We’ve heard from plenty of current and former players in the wake of the release of the audio recording of Gregg Williams’ pregame speech to the Saints before they played the 49ers in the playoffs.
There’s been a pretty solid consensus that Williams went too far, although many people have found it hard to believe that NFL players hadn’t heard that kind of thing before. Plenty of coaches at all levels of football stress hitting hard and putting some fear into the opposition — making a receiver think twice about going over the middle — and, as we heard from the Giants after the NFC Championship Game, opposition injuries aren’t kept secret.
Former Packers safety LeRoy Butler outlined his problem with Williams’ speech in an interview with Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“I have probably heard the exact same speech since I was in ninth grade, without the targeting of guys’ specific body parts. That was kind of crazy. But I’m not surprised. People are surprised by this, to me, they have always turned a blind eye to football. The problem is that if you knew a guy had a concussion or a bad knee and you’re going after it, that’s stupid. … I don’t need a coach telling me about some guy’s knee. I have the scouting report and I have the health report. Everybody gets it. Everybody knows he has a bad knee. Give me something that I can use. Don’t tell me to take out a player’s knee who just got his scope. Get back to football. That’s what I would have said.”
Dunne spoke with other former players who had similar takes to Butler. Former defensive lineman Chidi Ahanotu, who called Williams the “softest coach” he ever played for, admitted that he was trying to get opposing players out of the game and said that he found nothing wrong with Williams’ speech until he heard him talk about targeting ACLs or players with concussion histories.
Professional football players are well aware that their jobs call on them to inflict pain on other players. It seems that making that specific to particular body parts goes farther than most of them feel is necessary, though.