We haven’t covered the bounty scandal but you know all about it if you’re a football fan. Gregg Williams was already suspended indefinitely for his part; now that this edit from the US of F website is circulating, he’s probably done, and deservedly so. The unanswered question: Why would he talk about targeting Kyle Williams’s concussions and Michael Crabtree’s ACL and wanting Frank Gore’s head “sideways” if he knew there was a filmmaker in the room recording? Or did he not know? I read the story at Yahoo Sports in which documentarian Sean Pamphilon talks about recording this; he doesn’t explicitly say that Williams knew who he was and what he was doing there but it sure sounds like he did. (“Pamphilon … had access to various team functions for much of the 2011 season.”) Did Williams not think he’d be sanctioned by the NFL if this came out — and if not, why not? How common is talk like this?
Via Business Insider, here’s what former Cowboy Darren Woodson told ESPN:
[This] falls into what happens on a Saturday night heading into a Sunday game. A lot of it was just ‘let’s be violent, let’s play hard.’ I’ve heard ‘take the head and the body will fall,’ I’ve heard that a million times, even at the high school level. I think where he gets specific. Where he starts to name names, as far as Michael Crabtree and going after the ACL. Taking Vernon Davis and going after the ankles. And Kyle Williams and going after the head concussion. I think that’s when specifically, that’s when it goes overboard…But for the most part, what you heard in that speech, the violence that takes place on a Saturday with the speeches that are given, as far as what we call the ‘rah-rah speech,’ that happens. That is the norm on a Saturday night heading into a Sunday game.
Packers guard Josh Sitton says Williams’s talk was highly unusual — sort of:
Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton listened to the audio and tweeted: “Gregg Williams sounds like a complete [expletive]. Glad he got suspended!”
When asked by a follower if Packers coaches talk to players that way, Sitton replied: “hell no.”…
“I want to be clear. Our sport is violent and you are supposed to hurt one another, but this guy took it over the top. trying to take someone out of a game or end a career is a chicken [expletive] move! we work our entire lives to make it to the NFL. And some guy wants to pay players to hurt people. NOT cool! next thing you know some [expletive] will be waiting for me by my car with a crowbar! That’s some Tonya Harding [expletive]!”
For what it’s worth, Woodson is retired whereas Sitton is active so one has more of an incentive than the other to treat Williams as an extreme outlier. There’s no question, though, that other teams target injured players for especially hard hits: After the NFC Championship Game, two Giants freely admitted that they had gone after Kyle Williams because he’s had multiple concussions in the past. Said Devin Thomas, “We were just like, ‘We gotta put a hit on that guy.’ … [Giants reserve safety Tyler] Sash did a great job hitting him early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up.” Williams ended up fumbling twice, including on the punt return that set up the Giants’ winning field goal. It’s awful, and “bounties” may well be unique to the Saints, but evidently victory-by-injury goes on beyond the Saints’ locker room. Like the man said, “Our sport is violent and you are supposed to hurt one another…”
Which brings me back to my point about Gregg Williams. Why would he be this specific, especially with a documentarian sitting right there? There are a million wink-wink ways to communicate to your squad that you want certain guys on the other side smacked hard. I’d be surprised, in fact, if the players need to be explicitly told. They know who’s hurt and they know how to take advantage. The Saints forced the league’s hand by adding money as an extra incentive but does anyone think the Giants wouldn’t have tried to rip Kyle Williams’s head off for a trip to the Super Bowl if they could do it over again? Does anyone think Tom Coughlin would need to verbally instruct them to do so?
Incidentally, the line on this from the Saints’ legal department is that Gregg Williams was a “rogue coach.” Right.