NEW ORLEANS – The NFL on Monday asked a federal judge to block Jonathan Vilma’s demands for evidence in the league’s bounty probe of the Saints, and a magistrate has ordered lawyers in the case to convene in New Orleans on Thursday to discuss the matter.
The league’s latest move was to counter Vilma’s attempt to initiate discovery in his defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell, which alleges the commissioner lacked sufficient evidence when he publicly prejudged the Saints linebacker as the ringleader of New Orleans’ pay-for-injury bounty system.
The NFL’s motion argues that discovery is premature because another motion to dismiss Vilma’s lawsuit is still pending.
The league said Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, has this month subpoenaed the NFL, Goodell, NFL investigator Joe Hummel, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo.
Ginsberg demanded documents and sought to schedule depositions, including a deposition of Goodell on Oct. 23.
Goodell initially suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season after concluding he helped organize a bounty pool that league investigators have said the Saints ran for three seasons from 2009-11.
The suspensions of Vilma and three other players have since been vacated on technical, jurisdictional grounds by an appeal panel operating within the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. That decision has led to the reinstatement of the four players and has forced Goodell to begin the disciplinary process for the players over again.
Goodell last week met with Vilma as well as Saints defensive end Will Smith, who had been suspended four games, and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, who had been suspended eight games.
Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita, who had been suspended three games, had a meeting scheduled last week, but it was postponed.
Goodell has not yet handed down new punishment.