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Only Vilma will pursue a preliminary injunction for bounty suspension

Scott Fujita

Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita walks off the field after NFL football practice at the team’s headquarters in Berea, Ohio Tuesday, May 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)


We’ve assumed for weeks that the three players whose bounty suspensions commence as of Week One of the regular season will seek a preliminary injunction blocking those suspensions until the litigation attacking the suspensions is resolved. To date, they haven’t.

Per a source with knowledge of the plans of Saints defensive end Will Smith, Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, they currently don’t plan to seek a so-called preliminary injunction.

The source explains that the players and the NFLPA see no need for a preliminary injunction because the goal is press for a judicial resolution of the lawsuits before the regular season begins. Unlike Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, whose one-year suspension began immediately as of July 2, Smith, Hargrove, and Fujita may participate in training camp and the preseason.

It’s possible if not likely that Judge Helen G. Berrigan will resolve the cases before the start of the regular season. Regardless of the outcome, the issues are very simple.

Although on the surface it appears to be a risky, all-in proposition to not seek an order blocking the suspensions while the litigation unfolds, the StarCaps precedent suggests that, if Vilma obtains a preliminary injunction, the league could choose to delay the other three suspensions, too. Specifically, when litigation filed by Saints defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant and running back Deuce McAllister was resolved to permit the NFL to suspend the players who tested positive for the prescription diuretic that had been secretly added to StarCaps (actually, at that point only Smith was still in the league), the league delayed the suspension because Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams still had a viable preliminary injunction in place.

And while all four of the players suspended in the bounty case may lose at the trial court level before the regular season begins, Vilma could apply for an ongoing injunction with the appellate court -- just as the Williamses did (successfully) after losing at the trial-court level in the StarCaps case.

So, basically, the other three players aren’t seeking a preliminary injunction. But if Vilma is successful they may not need to.