The sports world is already up in arms after the release of an audio clip that's only compounded the consequences of "Bountygate" for the New Orleans Saints.
Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports was the first to break the story of Gregg Williams' speech instructing the Saints' defense to target specific parts of different players' bodies with the intent to maim during an NFC divisional-playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers in January.
The audio—recorded by sports-documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon—captures Williams, who was recently suspended indefinitely by the NFL for his orchestration of the Saints' bounty scandal, allegedly offering his players financial incentive to go after 49ers running back Frank Gore and quarterback Alex Smith, among others.
(WARNING: The audio in the clip below contains explicit and profane language.)
Coincidentally (or not), NFL commissioner Roger Goodell heard appeals on Thursday from Saints head coach Sean Payton, assistant coach Joe Vitt and GM Mickey Loomis—all of whom were punished as part of the "Bountygate" fallout. Payton's suspension spans the entire 2012 season, Vitt's six games and Loomis' eight (via Pro Football Weekly).
Williams opted not to appeal his punishment.
UPDATE: Saturday, April 7 at 2:41 p.m. ET
With most notable NFL players coming forward within the last few days speaking out against Gregg Williams' actions and against the audio tape that was revealed, retired NFL quarterback Kurt Warner has made his feelings known and they are not what one would expect.
Warner, who was specifically mentioned in the NFL investigation as one of the players the New Orleans Saints wanted to target, took to Twitter Saturday morning.
Warner: "All this talk about Gregg Williams receiving a "LIFETIME" ban from NFL... I disagree, we all deserve a 2nd chance! What r ur thoughts? #fb"
NBC's Pro Football Talk mentioned that one of Warner's followers had said that Williams and the Saints had indeed already received a second chance when the Saints were first warned by the NFL to stop with the bounty system.
Warner's last game was coincidentally against the Saints in an NFC Divisional playoff game in 2010 where he was hit by Saints defensive end Bobby McCray after an interception. Warner left the game with concussion-like symptoms, but returned later in the game.
Warner would retire from the NFL after the 2010 season.
UPDATE: Friday, April 6 at 2:16 p.m. ET
Reactions to Gregg Williams' fiery pregame speech have been widespread and abundant over the last two days.
49ers safety Donte Whitner—who opposed the Saints shortly after Williams' speech—was quick to jump into the fracas on Thursday. He told SiruisXM NFL Radio:
If those things are true, I think it's really disgusting and something should be done about it to a higher extreme than what is [already set]. You're out there intending to hurt guys. This is their careers and how they take care of their families.
Whitner incidentally delivered a crushing blow to Saints running back Pierre Thomas that knocked him out of the game, yet his hit was clean and his intentions were pure. He told SiriusXM, "I didn't go out intentionally to hurt him."
Former NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who now works as an NFL TV commentator, has long been considered one of the most physically intimidating players in the game, and even he was completely shocked and horrified by Williams' words. He told the Bay Area News Group:
This is the most heinous, egregious thing in the history of the game. … Not for one second would I sit in a room and listen to someone say, "We're going to take out someone's ACL," without standing up and saying, "What the hell are you talking about?" The way you play defense isn't about malice. It's about putting you in fourth-and-more than you can handle.
Among one of the few to refrain from coming down on Williams was 49ers tight end Delanie Walker, who told Inman, "It's funny to me, to talk like that about players. It's nothing we can't let the NFL handle. The coach is trying to pump players up."
Former offensive lineman and current NFL TV analyst Randy Cross also shrugged off the scandal, posting this on Twitter:
So the NFL Media Nanny State gets all up in arms about a FB coach espousing violent behavior. You people are clueless about the game.— Randy Cross (@randycrossFB) April 5, 2012
Former San Francisco head coach Steve Mariucci told Inman that he nearly drove off the road when he heard Williams' speech on the radio, while 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick told him, "You never want to hear anybody talk about your teammates like that, especially people you're very close to."
Former Dallas Cowboys star and Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin spoke to the NFL Network about his reaction to the audio. He described it as "sickening" and suggested that Williams ought to be banned from the NFL for life.
Irvin also touched on the potential legal ramifications of allowing Williams to return to the league, saying that doing so might open up the NFL to lawsuits from current and former players concerned about safety.
Kenny Williams, GM of the Chicago White Sox and the father of 49ers wide receiver (and playoff goat) Kyle Williams, released an official statement through the Chicago Tribune in which he offered these harsh words to the Saints' former defensive coordinator:
To answer the questions directed specifically to me, as a father first and foremost, I am glad to report Kyle's concussion tests have been extremely positive and we are grateful he is ready and anxious to get back to competition.
Personally, suspension or not, it's probably best I'm never in a room with Gregg Williams and wonder if such an order crosses the line of the aggressive, competitive spirit we all know and love about the sport; and leans closer to a criminal act and therefore a litigious matter.