Talk about your bad timing.
On the same morning Sean Payton and two other Saints officials were in New York to appeal their Bountygate suspensions to Roger Goodell, an explosive audiotape of Gregg Williams surfaced early yesterday that made the cash-for-injuries scandal look even worse and could end Williams’ NFL coaching career.
The tape, made by a documentary filmmaker with the Saints’ permission on the eve of their NFC divisional playoff against the 49ers in January, has the disgraced defensive coordinator profanely encouraging his players to injure key San Francisco players Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Alex Smith and returner Kyle Williams.
OH, OH! Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was heard on audiotape encouraging his players to hurt key 49ers on the eve of their NFC divisional playoff game last season.
“We need to decide on how many times we can beat Frank Gore’s head,” said Williams, who also implores the Saints defenders to go after Crabtree’s “outside ACL [knee ligament],” give Smith a concussion and add to the multiple concussions Williams already had received earlier in the season.
The Giants, incidentally, were criticized the following week when several players admitted they targeted Kyle Williams in the NFC title game because of his concussion history.
“Kill the head and the body will die,” Gregg Williams added on the tape. “We’ve got to do everything we can in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head. We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways.”
Williams then is heard rubbing his fingers together and saying, “I got the first one” — a seemingly explicit reference to the well-orchestrated cash bounty program that so far has resulted in unprecedented punishment for the Saints and everyone in their management that was involved.
Williams has been suspended indefinitely by Goodell, while Payton was suspended for an entire season, general manager Mickey Loomis banned for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt suspended six games. The Saints also were fined $500,000 and docked two draft picks.
Payton, Loomis and Vitt just happened to be in Manhattan yesterday morning to appeal their sentences to Goodell when the tape was first leaked to Yahoo! Sports by filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who was a guest of the Saints last season while doing a documentary on former player Steve Gleason’s battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Payton didn’t speak to reporters after his meeting at NFL headquarters, but the attorney for Vitt — with a straight face — claimed that the comments by Williams were from a “rogue coach” who was about to be fired by Payton for continuing the bounty program despite being warned to stop the week before.
The Saints lost that game in San Francisco the next day, and Williams departed for the same job with the Rams soon afterward. Ironically, the only player significantly injured in that game was Saints running back Pierre Thomas, who suffered a concussion from a ferocious hit by 49ers safety Donte Whitner.
The Saints reportedly let Pamphilon film with the understanding that Williams’ speech would remain private, but Pamphilon said he leaked it because it was so disturbing.
Pamphilon late yesterday released a lengthy defense on his personal website regarding his decision to leak the recording, while also admitting the move had endangered the Gleason documentary and strained his relationship with the ailing ex-player and the team.
“Some will call me releasing this audio for fame or money grab,” Pamphilon wrote. “True haters will call it exploitation. People of character and conscience call it [what] it is — [true].”
Pamphilon also ripped into Williams for so casually encouraging his players to maim their counterparts.
“It’s a coward’s play to send someone off to do your malicious bidding,” he wrote. “I’m sure many of his players would have told him this if they weren’t scared to lose their jobs or look like b-----s in front of their teammates. Or if they weren’t 25 and couldn’t possibly have a fully developed perspective on life.”
Gregg Williams, Frank Gore, Kyle Williams, Sean Payton, Roger Goodell, the Saints, the Saints, Saints, 49ers, San Francisco, Sean Pamphilon, Williams, Williams, Michael Crabtree, Saints, defensive coordinator, Yahoo! Sports