As much as it hurt, I had Gregg Williams back. The former Bills boss whose repertoire in Buffalo involving losing and awkward sound bites had been under the proverbial gun for running a bounty system for his defenders on opposition players.
Every defender in the NFL hits and most try to do it in a manner that would be deemed rather violent by the common person. Even in low-level hockey you’re taught to hit players not just to disrupt the player, but to get players off their game. Why? Because it hurts to get hit. At-best it’s “not a pleasant feeling.”
Just weeks after wondering how a suspension could be indefinite in the case of a violent sport having violent coaches, I’m backing away from any defense of Williams. You see, the former Saints coordinator is recorded saying the following about 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and WR Kyle Williams, respectively,
“Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head.”
“We need to find out in the first two series of the game, that little wide receiver, No. 10, about his concussion. We need to f—— put a lick on him right now. He needs to decide. He needs to f—— decide.”
This is disgusting, especially when you consider that Gregg Williams is undoubtedly aware of the injuries that haunt players well-after their careers. As a guy who never played in the NFL, he may not be suffering from dementia, post-concussion syndrome or even the destruction of limbs that many retired NFL players encounter, but he knows what’s up.
Most Buffalo sports fans have heard former Bill and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure talk about the fates of former players from the barely-protected era, as has Gregg Williams, who’s heard of players like Jim Ringo, Mike Webster and Leon Gray and how they died post-dementia; Bright personalities have gone dark and ultimately to their graves with blame lying very close to head injuries suffered playing a sport they loved.
There’s a massive difference between playing aggressive against other physical freaks and setting out to knock someone senseless. Even boxing has rules to limit a fighter from aiming for a death shot, and that sport encourages you to punch someone in the head until they’re knocked onto the floor.
Now I understand why Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt will not have their suspensions reduced, for I cannot fathom that if this speech was made in front of camera, its concepts weren’t alien to anyone in the Saints organization.
There are plenty of good people who get caught up in the heat of the moment; good people who do bad things. In the Saints case, I don’t care if that entire organization is a case of the symptoms of the sick — someone should’ve spoken up the moment a players mental future was placed in jeopardy. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but they don’t make casts for brain damage.