Jonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints talks with defensive coordinator… (Chris Graythen, Getty Images )
Reporting from Miami Gardens, Fla. — Had he eaten the breakfast provided Tuesday by his head coach, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would have answered every question at Super Bowl media day like this:
Of course, that was the idea.
"The poor waiter came over to the table at brunch this morning," said Williams, describing the prank that came courtesy of Coach Sean Payton. "He gave me two big jars of peanut butter, saltine crackers and a jar of sand to wash it down with. And maybe if I took all of that stuff down I'd be able to keep my mouth shut and not say something that will haunt him all week like I did last week."
Williams, whose defense already roughed up Arizona's Kurt Warner and Minnesota's Brett Favre, raised eyebrows last week when he said on a Nashville radio show that he wanted his players to land a few "remember-me" shots on Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning.
"This guy's got a great clock in his head," Williams told 104.5 The Zone of the NFL's only four-time most valuable player. "The big thing is that he throws the ball so early that we're going to have to do a good job of finding ways to get to him, and when we do get to him we're going to have to make sure he gets a couple 'remember-me' shots when we get there."
The reaction of the Colts: So what else is new?
"What he said on the radio about trying to get after quarterbacks and disrupt their rhythm, I've heard it for 11 years," Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday said. "Everybody talks about disrupting Peyton's rhythm, getting him hit, making him nervous, making him get happy feet, all of those things that you would say about every other quarterback.
"The good thing is that Gregg doesn't play. He'll dial them up, but his players have to come play. It'll be the team that executes the best that will win the game and all of the talking before and after will have nothing to do with it."
The Colts have done a spectacular job of protecting Manning. He was sacked just 10 times in the regular season -- by comparison, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger were each sacked a league-high 50 times -- although Baltimore and the New York Jets each got to him twice this postseason.
It was Saints defensive end Bobby McCray who temporarily knocked Warner out of the divisional game with a vicious-but-legal hit from the blind side. In the NFC championship game, McCray crushed Favre with a hit that the quarterback initially thought had knocked out his teeth.
McCray said Williams is a "mean S.O.B." and has instilled that attitude in his defense.
"You're in this business to win games, so therefore whatever you do to motivate your guys to get them to win, that's what he does," McCray said. "He's been so successful so far we've got to keep going with it. He just says what he means, and he doesn't bite his tongue for anybody. You've got to respect that. He owns up and mans up to everything he says."
To many, those hits are borderline and uncalled for. Williams doesn't see it that way.
Asked if his Saints play dirty, Williams said: "No. We are aggressive, and we are not going to apologize for being aggressive, and we are not going to apologize for being nasty. The best defenses in the league, probably the Steel Curtain of the Pittsburgh Steelers, let's see, there was a guy there that had the name of Mean Joe Greene. Have you ever seen Jack Lambert, the pictures with no teeth in his mouth? What about Ray Lewis in that great Ravens defense?
"All great defenses have to be feared. And that's what [former NFL defensive guru] Buddy Ryan will tell you: If you are not feared on defense, then you are not a really good defense. We play nasty, but we don't play dirty."