Goodell not fazed by Vilma’s lawsuit, Saints’ blather

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn't concerned about Jonathan Vilma's lawsuit. (AP photo)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn't concerned about Jonathan Vilma's lawsuit. (AP photo)

Troy Vincent heard it from coaches since his days in youth football.

“Tough it out! Get up! Suck it up!’ — but those days are over,” the former NFL safety said Tuesday. “Was that the right thing to do? No. But that’s the way we were taught.”

The NFL, facing player-safety issues and a blur of concussion-litigation lawsuits, potentially could be on the verge of sweeping changes. But the biggest obstacle may be changing mindsets. Players, coaches and owners are driven to win, CAT-scans and EEGs be damned. This is a $9 billion league. A team’s season: 16 games. Evidence of possible post-career brain damage notwithstanding, does anybody really believe a player is not going to stumble back to the huddle even if he feels a little loopy?

Does it seem fathomable that players, not the most stable bunch when it comes to job security, would be willing to sit out games?

“That’s the progression,” said Vincent, who now works as the NFL’s vice president of player engagement. “It’s the right thing to do. I think players realize what’s at stake.”

The NFL held its spring meetings in Atlanta on Tuesday. Player safety stirred most of the discussion. Not surprising. It’s a topic that resonates in most NFL cities, with the notable exception of New Orleans. The Saints are still playing the victim card in “BountyGate.”

New Orleans players believe they’re being railroaded. But with every new whine, they’re morphing into a bigger clown act – and Jonathan Vilma is driving the proverbial overstuffed Volkswagen.

Late last week, “Jonathan Vilma vs. Roger Goodell” was filed in U.S. District Court in Louisiana. Among the amusing claims in Vilma’s libel and defamation suit: “Goodell had no reasonable grounds for believing the truth of his statements. Goodell relied on, at best, hearsay, circumstantial evidence and lies in making the statements.”

The result of these false claims, Vilma said, is that the “media will forever mention his name in the context of the bounty investigation and fans will forever remember Vilma with ill repute rather than remember his substantial accomplishments on and off the field.”

Sorry. I had to laugh at the thought of Vilma sitting on a witness stand, denying he was someone of “ill repute.”

Michael McCann, director of the Sports Institute at Vermont Law School, could not recall a similar case of an athlete suing a commissioner. He said it’s “less than 50 percent” that the case will make it to the courtroom. The collective bargaining agreement may preclude a player from suing the commissioner.

“If it’s not thrown out, it will be interesting to watch,” McCann said. “It’s almost imaginary.”

Truly surreal is the Saints’ and the NFLPA’s reaction to all this. At a time when player safety is the No. 1 agenda item and the belief exists that post-career brain damage may be leading to suicides, the union is complaining about even trivial matters like players having to wear thigh and knee pads again. And suing Goodell?

Perspective, people.

“I don’t expect that everyone is going to agree all the time, particularly when it involves discipline,” Goodell said. “That’s not [my] objective.”

He would not comment directly on Vilma’s lawsuit, nor would he say whether he believed the CBA allowed a player to sue him. But he said the league would release more evidence of the Saints’ bounty program in the future, beyond the statement of facts that was released in March.

Goodell was asked if the criticism hurt him. He smiled and said no.

Does he second-guess himself?

“Sure, but that’s what an appeals process is for,” he said. “You want to hear what the players have to say. I invited them to come in, but they decided not to, at the NFLPA’s suggestion.”

Vincent played 15 seasons, went to five Pro Bowls and was named the NFL’s Man of the Year. Credibility is not an issue. Asked if he ever considered suing a commissioner, he responded, “I didn’t know we could do that.”

His reaction to Vilma’s suit?

“I read about it, and I was just like: When is this going to end?” he said. “When are we going to get back to the real issues?”

It’s a good question, one that Vilma and the Saints need to think about.

By Jeff Schultz

99 comments Add your comment

Brian

May 22nd, 2012
7:58 pm

Go Jeff!!!!!

Brian

May 22nd, 2012
8:01 pm

You should tweet him and see whats up? Hey Jon. Just wanted to see how your day was going? When are you coming back to the NFL?

Beast from the East

May 22nd, 2012
8:10 pm

Would you expect anything less from a player from “Da U”?

Paddy

May 22nd, 2012
8:15 pm

Where is the NO owner in all this crap. Seems like there is absolutly no leadership coming from the very top of the Saints food chain! This is really disgusting!

FalconFanatic

May 22nd, 2012
8:28 pm

He sounds sooo ridiculous and he cannot honestly think Goddell is afraid of this, the man was a LAWYER before he was a commish and not only that he has a gang of top notch Harvard and Columbia law grads to beat your silly case and lawyers smart enough to take your dough that you are dumb enogh to sink into this frivilous case….DEATH TO THE SAINTS. GO FALCONS!!

JSS

May 22nd, 2012
8:40 pm

It’s gonna see the courtroom, what it may not do is survive a trip through all of those crazies in the 11th District Court of Appeals… They’ve never seen a case they didn’t do colon-rectal back flips trying to get to make whoopee with the business sector in writing summary judgments on their behalf… All other sports excluding the NBA who long ago traded their suspension rights for greater leverage (Bird Rights) over outside arbitration. He’s right it could be interesting if the district judge actually makes them produce their evidence!

Kurtis

May 22nd, 2012
8:46 pm

Saints…..what a bunch of whiney babies. It’s so freaking hilarious watching them go through this self inflicted trainwreck of an offseason.. HAHAHAHAHA!!!! What clowns.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 22nd, 2012
9:00 pm

BORING!! We want more articles about the most successful team in Atlanta: THE HAWKS!!

You can’t spell “football fan” without “fool.”

Nativebird

May 22nd, 2012
9:26 pm

Vilma is guilty, he’s a thug. Just like his coach Williams, who should not be allowed to ever walk a sideline again.

Hillbilly D

May 22nd, 2012
9:34 pm

He’s right it could be interesting if the district judge actually makes them produce their evidence!

I for one, would like to see the evidence. Let everybody show their cards.

Hey Seen this B4

May 22nd, 2012
9:38 pm

What’s worst, the Sean Payton painkiller scandal, BountyGate, Drew Bree’s embarrassing denial of a bounty system, the mortifying playoff losses to awful NFC West teams, or the tainted 2009 title?

Paul in NH

May 22nd, 2012
9:39 pm

I’d love to see this case go to trial – it would be a great spectacle. On the one hand you’d have Jonathon Vilma on the stand, under oath, answering questions concerning bounty-gate (perhaps Vilma’s lawyer hasn’t explained to him that, as the plaintiff, he’d better be prepared to answer questions under cross-examination).
On the other hand, we have the potential of seeing Roger Goodell produce the evidence he examined when suspending Vilma (and the rest of the group). We’ll see who threw teammates under the bus, who copped a plea with Goodell, how arbitrary Goodell’s decisions were. This will be a riot.

kappellmeister

May 22nd, 2012
10:00 pm

how crazy is it that the PLAYERS association is screaming about measures to increase player safety? I bet if the NFL had said the players were NOT allowed to wear thigh/knee pads they would have pitched a fit, too.

al

May 22nd, 2012
10:02 pm

The lawsuit is “Vilma v. Goodell”, not vs. This is not sports, so no vs.

JSS

May 22nd, 2012
10:11 pm

@ Paul and Hillbilly…
And that is the thing that gets skipped over in all of this, Goodall… It is the most disturbing about what he does and does not do in overseeing that league… When I watched the ‘60 Minutes’ piece on him, I just shook my head… He sat at Tagliabue’s right hand and covered the league’s butt on the PED/EPO/HGH fronts and he ran rough shot over the Workers Comp claim committee (the NFLPA is guilty too)… Two days of fun were when the House Judicial Committee took him to woodshed for their treatment of the retired players and threaten with the power of the Congressional supoena! The only person whoever squirm more was Mark McGwire!

Paul in NH

May 22nd, 2012
10:24 pm

JSS,
I find the entire attitude concerning PED’s in the NFL to be hilarious. We have examples of 150 lb cyclists taking steroids to improve performance, but I am supposed to believe that in a sport where size and strength are critical, where players can be cut for poor performance at any time, that 350 lb linemen bulked up using nothing more than weights and eating right.

Norm Van Brocklin

May 22nd, 2012
10:35 pm

I remember the first,ugh, almost thirty years of their existence, the Saints were one of the worst teams in the history of the NFL. Then they got decent for ten years or so, even pretty good a couple of years. Now they sink back to the lowest depths as they will be castigated and possibly moved or disbanded.

No wonder the deranged NO fans that haunt the AJC blogs are what they are (SeenThisB4, hiramsaint,etc.) The history of the Saints is enough to make anyone sick and despondent.

Sad when the highlight and turning point of their history was a tragic hurricane.

Norm Van Brocklin

May 22nd, 2012
10:36 pm

what the………

Hillbilly D

May 22nd, 2012
10:38 pm

that 350 lb linemen bulked up using nothing more than weights and eating right.

I can remember when a DT was the biggest player on the field and they were usually no more than 270 pounds. I can remember when there was maybe one 300 pound guy in the league. Of course, I wouldn’t argue that diet and training methods are probably better now than then (late 60’s), but are they that much better? Somebody would have to prove it to me.

JSS

May 22nd, 2012
10:46 pm

305 is about the max, the rest is the science…

doc

May 22nd, 2012
11:12 pm

this has to be repeated as it is sooo mind boggling the union is allowingit:

“Truly surreal is the Saints’ and the NFLPA’s reaction to all this. At a time when player safety is the No. 1 agenda item and the belief exists that post-career brain damage may be leading to suicides, the union is complaining about even trivial matters like players having to wear thigh and knee pads again. And suing Goodell?

Perspective, people.”

well said jeff. the union speaks with forked tongue, money vs health. reminds me of the sport of mbl where they watched bodies blow up and break down with regularity all the while resisting any drug/roid testing.

what goddell should say now is it is up to the union to handle its members and deal with it to assure the health of its members as he had taken care of his side of things.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 22nd, 2012
11:33 pm

A Saints player vs. Roger Goodell. Can both sides lose?

Najeh Davenpoop

May 22nd, 2012
11:35 pm

““Sure, but that’s what an appeals process is for,” he said. “You want to hear what the players have to say. I invited them to come in, but they decided not to, at the NFLPA’s suggestion.””

A real appeals process involves appealing to someone other than the person who made the original decision.

I see someone hijacked my screen name earlier, that’s always fun.

BooBoo

May 22nd, 2012
11:59 pm

This should up the ante and change Vilma’s suspension to a flat out ban from ever playing in the NFL again. Everyone involved should be banned, and that would mean a trial like the Black Sox players went through.

I have watched decades of Falcons football where they “mailed it in” the last six games or so, simply because the players did not want to get hurt. They certainly would never play hurt.

The mindset needs to be, “See those policemen along the sidelines? They are here to immediately arrest anyone, should an opposing player get hurt and file battery charges.” Three arrests in a career and a forever ban.

Hiramtaint

May 23rd, 2012
12:07 am

The saints are angels. they wouldn’t hurt a fly. I should know. we have tons of flies around the 9th ward. I’m gunna get a tattoo like My baby daddy drew brees has on his face!

JSS

May 23rd, 2012
12:35 am

Najeh Davenpoop…
“I see someone hijacked my screen name earlier, that’s always fun”

That one needs a new stick!

the angry hippy

May 23rd, 2012
12:44 am

Goodell is the thug! Remember how he sent NFL investigators to assist in the Vick case. I hate the guy! Thinks he can do what ever he wants. Vilma is guilty in the bounty thing but King Commish shouldnt have ran his mouth about it like he has no sin.

najeh dappenfart

May 23rd, 2012
1:20 am

Players dont want to come in and look like ninkumDavenpoops!! Fire Spirit Group..keep Joe and Josh!

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

JV 51

May 23rd, 2012
5:47 am

U need 2 chill JS! U wanna get sued too?

collegeballfan

May 23rd, 2012
6:07 am

The retired players are suing the league over injuries. The active players are suing the league to keep player safety off the table.

The retireed players are suing the wrong party, they should be suing the NFLPA for not doing anything for player safety.

AJC writers would rather write about the Saints vs FAILCANTS

May 23rd, 2012
6:20 am

Because the FAILCANTS franchise is as bad as the bush league AJC joke writers…lmao…

FAILCANTS are a FAILED franchise

May 23rd, 2012
6:21 am

No SB ring…so sad, dirty turdz…

Jimmy Crack

May 23rd, 2012
7:18 am

“…does anybody really believe a player is not going to stumble back to the huddle even if he feels a little loopy?”

Great question, Jeff. Last night they replayed a miked-up Matt Stafford in that game a couple of years ago when he finished off a game winner despite being injured. Before the big play when he was on the sideline after the injury and the timeout, he would only say “I can throw it, I can throw it” and then mumbled something and he just ran onto the field. But the second after Matt threw the ball into the endzone to win the game, he sprinted over to the sideline and yelled “IT’S OUT, IT’S OUT!”, describing his shoulder separation. His shoulder was already out before the timeout but Matt wouldn’t mention it on the sideline or they would have shut him down. This is the football mentality, God bless them all. It will be a tough nut to crack for these warriors to take themselves out of a game because of being “dinged”, knowing they won’t play anymore in that game and probably won’t play in the next either with the new concussion rules.

Good stuff Jeff.

Sly Boarders

May 23rd, 2012
7:22 am

OTA’s start in a week and I have to read about the Saints? Not that I don’t appreciate this collumn, I do – I believe that these are the first steps of “player safety” changing the game permanently. But C’mon, man, let’s talk us some Falcons!

By the way, how many players who received concussions didn’t commit suicide? Post hoc ergo propter hoc anyone?

Getaway

May 23rd, 2012
7:28 am

I would love to comment on the story, but every time I move my mouse the page jumps to the top. Maybe Pat Y has it on the World Wide Leader’s website.

just sayin'

May 23rd, 2012
8:09 am

this team better become more obsessed with sCam’s team….who’s gonna tackle him now that the leading tackler is gone?

Let's Go

May 23rd, 2012
8:09 am

Roger Goodell is a lawyer turned businessman and right now he is the CEO of one of the biggest businesses in America, the NFL.

Goodell runs his business like a dictator with an iron fist and the share holders, the owners, love him for it because they want the players taken down a notch or two and Goodell does it for them and they can still look good to their team’s fans. The players sometimes win in the court of public opinion but come September all is forgiven because fans across the nation want their Football and deep down we all think believe the players are overpaid to play a child’s game.

Durt E. Byrd

May 23rd, 2012
8:22 am

What a joke… Vilma and the Saints are just upset because they got caught for the dirty scum that they are.

Too bad Katrina couldn’t have just washed them out and left the rest of the city alone.

Old Dawg

May 23rd, 2012
8:30 am

If you commit the crime you do the time. It’s that simple.

just sayin'

May 23rd, 2012
8:41 am

all that talk about Katrina not completing the job…this home town team didn’t get the ‘dirty’ nickname for nuttin..i live here so i know……revel in another’s misfortune and it’ll come back to haunt… maybe it already has…0-3..

4 Jacks

May 23rd, 2012
9:03 am

Jeff, the bottom line is the Saints just do not get “it”, and the more they play this victim role the more classless the whole organization looks. Where is the owner in all of this? He should be taking a stance with the NFL and Goodell, but no, I quess his little feelings have been hurt also. The Saints have shown and keep proving just what a classless organization they really are.

JB

May 23rd, 2012
9:10 am

Is the NFL still in business?…. The NBA is learning a lesson. Life is pretty good…and goes on without them. Be careful NFL.

PMC

May 23rd, 2012
9:38 am

I’m hoping they up the roster limits and or allow a group of emergency players. If someone takes a big shot, let an emergency player come in like they do with the emergency QB.

PMC

May 23rd, 2012
9:42 am

The league did everything they possibly could to let the Saints handle that issue on thier own. They chose to fight it. Eventually we’ll get to see it in court I guess. Hopefully the league will bring up everything they’ve got including the vicodin thefts at that point. The Mickey Loomis deal isn’t even the NFL it’s the Fed’s.

Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas. All they had to do was not be dirty. Even then the league gave them 3 years.

too tough

May 23rd, 2012
9:45 am

Vilma the Villan….Vilan??????? LOL….the Saints are some sad cabooses

PMC

May 23rd, 2012
9:45 am

Are you really that shocked that this is how Demaurice Smith would act in this situation Jeff? Isn’t this why they hired a lawyer for that position? This is what they do. It’s a political argument.

It’s never about what’s right, it’s about who is right. Politicians and Lawyers are the scum of the earth.

PMC

May 23rd, 2012
9:50 am

If you have the facts bang the facts. If you don’t have the facts bang the table.

Saints players are doing a lot of banging the table here.

D man

May 23rd, 2012
9:56 am

I hope it makes it to court. It should be entertaining TV.

AGTFan53

May 23rd, 2012
10:18 am

On one hand it’s hard to dislike someone for standing up for their team. There’s a difference between loyalty and paranoid delusion. A lot of Saints fans appear to be subject to paranoid delusion. So far the denials don’t pass the sniff case. Just because playing dirty, playing to injure has been the football tradition, doesn’t in anyway justify it. Frankly, the players and coaches involved are fortunate they aren’t facing criminal charges. The assault chaarges would likely be low level, but conspiracy to commit assault would be serious. A good prosecutor could probably get a conviction on what’s been presented so far. If the league has more evidence, then it looks like a slam-dunk. Football players, perhaps more than any other atheletes, grow up in environments where the belief that rules don’t apply to them is constantly reinforced. When they are finally find out that they aren’t the center of the universe, they react badly. Unfortuantely, die-hard fans were the ones who gave them that idea in the first place and now they’re doing it again. So much of these Saint’s fans reality is tied up in magical thinking about their sports heroes that they will go to any lengths to protect their heroes.