Saints’ Vilma, Smith attend Williams hearing

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Saints defensive end Will Smith says he’s glad he got a chance to hear former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams testify at an appeals hearing in the bounties case.

Smith and New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma attended Friday’s session, where Williams was cross-examined by the players’ lawyers for about four hours.

Smith described the hearing as “peaceful” and “not awkward.”

Smith and Vilma _ 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. Fujita later had his suspension reduced to one game. Hargrove has not played in the NFL this season, but faces a two-game suspension if he signs with a team.

Smith and Vilma declined to discuss any details of Friday’s hearing. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has insisted on keeping the contents of the appeals process private. The hearings this week have been behind closed doors.

Paul wants to keep it under wraps, keep everything low-key … so not really much I can say right now,” Vilma said

Neither player was required to attend Friday, but as he left, Vilma said: “Of course it felt good being able to go in there.”

Vilma said it was the first time he had seen Williams since the end of last season in January.

“We got to hear what Gregg had to say,” Smith said. “We wanted to make sure we were there just to hear him out.”

Right from the start, the NFL said 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.

“We know what we did and know what we didn’t do,” Smith said.

The hearing is part of the latest round of player appeals overseen by 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.

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