After one key witness in bounty appeal, now Williams

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawyers for players

appealing NFL suspensions in the New Orleans Saints bounties case

cross-examined one

key witness Thursday. Now they're supposed to get a chance to

confront another central figure: former Saints defensive coordinator

Gregg Williams.

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is

overseeing the latest round of player appeals; former Saints assistant

coach Mike

Cerullo was scheduled to take questions Thursday. Lawyers for the

league and the NFL Players Association spent more than nine

hours in a Washington office building.

"I am keeping with the direction of the commissioner to not talk about this," NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch said

on his way out.

Tagliabue has insisted on keeping the contents of the private hearings under wraps. He and various lawyers attending Thursday's

session declined to comment afterward.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith have said they plan to be present Friday when Williams is slated

to be there. New Orleans was playing at the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.

Vilma and Smith — along with two former Saints, free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and Cleveland Browns linebacker

Scott Fujita — were suspended by the NFL for the Saints' cash-for-hits program that the league says Williams ran from 2009

to 2011.

Smith, suspended four games, and Vilma, suspended for the entire current season, have been playing while their appeals are


The NFL has described Vilma and Smith as

ringleaders of a performance pool designed to knock targeted opponents

out of games.

The league has sworn statements from Williams and Cerullo saying

Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked quarterback Brett

Favre out of the NFC championship game at the end of the 2009


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued the initial suspensions, which also included a full-season ban for Saints head coach

Sean Payton.

Lawsuits brought by Vilma and the NFL Players Association to challenge Goodell's handling of the case, including his decision

in October to appoint Tagliabue as the arbitrator for the appeals, are pending in federal court in New Orleans.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Ginger

Berrigan gave the parties until Monday to answer questions about whether

the NFL's

collective bargaining agreement prevents a commissioner from

handing out discipline for legal contact, and whether the CBA's

passages about detrimental conduct are "ambiguous, hence