Saints' Vilma, Smith attend Williams hearing

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 30, 2012 at 11:01 am •  Published: November 30, 2012
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Right from the start, the NFL said Gregg Williams was in charge of a pay-for-pain bounty system with the New Orleans Saints.

The former defensive coordinator — who told the league about others' involvement — was being cross-examined Friday by lawyers for players appealing their suspensions in the case.

And two of those players, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive lineman Will Smith, attended Williams' session.

"We all know why we're here today," Vilma said Friday on his way into the hearing.

The hearing is part of the latest round of player appeals overseen by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Former Saints assistant coach Mike Cerullo faced questions Thursday, when lawyers for the league and for players spent more than nine hours in a Washington office building.

Tagliabue and various lawyers declined to comment Thursday or Friday.

Vilma and Smith traveled to Washington after playing in New Orleans' 23-13 loss at Atlanta on Thursday night.

Neither player was required to attend Friday, but Smith said this week that "part of the things that we wanted all along was to face our accusers."

Vilma and Smith — along with two former Saints, free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita — were suspended by the NFL for the Saints' cash-for-hits program that the league says Williams ran from 2009 to 2011.

Smith, suspended four games, and Vilma, suspended for the entire current season, have been playing while their appeals are pending.

The NFL has described Vilma and Smith as ringleaders of a performance pool designed to knock targeted opponents out of games. The league has sworn statements from Williams and Cerullo saying Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked quarterback Brett Favre out of the NFC championship game at the end of the 2009 season.

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