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NFL Culture: Former Players Differ on Gregg Williams' Pre-Game Speech

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NFL Culture: Former Players Differ on Gregg Williams' Pre-Game Speech
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Former Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler, who played in the NFL at a high level for 12 years, tells Ty Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he has heard some variation of the speech that Gregg Williams gave prior to the New Orleans Saints' divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers since way back in his high school playing days. 

I have probably heard the exact same speech since I was in ninth grade, without the targeting of guys’ specific body parts. That was kind of crazy. But I’m not surprised. People are surprised by this, to me, they have always turned a blind eye to football.

However, the former All-Pro also says that Williams crossed a line when telling players to target specific injuries.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If you want to curse and say 'cut the head off and the body will die,' that doesn't bother me. As a matter of fact, it kind of gets me fired up. It'll get me fired up to a point. If you say, 'Steve Young has a broken left fibula. I want you to go over there and rip it out,' hey now. This is not a video game. Get back to football.

Butler's remarks stand in contrast to the likes of former Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver and current ESPN analyst Cris Carter, who called for a lifetime ban from coaching in the NFL for Williams the day after audio of the speech surfaced:

I believe that Gregg Williams, he shouldn’t be able to coach football any more, and the reason why is because we have given him our best athletes. We have given him the best athletes to coach in the NFL for the last 16 years and he has taught them the worst tactics that you can teach a football player. 

It's interesting to hear from guys both in and out of the league and how much opinion varies on this subject. And despite the above, there doesn't seem to be a clear break between guys who spent their careers in an offensive meeting room as opposed to a defensive meeting room.

Here's what former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Warren Sapp had to say to the Bay Area News Group after the Williams audio became public:

This is the most heinous, egregious thing in the history of this 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.

On the flip side, seeming to side with Butler was former New York Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce. Speaking on ESPN's SportsCenter (via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News), Pierce had this to say:

Nick Laham/Getty Images

I’ve heard that speech from seven of the defensive coordinators I’ve played with in my nine-year career. Think about it, if a guy knows he’s going to get hit hard, he’s not going to come across that middle.”

Throughout the week we always knew who was injured and what body part was injured. If he’s not in the game our chances of winning are higher. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about winning.

While I don't doubt Williams' rhetoric is commonplace in the NFL, it will be interesting to see if any of the fallout from Williams' punishment changes coaches' behavior toward their players. 

For the record, I seriously doubt it will. 

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