Gregg Williams: 'I will coach again'
EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. -- Former NFL defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, suspended indefinitely for his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal, said Friday that he hasn't communicated with commissioner Roger Goodell in months but that he does not plan on being in coaching exile forever.
"I will coach again," Williams said before declining to answer any further questions.
Williams was in his hometown of Excelsior Springs on Friday for his annual Gregg Williams Foundation Tiger Classic golf tournament. It was his first known public appearance since the bounty scandal broke in March, and it was clear, in two brief conversations filled with "no comments," that Williams desperately wants to get back into the league and is doing everything in his power to lie low.
The normally boisterous coach, who for decades has motivated his players to be fierce and brash, quietly drifted around the Excelsior Springs Golf Course on Friday, hugging friends and complete strangers. He said the day was "all about the kids." He didn't say much else.
"He's just not seeking attention," said a friend of Williams who didn't want to use his name.
"He does not feel sorry for himself. He feels bad that everybody has had to suffer through this thing."
When NFL training camps start later this month, it will be the first time in 22 years that Williams won't be there. He turns 54 on Sunday, and, according to the friend, has used his suspension as a time to reconnect with his family and "re-invent and re-find himself."
Williams is believed to be living in St. Louis, where he was hired by Jeff Fisher last winter to help turn around the St. Louis Rams defense. Two Rams assistants -- Joe Bowden and Clyde Simmons -- came in for Williams' tournament Friday. Simmons said he has no doubt Williams will coach again in the NFL, possibly next year.
"Absolutely," Simmons said. "He's too good of a coach and a person."
Simmons suggested that Williams bore the brunt of the blame in the Saints bounty scandal. The NFL, after an extensive investigation, gave the harshest penalty to Williams after it found the coach administered a pay-for-performance program, which gave cash incentives to defensive players who knocked opponents out of the game. Within hours of the NFL's findings, Williams issued a statement apologizing for his role, calling it a "terrible mistake."
Despite four months of bounty scandal reports, and a damning audio clip with Williams imploring his players to target opponents' body parts, the coach still has many loyal supporters. More than 320 people showed up Friday to support him, while others sat on a waiting list.
There were no prominent advertisements for his event this year. It's not that the town is ashamed of the native son who has been the face of the bounty scandal; they just wanted to keep the media circus away.
Williams' picture is still displayed prominently at the Applebee's in town, below a sign that says, "Hometown Heroes."
A couple of weeks after word of the scandal hit, Trey Harkins, president of the Gregg Williams Foundation, called the coach just to make sure the golf tournament was still on.
"Hell yes we're doing it," Williams told him.
And so he showed up this week, tanned and fit, feeling better, he said, than he has in years. Williams has lost nearly 50 pounds since last winter, the result of a goal he set to drop the weight before his son Blake's wedding this summer.
But what will he do now with no goals to chase?
"Do I think training camp is going to be hard for him when it starts?" Harkins said. "Yeah. Maybe that's when it sets in. Knowing what he's done all his life ... But it might not. I'm telling you, he's relaxed and he's enjoying his life. He's getting to do a lot of things with his kids."
Harkins said the foundation sent a golf tournament invitation recently to Goodell because, well, it couldn't hurt. Goodell never replied.
"He may have never gotten the letter," Harkins said.