Saints Linebacker Vilma Appeals Season-Long Ban in Bounty Case
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma appealed a season-long suspension for helping run a bounty system that paid cash for big hits on opponents.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed the appeal without giving details. Vilma argues that an arbitrator should hear the appeal instead of Commissioner Roger Goodell, while asking for a delay in the disciplinary process until the resolution of a grievance filed by the NFL Players Association last week, the Associated Press reported, without saying where it got its information.
Vilma’s appeal also says the National Football League hasn’t linked him to paying players to injure opponents and asks the league for witness statements and other documentation.
The NFL suspended Vilma without pay last week along with three other players. Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, was suspended for the first eight games of next season; Will Smith, the Saints’ defensive end, for four games; and Scott Fujita, a linebacker now with the Cleveland Browns, for three games. All four have now appealed, Aiello said.
The U.S.’s most-popular sports league in March handed down the stiffest punishment ever imposed on a team and its leadership for the 2009-11 bounty program, after saying about two dozen Saints players were paid cash awards for on-field accomplishments, including forced turnovers and injured opponents. All such payments violate NFL rules on non-contract bonuses.
Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season, General Manager Mickey Loomis was given a half-season suspension, assistant coach Joe Vitt received a six-game ban and the franchise was stripped of two draft picks and fined $500,000.
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely for administering the program.
Vilma, 30, is an eight-year NFL veteran who’s played the past four seasons for the Saints after beginning his career with the New York Jets. A defensive team captain in New Orleans, he was named to the Pro Bowl for the 2005, 2009 and 2010 campaigns.
To contact the reporter on this story: Aaron Kuriloff in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.