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Tagliabue planning extensive bounty hearings for players who were suspended

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is aiming for extensive bounty hearings beginning Nov. 30, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

The NFL and NFLPA parties involved in the Saints "bounty" case had discussed preliminary plans to meet next Tuesday, and lawyers from the case still might. But the actual hearing before Tagliabue would be Nov. 30 at the earliest, sources said, with plans for it to take up to five days.

Tagliabue's format would call for a lengthy witnesses list with cross examination and a process very much in the vein of a true legal proceeding. That would be quite different from the way the appeals were held when was done under commissioner Roger Goodell, who is not a lawyer by trade (Tagliabue is). There would be cross examining and more of a courtroom feel, sources said. The sides are still confirming all parties can make this Nov. 30 date, with Tagliabue's hope it would begin then.

The hearing would start that Friday in Washington -- the Saints play the night before -- with players Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith, both active, while the other suspended players (Cleveland's Scott Fujita, on IR, and free agent Anthony Hargrove, do not currently have football obligations). Under this format, examinations and proceedings would run Friday-Sunday in Washington, where Tagliabue's law firm and the NFLPA are located, with the sides instructed that the process could continue the following Monday and Tuesday as well, in New York City.

Also, at this point, sources said, it has been communicated to the players involved that whistle-blower Mike Cerullo, a former Saints employee at the core of the claims against the players and coaches, and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will both attend and testify.

Cerullo has indicated to the league he would take part, but Williams has rejected repeated overtures to do so and continues to do so, sources say.

This matter could still end up before federal judge Helen Berrigan, and she is watching closely. The closer this process comes to resembling a true court proceeding, the less likely she might be to intervene and either impose an injunction on the remaining suspensions, or make a ruling on the motion to have Tagliabue recuse himself from the appeal.

In the past, the NFLPA has requested multiple NFL Security investigators -- including Joe Hummel, the former head of the department -- to testify as witnesses.

There have also been internal communications among lawyers about requesting Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress be present -- Childress was the Vikings' head coach at the time that Vilma allegedly placed a bounty on quarterback Brett Favre -- as well as former Viking Jimmy Kennedy, who vehemently denied claims he had participated in bounty investigations with NFL Security.

It's unclear at this point how many participants would be present and if any of these other men will take part -- and, as this is not a court of law, there are no subpoena powers involved. But, again, sources with knowledge of the process said it could be extensive. That would explain why the hearings could last as many as five days.

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