Conflicting reports regarding Jonathan Vilma surfaced today, as multiple news outlets released information claiming that the NFL had offered Vilma a reduced suspension for the upcoming season. The Saints’ starting middle linebacker was suspended for the entire season for his alleged involvement in the New Orleans bounty scandal, which also led to the suspension of head coach Sean Payton for this upcoming campaign, as we well as the indefinite suspension of former defensive coordinator Greg Williams, who is alleged to have been the orchestrator of the bounty program.
Vilma has since issued a lawsuit against the NFL and Roger Goodell for defamation and loss of wages, in the hopes of retaining a temporary restraining order, which would allow him to make a return to the Saints
ESPN reported that the NFL has offered Vilma a settlement deal which would reduce his season long suspension to eight games. The settlement would be contingent on Vilma dropping his lawsuits against the commissioner and the league. Information from ESPN personalities Chris Mortensen, Ed Werder, and Adam Schefter were used in the report.
The NFL has since addressed the reports, through a statement from Greg Aiello, the NFL VP of Communiucations. Will Brinson of CBS Sports cited the release as reading: "Today's report about a settlement offer by the league to Jonathan Vilma is completely inaccurate. No such settlement offer has been made. We will continue to respect the court proceedings on this matter and have no further comment at this time."
The deal could also affect the suspension lengths of Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove, who were also punished for their roles in the bounty program.
If this deal is ever offered to Vilma, the linebacker would have the option to deny it, as he could potentially have the entire suspension lifted in U.S District Court. While the NFL has stated in the past their belief that they have a strong case against the suspended players, Brinson reports that the NFL fears the potential negatives of the legal battle with Vilma. If he were to accept the deal (if offered), Vilma could make his season debut in Week 9, when the Saints take on the Philadelphia Eagles in New Orleans.
USA Today reports that arguments from both sides in the case will continue to be heard in the U.S District Court, as judge Ginger Berrigan reconvenes the court on Friday.
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