Are bounties a legitimate part of football at any level? An audiotape released Thursday takes listeners inside a professional locker room to hear former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams tell his players what he wants from them in the most explicit and vulgar terms.
Although some of it is inspirational emotional jargon, such as "We don't apologize for the way we compete," or "Respect comes from them fearing us," some of it sounds almost criminal in the way that he tells players to go after the head of a player who previously suffered a concussion and try to reinjure the ACL, or knee, of another player.
The bounties that the Saints offered players from 2009-11 for making big hits that injured players or caused them to need help off the field resulted in the NFL suspending head coach Sean Payton for a year, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games, assistant coach Joe Vitt for six games; the NFL assessed a $500,000 fine on the team and took away two second-round draft picks. The NFL heard their appeals Thursday in New York.
Williams was suspended indefinitely by the league and decided not to appeal—perhaps refusing to apologize for the way he competes. Williams signed a contract with the St. Louis Rams in the offseason.
Just a few hours before the appeals, a documentary filmmaker released audio of Williams' speech the night before the NFC Championship game won by the 49ers, 36-32.
Because of the nature of football, defensive players especially, don't need to be told to try to injure opposing players. The point is to tackle, and players are typically taught to tackle as hard as possible. It's called being physical, and teams such as Servite and Mission Viejo are well known for being among the most physical high school teams in Orange County. They are also among the most successful.
Knocking another player out of the game is an understood byproduct of tough, physical play whether a so-called bounty exists or not, whether players are told to try to knock players out of the game or not.
Are speeches like Williams' apropriate at any level, such as high school or college? Would it be appropriate for a coach to tell his defense to lay out San Clemente quarterback Travis Wilson or USC's Matt Barkley?
Is it appropriate for a coach to point out a player's previous injury and share that information with players with the intent to attack the injury?
Harry Welch, the coach at Santa Margarita Catholic, refused to publicly acknowledge a shoulder injury to receiver/defensive back River Cracraft because he didn't want opposing teams to take aim at it. Welch only said that Cracraft had "an injury" until it was sufficiently healed.
Yet in the NFL, where careers and millions of dollars are at stake, Williams makes reference to Frank Gore, who had previously suffered a concussion, and exhorted players to make contact with his head.
"Kill the head and the body will die," Williams says. "We've got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore's head."
Williams also seemed to want his players to conduct dirty pool after the whistle after tackling a player: "Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue to touch and affect the head."
Listen to the video, which is audio only, of three minutes of Williams' speech the night before the Saints olayed the 49ers.
Then decide: Is that appropriate at any level?