As first reported yesterday, Saints LB Jonathan Vilma and his attorney Peter Ginsberg have filed a motion to expedite his temporary restraining order against the NFL for the 1-year suspension handed down for his alleged involvement in Greg Williams' pay-for-performance program. The motion says "Vilma will suffer real, immediate and irreparable injury in the absence of the injunctive relief sought" and requests a hearing as soon as the court's schedule will allow. In a signed affidavit attached to this motion, Vilma said that the restraining order is necessary because, with the suspension, he cannot continue to recover under the aid of New Orleans Saints head trainer Scottie Patton.
Today, both Scottie Patton and Joe Vitt filed affidavits of their own in support of Vilma and his need for this temporary restraining order. In his, Vitt makes his strongest statement yet against the existence of an alleged Saints bounty system.
"While I anxiously await being able to provide substantive and truthful testimony and information about the allegations made by Mr. Goodell regarding the so-called but non-existent Bounty Program, and to refute that the Saints ever had a bounty on an opposing player and set out to injure anyone or to encourage any other Saints player to injure anyone, I will restrict my Affidavit here to issues that I have been informed are relevant to Mr. Vilma's Motion to Restrain Temporarily the Suspension."
Make the jump to see what else Vitt and Patton had to say.
Vitt goes on to say:
"The Suspension, and our inability to work with Mr. Vilma, in my opinion jeopardizes the entire Saints football team and our 2012 - 2013 Season," Vitt said in the affidavit.
Vitt indicated he eagerly awaits the opportunity to give testimony on Vilma's behalf in court. He said that Vilma "is one of the finest, fairest and most decent people I have ever known, both in and out of football and has been an ambassador for our game."
In a motion filed earlier today, Saints head trainer Scottie Patton expressed his support for the restraining order by detailing Vilma's recovery from knee surgery and the importance of his on-going rehab at the Saints facility.
"As a result of the Suspension, Mr. Vilma is barred from entering into the Saints training facility and, most importantly from my standpoint, the Suspension effectively prohibits my staff and me from assisting Mr. Vilma in helping him to recover from a serious knee injury," Patton said in the affidavit.In his affidavit, Patton repeated much of the injury history that Vilma put forth in his own signed affidavit, submitted on Monday. Patton said Vilma "seriously injured" his knee on Sept. 16 during a non-contact practice drill."I worked with Mr. Vilma two or three times a day starting immediately after his injury, generally beginning at 6:00 a.m. and again during mid-day," Patton said. "It was vital for me to continually analyze his condition, work with him to strengthen his knee and to help him avoid additional injury."Patton said he is concerned that Vilma will push himself further than he should if Patton is not allowed to continue to monitor Vilma's recovery."I also forced Mr. Vilma to miss practices when I deemed it necessary, something that Mr. Vilma constantly fought," Patton said. "Indeed, one of my key responsibilities was to refrain Mr. Vilma from pushing himself too much, which is his tendency, as I have learned over the years. There was no doubt that Mr. Vilma would need to undergo major surgery during the off-season is (sic) order to repair his knee."In the middle of the Season, on November 8, 2011, Mr. Vilma underwent arthroscopic surgery in order to clean out floating particles from his knee. With the pain Mr. Vilma was suffering, and the condition of his knee, I doubt if Mr. Vilma could have continued to play without the arthroscopic surgery."As Vilma continued to recover, Patton said they worked four to five hours a day together toward rehab."Mr. Vilma was constantly pushing to life weights, run and do other conditioning exercises and I was constantly trying to restrict his activities. ... Based on my experience, I do not believe most players would have continued to play due to the pain, which was increasing as the Season progressed."Patton said he had regular MRIs performed to check on Vilma's progress."The types of benchmarks I regularly analyzed were: swelling; range of motion; pain; cartilage healing; and, quadriceps muscle strength," Patton said. "... After carefully planned increases of his movement, we had a goal for Mr. Vilma to begin running lightly three months after surgery; after four and one/half months, our goal was for Mr. Vilma to begin side-by-side exercises; after five months, Mr. Vilma was scheduled to attempt sports-related drills; and, six months after surgery (this month), Mr. Vilma was scheduled to begin full activity. Mr. Vilma had difficulty moving on to the stage of full running."During the first week of July, Vilma traveled to Germany to undergo blood treatment performed by Dr. Peter Wehling. He said in his affidavit that the treatment allowed him to run for the first time in months.Patton said he is concerned about Vilma's condition if he misses all of training camp because of the suspension."If Mr. Vilma ultimately is permitted to play at the beginning of this Season, missing out on the rigors of training camp would expose him to a greatly increased risk of injury," Patton said. "The conditioning to which we subject players during the training camp cannot be replicated at a later date."
The NFL responded this morning to Vilma's yesterday motion and called into question the validity of the claim that Vilma is barred from seeing Patton.
"Saints Training Camp does not even open until June 24 (sic). Under the CBA, no Saints players 'are permitted to participate in any organized workouts or organized football activity of any kind ... Moreover, Mr. Vilma's Affidavit indicates that he is not ready to participate in Camp because he is still recovering from an injury , and has only recently begun to run again for the first time in six months."And Mr. Vilma is incorrect about the ability of the Saints medical staff to interact with him during his suspension; while Mr. Vilma may not attend the Club facility, he can rehabilitate and condition at a private facility and Saints trainers and physicians can monitor and help guide his rehabilitation there."The NFL also points out that Magistrate Judge Kurt Engelhardt first asked for motions of expedition in the matter on July 5, saying that Vilma's 11-day wait "belies the supposed exigency of his motion."The league further reiterates that the court cannot hear Vilma's case because it arises out of a labor dispute within the NFL collective bargaining agreement. It asks for the court to wait until at least Friday to consider Vilma's motion because by that time, the league will have filed its motion to dismiss or for summary judgement in the matter.
The very detailed account by Patton is very interesting and shows Vilma's intense eagerness to get back on the field. It's hard to predict if this motion will be successful, but I admire Vilma's tenacity in pursuing it. If he is impaired from rehabilitating his knee with Patton, this may cause long-term damage to his ability to play the game and may mean the end of his career. The NFL quaintly suggests that he can still rehab with Patton outside of the Saints facility somehow as if that's just as good, but I don't buy it.
People can say Vilma got what he deserved and they are entitled to do so. I would only urge them to read more into the details and not be so quick to believe the league's carefully orchestrated but often proven to be mischaracterized side of the story. This matter all comes down to who you choose to believe - Vilma or the league office? I choose to believe Jonathan and hope he is successful in his fight to play this year and restore his good name.