Jonathan Vilma had a three-hour meeting with National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell about the New Orleans Saints’ bounty pool case and his suspension that was overturned, at least temporarily.
Vilma’s season-long ban was lifted by an arbitration panel on Sept. 7, along with shorter suspensions for Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith. Those three players may meet with Goodell as soon as today.
“What we had was just a chance for both sides to speak candidly about the differences,” Vilma told reporters outside the NFL’s New York offices yesterday. “We got to address some of the hang-ups that were causing all of the issues. Now that we’ve had this conversation, we’ll see what happens.”
The players in the Saints case were reinstated after the panel ruled Goodell lacked the authority to impose discipline for unauthorized compensation, or money that might have been paid under the bounty plan. He’s allowed to punish players for detrimental conduct, such as the intent to injure opponents.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said last week that the panel left it up to Goodell to determine whether any of the penalties should be modified. The NFL said in May about two dozen players participated in the Saints’ bounty program, with Vilma -- a defensive captain -- helping to establish and fund the program.
According to ESPN, the NFL yesterday gave Vilma a sworn affidavit from ex-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams that said Vilma offered $10,000 to any teammate who knocked quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 National Football Conference championship game. Williams also confirmed in the affidavit that the Saints had a pay-for-performance pool that was funded by players, ESPN said, citing an unidentified person with knowledge of the meeting.
“The truth is Jonathan never did anything to provide any incentive to anyone to injury anybody,” said Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg. “If the commissioner comes up with a decision that’s consistent with that truth, I’ll be satisfied.”
Vilma, a linebacker whose contract calls for a salary of $1.6 million this season, was suspended without pay for the 2012 campaign. Hargrove, a defensive lineman, was suspended for eight games; Smith, a defensive end, for four games, and Fujita, a linebacker, for three games.