The NFL "has made no settlement offer" to New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma regarding his season-long suspension for his role in a "bounty" program despite reports to the contrary, a source close to the situation told NFL.com and NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche on Monday morning.
The source told Wyche that the lack of an offer does not mean a proposal might not be made in the future.
ESPN.com reported Vilma had received an offer that would reduce his suspension to eight games on the condition that the linebacker drop his defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, citing sources familiar with discussions by the NFL, the NFL Players Association and the counsel for Vilma and three other suspended players.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello issued the following statement Monday:
"Today's report about a settlement offer by the league to Jonathan Vilma is completely inaccurate. No such settlement offer has been made. We will continue to respect the court proceedings on this matter and have no further comment at this time."
The two sides are scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan on Friday. The courts have ordered the parties to engage in settlement discussions.
Vilma and Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games), now-Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (eight games) and now-Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita (three games) were all suspended for their roles in the "bounty" program, in which former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran a system from 2009 to 2011 that allegedly rewarded defensive players for injuring or knocking opponents out of games.
UPDATE: There also has been no settlement talks involving Hargrove, Fujita or Smith, outside of the court-ordered settlement conference, a union source told NFL.com and NFL Network reporter Albert Breer on Monday. There also have been no discussions about reducing those players' suspensions between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
The cases for those three and Vilma have been consolidated, however, Vilma is the only one seeking an injunction to lift his suspension, and he could cut a side deal on that matter, according to Breer.