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Jonathan Vilma to Tom Brady: Lawyer up and beat the NFL in court

Vilma

Former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma knows a little something about winning a fight against Roger Goodell. And Vilma has some advice for Tom Brady.

Asked by Ed Werder of ESPN what he’d tell Brady to do, Vilma said he should take the league to court.

“I talked to Jonathan Vilma, who ferociously fought what had until this point been the harshest sanctions ever imposed by the NFL on a team, the Saints, for the bounty accusations,” Werder said on SportsCenter. “And Jonathan Vilma told me, when I asked him what advice he’d give to Tom Brady, he said, ‘I would tell him to fight the emotion of trying to publicly defend yourself, I would lawyer up and I would devise a game plan to beat the NFL in court.’”

Vilma was initially suspended for the entire 2012 season for the Saints bounty case. But after a protracted legal battle, Vilma and his Saints teammates were able to pressure Goodell to hand control over Bountygate discipline to his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue. Tagliabue rescinded all the players’ suspensions.

Werder said Vilma believes that a legal battle will be necessary for Brady as well. In Vilma’s view, an appeal under the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement won’t work, because the CBA gives Goodell the power to either handle the appeal himself or appoint someone of his choosing to hear the appeal. Instead, Vilma thinks Brady will need a federal judge to take his side against Goodell.

"[Vilma] does not believe that the NFL Players Association can successfully defend Tom Brady within the confines of the CBA,” Werder said. “He thinks he’s going to have to go to federal court, as the Saints players did, and in Vilma’s case he not only had union representation, he also had his own private lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, who could at some point be involved in Brady’s defense at some point.”

A court battle can drag out for a long time, and there’s no guarantee that Brady would win. But if he wants to be on the field for Week One, going to court may be Brady’s best bet.