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Jonathan Vilma, NFLPA suits vs. NFL to be consolidated

Judge Helen G. Berrigan ordered the NFLPA's lawsuit against the NFL on behalf of Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove, and Jonathan Vilma's defamation suit against Commissioner Roger Goodell be consolidated in Louisiana District Court on Friday.

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Berrigan also set a pre-trial settlement conference between the parties involved with the defamation and bounty lawsuits for July 23.

The NFLPA's suit was filed on Thursday. The union says Goodell violated the collective bargaining agreement by publicly showing he had determined Smith, Hargrove and Fujita had participated in a bounty system while with the New Orleans Saints even before serving as an arbitrator at their hearing. Fujita currently is serving a three-game suspension, while Smith will miss four games and Hargrove eight.

Vilma also amended his complaint Thursday, while filing for a temporary restraining order hearing, during which he plans to seek a preliminary injunction to stop his season-long suspension from going into effect while his lawsuit is still pending. Vilma has been suspended for the entire 2012 season for his alleged role in the bounty program.

The settlement conference, which will held before Berrigan in New Orleans, is standard in cases like these, and usually is an effort by the court, and not the plaintiffs or defendants, to settle the matter out of court.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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