NEW ORLEANS -- Suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said Thursday that he wouldn't cooperate with the NFL's investigation into his team's "bounty" system because Commissioner Roger Goodell refused to show him the evidence of his alleged wrongdoing.
In an exclusive interview with NFL.com at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Vilma publicly spoke for the first time since he filed a defamation lawsuit against the league. He also addressed his season-long suspension, which he's appealing.
While Vilma has been vocal on Twitter about his innocence after the punishments came out, he refused to be interviewed during the league's extensive investigation. He explained why Thursday.
"We asked for evidence, and he (Goodell) wouldn't give it to us," Vilma told NFL.com. "How can I defend myself when I don't know what I'm defending against? It's just logical, things that people decided to ignore."
Asked specifically if the NFL Players Association told him not to cooperate, Vilma said he asked for evidence, Goodell wouldn't share it, and he responded, "How can I defend myself if I don't know what I'm defending against?"
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded to Vilma's assertion via e-mail to NFL.com and NFL Network.
"He was invited to come in with his attorney to discuss the evidence prior to any decision on discipline," Aiello wrote. "He declined. He has another opportunity to do so in his appeal. The union has been shown evidence."
As for Vilma's defamation lawsuit, his lawyers are arguing that by publicly punishing him, Goodell specifically is making it hard for the linebacker to work in the NFL and also is ruining his post-career opportunities. There is no court date yet, and it's not clear if the case will be heard.
"There was no bounty program in place," Vilma said. "I never paid anybody, intended to pay anybody, that's the truth. Never sought out to injure people. That's the truth. That's really about it. I can't really go into detail."
Vilma later tweeted news about the lawsuit:
Roger goodell has asked for a delay to respond to my defamation suit. He was granted until july 5th to respond. Interesting.
- Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) February 14, 2012
As for the possibility of sitting out the 2012 season, Vilma hasn't let himself think that far.
"There was really no need," Vilma said. "There's a process we're going to go through right now, hopefully it's in my and our favor and we go from there."
Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.