Joe Gibbs said Friday that he was unaware of the bounty program players say then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams conducted during Gibbs’ second stint as the team’s head coach. Had he known, Gibbs said, he never would have permitted it.
“Just let me say this: I’m not aware of anything like this when I was coaching there,” the Hall of Fame coach said in a phone interview. “I would never ask a player to hurt another player. Never.”
Williams, Gibbs’s top assistant on defense for four seasons, ran a pay-for-big-play system in which players were rewarded for, among other things, knocking out opponents from games.
Five players and one former Washington assistant confirmed that Williams’s bounty program was operated under Gibbs, who said he was surprised by the news.
The information about the bounty system, according to the players and coach, was widely known at Redskins Park. Considering that, Gibbs said he could understand why many would believe the head coach would also know, “but I didn’t,” Gibbs said. “In my life … I wouldn’t ever tell a player to hurt somebody.
“They may say, ‘Well, Joe would know, because everybody else knew.’ But I didn’t know. I’m shocked by this.”
After leading the Redskins to three Super Bowl championships, Gibbs retired from coaching following the 1992 season. Lured back to the franchise by owner Daniel M. Snyder, Gibbs again led the Redskins from 2004-07.
Gibbs hired Williams and gave him full control of the defense. At least initially, Williams apparently established the bounty fund by using money players paid in team fines. Players also contributed to the bounties, the former assistant said.
Gibbs declined to discuss how he administered fines, but a person familiar with his disciplinary approach said Gibbs rarely fined players. Also, Gibbs never rewarded players with cash bonuses, which is a violation of NFL rules, the person with knowledge of the situation said.
For exceptional performances, Gibbs provided players with premium parking at the team’s Ashburn-training complex and recliners to relax in after practice, the person said. If turnovers were committed during practice, players ran laps, and Gibbs often ran with them.
“I’m just not aware of anything like this,” Gibbs said.
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