NEW ORLEANS — U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan finally put an end to the Saints remaining item pertaining to the bounty scandal, dismissing linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
"Even though this matter has been pending only since May of (2012), it feels as protracted and painful as the Saints season itself and calls for closure,” Berrigan said.
In Berrigan’s filing granting the dismissal requested by Goodell, she said Vilma didn’t provide sufficient evidence proving his case that the commissioner’s conduct was “egregious as to shock the conscience.”
“Here, the claim must fail because, unlike the defamation claims, Vilma does not even allege facts beyond the conclusory statement that Goodell’s conduct was ‘extreme and outrageous,’ ” she said.
Goodell originally suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season for what the commissioner said was a leading role in a pay-for-performance/injury program. According to Goodell, there was evidence that Vilma stood in front of the team, putting up fistfuls of money to take out then-Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the 2010 playoffs.
In addition to Vilma, defensive end Will Smith was hit with a four-game suspension while former Saints defensive players Scott Fujita got a three-game penalty and Anthony Hargrove eight.
All four denied involvement, with Vilma vehemently denying the accusations, fighting them every way he could, including filing a defamation lawsuit against Goodell.
In September, a three-member panel overturned Goodell’s original ruling, questioning whether he had suspended the players under proper protocol. Goodell re-suspended the players, knocking the suspensions of Fujita and Hargrove down while leaving Smith’s and Vilma’s untouched.
The four players appealed and eventually the case was handed over to former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who vacated all penalties, saying Goodell overreached in nailing the players as hard as he did.
While Tagliabue agreed with Goodell that something malicious was going on, he believed the penalties to be above and beyond any precedent.
Only Vilma’s lawsuit remained and Thursday, that, too, was finished.