ESPN broke the story this morning – in an effort to get Jonathan Vilma to drop his defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the league has offered to reduce the suspensions of the players who involved in the Saints’ bounty scandal. After initially declining to comment on the matter, NFL.com offered up a report that contradicted what was reported in ESPN’s story.From ESPN.com:
The NFL has offered to reduce New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s year-long suspension to eight games as part of ongoing settlement talks involving the league, the NFL Players Association and legal representatives for the four players who were suspended for their alleged participation in the team’s bounty program from 2009-2011, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
The league’s offer was made late last week but it is conditional upon Vilma dropping a civil lawsuit charging commissioner Roger Goodell with defamation of character, sources said. Vilma has expressed his strong feelings about his tainted reputation.
The talks could also lead to reductions in the suspensions of the other three players — Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games), Packers defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (eight games), and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita (three games).
While the NFL declined to comment publicly on the matter, word trickled out from an unidentified source that no offer had been made. From NFL.com:
The NFL “has made no settlement offer” to New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma regarding his season-long suspension for his role in a “bounty” program despite reports to the contrary, a source close to the situation told NFL.com’s Steve Wyche on Monday morning.
The source told Wyche that the lack of an offer does not mean a proposal might not be made in the future.
Denying that an offer has been made allows the NFL to save face just in case their efforts to settle the suit are rebuffed. Jonathan Vilma is currently on the mend, rehabbing a recurring knee injury. His season long suspension forbids him from using the Saints’ training facilities. Look for this matter to be resolved sooner, rather than later.