The NFL has offered to reduce New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's year-long suspension to eight games as part of ongoing settlement talks involving the league, the NFL Players Association and legal representatives for the four players who were suspended for their alleged participation in the team's bounty program from 2009-2011, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
The league's offer was made late last week but it is conditional upon Vilma dropping a civil lawsuit charging commissioner Roger Goodell with defamation of character, sources said. Vilma has expressed his strong feelings about his tainted reputation.
[...] Judge Berrigan expressed concerns about Goodell's actions during the first hearing in which seven members of the Saints testified that they never witnessed Vilma offering $10,000 to any teammate who injured opposing quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre in the 2009-2010 playoffs. Those who testified also denied there was a pay-to-injure bounty program, including Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt, who will serve his own six-game suspension to open the season.
While sources said league attorneys have urged Goodell to offer reductions in the suspensions as a settlement, a league official reiterated Goodell's position that if the players had participated fully in the appeals process, the commissioner may have reduced the penalties as he has with other players who have been disciplined in other cases. The league official also noted that the current legal proceeding began with a settlement conference.