Vilma could force NFL to produce evidence

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
4:10
PM ET
New Orleans Saints fans, who have been screaming for the NFL to produce more evidence in the bounty scandal, just might get their wish.

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma has filed a defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The suit claims Goodell made false statements about Vilma while discussing the league’s investigation of the bounty system. Vilma has drawn the harshest punishment of any player, drawing a suspension for the 2012 season. The league has identified Vilma as a leader of the bounty program and said he put up money as an incentive for Saints defenders to injure opponents.

Vilma has repeatedly denied those allegations and he did it again Thursday on his Twitter account.

"As I've said before..I NEVER PAID, NOR INTENDED TO PAY ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY,TO ANY PLAYER FOR INTENTIONALLY HURTING AN OPPONENT. "Maybe this will get some people(‘s) attention."

Vilma already has appealed the suspension to Goodell and the NFL Players Association has filed grievances on behalf of Vilma and the three other suspended players. But the lawsuit against Goodell ups the stakes.

It may take the ball out of the NFL’s court. When Goodell was playing judge and jury, the NFL only revealed the evidence it wanted to. In a court of law, the NFL could be forced to reveal all of its evidence and where it came from.

The lawsuit asks for unspecified legal damages, but I don’t think Vilma is simply looking for money. I think he’s trying to clear his name and resume his career. Vilma is the only person to take to the legal system so far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the coaches, administrators or other players who have been punished or named in the investigation follow his lead.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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