WASHINGTON — Lawyers for players appealing NFL suspensions in the 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 commissioner Paul Tagliabue is overseeing the latest round of player appeals; former Saints assistant 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 today when Williams is slated to attend.
Vilma and Smith — along with two former Saints, free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and 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, banned for the entire current season, have been playing while their appeals are pending.
Vick still out: Eagles quarterback Michael Vick still has not passed his concussion tests and has not been cleared to practice this week. Nick Foles likely will make his third straight start when the Eagles, losers of seven in a row, try to avoid their longest losing streak in 44 years Sunday against the Cowboys.
Blacked out: The Bills will not be shown on local TV because more than 15,000 tickets for Sunday's game against the Jaguars remain unsold.… The Raiders' home game against the Browns will not be televised locally because 85 percent of the nonpremium tickets were not sold 72 hours before the game.
Bears: Linebacker Lance Briggs (sore ankle) and running back Matt Forte (ankle) expect to play this week against Seattle.
49ers: Alex Smith is trying to understand how he lost his job as starting quarterback to Colin Kaepernick a month after being named NFC offensive player of the week. "I feel like the only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion," said Smith, who was medically cleared to play but was not coach Jim Harbaugh's choice against the Rams.
Jaguars: Defensive end Jason Babin, picked up off waivers from the Eagles, practiced well enough in his first outing with Jacksonville for defensive coordinator Joe Cullen to say Babin can help "a ton" against Buffalo. "Third and long during the game, he will be ready," Cullen said.
Packers: Running back Cedric Benson will remain on injured reserve for the rest of the season after having surgery Wednesday on his sprained left foot.
Raiders: Linebacker Rolando McClain is not suspended and is still on the roster, but he was told not to report to the facility and to stay out of practice for a second straight day. Coach Dennis Allen sent the former first-round pick away Wednesday for undisclosed reasons. "There's going to be consequences to his actions, and it's a team-related issue," Allen said. "I don't really want to get into the details of it."
Steelers: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger practiced in a limited role but appears to be a long shot to face Baltimore. Roethlisberger sprained his right shoulder and dislocated a rib two weeks ago. Charlie Batch likely will make a second straight start.
Texans: The league reduced its fine on defensive end Antonio Smith for kicking Miami's Richie Incognito from $21,000 to $11,000. Smith appealed, saying he was retaliating to Incognito's stepping on his right ankle during the season opener.