New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma
and defensive end Will Smith
provided testimony Friday for the bounty appeals in a hearing that included former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Both players said they came away with a positive feeling after a day of cross examination by Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, and Smith's NFL Players' Association counsel Jeffrey Kessler at Washington law office. Williams blew the whistle earlier this year in sworn statements to commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL investigators on the team's system that allegedly paid players to injury opponents.
Vilma was suspended for the season for allegedly offering a $10,000 bounty to any Saints player to take former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC championship game. Smith received a four-game suspension, but both have been allowed to play this season during the appeals process.
"Of course, it felt good being able to go in there," said Vilma, who saw Williams for the first time since the accusations were made.
Vilma described the mood as "peaceful."
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue presided over the hearing Friday. Williams, who acknowledged his role in devising the bounty program, faced questions from Ginsberg and Kessler.
---Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray
could return to the lineup this week after missing six games with a sprained left foot.
Murray has practiced all week and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
indicated that the signs are positive.
"The key day was (Thursday)," Jones said. "He came back better than (Wednesday), which was his first day out, and usually that's a leveling off or setback day."
Backup Felix Jones
has started in Murray's place but has been limited by sore knees.
Murray had rushed for 330 yards this season before his injury.
The Cowboys play Philadelphia on Sunday night.
---Will quarterback Tim Tebow
be available to play Sunday or won't he?
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said Friday that he won't make a decision on Tebow's status until game time Sunday. But ESPN and New York Daily News reports indicated that Tebow would be placed on the inactive list.
Tebow suffered two broken ribs in a game two weeks ago and did not play Thanksgiving night against New England despite being the team's No. 2 quarterback. The injury has restricted Tebow in practice this week, according to reports.
ESPN and the Daily News both reported that Greg McElroy would back up starter Mark Sanchez for Sunday's game against Arizona.
---Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick
will miss his third straight game because of a concussion and reports surfaced Friday that he believes the team has ulterior motives for keeping him on the sideline.
Running back LeSean McCoy also will sit out Sunday's game against Dallas with a concussion that forced him to miss last week's game. Neither McCoy nor Vick has received medical clearance to resume practicing.
Eagles trainer Rich Burkholder said Vick is in stage four in the five-step concussion recovery process and McCoy is at stage two.
Burkholder told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Vick's progress had leveled off, but he's hoping Vick will pass the tests on Monday.
Vick claimed that the Eagles (3-8) have political reasons for him not playing and questioned their rationale. Rookie Nick Foles has started in pace of Vick.
---The NFL fined five players involved in a brawl during the fourth quarter of Sunday's Cincinnati Bengals-Oakland Raiders game in Cincinnati.
Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth
was the only Bengals player to receive a $26,250 fine, NFL.com reported Friday.
Four Oakland players --- defensive linemen Desmond Bryant, Lamarr Houston
, Tommy Kelly and Matt Shaughnessy -- were also fined the same amount, according to NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk.
Whitworth charged after Houston for throwing Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to the ground. The fight escalated and Whitworth, Houston and Kelly were ejected.
After the Bengals' 34-10 win, Whitworth said he was defending his quarterback.
---The NFL has fined New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley
$20,000 for kicking San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone in the head last Sunday.
Bunkley was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected in the final minutes of the Saints' loss to the 49ers, prompting the NFL to levy the fine, CBSSports.com reported. Boone was on the ground when Bunkley kicked him in the back of the helmet.
Bunkley played in Thursday night's loss to the Atlanta Falcons and had one tackle.
Also, 49ers special teams player Demarcus Dobbs
was arrested early Friday morning for marijuana possession after his involvement in a single-car accident, according to CSN Bay Area.
He did not make the team's trip to St. Louis, where the 49ers take on the Rams on Sunday.
Dobbs turned 25 on Friday.
"He was involved in a crash and we suspect he was under the influence of alcohol," California Highway Patrol Officer D.J. Sarabia said. "He was not injured and he was also arrested for possession of marijuana."
Dobbs' accident occurred on a Santa Clara, Calif., expressway at 3:45 a.m. He was not injured and was the only one in his car. He was arrested and later released. Dobbs faces misdemeanor charges.
"The 49ers are aware of the recent matter involving Demarcus Dobbs," the team said in a statement. "We are gathering the relevant facts as it pertains to this situation. We have been in contact with both Demarcus and the League office. He will not be making the trip to St. Louis, and we will reserve further comment at this time."
San Francisco added linebacker Michael Wilhoite from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.
---Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was fined $10,000 for taunting Minnesota Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson, the NFL announced Friday.
Cutler, apparently thinking Jefferson hit him late or unnecessarily, flipped the ball at him after a play during the Bears' 28-10 victory on Sunday.
---Houston Texans defensive tackle J.J. Watt was fined $15,750 for striking Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the head/neck area in the fourth quarter of their Nov. 22 game, according to NFL.com.
No penalty was called on the play. Otherwise, it would have put Detroit in field-goal range at the 30-yard line and in position to win the game. Houston eventually won 34-31 in OT.
---Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis
could return to action as early as Dec. 16 for a game against Denver.
Lewis, who is recovering from a torn triceps on Oct. 14, was eligible to begin practicing Thursday and could be activated from injured reserve/designated to return for that game against the Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning, ESPN.com reported.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh continues to list Lewis as day to day, saying Lewis will return when he's healthy and ready to practice.
It once was believed that Lewis would be out for the season after surgery to repair the triceps. That no longer appears to be the case for the 37-year-old Lewis, who had 39 tackles in five games.
The Ravens (9-2) are 5-1 since Lewis, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, suffered the injury.
---Former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens
is out of jail, one day after he was picked up in Florida on a probation violation this week.
Stevens, who played for the Seattle Seahawks and recently married soccer star Hope Solo, was released Thursday on his own recognizance by a judge in Hillsborough County, Fla., the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The Wednesday arrest was the result of a Stevens violating terms of his probation for a 2010 marijuana possession charge in Tampa when he played for the Buccaneers.
Several weeks earlier, Stevens was arrested in Kirkland, Wash., for investigation of assault after an alleged domestic dispute with Solo. Stevens was permitted to be out of state, but the arrested constituted the probation violation.
Stevens was released after a court appearance in suburban Seattle when a judge found no evidence to hold him. He then married Solo that evening. She said Stevens had never hit her and that the two are happy.
---Ben Roethlisberger is out for Sunday's game, according to the Pittsburgh Steelers injury report released Friday.
The Steelers quarterback has practiced the past three days while he attempts to recover from a sprain in his right shoulder area that he suffered three weeks ago, but he's still struggling to regain his strength in that area, according to reports.
Veteran backup Charlie Batch started last Sunday's loss to Cleveland and it appears he'll get the nod again this week despite a less-than-stellar performance that included three interceptions and no touchdown passes.
Roethlisberger said Thursday that he had confidence in Batch playing well Sunday against Baltimore.
"I firmly believe that," Roethlisberger said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They know what he's capable of. He's been doing it a long time. They respect him. I think he's ready to rise to the occasion."
---Oakland Raiders have suspended linebacker Rolando McClain for two games for conduct detrimental to the team.
Coach Dennis Allen informed McClain of his decision and then relayed the information to the team, ESPN.com reported Friday. McClain will be eligible to return to the team on Dec. 10.
The Raiders offered no specifics on the reason for the suspension other than Allen saying it was a "team-related issue."
McClain posted Wednesday on Facebook that he was done with the team. He did not show up for practice Thursday and said he expected to be released, but Fox Sports reported that the team would not do so.
The 23-year-old was drafted eighth overall in 2010 and started for the Raiders as a rookie, but his playing time had diminished this season. He has 60 tackles and one sack this year.
---Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher will appeal an NFL fine resulting from a stop on Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Urlacher brought down Peterson near the sideline in the fourth quarter with a horse-collar tackle that drew a 15-yard penalty in the Bears' 28-10 win.
ESPNChicago.com reported the amount of the fine to be $15,750.
In the same game, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen delivered a hit on Bears guard Lance Louis that received a $21,000 league fine. Louis suffered a season-ending knee injury.
---Cincinnati wide receiver Mohamed Sanu will undergo potential season-ending surgery Monday for a stress fracture.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said via The Cincinnati Enquirer on Friday that the injury occurred during practice Thursday and that Sanu likely will be out for the year. He is expected to be placed on injured reserve.
Sanu, a rookie from Rutgers, emerged as a pass-catching complement to A.J. Green in the past five weeks, catching 16 catches for 154 yards, including four touchdown receptions in the last three games.
---Linebacker Clay Matthews will remain sidelined this week with a hamstring injury, but the Green Bay Packers are hoping to get wide receiver Greg Jennings back on the field for Sunday's game against Detroit.
Matthews has missed two games in a row with the lingering injury. And while the All-Pro linebacker has made some strides in his rehab work, he hasn't practiced all week.
Jennings was categorized as probable on the team's injury report Friday after practicing throughout the week. He has been out seven games after undergoing surgery on a torn abdominal muscle.
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