Gregg Williams is never going to live down the last year.
Regardless of what he accomplished before then and no matter what he does from this point forward he always will be known as the guy who personified the New Orleans Saints’ so-called ‘Bountygate’ program.
No, he was not the only one punished for it, but when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed out the suspensions Williams’ was ‘indefinite’ while all the others were a clear length of time. That suggested to one and all that Williams was the most egregious offender.
Plus there was the audiotape of a pregame speech released by a documentary film crew in which Williams’ comments overwhelmingly were perceived as proof positive that the program existed. It was the one piece of hard evidence that most of the public absorbed in an episode that otherwise was a lot of he-said, he-said.
Perhaps it makes sense, therefore, that the Tennessee Titans’ new senior assistant/defense apparently has no desire to try to hide from his recent past.
Assuming that the last three weeks of organized team activities are, in fact, actual preparation for the season, it is clear that Williams intends to be on the sidelines for games this fall. We know this because he is the one who overwhelmingly is on the walkie-talkie, calling in plays to the defensive captain.
That does not necessarily mean that he will take over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. League rules, however, mandate that only a coach on the sideline can be in direct contact with the player in the huddle, whether on offense or defense. Gray, who spent the latter part of last season in the press box, therefore, can still make the calls and give them to Williams, who then relays them to the huddle.
What it does mean is that Williams will be in plain view of the television cameras
from start to finish of every contest.
That means that there is opportunity every week for a producer in the truck to ask for a shot of him and for one of the commentators to bring up the pay-for-pain controversy and Williams’ undeniable connection to it. It means every time that cameras show Williams celebrating a big hit by one of the Titans’ defensive players, speculation can start anew as to whether or not he — one way or another — again encourages his players to injury the opposition.
“I don’t play to cameras,” Williams said earlier this week. “And I won’t worry about those types of things. I worry about coaching and teaching and getting the players to do the things that we need to do to play and create a homefield advantage because the defense is playing so hard and so fast and so aggressive that the fans love it.”
He’s right, of course. Titans fans will cheer him if the defense plays the way he imagines, particularly given the fact that same defense allowed more points last season than any other.
Then again, Titans fans remember him first and foremost as the guy whose defense gave up fewer yards than any other and fewer points than all but one back in 2000, the last time he was on the staff.
Most of the rest of the NFL thinks of him as the face and the name most closely associated with one of the game’s more controversial and distasteful episodes in recent memory.
Williams seems prepared to allow everyone to get a good look at him in action once again, which means people will continue to talk about what they believe he did and whether or not he deserved the punishment.
He recognizes that you can’t hide from your past. So why try?