NFL Teams
Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer 38d

Years after rift, Williams, Vitt say they're friends

NFL, New York Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Gregg Williams didn't want to go there. Neither did Joe Vitt.

The New York Jets' assistant coaches, reunited seven years after they were adversaries in the New Orleans Saints' Bountygate scandal, bristled Thursday when asked about their relationship.

"Is this a National Enquirer question?" Vitt snapped. "I like Gregg. He's a friend."

Earlier, Williams offered a similar response.

"Not a question. Next question," he said before the Jets' final offseason practice. "He's a great friend of mine. He'll always be a great friend. I don't care what you've written. Go ahead, somebody else [ask a question]."

Williams and Vitt were hired in February as the Jets' defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach, respectively, but this was the first time the assistant coaches were made available to the media.

The reunion has sparked interest because Vitt testified against Williams in the Bountygate scandal when both were Saints assistants. In the hearings, conducted by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Vitt accused Williams of lying in his testimony.

Williams wound up being suspended indefinitely (then reinstated 11 months later), while Vitt received a six-game ban. Now they are together on coach Adam Gase's first staff.

Vitt also happens to be Gase's father-in-law, adding another layer of intrigue.

Some also have wondered about the Gase-Williams dynamic because they are both alpha personalities and are working together for the first time.

Williams spoke glowingly of Gase, saying he has admired him from afar.

"Respect and trust [are] earned, and he has earned my respect and earned my trust now that we're working together on the same thing," Williams said. "It's been fun, OK? He's a very good coach, has a very good mind, has a challenging mind conceptually on what we're doing [on defense]."

The Jets hope that Williams' fiery coaching style will fuel a defense that finished 29th in yards allowed last season. They have high expectations after signing Pro Bowl middle linebacker C.J. Mosley and drafting defensive tackle Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick.

Williams didn't make any bold predictions for the defense, but there is no doubting his self-confidence.

"My secrets get out," Williams said. "The reason I keep getting hired is culture -- and culture beats strategy any day of the week."

"Attitude does come first," he added. "I tell them, 'Attitude is everything. Pick a good one today.'"

Williams, 60, has been coaching in the NFL since 1990, and he has no intention of retiring any time soon.

"People ask me all the time, How much longer am I going to do this? I love what I do. I'm a competition-aholic," he said. "When I walk into a room and nobody will pay attention anymore, it's time to do something else."

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