- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans senior defensive assistant Gregg Williams is working closely with Tennessee's defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. But come game day, Williams doesn't want the defense to be about either coach. He wants it to be about the players.
"We attack," he said. "We have to give the players the say. ... The players have checks and audibles. We tease them all the time about, 'You have a toolbox, pull the right tool out that you need to use when there is a mismatch, when there is a time disadvantage or something that you need to gain an advantage, pull out the right tool.'
"Let the players have the say. There are a lot of coaches in the National Football League that are afraid to give players say. I'm proud to give players say."
After serving a one-year suspension for what commissioner Roger Goodell judged as his involvement in a pay-for-injury system during his time as defensive coordinator in New Orleans, Williams joined the Titans in February.
He worked with Gray previously with the Houston Oilers and Titans, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. In those settings it was Williams who was the coordinator or head coach and Gray the assistant.
Their roles now are less clear. Williams has often called the defensive plays with a walkie-talkie at OTA practices, which conclude this week before minicamp next week. But Williams said in a Monday conversation with the local media that Gray too has taken turns, that they are like brothers, and that they've spent a lot of time on dividing the labor.
One benefit to his presence, he said, is that Gray has been able to spend more time with the secondary. Gray played cornerback for the Los Angeles Rams, Oilers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and came up the coaching ranks as a defensive backs coach, the best Williams has worked with in the position, he said.
The Titans gave up a franchise-worst 471 points last season.
Heading into his third season, coach Mike Munchak hired Williams and made a change at linebacker coach.
In free agency, the team added safeties Bernard Pollard and George Wilson, defensive tackles Sammie Hill and Antonio Johnson, linebacker Moise Fokou and defensive end Ropati Pitoitua in free agency. They drafted cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, linebacker Zaviar Gooden and defensive end Lavar Edwards in the middle rounds.
Williams' hope is that some holdovers and new additions will seize ownership of this team like he saw players do when he was coordinating the Titans defense that played in the Super Bowl following the 1999 season.
"It was a very, very tough defense, you couldn't outrun them and you couldn't outhit them," he said. "The thing that was most precious about that group of guys was their empowerment. They believed with all their heart it was their defense. They believed it was theirs.
"People don't realize how big a voice those guys had in our check system and our call structures and that kind of stuff. And I see Jerry doing the same thing here, which is good."
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