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Liability concerns may prevent league from allowing Williams to coach again

Houston Texans v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

As the layers continue to come off the stinking, nasty onion that was Gregg Williams’ pre-game comments as the Saints prepared to face the 49ers in the playoffs, there’s another reason to believe that the NFL can’t allow Williams into an NFL locker room in the future.

Liability.

At a time when every player knows and assumes the risk of long-term harm resulting from chronic head injuries and when the league is presumably doing everything reasonably in its power to protect players from the risk of harm arising from concussions, most of the league’s potential legal exposure applies only to men who played while the NFL was allegedly concealing the dangers and/or failing to reasonably protect players.  Today’s players fully know what they’re signing up for, like men and women who agree to become police officers, firefighters, members of the military, or any other profession that has inherent risks.

But problems can arise if/when individual teams and/or coaches do things that supersede the NFL’s new protections.  Like specifically targeting players for concussions.

Though some want to compare the lawsuits the league currently is facing to tobacco litigation, the NFL is dealing with a finite group of potential plaintiffs, numbering potentially between 10,00 and 20,000, at the absolute maximum.  The tobacco industry continues to survive, and thrive, despite decades of lying about the addictive properties of nicotine, and despite the fact that millions of people have smoked (and continue to smoke) cigarettes.

For the NFL, liability becomes a threat to the ongoing ability to do business only if the NFL continues to create new plaintiffs.  And the NFL will continue to create new plaintiffs only if the NFL isn’t vigilant about taking reasonable steps to ensure that players aren’t deliberately trying to give other players concussions.

That means, as suggested last week, that the NFL should start recording every team meeting, to deter coaches from crossing the line and to maintain a clear record that the line wasn’t crossed.  And it also means that the NFL should keep out of the sport men who have shown they can’t be trusted to do the right thing.

If Williams is reinstated, and if he thereafter conducts secret off-radar meetings with players aimed at getting them to aim for heads, the NFL can’t claim that it had no reason to know Williams may do something like that, even if the NFL tries to hide behind the notion that Williams deserved a “second chance.”  When it comes to civil liability, there are no second chances, because it’s the second chance gone bad that creates the biggest problem for a billion-dollar business enterprise.

Keeping Williams out permanently also provides the ultimate incentive for other coaches to avoid urging players to try to inflict concussions against other players.  If all coaches know that encouraging the infliction of injury will get a coach banned for life, coaches definitely won’t encourage the infliction of injury.

And so, notwithstanding any desire to allow Williams to become the NFL’s latest example of redemption, the league can’t afford, literally and figuratively, to allow any coach who would encourage players to dispense concussions to continue to be exposed to players.  Williams may have some other place in the NFL or with one of its teams.  But, from a liability standpoint, it would be foolish for the league to allow Williams to return to a locker room, a meeting room, or a sideline.

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13 Responses to “Liability concerns may prevent league from allowing Williams to coach again”
  1. bigbadal21 says: Apr 9, 2012 2:13 PM

    When Sapp outed Shockey I said he was done as an NFL network employee. I questioned his basic intelligence not to realize this would happen. If Williams really thinks he has a 1% chance of returning to the NFL He is about as smart as Sapp. It would be like a grade school teacher who was fired for molesting children thinking they had a chance to get their job back.

  2. medtxpack says: Apr 9, 2012 2:16 PM

    hope he has a savings account…

  3. CKL says: Apr 9, 2012 2:17 PM

    I am so sick of endless liability of the deep pockets and suing for stuff that anyone with a brain knows isn’t good for you yet you do anyway. STOP! Yes there are cases it applies if harm is done and the entity doing the harm had information they deliberately withheld form the people it applied to, or they flat out LIED but that’s not the case here. Take some personal responsibility sometimes.
    One could also say that if the NFL reinstates Williams and a team hires him, the team has much more liability than the NFL since THEY are choosing to HIRE the guy, not the NFL. And any player who plays for that team VOLUNTARILY (i.e. as a FA) has no case since what Williams is as a coach is well known. I personally don’t think many players would have an issue playing for Williams. Several have said they wouldn’t, including Gerald Alexander (on Twitter).

  4. xinellum says: Apr 9, 2012 2:17 PM

    I disagree about the liability thing, since it has been proven that Williams promoted this behavior all year and I know in the Ravens game there were clearly shots on Flacco that were uncalled for. Do these videos then become evidence in a civil court for a class action lawsuit of players who suspect they were targeted? Will these players have to show that were injured or can they promote an attempted assault with a deadly weapon, because you certanly can justify that helmets are lethal weapons as people have died from helmet to helmet hits. I believe that Williams will be sued in one capacity or another, from the Saints for contract violation to get their money back, or the victims of his assaults, or the players who played for him who ended up injured trying to lay the money hit to the NFL for defaming the leaguge. I can see Greg Williams spending a lot of time in court in the future.

  5. sportmentary says: Apr 9, 2012 2:19 PM

    In the end, was it worth it for Williams to do what he did? He lost his job and credibility. He won’t be allowed to coach again in the NFL and probably any other level. Chances are slim that any network will take a chance om him.

  6. pacificnw7722 says: Apr 9, 2012 2:21 PM

    “But, from a liability standpoint, it would be foolish for the league to allow Williams to return to a locker room, a meeting room, or a sideline.”

    AMEN TO DAT!

  7. duanethomas says: Apr 9, 2012 2:26 PM

    I see you’re a big time conspiracy guy, taping all meetings, criminal charges, now liability concerns…LoL. What about players suing players for injuries. Also why not have a mole on each team to wear a wire, away from the team facility to tape any double secret bounty meetings. I only laugh when I see your 5 paragraph articles, that have no legs and aren’t discussed anywhere but here. Then you move on to the next scary scenario…HaHaha. This probably won’t get posted.

  8. blacknole08 says: Apr 9, 2012 2:46 PM

    Aside from coaches, I think teams should also be held liable for putting players on the field with concussion symptoms. These are human beings, not robots, and no game is important enough to allow someone’s life to be put in danger when the best option is to just sit out the game.

    Williams isn’t the only coach that used the strong terminology that was heard in those leaked audio tapes. So to say that it’s just him is a bit naive.

  9. nineroutsider says: Apr 9, 2012 3:21 PM

    He might not get back into the league, even if the commissioner allows him back in, because his defenses suck! Only his friends would hire him (and I loved that he was in St. Louis because his defense sucks) , now they don’t have the chance and it sucks because his defense is softer than the rolls hanging off his gut.

    Bounty program or not, his defenses suck so he might not get a job based on merit even if allowed back in.

  10. boilerup1869 says: Apr 9, 2012 4:04 PM

    I think the league has handled Williams’ penalty pretty well, given the apparent incompleteness of their knowledge of the situation.

    That is, it was smart to give him an indefinite suspension and potentially reduce it later, as opposed to suspending him for a shorter period of time and then, upon learning new details (e.g., the voice recordings), feeling forced to lengthen the punishment.

    It’s like Goodell said, “We’re going to suspend Gregg Williams for as long as it takes until we figure out just what the hell all these guys were up to.”

  11. chawk12thman says: Apr 9, 2012 4:16 PM

    He would be a liability at any level as a defensive coach. He will likely have to get a job outside of the NFL and Football. Rightfully so.

  12. rajbais says: Apr 9, 2012 4:47 PM

    It’s okay!!! He can always go to Bryant University and coach with Sal Alosi!!!

  13. guppies66 says: Apr 9, 2012 8:19 PM

    While he should be banned, he should not be banned because his testimony is needed against the criminal Saints defensive players who also should be banned.

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