Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue intends to proceed this week with the hearing in the bounty suspension appeals, even though Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Saints defensive end Will Smith will be playing in Atlanta on Thursday night.
And while that won’t keep Tagliabue from allowing former Saints assistant coach Mike Cerullo to testify on Thursday without Vilma and Smith present, Smith said Tuesday that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is scheduled to testify on Friday — and Vilma and Smith are scheduled to attend.
“Any time someone accuses you of doing stuff, they’re nowhere to be found,” Smith said, via Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “They’re in Bangkok or they’re across the world. You want to be able to be there to cross examine those guys because they had a chance to cross examine us. We want to make sure what they’re saying is what they’re saying and not someone else’s words.”
It’s unclear whether Williams will show up. He possibly is trying to hinge his testimony on the league’s willingness to accelerate his reinstatement hearing from February to December.
Though Tagliabue has no subpoena power, he can refuse to consider Williams’ sworn statement if Williams refuses to show up and answer questions about it. As a practical matter, the failure of Williams to show should raise a red flag for Tagliabue.
Saints safety Roman Harper was happy to hear about the coming testimony of Cerullo. “Cerullo is going to testify?” Harper said, via Holder. “Great! I can’t wait! Are we going to talk about who he is as a person? We should do that too. I’m going to leave it at that.”
The fact that Cerullo will testify without Vilma or Smith present gives the players another argument to raise when attacking Tagliabue’s decision in court. Though their interests will be represented by counsel, it’s critical that the parties facing suspension be present to hear the testimony and assist counsel in coming up with follow-up questions.