New York, NY (Sports Network) - Suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker
Jonathan Vilma left Monday's bounty appeal hearing with NFL commissioner Roger
Goodell and won't return for an afternoon session.
Vilma was discouraged by the process that will likely keep him suspended for
the entire 2012 season in the wake of his alleged role in the Saints' bounty
"It's unfortunate that this process has been the way it is," Vilma said Monday
after leaving the NFL's offices. "I don't know how you get a fair process when
you have a judge, jury and executioner [Goodell]. He's made a ruling and is
going to stick by that ruling. Whatever happens from there happens. It's hard
to go into a process or situation assuming that it's fair."
Vilma was one of four players suspended, but was hit hardest by Goodell. As a
captain of the Saints' defensive unit, Vilma is said to have helped establish
and fund the bounty program. He was said to have offered $10,000 in cash to
any player who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of a 2009
divisional playoff game.
"It's tough to swallow, knowing that from here on out, I'll be forever linked
to a bountygate that's simply not true," Vilma added Monday.
Vilma filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell last month.
Peter Ginsberg, Vilma's lawyer, called Monday's hearing a "sham" and said
Goodell has withheld evidence from the "supposed investigation."
Added Ginsberg: "If [Goodell] chooses to ignore the evidence, then we just
have to proceed as best we can to reclaim Jonathan's reputation."
In addition to Vilma, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay,
was suspended eight games, defensive end Will Smith was hit with a four-game
ban and linebacker Scott Fujita, now playing for Cleveland, will sit for the
first three games of the 2012 campaign.
All three were in New York for Monday's hearing and, prior to the meeting, the
NFL Players Association released a statement from the trio that virtually
echoed Vilma's public sentiments.
"We have purportedly been disciplined by the commissioner for alleged
activities that the National Football League has grossly misrepresented to the
public," the statement began.
"We are in attendance today not because we recognize the commissioner's
jurisdiction to adjudicate regarding these specious allegations, but because
we believe the league would attempt to publicly mischaracterize our refusal to
attend. We will not address the substance of the NFL's case because this is
not the proper venue for adjudication, and there has been no semblance of due
process afforded to us.
"As veteran players of 11, 9 and 9 years in this league, we are profoundly
disappointed with the NFL's conduct in this matter. We know what the NFL has
publicly said we did, and the commissioner has chosen to try to punish us and
disparage our characters based on semantics, not facts. Words are cheap and
power is fleeting.
"Shame on the National Football League and commissioner Goodell for being more
concerned about 'convicting' us publicly than being honorable and fair to men
who have dedicated their professional lives to playing this game with honor."
A pair of grievances filed by the NFLPA on behalf of the players were denied
by arbitrators in recent weeks.
The Sports Network