Keeping Score

The Gregg Williams Tape: Why It’s Not Surprising

The Saints bounty scandal took an interesting turn with the release of a recorded locker room speech by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. But the tape merely confirms what we already knew--that Williams' career is long over.

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Gerald Herbert / AP

In this Dec. 12, 2010 file photo, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams gestures in the second half of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, in New Orleans.

Here’s a shock: we got to hear Gregg Williams’ controversial pre-game speech. Here’s what’s not: what he said.

As Yahoo! Sports first reported yesterday, documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon released an audio tape recorded before the New Orleans Saints faced the San Francisco 49ers in this year’s playoffs. On the recording, Williams, the New Orleans defensive coordinator who has been indefinitely suspended by the NFL for his role in organizing a bounty program in which Saints players were financially rewarded for hurting other players, implored his team to inflict serious pain on San Francisco.

About 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, for example, Williams said: “We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a fake-ass prima donna, or he wants to be a tough guy. We need to find out. He becomes human when we f—— take out that outside ACL.”

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Not only was Williams asking his players to possibly end the careers of his opponents, he was asking them to potentially do more lasting damage. “We need to find out in the first two series of the game, that little wide receiver, No. 10, about his concussion,” Williams said of 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams, who has a history of concussions.  “We need to f—— put a lick on him right now. He needs to decide. He needs to f—— decide.”

Williams also ordered the Saints to ding quarterback Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore. “Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head,” William said. “Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head.” Williams said “We’ve got to make sure we do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head. We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways.”

We so rarely get hear such raw locker room talk. Usually, the cameras show a winning coach in the locker room handing out a game ball to someone, and the team applauding. That’s nothing but PR. Pamphilon made this recording while working on a film about former Saints special-teams player Steve Gleason, who suffers from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Gleason reportedly never gave Pamphilon permission to release the tape.

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“If this story hadn’t broken and been made public, I would not have shared this,” Pamphilon said in a statement to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I would not have compromised my personal relationships and risked damaging Steve Gleason’s relationship with the Saints. I would have crafted these words and sentiments for another forum, perhaps years down the road.

“If it weren’t for the fact I feel deeply that parents of children playing football MUST pay attention to the influence of men who will sacrifice their kids for W’s, I would not have written this.”

That Pamphilion was granted such locker-room access, and may have brazenly broken his bond with Gleason, is remarkable. As for Williams’ words, it’s worth remembering that this was a man who offered cash for injuries. (At one point, Pamphilion says Williams rubbed his fingers together, indicating that if the Saints followed his orders, they’d get paid.) So why wouldn’t his pre-game message reflect that mission?

The tape confirms what we already knew, that Gregg Williams is a rogue who encouraged head-hunting at the same time that the NFL, after finally admitting that concussions could cause serious brain damage, tried so hard to legislate against it. He might not be the only rogue. But he’s the one who got caught.

And thanks to the tape, he’s the one who likely won’t coach in the NFL again.

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