In a recent piece of audio released by The United States of Football, a hotel room speech by Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams shows his scandal first-hand.
Sean Pamphilon, a documentary film maker, was in the hotel room with Williams as he gave his fiery speech. Williams knew the cameras were there. This speech came the night before New Orleans played the 49ers in the playoffs on Jan. 14, 2012.
“You don’t [expletive] apologize for how we’re going to play,” Williams said in the audio. “You’re here for a reason. You’re here because we saw in you, and we hope we picked the right person that won’t apologize for competing the way we compete.”
As many know, the manner of the Saints’ competition was a little more harsh than that of others.
According to an article on ESPN.com, Williams maintained a bounty pool of up to $50,000 over the last three seasons to reward the infliction of injuries which would take certain players out of gamew.
“Knockouts were worth $1,500 and ‘cart-offs’ $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs,” read the article.
“We hit [expletive] [49ers quarterback Alex] Smith right [on the chin],” the audio said. “Remember me. I got the first one. I’ve got the first one,” said Williams as he rubbed his fingers together indicating cash payment, according to Pamphilon.
“Go lay that [expletive] out. We’re gonna dominate the line of scrimmage, and we’re gonna kill the [expletive]-head. Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head.”
With the recent outcry concerning the effects of concussions, it seems Williams was looking to exacerbate the issue.
San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree was also mentioned in the audio. Williams wanted to find out if Crabtree was a “prima donna” or a “tough guy,” after the Saints took out his ACL.
Williams even wanted to reassure his players of the team’s policy.
“A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on victory,” he said in the speech. “Two men are equals, true equals, only when they [display] that true equal confidence. You know when you knock the air out of them.”
Could all of this had been prevented? One of the major factors that plays into sports today is the fans. Williams even points out this important fact during the audio clip.
“The NFL is a production business,” he said. “Don’t ever forget about it. Where are we at right now? We gotta tie at the top. We’ve got a lot of guys up at the top. Kill the head and the body will die. Kill the head and the body will die.”
The NFL is mainly based on money and fame. Fans push that to the limit, as we all look for those big moments. Two things that keep Americans coming back to football games, whether on television or live action, are the hard hits and the bone-crushing moments.
The steroid era in baseball was much the same.
Fan bases have changed. Years ago, spectators would choose a team, stick with that team through thick and thin, and they would know everything about them.
Today, we’ve become a fan base that cheers for certain players over the whole team, as the recent events surrounding Peyton Manning show. (After all, many Colts “fans” are now Broncos “fans.”) In order to stay in the spotlight, players either have to be extremely good, in the example of Manning, or keep themselves in the spotlight by using other measures.
“There may be better athletes, but not better football players,” Williams said. “There may be better athletes, but not defensive football players that have to go into war tomorrow and play the way we have to [expletive] play.”
Because of the pressure to remain at a certain level of fame in order to keep their jobs, players are taking extreme measures.
I would even go so far to say that coaches are much the same way. How many coaches are doing this that we don’t know about?
Fan reactions are changing our sports every year. With the recent changes in policies about hits, spectators are screaming that the NFL is going to turn professional football into flag football by 2020.
Will this outcry keep new policies prioritizing the protection of the players off the spectrum? Again, with NFL being such a money-hungry industry, the fans are what matters.
Without them, the money goes away.