Somehow, the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal is getting worse.
Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon is working on a documentary about former Saint Steve Gleason, who has ALS. Part of the filmmaking process apparently included plenty of access to the Saints, including a speech from Williams on the night before the January 2012 playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. In that speech, Williams encouraged injury on multiple 49ers players, including QB Alex Smith. He didn't just encourage injury -- he explained precisely what the Saints defense should do to injure those 49ers players -- "Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head ... continue to touch and affect the head," Williams said of Smith -- and insinuated a cash payment for doing so.
Judging by the context in the story initially reported by Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports, the NFL may not have known about this audio before suspending head coach Sean Payton for a year, and Williams indefinitely.
We've read the NFL's investigation but this is the smoking gun, so to speak. Saints defensive players in that room can not deny that Williams ever encouraged injury on opposing players. It's all right there.
Some players, like Rock Cartwright, a former Redskin with Williams who recently signed with the 49ers, don't think this is such a big deal. "[T]hat type of stuff is said all the time," Cartwright tweeted. "I've been playing for 10 [years] in this game. Last I checked, football is a violent sport."
Therein lies the problem -- that players think this is normal. That players think things like this are normal and acceptable is part of the reason NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued such a harsh punishment. He wanted to send a message so strong that the culture of the NFL would change.
What makes this even more unbelievable is that the NFL's investigation of the Saints included a passage that indicated the league told the Saints before that playoff game that the investigation was back on. Because of that, I wonder if this is the evidence that will ultimately keep Williams out of the NFL forever.
Several members of the Saints, including Payton, GM Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt, are meeting with Goodell on Thursday to appeal their punishments for their role (or lack thereof) in the Saints bounty scandal.
How do you think the appeal will go now that Goodell has heard this audio of Williams?