By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints LB Jonathan Vilma and DE Will Smith met Monday with NFL lawyers and a federal magistrate, but the closed-door settlement conference didn't resolve lawsuits spawned by the players' suspensions following the league's bounty investigation.
Vilma and his attorneys emerged from the three-hour-long conference with U.S. Magistrate Daniel Knowles III without commenting on whether progress was made toward resolution of the case. The meeting was closed to the public.
In a court filing later Monday, Knowles said a settlement can't be reached "at this time." But he instructed the parties to contact him "at any stage of the proceeding if an additional settlement conference would be beneficial."
Peter Ginsberg, one of Vilma's attorneys, said only that the group "went through the settlement process" and that he expects "things will move along."
Vilma declined to comment on the talks, but said, "I want the team to do well, and I want to be part of the team."
The star linebacker and Saints coach Sean Payton have been suspended for the 2012 season for their alleged roles in a bounty program the NFL says targeted opposition players for three seasons. Smith is suspended for four games.
NFL attorneys and lawyers for Smith also declined comment.
Vilma's lawsuit claims NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell failed to make a timely appeal ruling regarding his season-long suspension.
His suit also asks for a temporary restraining order to allow Vilma to rejoin the team. U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan in New Orleans is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on that request.
Vilma filed a separate suit against Goodell for alleged defamation of character. The NFL Players Association sued the NFL on behalf of Smith and two other suspended players, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.
The Saints open training camp on Tuesday.
©2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.