About the only argument Vilma has is that the process was unfair; Goodell, he has said repeatedly, should not be judge, jury and appellate judge. A nice sentiment, but also a moot one because Vilma's own peers negotiated the system into existence.
At this point, Vilma is fighting for his reputation by trying to cloud the narrative established by Goodell's unprecedented punishments. It might make some difference in public opinion, but it won't get him back on the field.
There's a chance that Jonathan Vilma could obtain a legal order forcing the NFL to lift the suspension. But even if he were able to play, could he?
The 30-year-old linebacker suffered a ligament injury to his left knee during a Friday walk-through last September, and since November has undergone three procedures to repair the joint. In the offseason he traveled to Germany for a blood-spinning procedure in hopes of accelerating his recovery.
The primary reason the Saints signed linebacker Curtis Lofton in March was they weren't sure Vilma could return soon enough to play, not because of the anticipated bounty sanctions. So even if Vilma wins a legal stay, it might all be academic.
A federal judge might not have anything to say about Jonathan Vilma's future. Whether or not Vilma can play in 2012 appears to be completely in the hands of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and in that case, Vilma will remain suspended.
Vilma's own players' union gave Goodell and the NFL the right to play judge and jury in cases like this. His power was collectively bargained for, and it does not appear to be a matter for the courts.
So it might not really matter if Vilma was never a part of a bounty system in New Orleans, as he maintains, or if Goodell's unprecedented punishment was unduly harsh. All that matters is Goodell acted within the power that was granted to him by NFL players.
The NFL says it has evidence that overwhelmingly supports its case against Jonathan Vilma. The linebacker has denied his involvement in the bounty program. He has the sworn testimony of seven players, who support Vilma's claim there were no bounties.
The CBA between the NFL and the NFL players gives NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the right to be judge, jury and disciplinarian.
Vilma appears to have the legal right to challenge his suspension in a court of law. The unprecedented challenge of trying to convince a judge to overturn a decision by a man both sides agreed had the right to make such decisions seems unlikely. But as the NFL has learned with past judges, anything is possible.