METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma plan to be present Friday when their lawyers are scheduled to cross examine former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Washington, D.C.
Williams is to appear at a hearing involving the NFL's bounty probe of the Saints on Friday morning, according to a schedule set by Paul Tagliabue. The former NFL commissioner has been appointed to oversee the latest round of player appeals in the matter.
"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."
Smith and Vilma will leave for Washington from Atlanta after Thursday night's game against the Falcons.
They are among four current or former Saints — along with free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita — who were issued suspensions of various lengths in the league's probe of the Saints' cash-for-hits program that ran under Williams from 2009 to 2011.
Smith, suspended four games, and Vilma, suspended for the season, have been playing while their appeals are pending.
Williams and former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo were two of the NFL's central witnesses in the probe. Cerullo's appearance is scheduled for Thursday, which conflicts with the Saints' preparations for the game that night.
"We both want to be there, but we know we can't make it. We've both got to play football. That's the way it worked out. We will definitely be there Friday," Smith said, adding that he hopes Williams shows up. "He hasn't confirmed whether he would be there or not. We'll see what happens."
The NFL has described Vilma and Smith as ring leaders of the performance pool and produced sworn statements from Williams and Cerullo saying Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009-10 NFC title game.
The hearings were slated to begin Tuesday in Washington with the questioning of NFL chief security officer Jeff Miller. Tagliabue has requested strict confidentiality while the process is ongoing, and the hearings are being conducted in private.
Tagliabue also is holding the NFL is responsible for producing Cerullo and Williams. The Saints are responsible for producing Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt and Vilma early next week.
Vitt, who also coaches linebackers, already has served a six-game suspension related to the bounty probe and has said that while the Saints had an informal performance pool that rewarded players for big plays including forced fumbles, interceptions, sacks and big hits, his players never stepped on the field intending to injure an opponent.
Vitt made similar comments under oath in federal court last summer when he was called as a witness in Vilma's defamation lawsuit against current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who published the initial bounty accusations and issued the suspensions, which included a full season ban for Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Lawsuits both by Vilma and the NFL Players Association challenging Goodell's handling of the bounty matter, including his decision to appoint Tagliabue as arbitrator for the appeals, is pending in federal court in New Orleans. It is not clear whether the judge intends to let more of the NFL's process play out before making a ruling.
Tagliabue has said he expects to make his appeal ruling shortly after concluding hearings on Dec. 4.
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.