|Then-Jags defensive coordinator Gregg Williams signals a play during training camp in July 2006. It was a simpler time. (AP)|
By Ryan Wilson
Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was summoned to the NFL's Manhattan headquarters Monday to discuss further the league's findings that the Saints (where Williams was the defensive coordinator from 2009-2011) had a "pay for performance" bounty program that rewarded players for injuring opponents.
Williams issued an apology Friday, hours after the the news broke, and in the hours and days since everybody has weighed in on the matter. Oft-fined and once suspended Steelers linebacker James Harrison tweeted Sunday: “We’ll see how concerned the NFL is about player safety when they decide what the punishment for the saints is. I’ll just say this, if that was me I would have been kicked out of the NFL!”
retweeted this from teammate Ryan Clark, who played for the Redskins when Williams was the coach there: "Never in my career has a defensive coach singled out a player and put $ on his head. I've never been offered $ to put a player out of a game."
During a Monday appearance on ESPN, Clark finished his thought (via PFT.com): ‘If you knock out this guy we will give you a certain amount of money for it.’ Whether it was my head coach Joe Gibbs, whether it was Gregg Williams, I was never, ever approached to take a guy out. …
“If these things are going on, you speak up while they’re happening,” Clark said. “If you’re in a meeting and a coach comes in and says, ‘Hey, No. 16, whoever he is, if you knock him out of the game we’re going to pay you x amount of dollars.’ Then you blow the whistle then and say, ‘Look, I’m not going to be a part of this. If we continue to do this, I will report it.’ To me, that’s making a statement, that’s making a stand and that’s being loyal to all the players in this league.”
Another former Redskins defensive back, Fred Smoot, also came to Williams' defense.
“First of all I want to correct everybody,” Smoot said Monday after calling into 106.7 The Fan (via the Sports Bog). “It was never a system. And let me tell you something: this was a thing that I think started in training camp with us as players. It started off with who could get the most interceptions, who could get the biggest hit or who could get the sacks, and we took it into games."
NFL rules prohibit monetary incentives for interceptions and sacks, too. Although Williams probably wouldn't have been sitting in commissioner Roger Goodell's office Monday if that's all he was accused of. Smoot continued:
“Gregg never said take out this player or take out this player," he said. "But I’m sorry, back when I played football, we used to actually hit people. It was legal to go out and hit people. And we wanted to be the most physical team, and we wanted to inflict pain, but in no way possible did we ever want to go out there and endanger anybody’s career or take somebody truly out of the game....
“It was more or less we would start a pot in the defensive backfield of who could get the most forced fumbles or who could get the most interceptions, who could do that. It was never a bounty; it was more or less a pot that all of us players put in. Gregg never put in a dime. Gregg never came in and said do this, do this, do that. We did that ourselves, as a way to kind of pump each other up to go make more plays.”
Smoot admitted that he understood why the league might frown upon bounty programs but reiterated that “I never saw anyone paid for knocking someone out of the game. Did we as players put in pots to make plays, what we called the Big Splash Plays Pot? Yeah, we did that. WE did that. Players. That started by the captains on the team…."
Smoots remarks runs counter to a Washington Post report from Friday. Mark Maske wrote that three former Redskins players "described a coach (in Williams) who doled out thousands of dollars to Redskins defenders who measured up to Williams’s scoring system for rugged play, including 'kill shots' that knocked opposing teams’stars out of a game. 'You got compensated more for a kill shot than you did other hits,' one former player said. Compensation ranged from 'hundreds to thousands of dollars' with the biggest payout thought to be $8,000."
Wherever the truth lies, things could end badly for Williams. And to a lesser extent, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton, who had knowledge of the reported bounty program, and the Saints' organization.
If it's any consolation to Williams (and we can't imagine it is but we're including it here for completeness), Weight Watchers spokesman Charles Barkley is appalled by former players anonymously ratting Williams out.
“You have to be a punk to snitch that out,” Barkley said during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show. “That’s like giving a reporter an anonymous quote. That makes you a punk, if you do anonymous, but also, you don’t bring that out X amount of years later. I mean you don’t compete in it if you don’t want to be in it. But I’ve seen at least three or four well-known NFL players say all teams have bounties. So I’m glad they came to Gregg Williams’ defense. Because I’m pretty sure all teams have that.”
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