NFLPA defends DeMaurice Smith's absence at 'bounty' hearings

NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah on Saturday defended union boss DeMaurice Smith's absence from the suspended players' appeals hearings in the New Orleans Saints "bounty" case, calling it "irrelevant."

"Whether or not (Smith) was there is irrelevant to the players," Atallah told

Atallah was responding to comments by NFL general counsel Jeff Pash, who said Smith would have respected how the league's case was put together.

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"(Smith), as a former federal prosecutor ... he would have had an opportunity to see the evidence and hear the witness statements and how it all weaves together, which is how a good prosecutor puts a case up," Pash told the website on Friday.

"If (Smith) had been able to be here Monday and participate in the hearing, he would have a different view perhaps than what he has today," Pash added.

The NFLPA and the league have sparred over the evidence and its interpretation in the bounty probe, in which the league found the Saints to have run a scheme that financially rewarded defensive players for injuring opponents.

The league has suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (one season) and defensive end Will Smith (four games), along with former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers (eight games), and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns (three games).

The union has gone as far as to ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to redo the investigation.

Atallah was particularly pointed in his criticism of Pash's characterization of the NFL's case as a "mosaic."

"In short, small pieces of (obscenity) pieced together might be a mosaic, but it just amounts to one big mosaic of (obscenity)," Atallah said.

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