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On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan gave the parties until Monday to answer questions about whether the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement prevents a commissioner from handing out discipline for legal contact, and whether the CBA’s passages about detrimental conduct are “ambiguous, hence unenforceable.”

In March, the NFL announced that its investigation showed the Saints put together a bounty pool of up to $50,000 to reward game-ending injuries inflicted on opponents. “Knockouts” were worth $1,500 and “cart-offs” $1,000 _ with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs, the league said.

According to the league, the pay-for-pain program was administered by Williams, with Payton’s knowledge. At the time, Williams apologized for his role, saying: “It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it.”

Later that month, Payton became the first head coach suspended by the league for any reason _ banned for all of this season without pay _ and Williams was suspended indefinitely.

Williams was known for his aggressive, physical defenses as a coordinator for Tennessee, Washington, Jacksonville and New Orleans, and during his time as head coach of Buffalo. In January, he was hired by St. Louis to lead their defense but hasn’t been able to do that while suspended.

When Vilma and Smith made an earlier attempt to appeal their punishments, Goodell refused to reduce their bans.

As Vilma, wearing a gray suit, headed out of the building Friday, a reporter told him that Smith indicated the hearing was helpful.

“Yeah? Well, we said that last time,” Vilma replied, “and we saw how that turned out. So we’ll see what happens.”

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Connect with Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.