|Vilma apparently requested to meet with the NFL but then changed his mind. (US Presswire)|
As CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman told you earlier, the NFLPA has filed its grievance against the NFL about the decision to suspend four Saints players for the bounty program.
Freeman writes that the NFLPA believes “that Goodell doesn't have the authority to suspend the players, that his actions violated the collective bargaining agreement and that the NFL hasn't presented sufficient evidence to suspend the Saints players.”
But as Pro Football Talk points out, the letters from Roger Goodell announcing the player suspensions -- which were attached to the grievance -- provide an interesting twist.
In his letter to Jonathan Vilma, who was most heavily punished with his year-long suspension, Goodell wrote that Vilma's counsel contacted the NFL in March “to request an opportunity to be heard before the one-year suspension was imposed.” Then, Goodell writes, Vilma's lawyers changed their mind and declined to speak to the league.
Goodell also claims the league asked the union to help set up a meeting with Vilma, but the NFLPA declined.
In some ways, Vilma's decision not to meet with the NFL makes sense, especially if Vilma thought the NFL had him nailed. But on the other hand, Vilma, by admitting guilt and/or regret for participating in the bounty, could have had his suspension reduced, especially since Goodell has shown a penchant for being lenient on players who are cooperative.
And it's somewhat disingenuous for the NFLPA to claim how unfair the process is. When Goodell is the one who makes the decision and then hears the appeal, yes, that is rather unfair (remember, the NFLPA also signed off on exactly that in the latest CBA). But if Vilma had the chance to make his case and/or express his sorrow and decided to blow off that opportunity, he couldn't have been surprised at how harsh the penalty was.
PFT also reports that the declaration made by Anthony Hargrove that the bounty program existed and that he participated was submitted through the NFLPA and not through the league itself.
As Mike Florio writes, “This makes the contents of the declaration far more persuasive, since there can now be no argument that Hargrove was in any way coerced into signing it by the league. It also could create a conflict for the NFLPA regarding the competing interests of Hargrove and the other three players, if Hargrove admits to things that Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith publicly have denied.”
And it adds another twist in a Bounty-gate storyline that doesn't appear to be anywhere close to ending.
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