Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams of the New Orleans Saints looks on during warms up prior to playing against the Detroit Lions at Mercedes-Benz Superdome during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(USA Today) -- Before his final game as Saints defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams offered cash to the man who struck 49ers QB Alex Smith in the head during the 2011 NFC playoffs.
Already the subject of an NFL investigation into bounties, Williams defied the league one last time in a pregame pep talk, instructing players to targetFrank Gore and Kyle Williams' heads, Michael Crabtree's ACL andVernon Davis' ankles, according to audio released by a documentary filmmaker who was on hand.
Sean Pamphilon was working on a documentary on a former special teams player with ALS, and relayed the following dialogue to Yahoo! Sports:
At one point Williams says, 'We hit [expletive] Smith right there' - then he points under his chin [and continues] - 'remember me.' Then he rubs his thumb against his index and middle fingers - the cash sign - and says, 'I got the first one. I got the first one. Go get it. Go lay that [expletive] out.'
The NFL will not say whether it was aware of the audio evidence before this morning. League spokesman Greg Aiellotold NBC Sports, "We are not commenting on specific pieces of evidence that we have other than what we have released in our statements."
During the 12-minute speech, Williams referenced Gore, telling players, "Kill the head, the body will die.
"We've got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore's head," Williams said. "We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways.
"Respect comes from fear," Williams adds. "This is how you get respect in this league."
The newest, most-damning evidence of a pay-for-pain scheme in New Orleans comes on the morning that suspended Saints officials, including coach Sean Payton, are to appeal their bans to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York. Goodell said last week that the Saints were warned against the bounty practice before their playoff opener against the Lions, and coaches had been interviewed on the topic in the months leading up that game.
Williams, who left the team to join the Rams following the playoff loss to San Francisco, chose not to appeal his indefinite suspension.
One has to wonder why Williams would so overtly continue his bounty system in the late stages of an NFL investigation, or how he could instruct players to target the heads of opponents in the presence of an independent filmmaker, whose stated interest was a former player inflicted by a neurodegenerative disease which affects the brain and spinal cord.
An answer to that last question emerged Thursday afternoon, as NBC Sports reported that the Saints expected those recording to be kept private. Pamphilon was invited to San Francisco because former Saint Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS and played his last season in 2007, was in the bay area for a doctor's visit and was included in team meetings before the game. The Saints were told the recordings would be shared only with the Gleason family, according to the report.
Pamphilon defended his decision to release the audio in a statement Thursday:
"If this story hadn't broken and been made public, I would not have shared this it. I would not have compromised my personal relationships and risked damaging Steve Gleason's relationship with the Saints. I would have crafted these words and sentiments for another forum, perhaps years down the road.
If it weren't for the fact I feel deeply that parents of children playing football MUST pay attention to the influence of men who will sacrifice their kids for W's, I would not have written this.
Some will call me releasing this audio for fame or money grab. True haters will call it exploitation.
People of character and conscience call it was it is: tru."