Washington Football

Williams testified he wanted to stop bounties

201212121626591973725-p2.jpeg

Williams testified he wanted to stop bounties

Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams testified that he tried to shut down the team's bounty system when the NFL began investigating but was overruled by interim Saints head coach Joe Vitt, according to transcripts from appeals hearings obtained by The Associated Press.

According to the transcripts, Williams said that then-assistant Vitt responded to a suggestion that the pay-for-pain setup be abandoned with an obscenity-filled speech about how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ``wasn't going to ... tell us to ... stop doing what won us the Super Bowl. This has been going on in the ... National Football League forever, and it will go on here forever, when they run (me) out of there, it will still go on.''

Williams and Vitt were among a number of witnesses whose testimony was heard by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who on Tuesday overturned four player suspensions in the case. Tagliabue was appointed by Goodell to handle the final round of appeals. The AP obtained transcripts of Tagliabue's closed-door hearings through a person with a role in the case.

Vitt was a Saints assistant who was banned for six games for his part in the scandal but now is filling in for head coach Sean Payton, who was suspended for the entire season. Williams was suspended indefinitely by Goodell. Others who testified included former defensive assistant Mike Cerullo, the initial whistleblower and considered a key NFL witness.

Transcripts portray the former coaching colleagues, all part of the Saints' 2010 Super Bowl championship, as bitterly disagreeing with one another and occasionally contradicting how the NFL depicted the bounty system.

Vitt, Williams and Cerullo appeared separately before Tagliabue and were questioned by lawyers for the NFL and lawyers representing the players originally suspended by Goodell: Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.

Tagliabue's ruling found that ``Saints' coaches and managers led a deliberate, unprecedented and effective effort to obstruct the NFL's investigation. ...''

The transcripts, which could be entered as evidence in Vilma's pending defamation case against Goodell, include numerous testy, and sometimes humorous, exchanges between witnesses and attorneys - and between Tagliabue and the attorneys.

Offering to take a lie detector test, Vitt challenged versions given by Williams and Cerullo. Vitt vowed to sue Cerullo and described Williams as ``narcissistic.'' He referred to both as disgruntled former employees who were fired, even though, publicly, the Saints said Williams' departure for St. Louis was by mutual agreement. Vitt depicted Cerullo as incompetent and said he missed work numerous times and offered bizarre, fabricated excuses for his absences.

Vitt was asked whether he oversaw Cerullo's attempts to destroy evidence related to bounties, which the NFL determined the Saints sanctioned from 2009 to 2011, with thousands of dollars offered for hits that injured opponents and knocked them out of games.

``No. The answer is no,'' Vitt said. ``Cerullo is an idiot.''

Williams referred to the case as ``somewhat of a witch hunt.'' He said he wants to coach in the NFL again, ``took responsibility so that nobody else had to,'' and that Vilma has ``been made a scapegoat.''

Williams stood by his earlier sworn statement that Vilma pledged a $10,000 bounty on quarterback Brett Favre in the Saints' game against the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC championship. But Williams also said that the performance pool he ran was aimed at team bonding, not bounties, and that he saw a difference between asking players to hit hard legally, which he said he did, and asking them to purposely injure an opponent, which he said no one in the organization condoned.

``The game is about a mental toughness on top of a physical toughness,'' Williams testified at one point. ``You know, it's not golf.''

Williams, however, acknowledged he suggested Favre should be knocked out of the game.

``We want to play tough, hard-nosed football and look to get ready to play against the next guy. ... Brett is a friend of mine, and so that's just part of this business,'' Williams said. ``You know, at no time, you know, are we looking to try to end anybody's career.''

Williams described player pledges to the pool as ``nominal'' and said they rarely kept the money they earned, either putting it back in the pool or offering it as tips to equipment personnel. In the case of the large amounts pledged during the playoffs, Williams described it as ``air'' or ``funny money'' or ``banter,'' adding that he never actually saw any cash collected or distributed and had no idea what would have happened to the money if Cerullo collected it.

Cerullo testified that league investigators misrepresented what he told them, and that, during the playoffs following the 2009 regular season, he kept track of large playoff pledges on note pads but didn't collect the money.

Cerullo said hits for cash started with Williams telling the staff that ``Sean kind of put him in charge of bringing back a swagger to the defense ... so he wanted to brainstorm with us as coaches what we thought we could do. ... At one point in one of those meetings, Joe Vitt suggested (his previous teams) had a pay-for-play, pay-for-incentive program that the guys kind of bought into and kind of had fun with, and, you know, that was his suggestion. At that point, Gregg also admitted that other places he was at, they had the same type of thing. And at that point, Gregg kind of ran with it.''

Cerullo described pregame meetings during the playoffs, when the Saints faced quarterback Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and then Favre.

He said Vitt told players Warner ``should have been retired'' and ``we're going to end the career tomorrow of Kurt Warner.'' Cerullo also quoted Vitt as saying of Favre: ``That old man should have retired when I was there. Is he retiring, isn't he retiring - that whole (thing) is over, you know, tomorrow. ... We'll end the career tomorrow. We'll force him to retire. ...''

Cerullo testified that, once word came that the NFL was investigating, Williams told him to delete computer files about bounty amounts and that Vitt checked on his progress.

Asked what motivated him to come forward as a whistleblower with an email to the league in November 2011, Cerullo replied: ``I was angry for being let go from the Saints.''

Later, he testified: ``I was angry at Joe Vitt, and I wanted to show that I was fired for lying and I witnessed Joe Vitt lying and he still had a job. So, that was my goal of reaching out to the NFL.''

The transcripts also portray Tagliabue's command of the proceedings, including his efforts to rein in the lawyers.

``I'm going to intervene much more significantly, going forward,'' Tagliabue interjected at one point, ``because I am extremely concerned that this is getting to be cumulative, confusing and useless, and I do not preside over proceedings that are cumulative, confusing and useless.''

There also were lighter moments, such as when Tagliabue announced: ``I thought I was going to get through this proceeding only by drinking coffee. I'm getting to the point where I need a Bloody Mary.''

---

Connect with Brett Martel on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/brettmartel

Connect with Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Quick Links

Recent numbers indicate just how hard it could be for Antonio Gandy-Golden to help as a rookie

Recent numbers indicate just how hard it could be for Antonio Gandy-Golden to help as a rookie

There were already some decent expectations placed on Antonio Gandy-Golden for 2020 — and then Kelvin Harmon went down. Now, the Day 3 selection is being labeled as someone who needs to really contribute to the Washington Football Team.

But is that too much to ask for a rookie who went on Saturday in the draft? Recent numbers indicate that answer may be yes.

From 2015 to 2019, 25 wide receivers were chosen in the fourth round, which is where Washington nabbed Gandy-Golden a few months ago. Here are some takeaways from looking back on how all of those guys performed in their first professional seasons:

  • Only one target topped 50 catches and 600 yards, and coincidentally enough, it was Jamison Crowder. Crowder caught 59 passes for 604 yards and two scores as a rookie for the Burgundy and Gold in 2015. The only other guy who came close to either of those marks was Antonio Callaway, who had 43 grabs for 586 yards and five touchdowns for Cleveland in 2018. Those are easily the two best performances by a fourth-round rookie wideout since 2015, so keep that in mind when discussing Gandy-Golden.
  • Out of that group of 25, 15 suited up for double-digit games for their teams during their first taste of the league. The average stat line for those 15 rookies was 17 receptions for 182 yards and one touchdown in about 14 contests. That's meager. 
  • Just nine out of the 25 recorded a touchdown catch as a rookie, and only four (Crowder, Callaway, DaeSean Hamilton and Malcom Mitchell) visited the end zone multiple times.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TALK PODCAST

So, judging solely off of that data, it would appear that Washington shouldn't be prepared to lean heavily Gandy-Golden. And once you combine that history with other factors, such as the huge transition he's about to make from Libery to the NFL and the very limited offseason he's had thus far, then the outlook for Gandy-Golden becomes even dimmer.

There is a super simple counter argument, however, at least when it comes to comparing him to his past fourth-round peers, and it has to do with his potential playing time.

While the 22-year-old has to fight through a pandemic, something none of the above rookies can relate to and something that could be detrimental to his early career, he also may be in line for a massive share of snaps right away. Most players who go off the board where Gandy-Golden did are usually worried about simply making the team; he, on the other hand, very well could be a starter across from Terry McLaurin in Week 1.

That alone means Gandy-Golden could end up having enough involvement in the offense to come up with a Crowder-like, impactful debut. In 2019, McLaurin far surpassed other third-round rookie receivers due largely to the amount of opportunity he got with Washington (his ridiculous talent was a bonus of course, too). Gandy-Golden is tracking on a similar path. 

A fairly general rule for any franchise is that it's not exactly prudent to need a Day 3 pass catcher to immediately act as one of your primary weapons. Stats from 2015 to 2019 seem to back up that general rule.

Every rule has an exception here or there, though. Maybe Gandy-Golden, with his outstanding physical traits and possibly featured role in 2020, will be that next exception and make all this math and comparing a totally moot issue. 

Stay connected to the team with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL NEWS:

Quick Links

Bradley Beal thinks Rui Hachimura will be a small forward long-term

Bradley Beal thinks Rui Hachimura will be a small forward long-term

Whether it actually matters is debatable, but what position Rui Hachimura best profiles for long-term has been a point of contention among fans and media members ever since he was drafted by the Wizards ninth overall last summer. He is what not long ago would be described as a 'tweener,' or somewhat of a cross between a small forward and a power forward.

Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal has put some thought into it and has now weighed in. He thinks Hachimura will be a small forward.

"Honestly, I think Rui is going to end up being a three. When his career is over with, he's going to end up playing the three," Beal explained during Sunday's Wizards-Nets broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

"I don't know what that's going to look like next year or what we're going to jump to, but you can see spurts of it. You can see he can handle the ball, he's comfortable with handling the ball. Obviously, we can improve that and make that better. He shoots the three comfortably."

That last point could probably be picked apart a bit and it does hold some importance in the argument. If Hachimura is indeed going to be a small forward, he will need to add some perimeter skills to his game.

Three-point shooting would be included in there and so far there certainly seems to be room for improvement. This season, he is shooting just 27 percent from three on 1.7 attempts per game. 

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

In the three games the Wizards have played in Orlando, Hachimura is 0-for-1 from long range. He didn't attempt any threes at all in their first two games of the restart.

The reason why it is an interesting debate is Hachimura doesn't fit the traditional norms for either the three or four position. And that could be a good thing, as former teammate C.J. Miles pointed out in November. When you don't match up perfectly with opponents in any specific position, sometimes that means you are a mismatch for anyone who is guarding you.

Beal himself went on to rave about Hachimura's versatility.

"He's super athletic, so he can use his size to post up. So, the versatility is there. It's just a matter of what we want to mold him into," Beal said. "I think the sky's the limit. He has the ability, he has the work ethic, so I'm definitely excited to see."

RELATED: NBA PLAYERS BRING UP KAWHI COMPARISONS DESPITE RUI'S ROUGH GAME

Hachimura not having a true position could be an advantage. What the Wizards will need to determine, however, is how to complement his skillset with other players as they continue to build their roster. 

Whether Hachimura is a three, a four or even a small-ball five, the best way to maximize his strengths will be to fill in the gaps around him. Putting a rim protector alongside him, for instance, would allow him to roam and switch on defense. Having teammates who space the floor will create openings in the midrange, where he is very effective scoring the ball.

Those involve more important questions than what position Hachimura will ultimately be defined by. But it's still a fun debate to have and now even Beal has been drawn into it.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: