ProFootballTalk is reporting that a brief submitted by NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler reveals that the NFL offered the NFLPA and Jonathan Vilma a new hearing with Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding his one-year suspension for participating in a bounty program with the Saints.
The opportunity for new hearings would also be offered to the other suspended players — Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and former Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove. The new hearings would have been conducted outside the pending legal actions filed by Vilma and the other players.
The NFLPA claimed the league lacked the authority to reopen the hearing and countered with a proposal for confidential settlement talks that would not be used in the already ongoing legal proceedings surrounding the bounty punishments. Neither hearing/settlement proposals were agreed upon.
ProFootballTalk suggests observers may see the offer as a sign that the NFL is not totally certain of its case:
Some will regard the league’s offer as an indication that the NFL has concerns regarding the quality of the hearing that was provided. The league would surely say that it was merely reacting to a request that Vilma made, and that the Commissioner had indicated a willingness to consider any evidence the players may want to introduce, even after upholding the appeals.
Kessler's brief was filed as part of a motion questioning whether his involvement with the NFLPA and representation of three of the suspended players constituted a conflict of interest. The NFLPA filed a motion in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on Tuesday seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the alleged bounty scandal suspensions for Fujita, Hargrove and Smith and Fujita.