Roger Goodell to meet with players
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has agreed to meet with all four players suspended for their alleged involvement in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
I'm expecting a fair meeting, unlike the June 18 appeals hearing. We can all benefit from transparency regarding evidence and witnesses instead of using conjecture or hearsay to come to inaccurate conclusions. I look forward to getting this accomplished.” -- Jonathan Vilma, in text to Ed Werder
The dates of the meeting have not been determined, but they likely will not occur before next week. Goodell has said he will determine any punishment in the case after hearing from the reinstated players.
Earlier, Peter Ginsberg, an attorney who represents Vilma, said Vilma would inform the league he was willing to meet with Goodell for the first time regarding bounty allegations. Ginsberg notified the league office via email and was to send a formal notification by the end of business Tuesday, the commissioner's deadline for the formerly suspended players to tell Goodell they are willing to present more information.
"I'm expecting a fair meeting, unlike the June 18 appeals hearing," Vilma said in a text message. "We can all benefit from transparency regarding evidence and witnesses instead of using conjecture or hearsay to come to inaccurate conclusions. I look forward to getting this accomplished."
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Ginsberg told ESPN: "If the commissioner feels sitting down with Jonathan and discussing matters will lead to a quick and fair resolution, Jonathan has been and continues to be willing to cooperate in any way that helps the truth come out. We only hope the commissioner keeps an open mind and doesn't feel restricted by his previous and clearly erroneous conclusions."
The NFLPA did not have any comment on the potential meeting between Goodell and Vilma, and despite Ginsberg's acknowledgment that Vilma is willing to participate, there will be doubt until the player and Goodell actually speak.
Vilma walked out of an appeals hearing with Goodell, refusing to participate in what Ginsberg described as a charade, and in August he requested a meeting with Goodell he later canceled.
"Each player suspended in the Saints bounty matter has declined multiple opportunities to meet with league representatives to present information," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We have reminded each of those players that we remain willing to meet with them prior to the commissioner making the determination called for by the CBA Appeals Panel. We intend to conduct any such meetings that are scheduled per our normal process under the CBA."
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The meeting is not expected to take place before next week, and Ginsberg said he has not been provided any assurances the league would allow the players and their legal representatives the opportunity to review evidence or cross-examine witnesses.
Those issues prompted Vilma to walk out previously.
"We want to see the evidence and confront the witnesses," Ginsberg said. "When the commissioner produces less than one percent of the evidence gathered in the investigation, it became abundantly clear we were not being offered a fair opportunity to present to him in a very strong and detailed manner what in fact took place and decided not to participate in what was clearly a charade.
"We hope that now as we regroup that we are provided a fair and appropriate avenue to a just resolution."
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