On the day that members of the Saints' brass had their appeals heard for their roles in New Orleans' bounty system, damning audio was released of Gregg Williams, the man who orchestrated the program, instructing his players to injure San Francisco 49ers players in their wild-card playoff game last season.
Documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who directed the ESPN 30 for 30 film "Run Ricky Run," released Thursday an audio recording he says is a speech Williams, the team's former defensive coordinator, gave to New Orleans players the night before the team lost to the 49ers in a playoff game in January.
The sample audio recording is a little less than four minutes long. The full speech was 12 minutes, according to Pamphilon.
Pamphilon was following the Saints last season while working on a documentary featuring former Saints special-teams player Steve Gleason, who is battling Lou Gehrig's disease.
For his part, Gleason said in a statement Friday he was "deflated and disappointed" over the release of the audio and that he owned the rights to the tape and had not authorized its release.
Williams, who is suspended indefinitely by the league and is not appealing the penalty, can be heard in the audio recording instructing his defensive players to injure quarterback Alex Smith, running back Frank Gore, tight end Vernon Davis and receivers Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams.
According to Pamphilon, Gregg Williams pointed to his chin while telling his players to hit Smith "right there," saying, "Remember me. I got the first one. I got the first one. Go get it. Go lay that m----------- out."
Williams uses one of his favorite slogans in the speech: "Kill the head and the body will die."
On Gore: "We've got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore's head. We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways."
On running back Kendall Hunter: "Little 32, we're going to knock the f--- out of him."
On Smith: "Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head."
On Kyle Williams: "We need to find out in the first two series of the game, that little wide receiver, No. 10, about his concussion. We need to f------ put a lick on him right now. He needs to decide. He needs to f------ decide."
On Crabtree: "We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a fake-ass prima donna, or he wants to be a tough guy. We need to find out. He becomes human when we f------ take out that outside ACL."
On Davis: "We need to decide how many times we can bull rush and and we can f------ put Vernon Davis' ankles over the pile."
Gleason, in a lengthy statement published on his website, teamgleason.org, expressed steadfast regret over the release of the audio.
Gleason retired in 2008, three years before he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a terminal illness with no known cure.
"Sean Pamphilon and I have an agreement that all recordings ultimately belong to me and my family. Nothing can be released without my explicit approval," Gleason said. "I did not authorize the public release of any recordings.
"A multitude of feelings have passed through me. I feel deflated and disappointed. I feel frustrated and distracted. Nevertheless, these feelings will pass, and I will continue steadfast in my mission."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, when asked by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter for comment on Williams' speech to his players, would not, other than to reiterate the Saints had been warned, saying, "Note for background these graphs from our March 21 press release announcing the discipline for Saints management."
The NFL had warned the Saints before the playoffs that it had reopened its investigation into the team's bounty program and the program needed to cease, but the warning apparently was ignored.
Saints coach Sean Payton was expected to testify Thursday during his appeals process that he directed Williams before the playoff game to ensure that no inappropriate conduct would occur, a source close to the process told Schefter.
Saints cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, in a post on his Twitter page, blasted Pamphilon for making the audio public.
His tweet: "Sean pamphilon is a coward and should be ashamed for taking advantage of Steve Gleason! How much did u get paid for that audio?"
Jenkins deleted the tweet later Thursday afternoon.
Pamphilon told Yahoo! Sports that he decided to release the audio because Williams' words, especially about Kyle Williams' concussion history, made him uncomfortable.
"Personally, suspension or not, it's probably best I'm never in a room with Gregg Williams and wonder if such an order crosses the lines of the aggressive, competitive spirit we all know and love about the sport and leans closer to a criminal act and therefore litigious matter," said Kenny Williams, Kyle's father and the GM of the Chicago White Sox, in a statement.
The film project Pamphilon is working on, "The United States of Football," he told Yahoo! Sports, "looks at the media's effect upon the way the game is played and celebrated, the proper coaching mentality and the effect of concussions and repetitive head trauma."
Said Pamphilon: "The thing that really got me was when he said the thing about No. 10 and concussions. I thought, 'Did he just say that?' That was the red flag for me. And then the comments by the Giants made it hit home even harder."
Giants players had said after their win over San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game that they had targeted Kyle Williams as someone who might fumble on big hits because of his history of concussions.
Thursday afternoon, Pamphilon released a statement on his film's website further explaining why he released the audio recording.
"If this story hadn't broken and been made public, I would not have shared this. 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."
The Saints' defense certainly was in attack mode against the 49ers. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Saints sent five or more pass-rushers in 30 of Smith's 46 dropbacks (65.2 percent). It was the second-most number of times the Saints used such pressure last season and their third-highest rate of percentage of rushers.
Despite Gregg Williams' tough talk, the 49ers defeated the Saints 36-32 in what turned out to be his last game as New Orleans' defensive coordinator. He left the team to become the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator before the NFL's penalties were announced.
At the time of the league's ruling, Gregg Williams apologized and said he took full responsibility for his actions.
Payton (suspended for one year), general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six games) had their appeals heard Thursday.
After Vitt's appeal was heard, his lawyer, David Cornwell, was asked about the audio tape. Cornwell said Payton viewed Williams' comments as "a rogue coach about to get fired."
"He was fired two days later," said Cornwell, who also serves as executive director of the NFL Coaches Association. "He was on the way out."
But when Williams left New Orleans for the Rams in January, nobody with the Saints characterized it as a firing. At the time, Payton said it was apparent shortly before the season ended that Williams, with his contract expiring, was likely going to join new St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, an old friend. The Saints and Williams never discussed an extension, Payton said then.
Cornwell said Loomis and Payton told Williams, "There's no place for this in this organization or this league" after the NFL informed the Saints that it had reopened its investigation.
The NFL, however, in its statement last month announcing the penalties for team officials, said the GM and coach made only "cursory inquiries" into the possible presence of a bounty program.
Pamphilon said Payton and Loomis were not in the room when the recording of Williams was made.
The Saints also were fined $500,000 and forced to forfeit second-round picks in the 2012 and 2013 drafts. Discipline for some of the Saints players involved is forthcoming. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league security met with NFL Players Association officials Monday to discuss the investigation and possible penalties for others.
Information from ESPNChicago.com and The Associated Press was used in this report.