Will Smith happy Cerullo, Williams will testify, Vilma not happy he’ll miss it

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As the details of the bounty appeal hearing to be conducted by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue come into focus, two things are becoming more and more clear:  (1) the NFL must produce former Saints assistant coach Mike Cerullo and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for testimony; and (2) the testimony will happen on a day when Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma won’t be there to sit in the room and listen to them speak.

“I’m kind of disappointed in that these are the guys that essentially made the case against me,” Vilma said Friday, via Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  “I would love to be there to see them, hear what they had to say. . . .  For whatever reason, [Tagliabue] felt like I didn’t need to be there.”

Cerullo and Williams will testify on November 29 or 30.  The Saints play the Falcons in Atlanta on Thursday, November 29.

“Why would you make it so difficult on us to get there? . . .  Obviously, the intent was not for us to be there when you schedule it the way you scheduled it,” Vilma said.

The other current Saints player whose re-issued suspension will be reviewed by Tagliabue has no issue with missing the testimony; instead, defensive end Will Smith is simply happy Cerullo and Williams will be required to answer questions about the sworn statements they previously supplied.

“It’s going to be important that Gregg and those guys get a chance to get cross-examined as we were cross-examined,” Smith said, per Holder.  “It’s good to have those guys finally stepping forward and actually talking instead of hiding. . . .  The most important thing is that Gregg Williams and those other guys are going to have to testify and be cross-examined.  I think that’s the most important thing and see if their stories stay the same.”

On that point, Vilma agrees.  “There’s always that possibility [for the penalties to be upheld], but we feel like once Gregg and Cerullo get up on the stand and testify that we feel like there’s no plausible way we could still be suspended after that,” Vilma said.

Though it’s premature to presume victory based simply on the fact that Cerullo and Williams will testify, exposing them to aggressive cross-examination from lawyers like Jeffrey Kessler and Peter Ginsberg could highlight flaws in their stories, conflicts in their statements, and motivations and biases that could make their versions suspect.  Cerullo’s affidavit alone gives rise to plenty to questions, and the timing of Williams’ statement (it was signed in September, months after the investigation occurred and days after the initial suspensions were vacated) is curious, to say the least.

The biggest discrepancy between the two documents comes from Cerullo’s claim that the $10,000 originally offered by Vilma to any teammate who knocked Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of the 2009 NFC divisional playoff game was given to Williams for safekeeping.  Williams denies receiving any money.  Moreover, Williams says nothing of a $10,000 offer by Vilma for the Cardinals game; Williams mentions only the next playoff game, against the Vikings and quarterback Brett Favre.

The two witnesses had better get their ducks in a row by the end of the coming week, or Tagliabue could decide that the situation smells sufficiently fishy to not trust anything Cerullo and/or Williams have to say on the subject of whether a specific bounty was placed on Warner or Favre, or both.

19 responses to “Will Smith happy Cerullo, Williams will testify, Vilma not happy he’ll miss it

  1. Honestly, I think the players should be suspended for their lying and obstructing the investigation by changing their stories multiple times, if you are going to hang them with testimony from 2 people, you don’t schedule if for a day when they can’t be there. The schedule for the season has been out for months, and this isn’t even Vilma posturing, he can’t be there.

    They should schedule it for the day before or after, if it has to be this week. I mean just a week ago we were told it wouldn’t be during the season that this was completed. Can’t the hearing wait a week or a day for that matter?

  2. Vilma is starting to sound like Jesse Jackson with his “everything always comes back to holding me down” accusations. News flash Vilma- if it weren’t for bounty gate you’d hardly be known outside of the saints fanbase. And quite frankly I can’t wait til it’s over so I don’t have to hear him whine anymore.

  3. The discrepancies between Williams a d Cerullo are minor. Their consistencies are major. Both declarations identify that the Saints operated a program which rewarded players if, and only if, an opposing player could not return to a game because of an injury.

    That’s what the league/Goodell have been claiming all along. In addition to the cover up, the existence of the program is why the suspensions were handed out in the first place. Williams’ and Cerullo’s statements are entirely consistent on this critical fact.

    The date of Williams’ declaration is a red herring. Absolutely all of its substantive information was incorporated into the allegations announced by the league made six months previously in March. There was nothing new. Williams states this in the declaration.

    Through their attorneys, Smith and Vilma will get their pound of flesh. Tagliabue will rule that the league’s/Goodell’s allegations against the players were true.

    The league and Goodell have been factually correct all along.

  4. The league’s entire case has been based on faulty, discredited evidence and the testimony of whistleblowers with axes to grind. Now that Williams and Cerullo realize that they will NEVER be in the NFL again, their testimony is even more suspect.

    If the NFL would have handed out the five yard penalty this offense deserved rather than the multiple fifteen-yarders with ejections, this would have been over long ago. Now, they should just pick up the flag. They should just drop this thing. Drop it now or it’s just going to drag right on through the Super Bowl.

  5. Here come the loser Saints haters. Hope you all show up after the fact to express your “convictions”.
    Go to Wal-Mart and buy your mama something nice. After all, she lets you live in her basement.

  6. Smith went to high school in Utica, near my home town, and I’ve heard nothing but positive things said about him through his entire career – he graduated HS the same year as I and even then I remember nothing but positive things about his attitude. Surprising how money corrupts. Though, it could have been local media being overly proud of a local star, or maybe Greg Williams just has a negative effects on those he coached. I honestly don’t know, or care, as long as those responsible (regardless of their name or position on the team) are properly punished.

  7. “Williams lost his job because of admitting to bountygate. What did he have to gain by making it up??”

    Really? He didn’t get along with Sean Payton. He left the Saints one step ahead of the axe after his defense disintegrated in San Francisco. When the NFL cornered him and his future livelihood was on the line, you can’t think of a single reason he might want to deflect some of the blame? At the time, there was some chance of him coaching again. Now, he can’t retract his declarations even if he was so inclined. He’d go to jail.

  8. ***bigjdve says:
    Nov 24, 2012 9:50 AM
    Honestly, I think the players should be suspended for their lying and obstructing the investigation by changing their stories multiple times.***

    You should check the facts before posting silly things like this. Since day one of this sham, their story is the same : pay-per-performance yes, pay-to-injure no.

    On the other hand, you can’t say the same about the NFL. Just see how many diferents definition of what a bounty is Goodell gave us. See how at first you could see Hargrove’ lips moving. See how Fujita was suspended 4 games for his role in the so-called bounty program..

  9. To all the people who think the Saints players should be suspended without a fair hearing, I hope you all lose your jobs for no reason whatsoever. Seems fitting to me. You deserve it as much as the Saints players do, if not more, for your ridiculous hatred and bad attitudes.

    I’m not a Saints fan but I am appalled by the treatment of these players. Stop cyber bullying.

  10. Williams, Cerullo, and The Great Roger Goodell Himself Live And In Person failed to follow what I call “Rule #1 of the Big Lie”–

    If you’re going to lie, agree on the lie and stick with it.

  11. Tags (and his puppet master Goodell) now realize finally that the federal law requires a showing of fairness – fairness to the players – in the application of powers granted Goodell under the CBA. They need actual evidence after all. So they are extremely worried about two things:

    1. They know that continuing the punishments without allowing the accused to examine the witnesses will cause the federal court to conclude that the result is tainted with partiality; thus, the punishments would be reversed and, perhaps, the NFL and Goodell and Tags would be sanctioned by the court. And federal court sanctions can be harsh. Such a result would make Vilma’s defamation suit against Goodell a foregone conclusion – the irony being that Goodell would be the one getting, rather than giving, a huge fine.

    2. They have serious doubts that Williams has the intestinal fortitude to lie the NFL’s lie about Vilma if Vilma is staring him down face to face. When under oath, and the penalty of perjury applies, it’s awfully hard for a coward to lie about a man to his face. Otherwise, there’s no reason to finagle it so that Vilma can’t be there personally.

  12. Here we go again…Vilma the football player doesn’t understand you have no right to cross examine witnesses at a hearing. Imagine that! It’s so funny that him and other people think that rules of law apply to this workplace discipline dispute hearing. You know they have these hearings in union halls everyday without incident. They follow similar procedures to the ones initially followed in this incident. Nothing really different or special about it. Except that it involved NFL players. That line of thinking says that NFL players are special and deserve special and different treatment than other union represented worker in USA. I don’t get this website, they hang with Vilma on his cliff, attacking the league’s investigation to the bitter end. But then want to demonize any player hauled in for a DUI. I guess it’s whatever brings more traffic to the website.

  13. nwindle, if you had been keeping up with this all along you might have remembered that application of rights and obligations under collective bargaining agreements are subject to federal law, which requires that the terms of the CBA must be applied with impartiality.

  14. @usmutts: your interpretation of federal law in this context is most interesting. Unfortunately, it’s virtually entirely incorrect.

  15. truthfactory says:
    Nov 24, 2012 10:27 AM
    Williams lost his job because of admitting to bountygate. What did he have to gain by making it up??

    maybe because the commish said if you say you did it, we won’t ban you for life. most snitches get something for cooperating

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