METAIRIE, La. – While a published photograph shows former Miami linebacker Jonathan Vilma and imprisoned Miami booster Nevin Shapiro spending time together on what looks like a yacht, Vilma declined to go into details about their relationship or Shapiro's recent claims about giving improper gifts to Hurricanes athletes.
"I feel it's unfortunate that things are being brought up right now from a guy who's in jail," Vilma, now a defensive captain and linebacker with the New Orleans Saints, said after practice Wednesday night. "You can go back and forth with someone who's in jail and try to explain yourself. I really don't want to do that. That's very unnecessary. I'll leave it at that."
Shapiro was sentenced to 20 years in prison in June for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, plus ordered to pay more than $82 million in restitution to investors. In interviews with Yahoo!, he claimed he provided Hurricanes players with cash, prostitutes, cars and other gifts from 2002 to 2010.
Shapiro also claimed that he placed bounties worth thousands of dollars on Miami opponents' key players, and that Vilma was trying to earn one such payout with vicious hits on then-Florida State quarterback Chris Rix.
Vilma said he was not sure what Shapiro's motives would be for making such claims, adding, "I don't care."
"Right now that's really not of relevance," Vilma said. "I have to get ready for what we're doing right now with the Saints, with my defense, making sure we're doing the right things to get better. I can't let any distractions get in the way of that."
Vilma also balked at giving an opinion on former Miami players who have backed up some of Shapiro's allegations.
"That's their business," Vilma said of other Miami players who backed up Shapiro's claims. "You're talking about nine years ago, eight years ago. (I've) moved on from that. Far removed from that right now, especially with what's going on with the Saints. I feel like we have a very good team. I feel like we have a very good chance of getting to the playoffs and repeating what we did in '09," when New Orleans won its first Super Bowl.
Vilma recently donated $450,000 to Miami to be put toward a new athletic center, and his name was expected to be placed on an athletes' lounge.
Now, however, Miami could face severe sanctions if an NCAA probe finds substance in Shapiro's allegations.
"Right now, let the NCAA do what they have to do," Vilma said. "Of course you know I love Miami. Love it to death. Of course you can see that with my donations out there and I'll always love Miami."