I just spent the last 10 minutes talking with Saints LB Jonathan Vilma about his defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, along with other things related to the bounty issue. For the first time, Vilma explained why he refused to participate in the NFL’s investigation against his team. And he addressed the possibility of sitting out 2012.
Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said he would not cooperate with the NFL’s investigation into his team’s bounty system because Commissioner Roger Goodell would not show him the evidence of his alleged wrongdoing.
In an exclusive interview with NFL.com at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Vilma spoke publicly for the first time since he filed a defamation lawsuit against the league. He also addressed his year-long suspension, which he is appealing.
While Vilma has been vocal on Twitter about his innocence after the punishments came out, he refused to be interviewed during the league’s extensive investigation. He explained why.
“We asked for evidence and he wouldn’t give it to us,” Vilma told NFL.com. “How can I defend myself when I don’t know what I’m defending against? It’s just logical, things that people decided to ignore.”
Asked specifically whether the union told him not to cooperate, Vilma said he asked for evidence, Goodell would not share it, and he responded, “How can I defend myself if I don’t know what I’m defending against?”
League spokesman Greg Aiello responded: “He was invited to come in with his attorney to discuss the evidence prior to any decision on discipline. He declined. He has another opportunity to do so in his appeal. The union has been shown evidence.”
As for his defamation lawsuit, Vilma’s lawyers are arguing that by publicly punishing him, Goodell specifically is making it hard for him to work in the NFL and ruining his post-career opportunities. There is no court date yet, and it’s not clear if the case will be heard.
“There was no bounty program in place,” Vilma said. “I never paid anybody, intended to pay anybody, that’s the truth. Never sought out to injure people. That’s the truth. That’s really about it. I can’t really go into detail.”
As for the possibility of sitting out 2012, Vilma hasn’t let himself think that far.
“There was really no need,” Vilma said. “There’s a process we’re going to go through right now, hopefully it’s in my and our favor and we go from there.”