NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Gregg Williams knows he’s got to prove himself every day.
The former Saints defensive co-ordinator said he received a “great rebirth” Thursday when he was reinstated by the NFL and hired by the Tennessee Titans after serving a nearly yearlong suspension for his role in the New Orleans bounty scandal.
But now that he’s back in the league, he’ll have to change the way he’s done things in the past.
“I’ve got a very positive outlook on things,” Williams said. “I understand and respect the game an awful lot, and the past is the past and what I’m talking about doing right now is creating a resume from this day forward.”
Williams took the first step when the Titans hired him as a senior assistant coach for defence. Williams thanked Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstating him while speaking at a news conference.
“I take full responsibility and apologize for my previous actions, and I’ve used this year to reorganize my life and put focus on positive energy and positive ways to inspire and coach and motivate in this profession,” Williams said, reading from a statement.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity.”
The league issued a statement saying that Goodell cited several reasons for reinstating Williams, including Williams accepting responsibility for his role in the bounty program, his commitment to never be involved in any pay for performance system and pledging to teach safe play and respect for the rules.
“The commissioner emphasized that Williams must fully conform to league rules and will be subject to periodic monitoring to confirm his compliance,” the NFL said in its statement.
While he was out of football in 2012, Williams started his path back.
He said he spoke to football players from the Pop Warner level up to high school over the past year. He also worked with his charity, travelled and tried to improve himself including losing about “a kindergartener” when challenged by his sons to lose weight.
Williams, suspended indefinitely last March, now is the last person involved in the scandal to be reinstated by league. New Orleans coach Sean Payton had his suspension lifted on Jan. 22.
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six. Four current or former Saints players were also suspended after an investigation found the club had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits. The player suspensions eventually were overturned.
Williams coached for the Saints between 2009 and 2011 and was hired as defensive co-ordinator by the St. Louis Rams in January 2012 before being suspended. Williams had been free to look for a new job in the NFL since the playoffs started, and now he is returning to the team where he got his start in the league back in 1990 as a quality control assistant.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said he spent the past month trying to figure out how to improve his coaching staff and a defence that set a franchise-record giving up 471 points. He immediately thought about Williams, so Munchak said he called Goodell for a long talk to learn about the bounty situation and Williams’ status.
Munchak said hiring Williams on a one-year contract was “the right thing to do.”
“What better place for him to come back to for a second opportunity after making some mistakes and to recharge his career going forward,” Munchak said.
“He knows we’re going to do things the right way. He knows how we do things. I think he knows changes have to be done maybe in some of the ways he’s done things in the past. I think we’re on the same page. I think we’re excited about the opportunity.”
Still, this is the NFL, and Williams said an aggressive approach on defence is what people get when he gets a chance to help.
“It’s been my thought process as a player, as a coach, in all the years I’ve been doing this is that I’d rather be aggressive than passive,” Williams said. “And sometimes the fastest approach to getting a job done is being more aggressive, and that can be a style of defence, scheme of defence, attitude of defence. … I feel like that will always be a huge tenet of the National Football League.”
How well this move works for both the Titans and Williams remains to be seen.
The Titans missed the playoffs in Munchak’s first season on a tiebreaker in 2011 before slumping to a 6-10 record in 2012. Fans have not been happy that Munchak has kept Jerry Gray as co-ordinator after a season when Tennessee also gave up at least 30 points in seven different games and ranked 27th in yards allowed.
Munchak previously made only one move on his defensive staff, firing linebackers coach Frank Bush and moving Chet Parlavecchio from assisting with special teams to linebackers coach.
“The bottom line guys is winning next year,” Munchak said. “We know that.”
Williams and Gray have worked together for years first in Tennessee, then Williams took Gray with him to Buffalo when hired as the Bills head coach in 2001 after four seasons as Tennessee’s defensive co-ordinator under then-coach Jeff Fisher. They worked together in Washington between 2004-07 before Williams went to Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008 and then the Saints.
Gray said he told Munchak to bring Williams on in when asked for his opinion of a man who’s like a brother. When pressed on who will make the defensive calls in games this season, Gray pointed questions to Munchak who said Gray is the co-ordinator making the calls “right now.”
Notes: The Titans face a deadline Friday where they could release Chris Johnson and avoid guaranteeing $9 million of the $10 million salary due in 2013. Munchak said they will be honouring both Johnson’s contract and that of safety Michael Griffin, who is due $6.2 million this season.