It has not yet been determined whether the other Saints players involved in the program, and who received penalties from the league will also appeal their suspensions– Green Bay Packers DE Anthony Hargrove, Saints DE Will Smith and Cleveland Browns LB Scott Fujita– but all signs suggest it is a matter of time before they do.
Each of these men has until the close of league business today to file a formal appeal, and it’s reasonable to assume that with the news of Vilma’s appeal, the others will be soon to follow.
Vilma’s legal team is asking the NFL to provide tangible evidence of his involvement in a bounty program which they claim has not yet been presented to them or Vilma directly.
It’s simply bad business for the NFL to levy the type of penalties they did against each of the current and former Saints players unless there was plenty of evidence– both tangible and intangible– to suggest the players were involved beyond any reasonable doubt.
If the NFL did not have the evidence necessary to accuse Vilma and his teammates of being involved in a bounty program, we will find out soon enough, and if this turns out to indeed be the case the NFL will have a public relations nightmare of monumental proportions on its hands.
What will be most interesting about these proceedings is whether the appeals are considered individually, or as a whole.
If they are considered on a case-by-case basis, the decision made in Jonathan Vilma’s appeals could easily become a precedent not only for what happens to Hargrove, Smith, and Fujita, but also any future NFL players who find themselves in similar circumstance.
If the players’ appeals are considered as a whole, it would likely be a positive for all involved, and a more lenient “sentence” could be applied to all as a result.
Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. If you enjoy his takes, you can follow Kris on Twitter, check out his personal Facebook page, or stop by his personal Tumblr page.