Gregg Williams with the Saints in 2009. (Bill Haber / Associated…)
The unearthing of an audio recording of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams instructing his defense to intentionally injure San Francisco players in their January playoff game raises all sorts of questions. The audio was recorded long after the NFL had warned the Saints to end any improper bounty programs -- including a specific warning before the playoff game against Detroit a week earlier.
(Warning: Explicit language can be heard in this clip of Gregg Williams addressing the Saints.)
Among the questions:
Is this the final nail in the coffin for Williams, who is serving an indefinite suspension for his role in the Saints' bounty scandal? Is there any way he'll be allowed back in the league now? And who would hire him if the league were to eventually let him back in?
Does this tape, which the league presumably knew about, torpedo any flicker of hope Payton had of getting his one-year penalty reduced? Such a reduction was a longshot anyway. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will hear Payton's appeal Thursday.
In his recorded speech, Williams implores his players to aim for the head of 49ers receiver Kyle Williams, who has a history of concussions. It was Kyle Williams who muffed the punt in overtime the following week in the NFC championship game against the New York Giants, a miscue that cost his team a chance to get to the Super Bowl.
There were reports after that game that the Giants, also aware of Williams' history of concussions, employed a similar strategy.
"He's had a lot of concussions," said Devin Thomas, who recovered both of Williams' turnovers. "We were just like, 'We gotta put a hit on that guy.'"
Thomas told the Newark Star-Ledger after the game that Giants safety Tyler Sash "did a great job hitting [Williams] early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he coughed it up."
So the question is, where does the NFL draw the line in these instances?
And one more: What if the Saints had won and, say, had gone on to win the Super Bowl?
This bounty scandal has rocked the league, but just imagine if we were talking about the defending Super Bowl champions.
[Updated at 10:29 a.m.: An earlier version of this post misidentified who was addressing the Saints in the above clip.]
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