METAIRIE, La. -- Will Smith will play Sunday for the New Orleans Saints, but his original four-game "bounty" suspension, which since has been sent back to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, continues to hover over him.
The defensive end hopes that will change soon. Smith met with NFL officials Tuesday and said he trusts Goodell to act judiciously in reviewing the penalties levied on the players.
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"I trust he will do the right thing," Smith told NFL.com, "and make the right call, which is to not suspend any of us, because we had a chance to talk to him."
It has been two weeks since the collective bargaining agreement panel sent the suspensions back to Goodell, with the directive to make the distinction as to which violations fall under the commissioner's jurisdiction of pay-to-injure and which fall under pay-for-performance, which is beyond the scope of his power.
Individual meetings between Goodell and Smith, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove were held earlier this week in New York as part of the pre-discipline process under the CBA, with another such meeting with former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita to come. Smith said that in his time with Goodell, he reiterated he wasn't part of a bounty program in New Orleans.
"The most important thing I want to go in there and tell the commissioner and the people from the NFL is that there was never a pay-to-injure or bounty program with the New Orleans Saints," Smith said. "We're a clean defense. We never went out there and intentionally tried to hurt people. That was the message I wanted the commissioner to hear. I don't (know) what evidence he had or who he'd spoken to in the past, but I wanted to make it very clear that when I was there in those meetings, that never went on."
Former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, previously charged with reviewing the NFL's investigation, was the primary inquisitor in what was a deposition-style meeting with the players.
Smith was fine with that, and he said he got what he wanted out of the meeting.
"She wanted to ask the questions, she felt us out to see what actually went on in those meetings," Smith said. "My thing was, I went in there to tell the truth and be honest with them. I told them my side."
Initially, the expectation was a decision would come by early next week. But the decision on Fujita, obviously, will have to wait until after he meets with Goodell. Fujita, whom Cleveland Browns trainers advised not to attend the meeting because of his balky knee, offered to meet via video conference. He even had a law office in Cleveland set up for it, but the NFL said it would prefer to meet in person.
Smith's hope is that if he and the other players have to wait for Fujita's meeting, a decision is made swiftly.
"I don't want it to become a distraction to the team," Smith said. "We know that didn't go on, we have however many players that were in those rooms all saying the same thing that I'm saying. No one went out there trying to hurt those guys intentionally or tried to do anything of that sort. We just want to get it over with, and hopefully after he meets with Fujita, there'll be a quick ruling and we can move on."
Smith said he thought the NFL was "interested" to hear what he and the other players had to say, and he believes they were heard.
For now, he's waiting. And this time around, converse to what happen in the spring, Smith at least is satisfied with the process.
"I thought it went well," Smith said. "It gave me an opportunity to tell my side of the story. And I was happy with that, because I hadn't had a chance to talk to the commissioner or speak to the NFL about what actually went on in those meetings."