The NFL asked a U.S. District Court judge on Friday to dismiss Jonathan Vilma's motion seeking to have his season-long suspension overturned.
The Saints linebacker is scheduled to have a hearing on Thursday. But the NFL wants the case dismissed because the collective bargaining agreement reached last August to end the lockout gives Commissioner Roger Goodell the authority to punish players for "conduct detrimental" to the NFL.
Vilma and Saints coach Sean Payton have been suspended for the 2012 season for their roles in the bounty program the NFL says went on for three seasons.
The NFL also states that Vilma and three other players suspended refused to defend themselves during the appeals process. Saints defensive end Will Smith is suspended for four games, current Packers DE Anthony Hargrove got eight games, and current Browns linebacker Scott Fujita is out for three games.
"By refusing to participate in the merits of the CBA appeal process ... the NFLPA and Mr. Vilma have failed to exhaust the dispute resolution procedures available to them," the NFL's motion said. "That failure requires dismissal of their actions."
Vilma also has filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell.
Earlier this week, soon after Vilma filed his motion for dismissal of the suspension, Saints interim coach Joe Vitt —who will serve a six-game suspension when the season begins — also filed an affidavit with the court in support of Vilma's request. Vitt, who did not fight his suspension imposed by Goodell, called the bounty program "nonexistent" in the affidavit.
Vitt said he wanted "to refute that the Saints ever had a bounty program or that any member of our defence, including Mr. Vilma, ever placed a bounty on an opposing player or set out to injure anyone or to encourage any other Saints player to injure anyone."
The NFL insists that all discipline in the bounties case falls under Goodell's jurisdiction as part of the CBA.