“It was made clear that he was talking about not just running backs who turned their heads the opposite way and how they would go down, but also about other stars on offense that were the best players on that team,” a former player said.
But if such a policy was clear to that player, it wasn’t clear to Fred Smoot. The former Skins defensive back, who has often praised Williams, called into 106.7 The Fan on Monday morning and strongly defended his former coordinator. (Audio below.)
“First of all I want to correct everybody,” Smoot began. “It was never a system. And let me tell you something: this was a thing that I think started in training camp with us as players. It started off with who could get the most interceptions, who could get the biggest hit or who could get the sacks, and we took it into games.
“Gregg never said take out this player or take out this player. But I’m sorry, back when I played football, we used to actually hit people. It was legal to go out and hit people. And we wanted to be the most physical team, and we wanted to inflict pain, but in no way possible did we ever want to go out there and endanger anybody’s career or take somebody truly out of the game....
“It was more or less we would start a pot in the defensive backfield of who could get the most forced fumbles or who could get the most interceptions, who could do that. It was never a bounty; it was more or less a pot that all of us players put in. Gregg never put in a dime. Gregg never came in and said do this, do this, do that. We did that ourselves, as a way to kind of pump each other up to go make more plays.”
Then it was suggested to Smoot that maybe this bounty system evolved once Williams landed in New Orleans.
“You know, coaching is 50 percent knowing the game and 50 percent being a psychologist,” Smoot said, “knowing how to play mind games and get your players to come up and play football. And that’s something Gregg is great at doing. So I think sometimes people take sentences out of context....He never coached dirty football.”
Then Smoot was asked if he can understand why Roger Goodell and others would have a problem with such a system.
“Well yes I can, because of how it’s being perceived, and yes I can because of the new world order that we call the NFL now,” Smoot said. “We’re talking about a whole different NFL. We’re talking about an NFL that even the safeties playing the game now don’t know what’s a fair hit, a legal hit and what’s just a hard illegal hit. So I think he’s trying to change the culture right now, so it’s a give and a take when we talk about these things....
“Let me tell you something. Rest his soul, if Sean Taylor was still playing in the game today, believe me, he would have been suspended more games than he would have played right now, because he only knew how to play one way, and that’s the old way of playing football. And right now these players are having to adjust to playing the new style of football. And like I said, to me, most of this is being taken out of context because of the words used. When you say the word bounty, that’s a bad word, I’m sorry, there’s no good way to say the word bounty. And I can promise you this: Gregg has never said I put a bounty on anyone’s head.”
And then Smoot was asked if he ever saw a teammate get paid for knocking an opponent out of a game.
“Never. Never,” Smoot said. “I never saw anyone paid for knocking someone out of the game. Did we as players put in pots to make plays, what we called the Big Splash Plays Pot? Yeah, we did that. WE did that. Players. That started by the captains on the team....
“Let me tell you something, when you get football players in a room, most of the time great football teams — which they had down there in New Orleans, and won a championship — they’re led by the players, not the coaches. And I’m SURE — I know Gregg enough to know — that he never came in the room and said hey let’s take out the other team’s quarterback so we can win the game. NEVER. Never. I know he didn’t endorse it or anything like that. But players, this has been going on in the NFL since the ‘50s. It’s an in-house thing where we reward each other. ”
Needless to say, that strongly contradicts what some of Smoot’s former teammates said.