  • If New Jersey allows sports gambling, Giants owner John Mara doesn’t think another Super Bowl will come to the state. As much as not allowing gambling still seems like a dated approach to business, Mara is right. [USA Today]
  • Do the Raiders need a power running back? [Raiders Blog]
  • Terrell Thomas received something he doesn’t get very often. Good news about his knee. [Newark Star-Ledger]
  • Jon Beason tweaked his hamstring yesterday. Tweaking out about tweaks is poor form in early August, before all but two teams have started their preseason schedule. But after the injuries that ravaged the Panthers’ defense last year, it’ll only take a tweak to induce mass hysteria. [Charlotte Observer]
  • Get your fantasy handcuffs out. [Rotoworld]
  • Why the hell would any Tim Tebow coverage ever surprise anyone? [New York Daily News]