NEW ORLEANS - The judge in the Jonathan Vilma case says she has some work to do before ruling on his year long suspension.
Vilma spent another two hours in court this Friday morning during oral arguments on his lawsuit against the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.
He arrived at the federal court house in downtown New Orleans hoping for the best. "You never want to go into one of these things expecting," said Vilma flanked by his team of attorneys. "What ever she decides, she decides."
Inside, attorneys for Vilma, the NFL and NFL Players Association took turns making their case before Judge Ginger Berrigan.
The league suspended Vilma for the entire upcoming season for his role in an alleged pay to injure bounty program with the Saints.
He wants his suspension lifted and is suing Commissioner Goodell for defamation. Judge Berrigan started the hearing saying, "I would like to rule in Mr. Vilma's favor because I don't think the process was transparent or fair."
"The judge may disagree with what the NFL did and may think the process is unfair and clearly said that she thought the punishment was unfair, but the big issue is whether or not she has the power to do anything here," said Tulane Law Professor Gabe Feldman.
League attorney Gregg levy told the judge, "Any perceived pre-judgment is inherent in a process approved by the players in the collective bargaining agreement."
Vilma's attorney Peter Ginsberg shot back, "The system has been compromised beyond anyone's definition of fairness or decency...we are challenging a unique derailment of a system." The NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler said, "I don't think there is any doubt the process was unfair. There is a problem with evident partiality, particularly in the arbitration."
Outside Kessler told reporters, "The player's union is very respectful of the court process. We will anxiously await the judge's decision. We feel confident that we have an excellent judge and we wait for her ruling, thank you very much."
Vilma and his special quest Saints team leader Drew Brees also spoke to reporters after the hearing.
"I thought today went as smoothly as it could go," said Vilma. "I didn't come in with any expectations. I was obviously hoping for a ruling, but the judge is going to have to do what she has to do, she going to make the right decision."
"I think certainly we've made a strong case, Jonathan Vilma has made a strong case, certainly his attorney and his entire team," said Brees. "I'm here really on behalf of our entire team, the New Orleans Saints organization to support Jonathan Vilma."
"It's not out of character for Drew and for the Saints," said Vilma. "We're with each other through thick and thin. Having Drew here just really emphasizes that, reiterates that. I could never be more proud of Drew, the Saints organization and what we stand for."
Judge Berrigan said she would likely wait to hand down her ruling until an NFL appeals panel hears Vilma's case on August 30.