Hours before members of the New Orleans Saints' coaching staff and front office were scheduled to have their appeals heard by the NFL regarding the team's bounty scandal, an incriminating audio recording surfaced of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams seemingly exhorting his players to injure opponents during a fiery pre-game speech.
Yahoo's Michael Silver spoke with documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who recorded the speech at the team’s hotel the night before the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. In Pamphilon's recording, Williams can be heard instructing his players to injure several of the 49ers players, notably making explicit references to "taking out that outside ACL" of 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
Pamphilon informs Silver that Williams put a bounty on 49ers quarterback Alex Smith when he made the cash sign with his fingers and said, "We hit fuckin Smith right there, I got the first one. I got the first one. Go get it. Go lay that mother fucker out."
LISTEN: WARNING THIS RECORDING CONTAINS NSFW LANGUAGE:
Three weeks after the Saints' bounty program was revealed to the public in the beginning of March, the NFL came down hard on the organization, suspending head coach Sean Payton for a year and Williams indefinitely. Williams, who signed with the St. Louis Rams in the offseason to be their defensive coordinator, took full responsibility and decided not to appeal.
However, Payton, GM Mickey Loomis, assistant coach Joe Vitt and the Saints organization announced last week that they would appeal the punishments. Those appeals will be presented to Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday, but Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk writes that the release of Williams' speech makes it unlikely that the sanctions get reduced.
“We are not commenting on specific pieces of evidence that we have,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello informed ProFootballTalk via email when asked if the league was previously aware of the audio recording, “other than what we have released in our statements.”
ESPN's Adam Schefter pointed out on Twitter that the NFL contacted the Saints before the playoffs this year to tell them, again, to stop the bounties.