The NFL on Thursday provided a federal judge with what it says is evidence Commissioner Roger Goodell did not improperly pre-judge the four players suspended in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty investigation.
The evidence includes a copy of a letter theNFL Players Assn.sent the league on March 7 asking Goodell to delay punishment of players implicated in the bounty probe.
It also includes a sworn declaration from Goodell in which he states he was prepared to hand down player discipline at the same time he announced suspensions for coaches and executives on March 21. Goodell’s declaration states he held off after verbally agreeing to do so in a phone conversation with union head DeMaurice Smith.
Attorneys for Jonathan Vilma, who has sued separately, and NFLPA lawyers representing the three other punished players have argued Goodell showed improper bias with comments he made before sending the players notice of their suspensions on May 2.
Attorneys for the players have been given until Friday to file their own evidence and briefs on the matter.
Vilma’s consolidated lawsuits include a defamation claim against Goodell. Vilma’s attorney, Peter Ginsberg, has argued Goodell made reckless and false statements about Vilma being the ringleader of a bounty program that offered cash for injuring targeted opponents.
Vilma has asked U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan to grant a temporary restraining order that would allow him to return to the Saints while his case proceeds, and the judge has said she would be inclined to rule in his favor, but will hold off until she is comfortable she has jurisdiction to do so.
Berrigan has indicated that she might prefer to see how separate proceedings called for in the league’s collective bargaining agreement play out.
One item still pending is the NFLPA’s appeal of system arbitrator Stephen Burbank’s ruling that Goodell had the authority to serve as arbitrator on the bounty matter because of the commissioner’s stance that the violations represented “conduct detrimental” to the league, as opposed to standard on-field violations, which would call for an arbitrator other than the commissioner.
Witten hopes to can play in opener
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is hopeful that he will be ready to play in the season opener in three weeks.
Witten is dealing with a lacerated spleen sustained in the preseason opener.
“I’m doing all right. … Stay optimistic. Take it one day at a time. Get healthy and regroup when we get back to Dallas,” Witten said in Oxnard. “Obviously I would be hard pressed thinking I am not out there for the [New York] Giantsgame. Again, there is no timetable.”
The seven-time Pro Bowler got hurt in the preseason opener Monday night against the Oakland Raiders when he got hit after he caught a pass from a scrambling Tony Romo.
Witten has missed only one game in his nine NFL seasons, because of a broken jaw when he was a rookie. He said the spleen is different than any other football injury he has ever had.
The NFL suspended San Diego Chargers defensive tackle Garrett Brown without pay for the team’s first four regular-season games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Brown, who signed as a free agent, will be eligible to return to the Chargers’ active roster on Oct. 1.
Quarterback Vince Young has been ordered to pay a loan company nearly $1.7 million after missing a payment in late May, shortly after signing with the Buffalo Bills.
The Houston Texans signed left tackle Duane Brown to a six-year contract worth $53.4 million, with $22.08 million guaranteed.
Wide receiver Terrell Owens will make his debut for the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night when they travel to Denver for a preseason game against the Broncos.