I think we're close to moving on from Thursday's debate on how typical the now-infamous speech of former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is on a relative scale. The initial reaction of many was to suggest Williams was speaking in metaphor and that the general populace would be stunned to know what is routinely said behind the closed doors of NFL locker rooms.
I fully accept that the violence of football starts at the top and is a central factor in the popularity of the game. But it also seems reasonable to make a distinction between accepted violence and inexcusable thuggery, and that's why I was so glad to see Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton speak out early Thursday on that issue.
Most every defensive coach encourages violence and intimidation, but it's flat-out apocryphal to suggest they all target individual players for serious and specific injuries as Williams did. That's not how everyone plays the game. But I don't want Sitton to stand as the sole representative of that viewpoint, so let's pass along similar thoughts from a number of other sources.
Via Twitter, former All-Pro defensive end/linebacker Jason Taylor said Williams is "trippin'." He added: "Playing hard and hitting hard is one thing. Going after ACL's and heads......not cool. … Saying someone flinches..ok. Wanting to hit everything moving and intimidate...ok. Calling someone a prima donna..fine ACL and Head... NO!"
Former NFL defensive lineman Seth Payne, who had a 10-year career with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, tweeted: "Guys claiming Gregg Williams' behavior was normal in NFL are out of line. Played for 5 DC's and never heard anything remotely like that. … I'm not saying it didn't happen elsewhere. I'm just saying you can't claim it's business as usual in the NFL."
Meanwhile, speaking on the NFL Network, former Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci said he heard portions of Williams' speech on the radio while in the car and "almost drove off the road." Mariucci said he "was shocked and disturbed" and that Williams "obviously crossed the line."
"I've been in this game, man and boy, for better than 40 years," Billick said, "and the back of my hair bristled up a little bit. Because this whole process, people say, everybody does that. Well, no we don't. I've never in my 40 years heard or heard of somebody talking with that specificity, the intent to injure a player. That was shocking to me."
Surely these coaches have an interest in protecting how people view the profession. But let's not get caught up in self interest here.
Look, I realize reasonable people can debate both sides of almost any issue. We can all get along here. I guess I'm just challenging you to avoid assumptions and generalizations based on what might appear to be a consensus view coming from those with better access than you or I to the innermost sanctums of the game. There might be a consensus on the commonality of Williams' aggressive style, but as you can see, there are people with insider credibility who disagree about the normalcy of his methods.