I’ve been gathering the opinions of folks who coached and played in the NFL regarding the meaning and the impact of the comments from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams before a playoff game against the 49ers.
On Monday, former NFL safety and current draft expert Corey Chavous offered on PFT Live a matter-of-fact, reasoned explanation of the remarks, in light of the realities of pro football.
As to the notion of targeting injuries, Chavous explained that it’s very common for opponents to attack injured areas, not to inflict further injury but to “test” the player’s overall ability to perform.
“I don’t think it’s to necessarily take you out,” Chavous said. “It’s to test your injury. And I mean every week you do that. If you know somebody has a lower extremity injury, then you’re gonna make sure you hit him around that area. That’s just football. That’s a part of it, and that’s why you’re given the injury report. They’re not giving it so you don’t test it.”
Chavous acknowledged that the new sensitivity to concussions, but he reiterated that hard hits and an aggressive mindset continue to be a part of the game.
“Jack Tatum, what was he out there trying to do?” Chavous said. “He was out there trying to literally take somebody out. Same thing with Ronnie Lott. I don’t think they were malicious in their thought process because I don’t think there was a thought process. That was the mentality I took to the game.
“I remember talking to my teammates about, you know, understanding that on any play you can get paralyzed. My coach was like, ‘Whoa, whoa. Why did you say that?’ I was like, ‘Well, it’s the truth, right?’ And I didn’t care about that. And I think [there are] a lot of people who don’t really care about that. You understand the risks when you go out there, and you have got to go out there with the mentality that, if you’re gonna play this game, NFL game, you gotta go out with the mentality that any play it can be taken away from you. You’re one play away. Never is that more evident in what Coach Williams was saying. Unfortunately, there probably are coaches who instructed to go after other players before. I don’t think it’s unprecedented.”
The blunt candor serves as a reminder that this is football at the highest level. It’s rough and tough and mean. And the league’s office hand-wringing over safety within a blender of violence has drawn attention to matters that previously drew shrugs of the shoulders.
The question is whether these inherent aspects of pro football will change, or whether they simply won’t be acknowledged so openly. Fans won’t turn away from the NFL as long as it looks the same on TV; the challenge is to ensure that any neutering of the nastiness won’t make the average game look like a below-average Pro Bowl.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!