Jonathan Vilma's season-long suspension was vacated Tuesday, but the New Orleans Saints linebacker still intends to fight for his good name.
NFL.com's Albert Breer reported Tuesday that Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said the linebacker won't let go of the defamation lawsuit he filed in May against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"Jonathan intends to continue to pursue the defamation lawsuit in order to reclaim his reputation," Ginsberg told Breer. "We're pleased that the unjust penalties have been overturned, but this is only one piece in remedying the situation for Jonathan."
That won't be an easy fight after Paul Tagliabue vacated punishments for Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove on Tuesday. The former NFL Commissioner dropped the suspensions but backed the findings of Goodell's investigation. Gabe Feldman, Director of Sports Law at Tulane, told NFL Network on Tuesday that Tagliabue's ruling makes Vilma's suit challenging.
"That was a difficult to begin with because of the very high standard if you're a public figure," Feldman said. "You have to prove actual malice. By Paul Tagliabue saying that he did find that Jonathan Vilma engaged in the conduct that was alleged by the Commissioner, it's going to be very hard for a judge to say that there was actual malice here, that the Commissioner lied about this and basically fabricated it. It doesn't eliminate the case, but it just makes the case a very difficult one."
The tangled saga of the "bounty" scandal is fading away, but not for Vilma. His fight wages on. The player's official statement, prepared by Ginsberg and obtained by Breer, spoke of a fight not yet over:
"Two competing forces have been at play since at least March of this year. Roger Goodell has been trying every conceivable maneuver to avoid real and honest scrutiny of his manufactured allegations that Jonathan Vilma engaged in a bounty program aimed at opposing players and Jonathan has been fighting to have an open and fair review of those accusations.
"We are obviously relieved and gratified that Jonathan no longer needs to worry about facing an unjustified suspension. On the other hand, Commissioner Tagliabue's rationalization of Commissioner Goodell's actions does nothing to rectify the harm done by the baseless allegations lodged against Jonathan. Jonathan has a right and every intention to pursue proving what really occurred and we look forward to returning to a public forum where the true facts can see the light of day.
"We call upon Commissioner Tagliabue to release the transcripts of the proceedings held before him so that they are available as we go forward. Finally, it is regrettable that the NFL continues unjustifiably to attack the New Orleans Saints, an organization comprised of decent and honest people who continue to stand strong in the face of these baseless attacks."