Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Judge to All Sides: Settle Bounty Case

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Judge to All Sides: Settle Bounty Case

Article excerpt

A federal judge in New Orleans questioned the fairness of the NFL's bounty investigation of the Saints, then held off on making any rulings while urging the sides to settle the matter on their own.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan also said the season-long suspension of Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was excessive and that she would be inclined to rule in his favor if she were certain she had jurisdiction to do so.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has justified his suspension of Vilma by describing him as one of the ringleaders of a program that offered Saints defenders improper cash bonuses for injuring opponents.

The judge could potentially rule at any time on Vilma's request to be allowed to return temporarily to the Saints while the case proceeds.

But, at the hearing Friday, Berrigan urged all parties to come to an agreement rather than wait for the court's decision.

"I was surprised by her candor," said Gabe Feldman, a sports law professor at Tulane University who sat in on the hearing.

Feldman said the judge clearly believed the NFL was "in the wrong."

"The big issue is whether she has the power to do anything," Feldman said.

Vilma's attorneys have argued that Goodell made biased public statements about the linebacker's involvement in the bounty scandal well before the process of player discipline began.

As a result, that made it impossible for the commissioner to be an impartial arbitrator as called for in both the NFL's collective bargaining agreement and federal labor laws.

Vilma also is suing Goodell individually for defamation.

DOLPHINS

Miami quarterback David Garrard will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery and is expected to miss two to four weeks, his agent said Friday. The recovery timetable likely takes Garrard out of the competition to win the starting job for the season opener in four weeks. …

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