Four of the Redskins players described an informal system under which Williams doled out thousands of dollars to Redskins defenders who measured up to his standards for rugged play, including for what one described as “kill shots” that sent opposing teams’ stars to the sideline.
“You got compensated more for a kill shot than you did other hits,” said one former Redskins player, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The former coach, who was an assistant to Williams, said the defensive coordinator would reveal the amount of bounty money available to players as “a little extra incentive.” He said Williams would set the amounts in meetings before big games.
“It was a motivational tool, just like anything you would try to do as a coach to get the most out of players,” the former coach said. “The only thing was, money was involved.”
Players said such compensation, which is against NFL rules, ranged from “hundreds to thousands of dollars,” with the largest sum paid to any player believed to be about $8,000.
“I never took it for anything [but] just incentive to make good, hard plays,” said a current Redskins player, who requested anonymity. “But I’m pretty sure it did entice some guys to do more to a player than normal when it came to taking them out. I mean, that’s cash. Let’s just be honest about it.
“If you took the star player out, he’d hook you up a little bit.”
The revelations came during a period in which the NFL has tightened enforcement of rules and heavily fined violators as part of a campaign to protect players’ safety, particularly from head injuries.
Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of communications, said the league was not aware of allegations of a Redskins bounty program under Williams. “No such information came forth in this investigation” of the Saints, Aiello said. He did not comment further.
The Redskins declined to comment through team spokesman Tony Wyllie.
Joe Gibbs, who was head coach during Williams’s tenure in Washington, said he was unaware of the bounty program and would have stopped it if he had known.
“Just let me say this: I’m not aware of anything like this when I was coaching there,” Gibbs said in a telephone interview. “I would never ask a player to hurt another player. Never.”
Of the five Redskins players interviewed, only Phillip Daniels, a former defensive lineman, was willing to be quoted by name. He defended Williams’s coaching.
Daniels, now the Redskins’ director of player development, said he believed Williams began the program with fines collected from players for being late for meetings or practices. “Rather than pocket that money or whatever, he would redistribute it to players who had good games or good practices,” Daniels said.