New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has filed a motion in Louisiana federal court asking the court to vacate the reaffirmed suspension for the rest of the season recently issued by the NFL in the Bountygate case.
The veteran linebacker, who appealed the reaffirmation to commissioner Roger Goodell last week, is eligible to be activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list this week after spending the first six weeks on PUP while rehabbing a knee injury. Vilma told a New Orleans TV station he'll be activated and will play on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he must pass a physical before being cleared to practice.
The court filings ask Goodell to recuse himself in the case, as the NFL Players Association told USA TODAY Sports last week, and request the court "put an end to the ongoing and fundamentally unfair treatment of Jonathan Vilma."
Vilma's legal team claims Goodell "engaged in a farcical review (of the original suspensions), imposed the same judgment as previously imposed and continued his abuse of the process."
Vilma's team also claims Goodell "prejudged" the accusations against Vilma before giving him a chance to address them. It's their contention this "conflicts with the very essence of the NFL-NFLPA" collective bargaining agreement, which is why they contend the suspension should be vacated.
Included in the filings was a declaration from Vilma's attorney Peter Ginsberg in which Ginsberg claims former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy explained how he believes he was identified as the whistleblower in the case.
Kennedy told USA TODAY Sports last week he never talked to NFL investigators, had no knowledge of a bounty system and had a theory on how he was identified as being the league's snitch on the case. Ginsberg declares Kennedy told him he screamed at his teammates at halftime of the 2010 NFC Championship Game that they were allowing the Saints' defenders to hit quarterback Brett Favre "as if there's money on it."
The league claims Kennedy had told former Vikings coach Childress that Anthony Hargrove, then a Saints dfensive lineman, had told him of a $10,000 bounty on Favre. Ginsberg's declaration states Kennedy told him Hargrove never informed him of a bounty and that he didn't speak to Childress about the bounty system.
Vilma's legal team also asserts Vilma has never had a bank account in Louisiana and couldn't have withdrawn the $10,000 the league alleges he offered as a bounty on Favre and, the week before, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.
Also included in the filings is a transcript of Vilma's hearing before Goodell and the NFL's legal team last month. Vilma was asked about the pay-for-performance system and said players were rewarded for "cart-offs" or "knock-outs," which he claimed are the same.
Vilma said the players were rewarded only for legal hits in which opposing players left the game for only a few plays and were not injured, but rather had the wind knocked out of them.
"If his shoulder gets hurt, he is out for the rest of the game, he is injured, he is gone," Vilma said, accoding to the transcript. "If his knee, for example -- there was a time when Tracy Porter hit a receiver, something happened where their knee was messed up, they were out for the rest of the game, they literally had to be on the stretcher and carted off. These were serious injuries, you don't get rewarded for that."