11:49 PM EDT, May 20, 2012
NFL must prove guilt
Los Angeles Times
The suspension of Jonathan Vilma was not too severe if in fact he offered $10,000 bounties to any teammate who took out Kurt Warner or Brett Favre. That's clearly crossing the line. But the thing is, did he actually do that? That's what the NFL needs to prove, or risk suspicion that the league rushed to judgment.
It's time for the league to lay its cards on the table, reveal what specific evidence it has against the Saints, and put the matter to rest. The league was emphatic from the start that it had the Saints dead to rights, and the audiotape of Gregg Williams only bolstered that, but the NFL's reluctance to provide further evidence only makes it look like it has something to hide.
It's time for the NFL to prove that it indeed has the goods.
Tough call minus all facts
Jonathan Vilma's punishment is severe all right. Very severe. Whether it's too severe is difficult to judge because the NFL has not gone public with the evidence it has against Vilma.
Given what the public knows, it seems a yearlong suspension for following your bosses' orders is pretty harsh. Unless Vilma truly was a ringleader in the Saints' bounty program, and not just a stooge who was doing what he was told, he should not have been suspended for a year. Vilma is adamant he never paid a teammate to try to injure an opponent.
The NFL is likely to have a different version of what happened in New Orleans. It is worth noting Vilma's suspension is longer than the suspensions of three teammates who also were accused of taking part in the bounty program.
Show us the evidence
If the evidence says Jonathan Vilma was putting up money for bounties, then the penalty is not too severe. We can't really say for certain he did because we haven't seen the evidence. All we have is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's word. I find it hard to believe that Goodell would take away a whole season from a player if he didn't have the goods to back it up.
But until Goodell lets the world see the evidence, there is doubt. It will be interesting to see what happens with Vilma's defamation suit against Goodell. Maybe Vilma's attorneys will have some actual evidence to back up the Saints linebacker's claim that he was defamed.
But I believe the NFL is too careful and too calculating to hand down these suspensions without corroboration.
1 year is too harsh
Jonathan Vilma is one of the most intelligent and well-spoken athletes I've covered.
He has always been a stand-up person, which made the NFL's accusations that he's the ring leader of the Saints' bounty program a head-scratcher.
What wasn't a head-scratcher was Vilma's decision to file a defamation of character lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who suspended him for the entire season.
No matter the outcome of the unprecedented lawsuit against Goodell, it is clear Vilma is not sitting out this season without a fight. And if that's the case, he's taking the right approach. His suspension is harsh, and the claims made against him by the NFL —without showing substantial evidence —is troubling.
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