Former Saints coordinator Gregg Williams used a bounty system in New Orleans and, allegedly, elsewhere. Over the past three years, Williams hasn’t said much about his role in the case, which included cartoonish urgings of violence against 49ers players prior to a postseason game in January 2012.
Recently, Williams talked about the situation, emphasizing the disconnect between tough talk and deliberate attempts to inflict injury on an opponent.
Via Scout.com, Williams (who now serves as the Rams defensive coordinator) discussed the situation at length during an interview with Mike Claiborne of KMOX radio in St. Louis.
“That was a difficult year in a lot of ways because there was a lot of information that was misinformation that got out and I’m the only person in the whole deal that never said anything,” Williams said. “I never said a word. Everybody got out there and pushed their information one way or the other and I didn’t.”
That said, Williams testified in the hearing regarding player suspensions, at one point claiming he tried to stop the bounty program but that Saints assistant head coach/linebackers Joe Vitt insisted that it continue.
“One of the things was it was on my watch, but there was nothing that hasn’t been done in the last 50 years in the sport and there was nothing done to try to hurt somebody,” Williams said. “There was never done with anybody trying to injure somebody. I’ve said this before, I take a look at all these high school programs, little league programs, college programs and you see the decals on the side of the helmet and you wonder, you get those decals because you shake hands and kiss after the game or you get those decals because you rushed for 100 and you threw 17 touchdown passes and you knocked the stuffing out of somebody?
“I remember over at Excelsior Springs when I’m 16 years old I had a big hit in a ballgame and all of a sudden I got a movie certificate and it wasn’t because I helped the guy up, it’s because I knocked the guy down. It’s just one of those things that we’re always trying to find little bitty advantages in sport and it was unfairly and uncharacteristically portrayed the wrong way.”
Williams has a point, although he’s the last guy who should be making it, given the over-the-top ravings encouraging defensive players to target former 49ers like Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, and Kyle Williams for blows to the chin, head, and knee. Still, the talk apparently was just talk, aimed at getting players properly motivated to play hard — not to get them to deliberately inflict injury through illegal hits.
Three years later, bounty systems in pro football are either gone or kept tightly under wraps. But players still have a clear motivation to hit opponents so hard that they can’t continue to play, because putting key players on the sidelines tends to help a team achieve its goal of winning games and, ultimately, championships.