The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

December 3, 2012

Tagliabue, Saints continue bounty hearings

— Hearings in the NFL bounty probe of the Saints have resumed with witness appearances by former Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt and linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has been appointed to oversee the hearings, which he has scheduled to conclude in New Orleans by Tuesday. There were also several days of witness appearances in Washington, D.C., last week.

As Childress left the downtown law office on Monday he said he had "nothing to add" after his appearance.

Tagliabue has informed attorneys representing all parties that he hopes to rule on the appeals of Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith and two other players shortly after the hearings conclude.

Tagliabue also has requested strict confidentiality by those involved.

Vilma offered a wave and a thumbs-up sign as walked into the building. Vitt only joked to several reporters that he sees them "in his dreams" and that they should be at Saints' practice instead of the law office.

Smith, suspended four games, and Vilma, suspended for the entire current season, have been allowed back on the field while their appeals are pending. It is unclear if they will be able to play against the New York Giants on Sunday.

Two former New Orleans players also were banned: Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita had his suspension reduced to one game, while free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove has not played in the NFL this season but faces a two-game suspension if he signs with a team.

The NFL has described Vilma and Smith as ringleaders — and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as being in charge — of a performance pool designed to knock targeted opponents out of games from 2009 to 2011.

The league has sworn statements from Williams and former Saints assistant coach Mike Cerullo — who testified last week — saying Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC championship game.

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