In his first appearance since his indefinite suspension, Gregg Williams said he is a changed man.
He will get the chance to prove that as the senior assistant/defense with the Tennessee Titans, the organization where Williams began his NFL coaching career. His suspension for his role in the Bounty Gate scandal with the New Orleans Saints was lifted on Thursday by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
He opened his return press conference with an apology and accepting full responsibility for his actions with the Saints before fielding many questions about himself and joining the Titans.
“You learn an awful lot about yourself in the most difficult sorts of circumstances, some of the most stressful circumstances. You learn a lot about your family and friends, too,” Williams said Thursday. “One of the things that I’ve always chosen to do is take any type of a situation and turn it into an opportunity to improve. One of the things that I really did this year was focus on as many self-improvement things as I could. It was a great study year. It was a great year to lose a lot of weight and get back healthy.
“It was a great year to travel. I’ve spoken all over the country. The media was unaware of all the different places I’ve been, really halfway around the world, some of the places I’ve been. I visited Thailand, worked with some impoverished villages, a lot of orphanages over there. ... I spoke to as many Pop Warner to junior high to high school to college football programs across the country, and I did that in a way that was trying not to focus any attention on me but on the game and would like to feel like, from a professional growth way, it was a good year that way. Anytime you’re as passionate and love something as much as I do this, you appreciate it even more when you come back.”
The Titans are counting on Williams to help a defense that ranked 27th overall last season and gave up a franchise-record 471 points. And while Coach Mike Munchak said Jerry Gray will still call plays as the defensive coordinator,
Williams, who coached with the organization from 1990-2000, will have significant input intro trying to make the Titans defense respectable again.
While Williams will have to change some of his tactics, and pledges to do so, he says he won't change his aggressive style of coaching.
“Those are what people get when I get a chance to help,” Williams said. “It’s been my thought process as a player, as a coach, in all the years I’ve been doing this, that I’d rather be aggressive than passive. Sometimes the fastest approach to getting the job done is being more aggressive. And that can be style of defense, scheme of defense, attitude of defense.
“Great defenses are two-thirds of your team because they’re a huge part of your special teams, too. It’s got to carry over into that aspect of the team. I feel like that will always be a huge tenet of the National Football League.”
Munchak said he decided that Williams could be an option for the Titans, so he called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the possibility of Williams being reinstated to the league. Munchak said Goodell told him he could contact Williams to discuss the possibility of him joining the Titans' staff.
“This was my first step looking into it. That is when the idea kind of grew a little bit. OK, it is worth going forward? He told me it was OK to call Gregg and start talking to him if I wanted to. So I did,” Munchak said. “When I was talking to other coaches, I talked to Gregg. He and I hadn’t talked in about a year, probably longer than that, probably since I saw him at the Combine.
“I talked to him and kind of got his perspective on what had been going on and how he was doing and how he was holding up. I know it had been a long year and that kind of thing. Again his talk to me was very similar the commissioner as far as hearing his point of view on what happened and all the details with that.”
Munchak said he came away feeling good about the situation after speaking with Williams.
“I felt good about the talks with him, so I said the next step was to sit and talk with Gregg face-to-face and to get Ruston (Webster) involved in this, so I talked to him about the possibility and see if this made any sense,” Munchak said. “I thought let’s get together, so Gregg came to Nashville and we met the three of us for pretty much a full day and talked about a lot of topics. We covered a lot of things, from obviously football to everything that went on in New Orleans when he was there as a defensive coordinator. I think what came out of it was, I thought he was being very honest at what happened and I think he was being very humble by what he went through. I think he took responsibility for what he did wrong and the mistakes he made. I knew that he wanted to move forward.
“He was hoping for a second chance to move forward. We had a conversation and we felt that Ruston and I did that we would discuss this and kind of see where this was going to go. I thought it was a good meeting for us to have and definitely encouraged us that this idea makes sense.”
As for Williams, he is grateful for the second chance and to work again with Gray, who has been with him at three different stops.
“We’ve worked side-by-side; we’ve worked in every capacity. He understands that I value his opinion, and guess what, through years of trust; he kind of values my opinion,” Williams said. “It took a while. If you can get a player to listen to you when you’re a coach, it’s pretty much easy to listen to you because you’re on the same common ground, so the fact that I’m having a chance to work with these guys, who I know, when I talked about ‘Who’s it with?’ that’s very important if you’re going to try to do something special. I’m excited about working with Jerry and with Munch, but really working with Jerry on the defensive side of the ball.”