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Settlement possible in Vilma lawsuit, NFL calls report of deal 'completely inaccurate'

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
Vitt has showed his strong support for Vilma. (US Presswire)

Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's currently suing the NFL and, separately, Roger Goodell. The league doesn't like that and it's possible that a settlement of the lawsuits could result in a reduction of Vilma's suspension. A report that emerged late Sunday night indicates that the league has made an offer to do just that.

However, CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reports that settlement talks are definitely ongoing, but that the situation is "fluid" and there are no guarantees when it comes to working out a settlement. The NFL did not originally comment on the report, but issued a statement Monday morning.

"Today's report about a settlement offer by the league to Jonathan Vilma is completely inaccurate," NFL VP of Communications Greg Aiello said in a statement released by the league. "No such settlement offer has been made. We will continue to respect the court proceedings on this matter and have no further comment at this time."

League sources did tell La Canfora, though, that the NFL has shown a willingness to reduce Vilma's sentence substantially in exchange for certain concessions, such as dropping the suit.

The league believes -- and has maintained publicly -- that it has a strong case against Vilma and that the linebacker won't win his case(s) in court. But league sources tell CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman that there is concern among those around the NFL that Vilma could use the court cases to air as much dirty laundry on NFL leadership as possible, in an attempt to embarrass the league.

There's also a conflicting report as to whether the league has actually "offered" to reduce Vilma's suspension. Late Sunday night, ESPN reported that the league had offered Vilma a deal to reduce his suspension from 16 games to eight games in exchange for dropping his lawsuits.

However, Steve Wyche reported on NFL AM that the NFL has made no such offer.

There's one key problem with giving Vilma reduced suspension too: it opens the floodgates for other litigation from players involved in the bounty scandal.

In fact, sources with knowledge of the situation tell La Canfora that other players facing discipline as a result of the bounty scandal are seriously considering their own additional legal action. If the league works out a deal with Vilma, it would also likely have to work out deals with other players in order to avoid further litigation.

Anthony Hargrove, in particular, who was alleged to have said certain things caught on audio, has vehemently denied his role in the case, including the league's claim at one point that he was caught uttering words about being paid on a sideline tape. His representatives will be watching the outcome of any settlement with Vilma very closely according to La Canfora.

The players contend nothing occurred beyond a pay for performance program, which have been relatively commonplace around the league. The NFL contends coaches admitted to a bounty program, but interim head coach Joe Vitt and others have made statements to the contrary.

In the meantime, the Saints have begun training camp without Vilma, who remains in the spotlight anyway, thanks to his litigation against the league and the apparent scramble to settle his court cases against Goodell and the NFL.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Will Brinson on Twitter here: @willbrinson.

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