On Oilers/Titans' incentive pool

March, 5, 2012
3/05/12
8:34
AM ET
The Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans “had a player-organized performance incentives pool to reward big plays” with money, reports Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Gregg Williams coached for 11 years with the franchise including a term as defensive coordinator from 1997-2000.

But the players who spoke to Wyatt said that Williams, now at the center of the NFL revelation that the Saints ran a bounty program while he was coordinator there, was not involved.

Current and former Oilers and Titans, including some who played for Williams, said the practice is common in NFL locker rooms. They said their coaches were aware of the incentive pools and didn’t discourage them, but they didn’t organize bonus programs or hand out money for deliberately injuring an opponent.
“That stuff has been going on since Buddy Ryan, and long before that,” said former Oilers linebacker Al Smith, who played for Ryan (Oilers defensive coordinator in 1993) and later for Williams. “Buddy used to put it simple: If you take the other team’s best player out, your chance of winning increases dramatically.

“Gregg felt the same way, but that’s the theme across the league. It was never ‘Go blow this guy’s knee out and you’ll get paid.’ It was just football. It was a defensive mentality thing.”

Wyatt talked to 12 players. Former Oilers/Titans safety Blaine Bishop strongly denied that Williams had any sort of program like the one the league found in New Orleans. (Disclosure: Bishop and I work for the same radio Nashville radio station.)

Former linebacker Keith Bulluck did a good job putting into perspective the whole idea of chasing a quarterback with a financial incentive to injure him.
“No coach that I ever played for ever asked me or any of my teammates to deliberately take someone out either on purpose or for any amount of money. It is football, and at the end of the day it is a strategic game, and as a defender I am trying to get to the ball as fast as possible with a bad attitude and hit the ball carrier as hard as I can within the structure of the game,” he said.

“But you don’t try and inflict injury on somebody. And as far as us going out there to take Peyton Manning out — it is hard enough to get to him, so to take him out in a way in which he wouldn’t be able to come back into the game would be pretty noticeable and pretty absurd. We had a hard enough time just hitting him.’’

It’s a fast game. Guys are paid big dollars to hit hard. What level of extra motivation would be added by pools that might award them a couple hundred or a couple thousand dollars for especially big hits?

I question the professionalism of a guy who needs that sort of boost to do his job well.

But maybe later I will be reaching out to the other seven members of the blog network to see if we want to set up something where we all toss in some bucks and the big entry of the week gets something a little extra.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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