New Orleans Saints  


Jonathan Vilma has hearing for restraining order set for July 26


A hearing regarding New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's effort to delay his season-long NFL suspension has been set for July 26 in New Orleans, two days after the team is scheduled to begin training camp.

Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, had asked that a hearing regarding a temporary restraining order, which was initially set for Aug. 1, be held Thursday. Judge Helen Berrigan granted his request for an expedited hearing on Tuesday but did not give him the date he wanted.

If he is granted the temporary restraining order, Vilma's suspension would be stayed until after the consolidated lawsuits over his and other players' suspensions related to the Saints' "bounty" program are played out in court.

The NFL and Vilma's legal team spent Tuesday trading legal arguments regarding the request.

The NFL opposed the motion in its response, arguing that the plaintiff shouldn't have waited 11 days following his initial request for such a hearing. The NFL argued that Vilma's suit isn't likely to succeed in court and asserted that his argument in support of the expedited hearing -- that he needs treatment on his injured knee -- is invalid, since he is allowed to see Saints trainers and doctors (albeit not at the team facility) during his suspension.

Following that filing, affidavits were filed by Saints interim coach Joe Vitt and head athletic trainer Scottie Patton in support of Vilma. The affidavits emphasized the urgency of the matter -- the Saints begin training camp next week -- as a basis for having his hearing expedited.

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Vitt's affidavit claimed that "the suspension, and our inability to work with Mr. Vilma, in my opinion jeopardizes the entire Saints football team and our 2012-13 season. While I anxiously await being able to provide substantive and truthful testimony and information about the allegations made by Mr. (Roger) Goodell regarding the so-called, but non-existent bounty program, and to refute that the Saints ever had a bounty program, or that any member of our defense, including Mr. Vilma, ever placed 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 I have been informed are relevant to Mr. Vilma's motion to restrain temporarily the suspension."

Vitt went on to vouch for Vilma. The coach described the effect that Vilma's absence will have on the Saints, emphasizing the importance of having a key defensive leader in camp while the team adjusts to new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

"Missing training camp would seriously compromise Mr. Vilma's ability to help the team," Vitt's affidavit read. "In the event the suspension is ultimately nullified, Mr. Vilma might never be able to make a full contribution to the team if he misses training camp."

Vitt argued that "it is critical to the Saints that Mr. Vilma be present to begin the process of melding the team during training camp. If Mr. Vilma is allowed to play this season, the process is crucial to the team functioning as a coordinated unit. If Mr. Vilma is not allowed to play this season, it is crucial that he participate in training camp to do what he has always done, help mentor and train others. If the suspension is ultimately affirmed, Mr. Vilma could assist in the transition of his duties and responsibilities to others during the training camp."

Under the terms of his ongoing suspension, Vilma is not to be present at the team's facility.

Patton's affidavit detailed the knee injury from which the linebacker has been rehabbing. According to the document, Vilma initially injured the knee last Sept. 16. He missed five games because of the injury, had arthroscopic surgery on it Nov. 8, had a more extensive, osteoartciular transfer system surgery Jan. 25 and went to Germany for blood-spinning treatment on the knee in early July. The linebacker won't be cleared for full activity until later this month.

As a result, Patton sees Vilma's presence at the Saints' facility as crucial.

"I feel that I need to work closely with Mr. Vilma to be sure he is making progress and to monitor his pain and discomfort, which come from any major injury," Patton's affidavit read. "I am also considering that Mr. Vilma stands to miss out on pre-season training camp. 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. The condition to which we subject players during the training camp cannot be replicated at a later date. Even if Mr. Vilma is not permitted to play, he needs this year's training camp to rebuild the strength in his knee under proper supervision and to get his body into top physical condition. This will undoubtedly help him extend his football career, whenever it resumes."

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.



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