New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma met for three hours with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York on Monday to discuss allegations and evidence in the bounty saga.
"We had a very frank hearing today, a very truthful, very frank hearing. I was allowed to speak. It was good," said Vilma, who took Goodell and the league to federal court after he was initially suspended for the 2012 season for his alleged involvement in a Saints scheme that NFL says intended to target opponents for pay rewards.
Vilma and his attorney Peter Ginsberg said they expect a decision regarding any possible punishment to come later this week or next week.
No decision was reached on Monday regarding a new suspension of Vilma. An appeals panel overturned the suspensions Goodell had given to Vilma, defensive end Will Smith and former Saints players Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove, ruling that Goodell could not penalize the players for any salary-cap violations stemming from the alleged pay-for-performance or pay-for-injury program.
The NFL presented a sworn affidavit from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams at the Monday meeting. Williams claims in the signed document that Vilma offered $10,000 to any teammate who knocked Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship game in January 2010.
"It was a reiteration of what Gregg Williams has said before," explained Ginsberg after the meeting. "And it's just flat out wrong."
However, Williams stated that the program was an incentive to play harder and not to encourage injuring opponents. "While I understand the pool payments were prohibited by NFL rules, they weren't intended to reward onfield misconduct," Williams said in the document. "It was my view and my intention that we were only encouraging clean, aggressive hits within the rules of the NFL."
The three other players were scheduled to meet with Goodell on Tuesday, but only Smith and Hargrove did so. Neither player met with the media while Fujita wanted to do a video conference from Cleveland before the league asked for a rescheduled meeting in person with the veteran linebacker.
Goodell can still issue suspension for the players but must be careful to stay within his authority bestowed upon him by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players.
"We appreciate Jonathan Vilma taking the time to meet today and looking forward to seeing the other players tomorrow," said the league in an official statement.
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