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Vilma's testimony ends latest bounty hearings

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Vilma's testimony ends latest bounty hearings

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The latest round of appeal hearings in the NFL's bounty investigation concluded Monday evening following witness appearances by former Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt and linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

Now Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith and two other players await a ruling by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue on whether player suspensions should be reduced. If they don't like how that turns out, they could still get relief from a federal judge in New Orleans who has been presiding over lawsuits challenging the way the league has handled the probe and resulting discipline.

Vilma sounded hopeful that Tagliabue, who has been appointed to oversee the players' latest appeals to the NFL, would bring the process to a fair resolution.

``I think it did go well,'' Vilma, wearing a gray suit, said as he left a downtown high-rise where Monday's hearing was held. Vilma added that Tagliabue ``seems a little bit more receptive'' to his version of events than Commissioner Roger Goodell did. The linebacker declined further comment, citing Tagliabue's directive that the parties involved keep details of the hearings confidential.

There were also several days of witness appearances in Washington, D.C., last week.

The hearings were scheduled to conclude in New Orleans by Tuesday, but ended Monday evening after about 10 hours of testimony from the three witnesses.

Tagliabue had informed attorneys representing all parties that he hoped to rule on the four players' appeals shortly after the hearings conclusion.

A person familiar with the situation said Tagliabue expects to rule by early next week, meaning Vilma and Smith expect to play Sunday against the New York Giants. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of Tagliabue's directive.

Smith, suspended four games, and Vilma, suspended for the entire current season, are permitted to play while their appeals are pending.

Like Vilma, Childress and Vitt honored the Tagliabue's request for confidentiality after their appearances.

As Childress left the downtown law office on Monday he said he had ``nothing to add.''

Vitt also didn't have much to say, though he spent about five hours at the hearing.

The Saints coach had said previously, including under oath in federal court last summer, that his players never took the field intending to injure an opponent. As he left, Vitt said that testimony ``was reiterated.''

While Vitt said he could not discuss details of the hearing, he said it was good to see the former commissioner, who he'd met before. Vitt said that they had friendly exchanges, even sharing some old stories.

Vitt then headed back to the Saints' suburban headquarters to catch up on how practice went.

Two former New Orleans players also were banned: Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, now on injured reserve, had his initial three-game suspension reduced to one game. Free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove has not played in the NFL this season but faces a two-game suspension if he signs with a team.

The NFL has described Vilma and Smith as ringleaders - and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as being in charge - of a performance pool designed to knock targeted opponents out of games from 2009 to 2011.

The league has sworn statements from Williams and former Saints assistant coach Mike Cerullo - who both testified last week - saying Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC championship game.

Childress had informed the NFL after that game he'd heard from former player Jimmy Kennedy that the Saints had a bounty on Favre. Childress is currently the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator.

The NFL also has identified Kennedy as one of its witnesses, but Kennedy has said the league is lying about his statements. He added that the league irreparably damaged his reputation by its ``shoddy, careless, shameful so-called investigation.''

According to the NFL, Kennedy heard about the bounty from Hargrove, who has also denied knowledge of a bounty program.

Because of Tagliabue's insistence that the contents of the appeals process remain private, all of the hearings have been behind closed doors in private law offices.

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.

Last 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 unenforceable.''

Players and coaches testified in court that the Saints defense's performance pool rewarded only legal hits, and the judge said she was inclined to presume that testimony was accurate because it went unchallenged in court by the league.

Responding to the judge's request in a brief filed Monday around noon, the NFL Players Association argued the league's labor agreement does not give the commissioner authority to punish players for legal hits. The union added that if Tagliabue interprets the agreement otherwise, the provisions pertaining to the commissioner's authority in the CBA would be so vague as to be unenforceable.

In its response, the NFL said players were not punished for on-field actions. The league said the players' suspensions resulted from meeting or locker room pledges, rewarding injury-causing hits and lying to NFL investigators about the incentive pool.

In March, the NFL announced that its investigation showed the Saints put together a bounty pool of up to $50,000 to reward game-ending injuries inflicted on opponents. ``Knockouts'' were worth $1,500 and ``cart-offs'' $1,000 - with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs, the league said.

According to the league, the pay-for-pain program was administered by Williams, with Payton's knowledge. At the time, Williams apologized for his role, saying: ``It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it.''

Later that month, Payton became the first head coach suspended by the league for any reason, while Williams was suspended indefinitely.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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NHL Stanley Cup Final 2018: Capitals vs. Golden Knights full schedule announced, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

NHL Stanley Cup Final 2018: Capitals vs. Golden Knights full schedule announced, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are the only two hockey teams left standing and will meet to decide the 2017-18 NHL Stanley Cup champion.

The Capitals advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1998, thanks to a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, shocked the NHL world, defeating the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets to become the first team in major American professional sports history to reach the championship game in the franchise's first season.

The Capitals and Golden Knights met twice during the regular season, with Vegas coming out on top in both games. The Golden Knights blanked the Caps 3-0 in the Caps' first trip to Sin City, and bested the Caps 4-3 at Capital One Arena on Feb. 4.

Game 1 of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC and is available to be streamed online by using the NBC Sports App.

NBC Sports Washington will broadcast pre and postgame coverage of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights,  with Caps FaceOff and Caps GameTime preceding Capitals vs. Golden Knights puck drop and Caps Extra and Caps OverTime following the end of each game. 

2018 STANLEY CUP FINAL HOW TO WATCH

Game 1: Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Wednesday, May 30
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBCSN
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 3: Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Saturday, June 2
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBCSN
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 4: Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Monday, June 4
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 5 (If Necessary): Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Thursday, June 7
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 6 (If Necessary): Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Sunday, June 10
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 7 (If Necessary): Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Wednesday, June 13
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)
 

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