New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's decision to sue NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation took the football world by surprise on Thursday afternoon. The league sent out a brief response following the news of Vilma's lawsuit redoubling their emphasis on player safety and fair competition.
From NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello:
"We have not yet reviewed the filing. However, our commitment to player safety and the integrity of the game is our main consideration. We recognize that not everyone will agree with decisions that need to be made."
Those two points have been at the center of the NFL's case since the initial release detailing the league's findings in its investigation of the Saints' bounty program.
Vilma and the other three suspended players -- Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith -- are appealing their suspensions through the NFLPA via two separate grievances. An appeal heard Wednesday before arbitrator Shyam Das focuses on the question of whether or not Goodell can discipline players for actions that occurred prior to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. On May 30, special master Stephen Burbank will take up the NFLPA's contention that the bounties amount to a salary cap violation are are therefore subject to his jurisdiction rather than the league's.
Vilma's defamation lawsuit was filed independently, outside of the player discipline process used by the league and the Players Association.