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Vilma urges rejection of Goodell motion to dismiss

Vilma urges rejection of Goodell motion to dismiss

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Jon Vilma urged a federal judge Friday to reject NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit filed against him by the Saints linebacker.

Vilma's request to U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan argues Goodell acted with ``reckless disregard for the truth'' when basing initial allegations about Vilma upon one fired Saints assistant, Mike Cerullo, whose testimony has been inconsistent and challenged by other witnesses in the NFL's bounty probe of the Saints.

The motion centers on Goodell's public comments that Vilma held up $10,000 cash in a team meeting in 2010, offering it to anyone who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of a playoff game.

During recent NFL appeal hearings in the bounty case, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams testified he never saw any money.

``Williams has always told Goodell, and continues to state, that there was never any cash put up for a bounty on any player. It was `just talk.''' Vilma's motion reads. ``Nonetheless, Goodell irresponsibly chose to contend that Vilma walked around with $10,000 before the Cardinals game.''

Vilma's season-long suspension and with various shorter bans for three other players were thrown out Tuesday by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who Goodell had appointed to oversee the appeals of player punishment.

After Tagliabue's decision, the NFL Players Association dropped claims in federal court on behalf of Saints defensive end Will Smith and two former Saints: Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. Vilma dropped his claims against the league concerning the disciplinary process, but moved forward with his defamation case against the commissioner, asking Berrigan to allow discovery, which consists of the collection of evidence and deposing of witnesses. Berrigan has so far delayed discovery while the Goodell's motion to dismiss the case is pending.

In their effort to highlight how unreliable Cerullo was, Vilma's attorneys, Peter Ginsberg and Duke Williams, cite hearing testimony from Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who said Payton once arranged for police protection at his former suburban family home while he was away at league meetings because the head coach feared Cerullo was emotionally unstable and might harm his family.

While the lawsuit does not quote the testimony from the closed-door hearing directly, it appears in transcripts obtained by The Associated Press.

``An email was sent to the League about Mike Cerullo long before these (bounty) charges were brought up on our football team saying that Mike Cerullo was crazy, that Sean Payton had to have a police escort or, excuse me, police protection at his house because he was going to the owners' meeting, and he was worried about his family with Cerullo,'' Vitt testified. ``This is the kind of guy we're dealing with. Allright?''

Vilma's motion also notes that the NFL subsequently dropped Goodell's initial allegation about Vilma physically holding up money in the meeting before the Arizona game.

``There can no longer be any doubt that Goodell acted with malice ... in making this quasi-criminal accusation against Vilma,'' the motion said.

The NFL continues to allege that Vilma offered a $10,000 to anyone who knocked then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC title game, which followed the Arizona game. Williams testified that he recalled such an offer for that game, but never saw any money change hands and suggested the offer represented nothing more than tough talk in an emotional meeting that he allowed to get out of hand.

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Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

After calling an inconsistent game throughout the night, the referees made a decision with five minutes to go in Game 4 that nearly altered the entire series between the Wizards and Raptors.

DeMar DeRozan was chasing a rebound on the baseline and ran into Bradley Beal. Beal, who had a team-high 31 points, was levied a sixth and final foul with the score tied. 

Beal had unloaded for 20 points in 12 minutes in the second half, but now the Wizards would have to close it out without their All-Star shooting guard. Somehow, they were able to seal the win and tie the series.

Beal heard the whistle as he laid on the ground. He immediately hopped up and unleashed a tantrum that nobody could blame him for.

He jumped up and down, screaming at the referees, who had just called by all accounts a questionable foul and in a key moment of a playoff game.

Both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were incensed and with good reason.

“I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated," Beal said. "I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game I was so mad, but I was happy they didn’t do that."

Beal is probably lucky the referees didn't take offense to his reaction because it continued when he was on the bench. He walked past his teammates and leaned over with his hands on his knees, still furious. Then he returned to the sideline to yell at the refs. Center Ian Mahinmi helped convince him to step back and cool off.

Beal has made a major difference in this series. He averaged 14.0 points in the first two games, both losses. He has averaged 29.5 points in Games 3 and 4, two Wizards wins.

Getting him out of the game was a major break for the Raptors, but they couldn't take advantage. The Wizards closed the final five minutes on a 14-6 tear. John Wall stepped up to lead the charge with eight of those points.

The Wizards still had one star on the court and he played like one.

“Just go in attack mode," Wall said. "When Brad went out, I knew I had to do whatever it took... I just wanted to do whatever, so that we could advance to Game 5, tied 2-2.”

Once Beal composed himself, his confidence grew in his teammates. He and Wall feel comfortable playing without each other because they have done so often throughout their careers.

This year, Wall missed 41 games due to a left knee injury. Two years ago, Beal missed 27 games. Early on in his career, he had trouble staying healthy. Now he is an iron man who played in all 82 games during the 2017-18 regular season.

Beal has grown accustomed to being on the floor a lot, but he realized he can still affect the game from the sidelines.

"I just gathered my emotions, gathered my thoughts and told my team we were going to win, regardless. I knew if we still had John [Wall] in the game I loved our chances," Beal said. "Face the adversity that I had to overcome, just gather myself and be a leader, being vocal and keeping everyone encouraged in the game.”

Wall and others did the heavy lifting in the end. The Wizards used Kelly Oubre, Jr. as the shooting guard with Beal out and he made key plays down the stretch, including a steal on Kyle Lowry in the closing seconds.

The Wizards were thrown a significant curveball and they overcame it to put themselves in good position now having won two straight.

“You have to have resolve to win in this league," Brooks said. "You win playoff games and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games and one of them has to be on the road."

When it comes to the officiating, the Wizards deserve credit for their resilience and restraint early in Game 4. The Raptors had 16 free throws in the first quarter compared to the Wizards' four. Washington perservered and ended up with more free throws (31) than the Raptors (30) did for the game.

In Game 1, the Wizards appeared to be affected by a lack of foul calls. That came was called loosely by the referees, while this one was officiated tightly. Though Beal went off, the Wizards for the most part stayed the course and were rewarded for it.

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The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

WASHINGTON -- As the home team in a dire situation you have to take advantage, and that is exactly what the Washington Wizards did in their 106-98 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Highlight reel play after highlight reel play, the Wizards ignited the crowd with some of their best plays from the entire season to make it 2-2 in the series. Here are just a few of them:

1. John Wall collects posters in the first half

The first one was perhaps the best. Everything was going wrong for the Wizards, poor turnovers, bad shots, a three from Toronto. Then John Wall had enough. Not only did he fly past his defender Kyle Lowry, but he went up and slammed one home past the 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas. Up until that point, the Wizards were shooting 1-for-7.

Rinse and repeat, except this time Jakob Poeltl was Wall’s victim.

2. Wall to Beal alley-oop in transition

With the Wizards’ offense faltering, the Raptors remained on the verge of blowing the game open throughout the second quarter. But with a steal from Otto Porter Jr., Wall hung up the ball for Bradley Beal to slam home. The alley-oop kept the Wizards within single digits in the second with an uninspiring offensive effort.

3. Otto Porter breaks out of the half

A subdued offensive start to the game was due in part to the production from Porter. In the first half he went 0-for-4 with one point in nearly 17 minutes of action.

Throw that away in the second half. He broke out of halftime with back-to-back threes and 10 of the Wizards’ 26 in a monster 26-14 run to take the lead back in the third.

He finished the quarter with 10 points, an assist, and two blocks.

4. The Polish Hammer throwing it home

Are you convinced yet that Marcin Gortat’s new haircut is doing him some good? Gortat squeezed through two Raptors’ defenders, threw it down, gave a Goliath-type roar to the crowd before officially bringing the hammer down. 

5. Beal being called for his sixth foul of the game

Agree with the call or not, there is no denying that Beal’s removal from the game lit a fire underneath the Wizards. From that point Washington went on a 14-6 scoring run to end the game, closing out for the win.

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