Jonathan Vilma's lawsuit against Roger Goodell dismissed

A judge dismissed New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello announced.

In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan criticized how Goodell disciplined New Orleans Saints players involved in the team's bounty program but said the claims made by Vilma did not support his lawsuit.


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"Vilma's argument that the statements were made in Goodell's individual capacity is unpersuasive as Goodell was sued as Commissioner of the NFL and all of the statements attributed to Goodell were made in connection with the NFL's investigation of the pay-per-performance/bounty allegations," Berrigan wrote in her ruling. "Therefore, Vilma's claims are preempted and must be dismissed.

"While the Court is extremely disturbed by the fundamental lack of due process in Goodell's denying the players the identities of and the right to confront their accusers, that was substantially rectified later in the process," Berrigan added. "So while the process was initially procedurally flawed, the statements were ultimately found to have enough support to defeat the defamation claims."

Berrigan ended her decision by writing: "Even though this matter has been pending only since May of this year, it feels as protracted and painful as the Saints season itself, and calls for closure. The Court nonetheless believes that had this matter been handled in a less heavy handed way, with greater fairness toward the players and the pressures they face, this litigation and the related cases would not have been necessary."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said neither he nor Goodell would have any comment Thursday about Berrigan's ruling.

Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, released the following statement: "We are obviously disappointed, strongly believe that the CBA does not give anyone -- including a commissioner -- a license to misrepresent and to manufacture facts, especially at the expense of another person's reputation -- and are considering our options."


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Goodell initially suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season for his role in the Saints' bounty program. Vilma wound up being able to play while appealing the suspension, and three other players -- Saints defensive end Will Smith and two former Saints, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove -- received shorter bans. But Paul Tagliabue, Goodell's predecessor as commissioner, heard a final round of player appeals and vacated the suspensions last month, although he backed the findings of Goodell's investigation.

Ginsberg said Vilma wanted to continue the lawsuit even after his season-long suspension was dissolved. Vilma originally filed the lawsuit against Goodell in May. Goodell filed a motion in July to have the lawsuit dismissed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.