People throughout the league said earlier in the day they expected NFL officials to question Williams about reports that the Redskins and Buffalo Bills also had bounty programs when Williams coached those teams. Williams, now the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, is the former head coach of the Bills. In a written statement Friday, he apologized for being part of an improper pay-for- performance scheme with the Saints.
Through a spokesman, the NFL declined to comment on Monday’s meeting. A Rams spokesman also declined to comment.
According to a person familiar with the Saints case, the NFL is considering severe, sweeping penalties that could include lengthy suspensions of Williams, Saints Coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis and players who were heavily involved in the scheme.
Another person with knowledge of the league’s deliberations said the penalties in the Saints’ case could be particularly severe because Payton and Loomis were cited by the NFL’s investigation for failing to halt the bounty program.
The NFL also will investigate accusations that the Redskins had a bounty program when Williams coached the team’s defense between the 2004 and 2007 seasons, a league official said over the weekend. But several people familiar with the case have said it is too soon to know if the Redskins or any other teams will be penalized if it is determined they had similar bounty programs.
Under those programs, players received cash payments for hits that injured targeted opponents or knocked them from games, as well as for interceptions, fumble recoveries and other big plays.
The league announced Friday that a lengthy investigation showed that the Saints had violated NFL rules that prohibit bounties from 2009 t0 2011. The league announced that possible penalties, to be determined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, could include fines, suspensions and the loss of draft picks.
Players and two former assistant coaches have said the Redskins had a bounty system during Williams’s tenure with the team. But two people familiar with the situation said Monday that, even if the league corroborates the allegations and ultimately punishes the team, the discipline is unlikely to be as severe as the sanctions expected in the Saints’ case.
Joe Gibbs said last week he was not aware of the Redskins’ bounty system operated during his second stint as the team’s head coach, a claim supported by a longtime Washington assistant coach on Monday.
Commenting for the first time about the bounty system, Greg Blache, who coached Washington’s defensive line for four seasons under Gibbs, said in a phone interview the Hall of Famer was not involved in the conduct that violated NFL rules.
“I assure you, he had no idea of what was happening,” said Blache, who was aware of Williams’s action but declined to provide specific details on the bounty system. “If he had, he would have put a stop to it.”
Blache, who succeeded Williams as defensive coordinator before the 2008 season, recently declined to discuss his decision to shut down the operation after Williams did not return following the 2007 season.
But Blache, who rarely granted interviews during his final three seasons with the Redskins, decided to speak out Monday in support of Gibbs.
“The only reason I’m talking at all is that I don’t want to see a man like Joe Gibbs get pulled down into the muck of this because Joe Gibbs did not know,” Blache said. “The whole situation, the way this is all coming out, is unfortunate.
“But to have anyone think Joe Gibbs knew, or to accuse Joe Gibbs to be part and parcel to it, is just totally wrong. People who know me know I don’t put my name on a lot of things. But I know for a fact that he didn’t know, so I’ll put my name to this.”
Williams had significant freedom in running the defense, “and this was done in a very closed setting,” Blache said. “It was done separate from the team. It was done strictly as a defensive room situation. There was a saying that room: ‘What’s said in here stays in here.’ Coach Gibbs had no clue.”
The Redskins now have a different head coach and general manager, a new slate of assistant coaches and an almost entirely new roster.
Staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.
More on NFL bounties:
NFL to investigate Redskins over bounty allegations under Gregg Williams
Mike Wise: Another player sheds light on ‘an ugly tradition’
Redskins offered bounties for big hits under Williams
Joe Gibbs: “I would never ask a player to hurt another player’
Mike Wise: Gregg Williams’s true nature exposed
Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints had bounty systems that paid for big hits
NFL statement on New Orleans Saints
How widespread are bounties?