Saints defenders Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith have a long week ahead of them. Coming off their Sunday afternoon home loss to the 49ers, they will play against the Falcons in Atlanta on Thursday night and then will immediately travel to Washington D.C. as their former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be questioned by lawyers in an appeals hearing before former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Friday morning.
The NFLPA is providing the two players with transportation on a private plane to make the trip possible after their request to postpone the proceedings for a few hours was turned down by Tagliabue.
Williams, serving an indefinite suspension, has provided much of the evidence against the Saints players that resulted in the suspensions issued by commissioner Roger Goodell.
“The NFLPA did a tremendous job accommodating Will and I so we can be present for Gregg’s testimony,” Vilma said in a text message sent to ESPN. “Mary Joe (White) and the NFL have based their whole case on two people, so I look forward to hearing his testimony and helping Peter (Ginsberg) during cross-examination.”
Smith was equally looking forward to the hearing as a chance for the players to clear their names. “They’re accusing us of things we didn’t do,” Smith said after Tuesday’s practice. “That’s part of the things that we wanted all along was to face our accusers.”
Vilma and Smith are two of the four players suspended for their involvement in the Saints’ pay-for-performance scandal that also included suspensions of Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita. Vilma had the longest suspension of the players, who was suspended for a full season.
In addition to the four player suspensions, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, Saints head coach Sean Payton is serving a one season suspension, and assistant coach (and interim head coach) Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis have already served their suspensions this season.
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