Jets’ Gregg Williams, Once Suspended for ‘Bountygate’ Scandal, Says He Never Told Players to Hurt Opponents

Gregg Williams
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended for the 2012 season for his reported role in “Bountygate,” said he never tells players to intentionally injure opponents.

Williams was accused this week by Cleveland’s Odell Beckham of telling his players to “take a shot” at the star receiver in a 2017 preseason game he hurt his ankle in.

“We don’t do that,” Williams said Friday. “Never done that anywhere I’ve been.”

“Bountygate” was a 2011 scandal involving the New Orleans Saints where they were accused of paying out bonuses for injuring opponents.  “Bountygate” came up again this week because Beckham claimed Williams told defenders to take him “out of the game” in a 2017 preseason contest. Beckham, then with New York Giants, suffered a serious ankle injury on a low hit by Cleveland CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun.

Williams was the Browns’ defensive coordinator at that time.

“I had players on this team telling me that’s what [Williams] was telling them to do: take me out of the game, and it’s preseason,” Beckham said on Thursday. “So you just know who he is. That’s the man who’s calling the plays.

“I had people who were here when he was here telling [them], ‘If you get a chance, take a shot at him. If you can hurt him, I guarantee he’s going to leave the game hurt,’ and stuff like that. It’s something that I’ll never forget. It’s something that changed my life forever.”

The 2017 hit on Beckham was 100 percent legal. Players often tackle low now to avoid getting fined for helmet-to-helmet contact, which results in substantial fines.

Williams shot down Beckham’s charge against him.

“We play hard, we play hard, fast and physical, we play tougher for longer, we do that” Williams said. “It’s not professional flag football. This is what we do. We play very, very hard. We do everything not to hurt the team. Attack is what we do, we don’t react. We attack, play hard.”

When asked how he doesn’t teach players to target opponents after the “Bountygate” scandal, the coach said about the suspension: “Was that right or wrong?”

So perhaps Williams feels the “Bountygate” ruling against him was a miscarriage of justice.

Former NFL linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who played for Williams in New Orleans during “Bountygate,” said the coach doesn’t teach players to hurt opponents.

“There is no truth to (Beckham’s comments),” Vilma said on ESPN. “I was with Gregg Williams for three years, one of the best defensive coordinators I had. And he teaches physicality. He teaches aggression.

“And by the way, the hit on Odell Beckham that got him injured was a legal hit. We talk about going low because if a player can’t run, a player can’t score. But when you take those shots that are considered cheap shots by offensive players sometimes, it’s really about going low and taking the legs out.”

Williams claims he doesn’t teach anything outside the NFL rules because he doesn’t want players to commit penalties, which will hurt the team.

“The biggest thing in the world is don’t hurt the team,” Williams said. “Play aggressive. You have seen us play. Each year [new rules] comes out from The (NFL) Competition Committee – we don’t get violations. We haven’t had any of those violations. We don’t do that.”

The Jets and Browns will square off on Monday Night Football this week.

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