New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith attended a hearing Friday at Washington, D.C., law office during bounty appeals testimony 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. 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 comissioner Paul Tagliabue presided over the hearing Friday. Williams, who acknowledged his role in devising the bounty program, faced questions from Ginsberg and Kessler.
"It definitely was helpful for myself and Jonathan," Smith said. "I'm happy that I was able to be present. We got to hear what Gregg had to say. We know what we did and what we didn't do."
The hearings will continue next week, Smith said, possibly in New Orleans, where the players' lawsuit over the suspensions is pending. Saints interim coach Joe Vitt and Vilma are expected to testify before Tagliabue.
"I was told Paul wants to keep it under wraps, keep it low key and not a lot of media," Vilma said.