Mike Ehrmann

Saints bounty suspensions vacated

Paul Tagliabue confirmed Roger Goodell's findings, but vacated all player suspensions that stemmed from the Saints bounty case.

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Judge dismisses Vilma's defamation suit vs Goodell

A U.S. District Court Judge has dismissed Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against league commissioner Roger Goodell.


NFLPA 'pleased' with Tagliabue decision

The players union also declared victory on Tuesday afternoon.


War of words continues in bounty case

Peter Ginsberg continued the war of words on behalf of Jonathan Vilma, his client, in the wake of Paul Tagliabue's decision to vacate punishment for his client.


Vilma will continue with defamation suit

Despite having his suspension vacated, the Saints linebacker will move forward with his personal defamation suit against the NFL commissioner.


Brees celebrates and Fujita was right

Fujita was right: he did nothing wrong.


Punishments vacated

The appeal hearing for the four suspended players in the Saints bounty case reversed the punishments handed out by the league.


Bounty appeal hearing reportedly 'adjourned'

According to a report, an Oct. 30 hearing on appeals in the Saints' bounty cases has been postponed due to a looming hurricane and controversy over former NFL commissioner Paul Tagiabue hearing the appeals.


Another conflict in bounty appeals?

The NFLPA says that Paul Tagliabue also has a conflict of interest in hearing the appeal of four players suspended in the wake of the bounty case.


Vilma admits to bounty system

Jonathan Vilma admitted Monday that the New Orleans Saints did have a pay-for-performance system, though he said that no one ever got paid for causing an injury.


Goodell recuses himself from bounty appeals

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recused himself from hearing the appeals of four players suspended as part of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.


Vilma says he's allowed to play Sunday

Suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said he will be allowed to play in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay.


Once again, Saints players appeal Goodell's ruling

Jonathan Vilma and the rest of the suspended Saints and former Saints appealed the recently reissued suspensions handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell.


Fujita blasts Roger Goodell over suspension

The former New Orleans Saint questions the Commissioner's "absolute power" and the logic behind his remaining one-game suspension.


Saints bounty suspensions are in

The Saints linebacker will not play this year.


Scott Fujita's Meeting With NFL Canceled; Likely To Be Rescheduled

Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita's scheduled meeting Tuesday with NFL officials on his involvement with the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal has been cancelled, but is likely to be rescheduled, according to Jason La Cantora of CBSSports.com. La Cantora tweeted the news Tuesday morning.

The meeting, which was to discuss Fujita's suspension, which had been temporarily overturned, was going to take place in New York City. But Fujita couldn't make the trip as he continues to rehab a knee injury.

Another option to meet was considered. Another tweet from La Canfora:

The sides were going back and forth over video conferencing- Fujita was not headed to NY- and NFL cancelled that this AM...

Fujita's three-game suspension for involvement in the Saints' bounty program was lifted for Week 1, but Fujita didn't play because of his injury. He made his season debut Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals and made two tackles.

For more on the Browns, be sure to visit Dawgs By Nature. For more on the Saints, visit Saints blog Canal Street Chronicles. Stay tuned to SB Nation's NFL hub for all of your pro football needs.


NFL Shows Jonathan Vilma Sworn Affidavit From Gregg Williams

The NFL gave Jonathan Vilma a sworn affidavit from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams stating that the linebacker offered $10,000 to any teammate who managed to knock Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC title game.

Related: Can Spagnuolo Save the Saints from Slow Start?

Vilma met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for several hours on Monday and afterward sounded uncertain about the future of his season. Vilma is one of four players who had their suspensions tossed out by an appeals board. The other players -- Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita -- are scheduled to meet with Goodell on Tuesday, and from there Goodell will decide whether or not to modify his original punishments.

Vilma was originally suspended for the entire 2012 season. Hargrove was suspended for eight games, Smith for four and Fujita for three.

For more coverage, visit Saints blog Canal Street Chronicles. Stay tuned to SB Nation's NFL hub for all of your pro football needs.


Saints Bounty Scandal: Roger Goodell To Meet With 4 Bounty Players

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell agreed Tuesday to meet with Jonathan Vilma and the rest of the New Orleans Saints players who were accused this offseason of being involved in the bounty scandal.

Four players were implicated in the investigation conducted by the NFL: Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith. Only Smith and Vilma remain with the team, but all four are going to take part in the sit-down with Goodell.

According to NFL.com, both sides are very open to the meeting.

"We have accepted Commissioner Goodell's invitation to meet with him to share information and hopefully resolve this matter appropriately," Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said Tuesday.

Vilma is the central figure in this situation, with the middle linebacker in the process of suing Goodell for defamation.

Vilma said he is hoping the league will take this meeting with an open mind, with the commissioner making the decision on his fate afterward. The NFL released a statement, also on Tuesday afternoon, to explain its expectations.

"Each player suspended in the Saints' bounty matter has declined multiple opportunities to meet with league representatives to present information," the league said. "We have reminded each of those players that we remain willing to meet with them prior to the commissioner making the determination called for by the CBA Appeals Panel. We intend to conduct any such meetings that are scheduled per our normal process under the CBA."

For more on the Saints' bounty Scandal, please be sure to check out our blog Canal Street Chronicles and our dedicated NFL hub.


Saints Bounty Players Eligible To Play In Week 1

The players suspended in the New Orleans Saints bounty case have seen their suspensions overturned, according to a number of reports. Those four players will be eligible to play in Week 1 this weekend.

The four players who had their suspensions overturned were Jonathan Vilma (full season), Anthony Hargrove (8 games), Will Smith (4 games) and Scott Fujita (3 games).

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Vilma and Smith are still with the Saints, which is a big boost for them this weekend against the Washington Redskins. Fujita is now with the Browns and he recently said he is "preparing as if he is playing" in Week 1. Hargrove is a free agent after being released by the Green Bay Packers earlier this offseason.

The Saints host the Redskins on Sunday at 1 p.m. on Fox.

For more on the New Orleans Saints, check out Canal Street Chronicles. And for more on the Saints bounty case, stay tuned to this StoryStream.

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Saints Player Suspensions Overturned On Appeal

The suspensions for those players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty case have been overturned, according to a report from Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated.

Four players were suspended by the NFL for their alleged role in the bounty case: Jonathan Vilma (full season), Anthony Hargrove (8 games), Will Smith (4 games) and Scott Fujita (3 games).

This means all players will be eligible to play in Week 1. NFL Commissioner can re-consider discipline in the case moving forward so it's not necessarily a total victory for the Saints but for the time being it is.

For more on the New Orleans Saints, check out Canal Street Chronicles. And for more on the Saints bounty case, stay tuned to this StoryStream.

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Saints Bounty Case: NFLPA Requests Federal Restraining Order Allowing Suspended Players To Play

The NFL Players Association is seeking a temporary federal restraining order that would allow players suspended in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal to play in Week 1 of the regular season.

The motion was filed on behalf of three of the four suspended players: Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma filed for a similar motion when his full-season suspension began.

In the proposed retraining order, the union argues that the players would suffer irreparable harm if forced to miss games while their case against the league continues. The players want the suspension thrown out entirely because of the way the discipline process was handled.

There is a dispute on whether the league's collective bargaining agreement gives Commissioner Roger Goodell the authority to both punish the players and hear their appeals for the alleged pay-for-injure scheme.

Players have denied employing such a bounty program, while admitting there was a pay-for-performance program in which players would receive extra money for big hits and big plays

For more Saints coverage, check out Canal Street Chronicles. Follow the latest developments in the bounty case in this StoryStream.


Freeh Group Continues Investigation Into Saints

Former FBI director Louis Freeh's firm has wrapped up their investigation into the Penn State sexual assault scandal, and now turns their eyes towards the New Orleans Saints bounty program and wiretapping allegations. Saints owner Tom Benson hired the Freeh Group primarily to investigate the wiretapping allegations made against Saints general manager Mickey Loomis.

Saints president of communications Greg Bensel released a statement via email to the New Orleans Times-Picayune regarding the investigation that the Freeh Group is currently conducting.

"We take these allegations very seriously. As a result, we have hired the Freeh Group, founded by former director of the FBI and former federal judge Louis Freeh. Mr. Benson moved quickly to hire them and has spared no expense to get to the bottom of these allegations."

The Freeh Group began their investigation into the matter three months ago, and that investigation is still ongoing.

For more Saints coverage, check out Canal Street Chronicles. Follow the latest developments in the bounty case in this StoryStream.

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Anthony Hargrove Accuses NFL Of Playing Politics With Bounty Investigation

Why is the NFL so doggedly pursuing punishments for the players, coaches and others involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal? Former Saints player Anthony Hargrove, one of four players suspended for playing a role in the pay-for-performance system, says the league's pursuit centers on "image, power and money."

Hargrove released a statement to the media on Tuesday afternoon, a day after the start of the appeal hearing for himself, Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma, denying the accusations against him. Using analogies ranging from former President Bill Clinton to the Mona Lisa's smile, Hargrove also refuted the league's claim that its evidence implicates him in the Saints' bounty program.

The former Saints defensive end devoted several paragraphs of his statement to explaining that that it was his voice heard demanding payment for a hit on Brett Favre in the January 2012 NFC championship game in a video shown to players and reporters on Monday.

Hargrove's denial is the latest in the back-and-forth over punishments handed out in the bounty program. Mike Ornstein denied the league's evidence that named him as a source in corroborating Vilma's $10,000 offer to take Favre out of the game. Joe Vitt also denied the league's assertion that he admitted to contributing money to a bounty pool.

At its core, this is a debate about how league handling player discipline through a centralized approach with all power in the commissioner's hands, a premise included in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement agreed to by players and the league. What this is not is an endpoint, or even a milestone indicating that a resolution is near.

The full text of Hargrove's statement, which was first obtained by Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com, is below:

I have sat back over the past few months and watched as the NFL has spent countless hours painting a picture that has left a lot of people convinced that myself and three other players deserve to be punished, not to mention the coaching staff and Mr. Loomis. I have asked myself a million times: why? Why on earth are they trying to make a mountain out of a molehill? I do not have an absolute answer, but I'm guessing it has something to do with image, power, and money.

The words they have used over the months to capture your hearts and minds have been many, practiced, and calculated. But that does not make them true. It just makes them good at what they do. They are, in my opinion, master politicians. Bill Clinton once said, "I did not have sex with that woman."

Semantics. Politicians are good at it.

There is no way I can reveal to you today the depth of their imagination and determination in painting this picture for you, the public, adroitly using the media as their tools of art. But I will dabble a little. And stay with me, because even though they have somberly made it clear that "The Mona Lisa" is not smiling, if we move in closer we notice that ... just maybe she is.

First of all, I watched in shock as they took my declaration a couple of months ago and made it into something it was not. It left from me as a private explanation of certain specific events and, voila, came out as a confession of crimes. Even I had to blink my eyes real hard to see how they did that one. Do you know they never even asked me what I meant? Just assumed I wanted to confess, I guess.


Or in this case, maybe just lies. They publicly said that I said things that I did not say. Is that not lying? Isn't it? Go back and read for yourselves without assuming that it says what they have made you think, and then re-read their synopsis. Please try to have an open mind.

They also said that I declined to be interviewed a few weeks back. Again, untrue. I know it sounds dubious to the public when they hear that I declined to visit with Mr. Goodell, and that was their intent, I'm guessing. But they were the first to decline. After that, I, too, became dubious.

Yesterday I heard that they have a witness who saw me tell Joe Vitt that I lied? Who is this mystery witness? You may come forward. I won't bite. The truth is that I feel certain I know who this supposed witness is, and if you knew you would understand why this is all so shady. The problem is, since I am only 99 percent sure who this supposed witness is, I will keep it to myself, because that is what honesty and integrity demand ... absolute certainty. And even then, why intentionally drag that person's name through the mud, as the NFL has done mine?

But it did not happen as they say!

They say, and I quote, "the circumstances strongly suggest that you told at least one player on another club about the program, and confirmed that Brett Favre was the target of a bounty." I did no such thing. Do I think someone told them I did? Probably. And I believe it was probably the same mystery witness. But it ... did ... not ... happen! There is no way they have absolute proof, because it does not exist. I would stake my career on it.

I have felt like the target of a sophisticated mugging, watching as many have walked by and minded their own business as if the muggers deserved their prize. Why have most walked by? Because they were not the ones being mugged, or maybe because they felt that they had no vested interest. True, some halve yelped out that maybe someone should help, but even most of them keep on walking by.

I call out to my fellow NFL brothers around the NFL to not buy in. Look closer. You have not been given the full truth. There has been a tactful attempt to cause division among us, but we must not let it work! We should seek the truth out with diligence and band together if at all possible. Trust me, it could be you next time being mugged.

And that brings me to the final issue for the day. And for this we must literally lean in and look and listen very closely. Part of the NFL's evidence so prominently and proudly displayed yesterday included a DVD with interesting excerpts from the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. They showed it to the players and then to "The Twelve". It showed certain highlights from the game and a little sideline discussion, among other things. The Twelve, from what I heard, came away very convinced that the NFL had put on ... what did they call it ... oh yeah, an explosive and compelling show of evidence.

As I watched the DVD, I did not think so. In fact, I felt similar to how I had felt when I read the NFL's statement about my declaration. Bewildered. I looked around the room wondering if anyone else caught what the NFL had done. It seemed no one did. They are very, very good.

To replay it for you, they first showed me hitting Favre in the 2nd quarter, up high. Some debated whether it was a legal hit or not. I was flagged and later fined. It happens. Sorry Brett. Then in the 4th quarter Favre was hurt by a high/low hit by a couple of my teammates. And he left the game temporarily with an ankle issue, it seemed. And stunningly, that happens in NFL games, too.

But this is where it gets interesting. The NFL has a sideline shot of our defense gathered around Joe Vitt discussing what we might should expect if the backup quarterback comes into the game. It shows me off to the side with some of our other defensive linemen on the bench with their backs to the camera. The final snippet has an arrow pointed at me with the caption indicating that I had said, "give me my money."

Here's the problem with that. It wasn't me. That's right. The NFL got their evidence all wrong. In their rush to convict me, they made a very serious error. Is it intentional? I don't know. But one thing I do know with absolute certainty ... it ... was ... not ... me! Like I said, lean in closer, look closer, listen closer. It is not my voice. Anyone who knows me well knows that it is not me. But the NFL does not know me well. They simply make assumptions. With ... my ... life.

Any coach evaluating film would have thought that #69 played a very exciting, great football game, the way it is supposed to be played. And yet the NFL has cut it up and made me out to be a monster.

They duped "The Twelve" and many others. For example, I have seen the NFL Network broadcast that it was me as if it were fact. But again, it is absolutely not. It will be easily provable. In fact, there is no way they can prove that it is me. I stake my life on the fact that it is not me. I wonder if Roger Goodell is willing to stake his job on this piece of evidence? Or Jeff Pash? Or Adolpho Birch? Or Mary Jo White? Or anyone else associated with this mockery? In fact, since we are here, does anyone want to go up and ask them? And how about you guys? Are any of you willing to put your job on the line and say that this piece of evidence is accurate? By a show of hands, please?

The truth is, this has been embarrassing to have all these lies about me echoing across America. Good Lord have my eyes been opened! Just ask yourself ... if they will manufacture this piece of so-called evidence, what else will they do? I know it looks confusing, especially when they tell you what to look for, but don't believe it. This, in my mind, brings everything into question. Everything. And all of this because one man has absolute power and seemingly must use it. We as players have to be very careful. Do they care about us? When they are willing to twist things to hurt us? Come on guys.

As for most of the media, I would hope you would not believe every accusation you hear in the future. Dig deeper before you come up with your story headlines and opinions. You might be interested in what you find. You might even find that "The Mona Lisa" is actually smiling.


NFL Shows Reporters 'Explosive, Compelling' Evidence From Saints Bounty Investigation

The NFL delivered what might have been one of the final blows in the New Orleans Saints bounty saga on Monday afternoon. Following the appeal hearings for the four suspended players, the league brought a dozen reporters, including Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com, into a room at its New York headquarters and showed them the evidence the league uncovered in its investigation and decision to punish the players.

Just how revealing was the evidence? King called it "explosive, compelling" in a tweet after seeing it. And what exactly was this evidence? Former Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, who was hired by the NFL to review the materials, presented it twice on Monday, once to the players appealing their suspension and again to the 12 reporters. Documents ran the gamut from Gregg Williams' testimony to a PowerPoint slide featuring a picture of Dog the Bounty Hunter and stacks of cash.

Among the more notable revelations on Monday:

  • A PowerPoint slide shown the night before the Saints' January 2011 playoff game against Seattle featuring photos of Dog the Bounty Hunter, cash and text that read: "Now is the time to do our job ... collect bounty $$! No apologies! Let's go hunting!''
  • Revelations of $35,000 in bounties for Brett Favre, which included a $5,000 contribution from assistant coach and this year's interim Joe Vitt, who now denies it.
  • There was a ledger sheet showing Roman Harper due a payment of $1,000 for a "cart-off" hit on Brandon Jacobs.
  • There was evidence that Matt Hasselbeck and Marshawn Lynch were also targeted.

One thing clear from the reports is the extensive cooperation from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. He walked the league through the details of the bounty system and pointed the league in the right direction to investigate further.

Saints owner Tom Benson provided the league access to the team's computer systems, which allowed them to recover the soon-to-be infamous PowerPoint slide.

The batch of evidence presented Monday was in addition to an earlier batch obtained by Freeman.

Players and their attorneys received the evidence on Friday, but argued Monday that they did not receive it with the required 72-hour window and therefore did not have time to adequately review the material. The appeal adjourned during the middle part of the day to allow for additional review time.

The players left the appeal hearing claiming that the process was unfair. The NFL will leave the hearing open through the rest of the week to give players a chance to present their side in the appeal process.

Jonathan Vilma and his attorney Peter Ginsberg left the hearing entirely on Monday morning. Vilma is personally suing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation of character related to the league's handling of the bounty scandal.

So what happens now?

Fans tired of hearing the endless back and forth are unlike to get a break anytime soon -- at least not until training camp starts, and probably not then either. The players and their counsel could pursue other options, and the demand to see more evidence, more direct evidence that points to those players with even more specifics, is only likely to get louder. The Vilma lawsuit, if it makes it far enough into the court proceedings, could expose even more animosity.

Players saw the evidence presented here before the appeal and heard it presented again during the appeal by White. On top of the claim that they did not have the evidence in enough time to prepare for Monday's appeal, the players have pointed to flaws in the due process because they were not allowed to question coaches or even White.

Since the bounty revelations were first revealed at the beginning of March, players and the players union have demanded more transparency from the league with the evidence being used in the case. Simple curiosity has fed the public's appetite to see more. On Monday, the NFL met those demands. The argument going forward will likely hinge on the evidence not being revealed by the league, but the latest news likely makes it even more of an uphill fight for the suspended players.

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NFLPA Outside Counsel Attacks NFL Over Bounty Appeals

The NFLPA released a statement from Richard Smith, the union's outside counsel, on Monday afternoon further criticizing the league's handling of the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation and the process of handing out punishments to the four players indicted for their involvement. In that statement, Smith accuses the league of "whitewashing" a "sloppy" investigation.

Smith's statement echoes familiar charges from the NFLPA and players throughout the bounty saga. He alleges that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was "unfair" in his discipline of players as well as denying those players proper due process.

Said Smith:

The unfair discipline of players for their alleged involvement in a pay-to-injure/bounty program violated the Commissioner's duty to refrain from resorting to improper methods to defend an unsubstantiated pronouncement.

The NFLPA memo did reveal that former Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, who was hired by the NFL to review the investigation, was on hand at Monday's appeal for Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma. White read a report of the investigation at Monday's appeal hearing, but was not allowed to field questions from players or their attorneys.

Smith also took the league to task for providing only 200 pages of evidence among some 18,000 pages the NFL claims to have. The NFLPA claims that the evidence was provided after the required 72-hour window, and Smith claimed that the NFL declined their request for a three-day adjournment to review the documents.

The appeal hearing resumed on Monday afternoon following a brief window to further review the evidence provided by the league. Vilma and his attorney pulled out of the appeal, calling it a "sham."


Jonathan Vilma And His Lawyer Respond To Reports Of Saints Bounty Ledger

Late on Friday afternoon, Yahoo Sports reported that the NFL was in possession of a ledger documenting the New Orleans Saints pay for performance program, including player bounties. Since then, suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and his lawyer Peter Ginsberg spent the weekend countering the assertion that the ledger proves anything.

Ginsberg released a statement pointing out the ledger did not identify players paid or any of the supposed targets. He also noted that in the 2009 contest against the Carolina Panthers, in which three payments were supposedly paid for injuries, "show that opposing defensive players, not offensive players, were the brunt of any physical plays." Ginsberg added that the payments made were for legal plays and "dirty or penalized" play resulted in fines.

Vilma is suing NFL commission Roger Goodell for defamation. The Saints linebacker, who was suspended for the entire season, maintains that he did not sponsor or participate in any kind of bounty program. Ginsberg reiterated that point in the statement.

The truth is that Jonathan Vilma gave no money, incentive or encouragement ever - not at any time in his eight-year career - to injure or knock out of any game any player with a dirty or unsportsmanlike hit. The facts are plain and simple. During the three seasons in question, Jonathan Vilma was one of the least penalized players not only on the Saints but in the NFL. There is not one instance in which Jonathan Vilma set out to injure a player or gave any incentive to another player to injure an opposing player.

While his lawyer handled the official response, Vilma took to Twitter to offer his own reaction to reports of the ledger.

The initial report cited a game against a 2009 game against the Bills resulted in thee payments for injuries. The source cited in Jason Cole's initial report then corrected that information to say that the game in question was actually the 2009 contest against the Panthers. Vilma made note of that correction citing a blog post at The Angry Who Dat which says that game does not match the details in the report.

The back and forth over evidence in the bounty scandal is likely to get louder.


Jonathan Vilma Lawsuit Against Roger Goodell Cites 11 Defamation Claims

The New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal remains in the news on Thursday as suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma filed a defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The lawsuit contains eleven claims related to slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Here are the eleven claims Vilma set forth in his complaint:

1. Slander Per Se - Injury to Professional Reputation
2. Slander Per Se - injury to Professional Reputation
3. Slander Per Se - Accusations of Criminal Conduct
4. Slander by Implication
5. Slander - Reckless Disregard/Malice
6. Libel Per Se - Injury to Professional Reputation
7. Libel Per Se - Injury to Professional Reputation
8. Libel Per Se - Accusations of Criminal Conduct
9. Libel by Implication
10. Libel - Reckless Disregard/Malice
11. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Just to clarify, generally speaking, slander applies to spoken word, while libel deals with the written and published word. There are a variety of distinctions that can be made depending on the circumstance, but that is the basic difference for the purposes of this lawsuit.

In the background section, Vilma describes the numerous statements Goodell made in discussing the bounty scandal and pointing to Vilma directly by name, or by implication when discussing Vilma in terms of one of the "leaders among defensive players."

Vilma's complaint then goes on to describe all of these statements to be made based on hearsay and circumstantial evidence at best, and lies at worst. Furthermore, throughout the eleven claims for relief, Vilma states that Goodell made these statements with no reasonable ground for believing their truth and in fact made them with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity and/or with outright malice.

Vilma uses the allegations to deny any involvement in a bounty program. In paragraph 35, Vilma denies establishing or assisting in establishing a bounty program. In paragraphs 36 through 38, he denies pledging, receiving or making payments for various hits. He denies targeting opposing players in any way that would violate NFL rules and denies getting involved in any program that could potentially injure players.

Each of the first ten complaints is meant to cover the numerous statements Roger Goodell made on the issue, with each statement constitution a form of defamation. The final claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress claims that Goodell's conduct was extreme and outrageous, it caused Vilma to suffer severe emotional distress, and Goodell knew and intended that Vilma would suffer severe emotional distress as a result of his Statements and conduct.

The strongest defense against a defamation lawsuit is the truth. If the NFL has sufficient evidence on hand, a simple release would be enough to get this lawsuit dismissed, or at least make for an easy victory in front of a jury. The NFLPA has voiced numerous complaints about the league refusing to turn over their evidence in the bounty scandal.

This lawsuit would seem to be meant in large part as a weapon for getting more evidence released. There have been reports the league will consider releasing some of the evidence, and this might further force their hand. At the same time, the vehement denials by Jonathan Vilma, which are now officially on the record in the Louisiana court system, will leave us wondering how this will play out if and when more evidence comes to light.


Jonathan Vilma Suing Roger Goodell For Defamation

The New Orleans Saints Bounty scandal is officially entering the courtroom. Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has filed a defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell featuring eleven separate claims for relief.

According to the complaint (PDF), is seeking to recover damages for comments made by Goodell in which, while speaking publicly about Saints executives, coaches and players, "in relation to the Bounty scandal in relation to purported efforts designed to injure opposing players, made public statements concerning Vilma which were false, defamatory and injurious to Vilma’s professional and personal reputation."

Vilma is asking for compensatory damages, punitives damages, attorneys fees and interest on the damages.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of Wednesday's news that the NFL would consider releasing some of the evidence in the case. The NFLPA's primary complaint about the league handling of the Bounty scandal has been related to its reported lack of full disclosure of evidence and this suit includes that accusation.

The NFLPA has claimed a right to view this evidence in their attempts to protect their membership. Although the union wants to protect any players injured due to the reported Bounty scandal, they also owe a fiduciary duty to the accused players given that they are also union members. This lawsuit may be the quickest way to force the league's hand in turning over evidence.


Jonathan Vilma's Suspension Starts Immediately; Appeals To Be Heard By Roger Goodell

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Wednesday that four players have been suspended for their role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal that was unearthed by an NFL investigation. Jonathan Vilma had the harshest discipline enacted, getting a full season suspension. Anthony Hargrove, now a member of the Green Bay Packers, has been suspended eight games while Will Smith was hit with a four-game ban and Scott Fujita, who is with the Browns currently, was given a three-game suspension.

Vilma's suspension starts immediately and he can not participate in any more activities with the Saints.

The league's statement indicates that the three other players can still participate in team activities through the preseason.

Fujita, Hargrove, and Smith may participate in all off-season activity, including preseason games, prior to the suspensions taking effect. Each player disciplined today is entitled to appeal the decision within three days. If an appeal is filed, Commissioner Goodell would hold a hearing at which the player may speak on his behalf and be represented by counsel.

Because these suspensions are "conduct detrimental" to the league, Goodell will be the one who hears the appeals, the same guy that originally handed down the suspensions. In other words, an appeal isn't likely to be successful barring any new information.

For more on New Orleans Saints, head over to the SB Nation blog Canal Street Chronicles. Also be sure to stay up to date with our ongoing StoryStream.

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Saints Punishment: Jonathan Vilma Suspended 1 Year; Multi-Game Suspensions For 3 Others

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was expected to levy punishments on Wednesday against the players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal and that's what he did, announcing suspensions for several players.

According to the NFL's release, Jonathan Vilma is suspended for the entire season, Anthony Hargove is suspended for eight games, Will Smith for four games and Scott Fujita for three games.

The suspensions are without pay and considered "conduct detrimental" to the league.

Vilma was identified in the league's investigation as offering up a $10,000 reward for knocking Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC Championship game and doing the same to Kurt Warner a week before. The league's statement said that Vilma, a captain of the defense, "assisted Coach Williams in establishing and funding" the bounty program.

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma of the Saints is suspended without pay for the 2012 NFL season, effective immediately per league policy for season-long suspensions. The investigation concluded that while a captain of the defensive unit Vilma assisted Coach Williams in establishing and funding the program. Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Vilma offered a specific bounty --$10,000 in cash - to any player who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of the 2009 Divisional Playoff Game and later pledged the same amount to anyone who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game the following week (played on January 24, 2010). Vilma is eligible to be reinstated after the Super Bowl in 2013.

Smith was "featured prominently" in the league's investigation and contributed "significant sums" to the program.

Will Smith of the Saints is suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2012 regular season. Smith, a defensive end, assisted Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in establishing and funding the program during a period in which he was a captain and leader of the defensive unit. Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Smith pledged significant sums to the program pool for "cart-offs" and "knockouts" of opposing players.

Hargove, who has since signed with the Green Bay Packers, admitted to the league that he knew about and participated in the bounty program.

Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 regular season. Hargrove actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints. Hargrove submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it. The evidence showed that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was a target of a large bounty during the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. Hargrove also actively obstructed the league's 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators.

Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, is a member of the NFLPA's executive board and pledged a "significant amount of money" to the program.

Scott Fujita (now with the Cleveland Browns) is suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2012 regular season. The record established that Fujita, a linebacker, pledged a significant amount of money to the prohibited pay-for-performance/bounty pool during the 2009 NFL Playoffs when he played for the Saints. The pool to which he pledged paid large cash rewards for "cart-offs" and "knockouts," plays during which an opposing player was injured.

The argument from the players perspective is that they were simply doing what they were told from the coaching staff. That argument is undermined slightly from the league's findings that Vilma and other players helped establish and maintain the program.

For more on New Orleans Saints, head over to the SB Nation blog Canal Street Chronicles. Also be sure to stay up to date with our ongoing StoryStream.

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Joe Vitt Named Saints Interim Coach During Sean Payton's Suspension

The New Orleans Saints have officially announced their plans to replace head coach Sean Payton during his season-long suspension. Joe Vitt, the team's assistant head coach, will serve as the interim head coach during the 2012 season, the Saints announced in a press release on Thursday.

Vitt was the acting head coach last season when Payton went down with a knee injury. He was the favorite to land the interim job, so this move doesn't come as a surprise.

GM Mickey Loomis, who is also suspended for half the season, made the announcement.

"But we need to set a course of action that gives us the best chance to win this season without our head coach, and that is why I am announcing today that Joe Vitt will assume Sean's duties. We considered a number of great options to handle Payton's duties both internally and externally, but believe this will provide the most seamless transition for our players and our coaching staff, allowing our offensive and defensive staffs to remain intact with the fewest changes. This is the same structure we used last season during Sean's knee injury."

One of the big obstacles with this move is that Vitt has also been suspended as a result of the bounty scandal. He'll be out the first six games of the regular season with his suspension officially starting after the preseason is over. Loomis said they will have a plan to replace Vitt when that time comes.

"We will work through the offseason under this plan and when we get to training camp we will decide on a course of action for the first six weeks of the season, while Joe Vitt is unavailable. We are fortunate to have a great veteran coaching staff well equipped to handle this challenge."

Among the candidates who could be the interim to the interim is offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.


Saints Punishment: Suspensions Upheld, Fines Could Be Reduced

Last week the NFL heard appeals from members of the New Orleans Saints including head coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt. The appeals weren't expected to be successful considering NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is the one who initially filed the discipline and the one who heard the appeals.

According to an NFL statement, Goodell will not reduce the suspensions for those involved. For Payton, that's one full season. Loomis received eight games and Vitt received six games. The Saints organization was docked two second round picks and fined $500,000.

Payton's suspension, originally scheduled for early April, will now start on April 16, which is exactly one week away. There are likely in-house candidates to replace Payton for the season. Bill Parcells has also been considered, though it's unclear where the Saints stand on possibly using him as an interim coach.

The suspensions for Loomis and Vitt start at the end of the preseason.

One bit of good news for the Saints is that the financial penalties -- the fines -- could be reduced. The Saints organization itself was fined $500,000 in light of the bounty scandal. Others were suspended without pay. For Payton, that's the loss of several million dollars in salary. It's unclear when Goodell will decide on the financial penalties.

The NFL's statement says Goodell will review the status of each of those involved at the conclusion of their suspensions to determine their reinstatement status.

Gregg Williams, former Saints defensive coordinator, is still suspended indefinitely.

Check out all the details of the investigation here. Visit SB Nation's Saints blog, Canal Street Chronicles.

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