Drew Brees files affidavit backing Jonathan Vilma's lawsuit

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees filed an affidavit Saturday in Louisiana District Court in support of teammate Jonathan Vilma's defamation suit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

It's the third affidavit that has been filed for Vilma, joining those filed by Saints interim coach Joe Vitt and head athletic trainer Scottie Patton. Brees' filing, like Vitt's, explained the damage that would be done by Vilma's absence, if he is indeed to serve his season-long suspension while the case is in the courts.

"Having been in the NFL for 11 years, I have come to the understanding that great teammates make teams great," Brees wrote. "I believe that my teammates with the New Orleans Saints, through leadership by individuals including Jonathan, have a good understanding of our responsibilities to our organization, team, teammates, the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana.

"In my four years as a teammate with Jonathan, I have not seen anyone conduct himself with a higher degree of professionalism, work ethic, responsibility, and genuine care for his teammates."

Brees' affidavit also took aim at the NFL's investigation and sanctions against the Saints in the bounty matter.

Vilma's punishment was the harshest levied on any player involved, due in part to an alleged $10,000 bounty he offered to knock Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Brees' claim is in the affidavit, and has been, that he has no reason to believe that allegation is true.

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"My understanding is that Mr. Goodell has accused members of our defense, including Jonathan, of engaging in a pay-to-injury program that involved offering financial incentives to teammates to intentionally injure opposing players," Brees wrote. "I have no knowledge of a pay-to-injury program existing, and have yet to personally see any evidence that would substantiate these allegations. In my four years as a teammate with Jonathan, I have found that he is a man of integrity who passionately plays the game of football within the framework of the rules and has respect for his opponents."

Brees also vouched for Vilma's character off the field, trumpeting his role in helping New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina, and citing his foundation that works to build schools in Haiti.

He wrote that Vilma's absence "will have a significant impact on our team and within our community. As a professional football player, our platform to reach our communities is directly driven by the manner in which we compete on the field. Therefore, Jonathan's absence on the field will adversely affect his ability to impact the community in a positive way as a leader and role model."

Judge Helen Berrigan has set a July 26 date for a temporary-restraining-order hearing for Vilma. The linebacker will attempt to obtain a preliminary injunction, which would stall his suspension while the case works its way through the court system.

The Saints open training camp on Tuesday.

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