ESPN reports settlement talks between NFL and Vilma in BountyGate suspension-UPDATE

The NFL and New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma are in settlement talks to reduce Vilma’s original one-year suspension to eight games, according to an ESPN report.

According to ESPN’s Ed Werder, Chris Mortenson and Adam Schefter, the league made the offer to Vilma as part of talks involving the players, the NFL and NFLPA. The offer was floated to Vilma late last week, contingent on Vilma dropping his defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In the ESPN report, the NFL’s attorneys urged Goodell to offer a settlement, according to sources, The league will also state that if the players had participated fully in the appeals process, Goodell might have reduced the penalties as he has done with others. But Goodell did not have that opportunity since the players’ legal counsels advised them not to participate in any way. The players were only passive observers during the June 18 appeal hearing, and Vilma walked out of the conference after an adjournment for a procedural matter.

The next court date for the sides in front of U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan is this Friday in Louisiana, and the date is serving as a soft deadline to reach an agreement, according to ESPN.

Monday morning, in a statement, the NFL denied that an offer had been made.

“Today’s report about a settlement offer by the league to Jonathan Vilma is completely inaccurate. 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,” wrote NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.

For his part, Goodell, continues to maintain that the NFL has strong evidence that a “bounty system”, not just a “pay-for-performance system” was in place in New Orleans, according to a Monday story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, that quoted Goodell at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

“When you reward players for injuring other opponents that’s a bounty,” Goodell said in the story. “That’s not pay for performance, that’s a bounty. And that’s what the players and, I believe, (Saints linebackers) Coach (Joe) Vitt said occurred. And that’s what our evidence indicates.”

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