New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has reportedly refused a settlement offer that could reduce his one-year suspension for allegedly participating in a bounty program, seeking a complete reversal instead. Vilma insists he is innocent and is attempting to have the suspension removed. Saints fans are anxiously awaiting a decision from U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan and are hoping to see Vilma on the football field in 2012.
I would like to see this suspension reversed, not only as a fan of the New Orleans Saints, but also as a fan of Jonathan Vilma. Bounty allegations aside, Vilma is generally regarded as a leader on and off of the football field. For example, his charity, the Jonathan Vilma Foundation, speaks volumes about the kind of person he is. The foundation focuses on the rebuilding efforts of Haiti's schools following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the area.
Vilma has a lot on the line. Beyond the game of football, he knows that he can do great things and that his reputation is currently at stake. If he serves this suspension, it will be the one thing most fans remember about a career that has been great for so many other reasons. On the other hand, if he truly believes in his innocence, a positive result from his current lawsuit can be a great lesson for all Americans who are paying attention.
Few doubt Vilma's abilities as an athlete. He has played for eight seasons, including four with the New York Jets before joining New Orleans in 2008. With the Saints, he has totaled 293 tackles, six forced fumbles and seven sacks. In 2009 he helped the team win the first Super Bowl title in the franchise's history.
I would prefer to remember Vilma as the excellent defensive leader, the player who did great things off the field and the person who fought for himself when he believed he was right. I fully support Vilma in his decision to reject a settlement. If he is innocent, no suspension should be served.
Mike Patton is a sports fan who grew up in New Orleans cheering for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, and LSU Tigers. As a kid in 1987, he made his first trip to Wrigley Field and also slept outside of the Louisiana Superdome to purchase playoff tickets for the Saints' first postseason appearance. Follow Mike on twitter @MikePattonGBS.
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