Bears

Jonathan Vilma files lawsuit against Goodell

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Jonathan Vilma files lawsuit against Goodell

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma filed a defamation lawsuit Thursday against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, claiming the league's top executive made false statements that tarnished Vilma's reputation and hindered his ability to earn a living playing football. The suit in U.S. District Court in New Orleans claims Goodell, "relied on, at best, hearsay, circumstantial evidence and lies" in making comments about Vilma while discussing the NFL's bounty investigation of the New Orleans Saints. Goodell has said Vilma was a leader of the team's bounty program that put up thousands of dollars for hits which took out opposing teams' star players from 2009-11, including 10,000 each on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre during the playoffs in 2010. "Commissioner Goodell opted to make very public and unfortunately erroneous allegations against Jonathan," said Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsberg. "By making these false and public statements, he has significantly harmed Jonathan's reputation and ability to make a living. "By suing Commissioner Goodell in court, Jonathan opted to use a fair playing field where he has procedural rights and protections to remedy the harm Commissioner Goodell has done to him." Vilma wrote on his Twitter account that, "As I've said before..I NEVER PAID, NOR INTENDED TO PAY ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY, TO ANY PLAYER FOR INTENTIONALLY HURTING AN OPPONENT." Goodell has suspended Vilma, an eight-year veteran and defensive captain, for the entire 2012 season. Vilma and three other current of former Saints who received shorter suspensions -- defensive end Will Smith, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and linebacker Scott Fujita -- all have appealed their punishments. Hargrove now plays for Green Bay while Fujita is with Cleveland. "We have not yet reviewed the filing," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "However, our commitment to player safety and the integrity of the game is our main consideration. We recognize that not everyone will agree with decisions that need to be made." The NFL also hired former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White in late 2011 to review its evidence in the case, and White has said the NFL's findings are corroborated by multiple independent witnesses as well as documentation. Vilma's lawsuit, which is expected to be heard by Judge Ginger Berrigan, asks for unspecified monetary damages as well as punitive damage and attorneys fees. The lawsuit states that Goodell, "knew and intended that Vilma would suffer severe emotional distress" when the NFL published its bounty report and handed down punishment for the 30-year-old linebacker. "Vilma will soon have to leave behind the world of professional football and will likely face difficulties in obtaining other employment and entering into new ventures as a result of Goodell's false and defamatory statements," the lawsuit said. "Media will forever mention his name in the context of the Bounty investigation and fans will forever remember Vilma with ill repute rather than remember his substantial accomplishments on and off the field." The players' association has said that the league has refused to turn over what the union would view as hard evidence that Vilma or the other sanctioned players tried to intentionally injure targeted opponents, or sponsored such behavior. "It is certainly the case that in court, Jonathan will have a right to see whatever it is that Commissioner Goodell has been hiding from us and what Commissioner Goodell contends gave him a basis to make these false allegations," Ginsberg said. "We will have a fair and neutral judge to preside over the dispute rather than contending with the executioner also being the person making the final decision." Vilma's lawsuit states that the linebacker "never pledged,' made or received payments of any kind encouraging or resulting from an opposing player being injured." The NFL found that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams oversaw a bounty program in New Orleans from 2009 to 2011 which paid off-the-books cash bonuses of 1,500 for "knockouts," or hits which forced a player out of games, and 1,000 for "cart-offs," which left players needing help off the field. The Saints have been punished harshly as an organization. Head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for all of 2012 for failing to put a stop to the program and attempting to cover it up, while general manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games. The club also was fined 500,000 and docked two second-round draft picks. Williams, now with St. Louis, has been suspended indefinitely. Payton, Loomis and Williams all have issued written public apologies regarding the bounty scandal.

Bears injury report: Mitchell Trubisky still listed as questionable after three straight days of full practice

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USA TODAY

Bears injury report: Mitchell Trubisky still listed as questionable after three straight days of full practice

Everything leading into Week 7’s Bears-Saints game makes it sound like Mitchell Trubisky will make his return under center, but officially he’s still questionable.

Trubisky still has that designation despite being a full participant in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Trubisky has missed the past two games with a left shoulder injury.

Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols and offensive lineman Ted Larsen are also questionable. Nichols was limited in practice on Friday with hand and knee injuries. Larsen was a full go in practice on Friday with a knee injury after being limited on Wednesday and Thursday.


Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe are listed on the injury report, but expected to play.

Who's the Bears' best option to replace Kyle Long at right guard?

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USA Today

Who's the Bears' best option to replace Kyle Long at right guard?

The Bears have three options on their roster to start on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, the first game of — in all likelihood — the post-Kyle Long era in Chicago. Is a guy who’s only played 30 snaps as a guard in his pro or college career really the right choice?

Rashaad Coward may be new to the position, but the Bears like his athleticism, physical edge and work ethic he brings to the offense. Also in the conversation: 10-year veteran Ted Larsen and undrafted rookie Alex Bars. 

Coward has more immediate upside, but Larsen (who's officially questionable with a knee injury, though he practiced in full Friday) is more a you-know-what-you're-getting guy. Coward's upside, though, lies in the athleticism and physicality he showed in limited time against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4.

“He’s a tough guy, he plays very, very hard,” offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. “It’s super important to him, he’s very prideful, he’s very determined to keep his guy from making a play and that’s a big part of this.”

That Hiestand has actual game film on which to evaluate and teach Coward is important. And the Bears saw him do some good things in letting his raw talent take over against the Vikings. 

“Going into the game, I was like F it,” Coward said. “It is what it is. It’s either you do it or you don’t.”

Coward said on Monday he practiced with the No. 1 offense, and given Larsen was limited in Wednesday's and Thursday's practices, there's a decent chance Coward will start on Sunday. 

Larsen, though, is the kind of guy who could get the nod on Sunday without getting many reps during mid-week practices. 

Larsen suffered the injury in Week 4, which led to Coward entering the game, and he didn’t travel to London with the Bears in Week 5. But his veteran experience — he’s started 87 games in his career — and flexibility to play guard or center make him a trusted backup.

“I played a lot of football,” Larsen said. “I’m ready whenever they want to use me.”

There is a possibility the Bears rotate Larsen and Coward on a series-to-series basis, as the team did with a veteran (Eric Kush) and a greenhorn (James Daniels) at left guard last year. 

"It’s something that could definitely happen," Nagy said. "I’m not opposed to that. And then you can also balance and see, whether it’s Ted or Rashaad, how are they playing and we can get a feel for that during a game and we feel comfortable with both."

Bars is unlikely to factor this week but does have long-term upside. He turned down an opportunity to join the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster earlier this month because he saw a better opportunity in Chicago. That his college offensive line coach is now his pro offensive line coach certainly played into that decision, too.

Many thought Bars would be a mid-round draft pick prior to his final season at Notre Dame, but a torn ACL and MCL suffered last September knocked him down to being an undrafted free agent. The opportunity to link back up with Hiestand helped bring him to Chicago, where he played well during the preseason — but not well enough to make the Bears’ initial 53-man roster.

“The transition to this level coming off the injury was an adjustment I had to make, still making it every day,” Bars said. “I’m trying to improve and work against really, really good guys.” 

The Bears’ starting right guard for the rest of 2019 will hardly be settled by who starts against the Saints in Week 7. Coward may get the first crack, but if his inexperience overshadows his talent, the Bears may need to call on a safer option in Larsen. And that could open the door for Bars to start, too, if he proves to Hiestand behind the scenes he’s back on the track he was on prior to his collegiate injury.

Whoever plays, though, needs to be better than Long was over his four games prior to going on injured reserve. The Bears made that difficult decision in part to improve at right guard. It’s now on Coward — or Larsen, or Bars — to make good on that promise.

"Between the three of them I think it will be fun for us to kind of work through what decision, where we want to go with that," Nagy said. "And then whoever it is, let's go. There's no looking back."

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