Audio of the former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator's pregame speech before playing San Francisco in NFC divisional-round playoff game in January was released Thursday, and the imagery was too much to ignore. Williams directed his players to intentionally hurt several 49ers players.
He went too far.
Much of the 12-minute speech released by a documentary filmmaker was standard pregame talk by Williams, who is suspended indefinitely by the NFL over paying bounties to injure opposing players. The pep talk consisted of plenty of f-bombs and talk of hitting opponents hard.
"Respect comes from fear," Williams said. "This is how you get respect in this league."
Pro players don't respond much to that. Save it for the high school and college kids. That Williams gave it in a near monotone voice probably left many players blocking him out, thinking about the game plan. The Saints lost 36-32 so Williams' speech couldn't have been too inspiring.
Williams studied under coach Buddy Ryan, one of the NFL's all-time tough guys who once punched a fellow coordinator on the sideline during a game. Ryan was a no-mercy guy and Williams idolizes Ryan.
But Williams lost any sympathy over his style by specifically targeting 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree.
"He becomes human when you [expletive] take out that outside ACL," Williams said of Crabtree's knee ligament, an injury that requires surgery, one year of rehab and is potentially a career-ender.
Williams then said of 49ers running back Frank Gore, "We need to decide on how many times we can beat Frank Gore's head." This amid the NFL's focus on reducing concussions.
Finally, Williams said, "... put Vernon Davis' ankles over the pile" over injuring the 49ers tight end. That's also a potential career-ender.
NFL players are a rough bunch, but they're not dirty. Nowadays, they're also businessmen. They're NFL players first, Saints or 49ers players second. They earn six-, seven- and eight-figure salaries and nobody will intentionally injure someone to risk that person's livelihood. It just doesn't happen nowadays because paybacks on the field are automatic. If the offending person isn't injured that game, he will be hurt at another time. Meanwhile, the NFL will suspend or fine the player. There's too much money at risk so ordering hits on opponents is rare.
Before the tape's release, Williams might have returned in a year or two. Now he's out of the league forever. No pro team will touch him. No owner will want the PR problem. While many players like Williams, he'd have to tone down his style so much it would become ineffective.
"Never apologize for the way we compete," Williams ended his speech.
Fair enough. Never seek mercy then, either.