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NFL and Roger Goodell Willing to Deal on New Orleans Saints' Bounty Penalties?

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NFL and Roger Goodell Willing to Deal on New Orleans Saints' Bounty Penalties?
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Does this look like a man who fears a defamation lawsuit?

According to various sources—including ESPN—the NFL has allegedly offered Jonathan Vilma a deal that would reduce his suspension for his leadership of the New Orleans Saints' bounty program from the entire 2012 season to eight games.

The deal would allegedly be contingent upon Vilma dropping his pending lawsuits against both the NFL and Roger Goodell.

If these reports were to be proven true, it would be a shocking reversal. The NFL has adamantly declared throughout the process that it had hard evidence to prove the Saints, and Vilma individually, participated in an illegal program designed to injure other players.

Acceptance of such a deal would also be a major blow to Vilma’s credibility, as he has just as adamantly denied even knowing about such a program, much less being a ring leader in it. 

Many of those claiming that the NFL would offer Vilma such a deal point to the Star Caps case for their confirmation; they believe that the NFL is afraid to go back into court and battle their players over disciplinary rulings made by the league.

For those who don’t remember, the Star Caps case involved a group of players on the Minnesota Vikings who were suspended for taking a banned diuretic that was not included in the ingredients list of the Star Caps supplement.

The players went through all of the proper procedures before taking the supplement, even calling the NFL’s medical hotline for guidance. They were told by the people working the hotline that Star Caps was safe for them to take, so they took it.

The players later on tested positive for the diuretic and were suspended under the league’s drug program. The players sued and initially won, but they were later defeated after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of the NFL; the players were forced to serve their suspensions during the 2011 NFL season.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Jonathan Vilma claims in his lawsuit that being linked to the Bountygate scandal has caused irreparable harm to his reputation.

In essence, the players in this case did nothing wrong, followed the league guidelines for supplement use to the best of their abilities, and still were beaten in court by the NFL! And this is the legal case that supposedly is giving the NFL pause?

We as fans have said many things, good and bad, about Roger Goodell. One thing we have never said is that the man is afraid of a fight with the players, the NFLPA or the officials.

He has taken them all on and has generally come out on top, with the situation with the officials still pending.

So why would he now decide not to stick to his guns in the Vilma matter? The idea that a lawsuit would scare him is laughable, especially when the burden of proof is so clearly on Vilma.

Vilma has to prove that Goodell defamed his character and good name, and that’s not an easy sell to a jury. All Goodell has to do is show any solid evidence that Vilma was involved in the bounty program and it’s a wrap.

Vilma, on the other hand, has to show that Goodell basically lied about him, the program and that his ability to make a living in the NFL has been compromised…which is hard to argue when he’s still under contract to the Saints.

The only thing the NFL would have to fear is an attempt by Vilma to put the league’s top management in the spotlight, in the least-flattering terms possible.

But would that really even matter at this point? I mean, what else could be said about the NFL’s management team that hasn’t already been said implicitly or explicitly?

I don’t know what’s going to happen here, but looking at the hands that the players are holding, I don’t expect the commissioner to fold.

As the players learned in the recent CBA talks and the Star Caps situation, the league always seems to have an ace in the hole. Why would it be different in this instance?

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