Audio: Williams wanted big hits on specific 49ers
AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – On the same day the NFL heard the Saints’ appeals in their hits-for-cash scandal, a recording of Gregg Williams emerged that purports to capture the disgraced defensive coordinator telling players to “put a lick” on 49ers receiver Kyle Williams to see if he had lingering effects from a concussion.
Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who had access to Saints meetings for a documentary on football, posted the audio on his web site.
Pamphilon initially shared the content with Yahoo Sports, telling the website that while he was not bothered by much of Williams’ profanity-laced speech, he was troubled by comments about the previously concussed player.
“I thought, ‘Did he just say that?”‘ Pamphilon said in an article posted Thursday. “That was the red flag for me.”
Kyle Williams’ father, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, said his son “has definite feelings on the subject but has chosen to remain committed to providing all his answers to any questions on the field next season.” But Kenny Williams had his own thoughts on the recording.
“Personally, suspension or not, it’s probably best I’m never in a room with Gregg Williams and wonder if such an order crosses the line of the aggressive, competitive spirit we all know and love about the sport; and leans closer to a criminal act and therefore a litigious matter,” Kenny Williams said in an emailed statement.
Gregg Williams, who is suspended indefinitely for his admitted role overseeing a bounty system that offered Saints defenders payment for painful hits, did not respond to a phone message and email left with his foundation in Missouri on Thursday.
Williams left New Orleans after last season – his third with the Saints – and was hired as defensive coordinator by the St. Louis Rams.
Pamphilon made the recording of Williams’ speech during a meeting before the Saints lost to San Francisco in a divisional playoff last January, the final game Williams coached.
When the New York Giants defeated the 49ers a week later in the NFC title game, several Giants players made similar comments about wanting to get hits on Kyle Williams, who fumbled twice in the game, because they knew he had previous concussions.
In Pamphilon’s recording, Williams also tells his players to set their sights on running back Frank Gore, quarterback Alex Smith and receiver Michael Crabtree.
“We need to decide on how many times we can beat Frank Gore’s head,” he says.
Williams also implores his charges to “lay out” Smith and later adds, “We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a (expletive) prima donna or he wants to be a tough guy. He becomes human when we … take out that outside ACL.”
Pamphilon also described Williams pointing to his chin when he said, “We hit (expletive) Smith right there.”
Pamphilon said Williams then rubbed his fingers together as one might do when doling out cash, saying, “I got the first one,” which Pamphilon understood to mean the defensive coordinator had placed a cash bounty on Smith.
The NFL has said Williams’ bounty system offered off-the-books cash payments of $1,000 or more for hits that either knocked targeted opponents out of games or left them needing help off the field. The Saints have been punished heavily for allowing such a program to continue for three seasons, from 2009 when they Super Bowl through 2011.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season, while handing down additional suspensions of eight games to general manager Mickey Loomis and six games to assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who also coaches linebackers. The Saints, meanwhile, were fined $500,000 and docked second-round draft picks this year and next.
It is not clear whether Pamphilon had earlier shared the recording with the NFL. He did not immediately respond Thursday to email requests for additional comment.
The recording was released hours before Payton, Loomis and Vitt went to NFL headquarters in New York for an appeal hearing regarding their unprecedented punishments.
After Vitt’s appeal was heard, his lawyer, David Cornwell, was asked about the audio tape. Cornwell said Payton viewed Williams’ comments as “a rogue coach about to get fired.”
“He was fired two days later,” said Cornwell, who also serves as executive director of the NFL Coaches Association. “He was on the way out.”
However, when Williams left New Orleans for the Rams in January, nobody with the Saints characterized it as a firing. At the time, Payton said it was apparent shortly before the season ended that Williams, with his contract expiring, was likely going to join new St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, an old friend. The Saints and Williams never discussed an extension, Payton said then.
The league informed the Saints at the start of the playoffs that it was reopening its bounty investigation. Cornwell said Loomis and Payton then told Williams, “There’s no place for this in this organization or this league.”
The NFL, however, in its statement last month announcing the penalties for team officials, said the GM and coach made only “cursory inquiries” into the possible presence of a bounty program.
Pamphilon told Yahoo Sports that Payton and Loomis were not in the room when the recording of Williams was made. The filmmaker did not return messages seeking comment from The Associated Press.
Williams can be heard using metaphors he has often used throughout his coaching career, such as, “kill the head and the body will die.” That was Williams’ way of urging players to disrupt opposing teams’ star players with intimidating and nasty physical play. Another of Williams’ mantras was that “respect comes from fear,” which he repeats in the recording.
“We’ve got to do everything we can in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head,” Williams says. “We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways.”
AP Sports Writers Rachel Cohen in New York and Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.