NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For the first time since the start of Tennessee Titans training camp in late July, Gregg Williams was made available to the media just prior to the start of Wednesday’s practice.
According to Williams, that choice of media access, or the lack thereof, has been his and his alone, despite multiple requests from various media outlets the past few weeks for collective and/or individual interviews.
“It’s not about me,” said Williams, who was suspended by the NFL last season for his involvement with the New Orleans Saints’ Bountygate case where players were allegedly encouraged and compensated for injuring opponents.
Within days of being reinstated by the NFL in February, Williams was hired as a senior assistant/defense for the team that gave him his professional coaching start in 1990 and with which he rose to the status of defensive guru as a coordinator a decade later.
” … I want you to understand that this is about these players,” Williams added. “It’s about them, and it shouldn’t be about me.”
Even so, his first public appearance since the end of Titans mini-camp in June is noteworthy. After all, he was hired by third-year Titans coach Mike Munchak to assist defensive coordinator and long-time friend and associate Jerry Gray — his former defensive coordinator while head coach with the Buffalo Bills in the early 2000s — in fixing a defense that gave up the most points in the NFL last season while setting a franchise record for defensive scoring futility.
In as much, Williams, along with an unprecedented influx of staff changes and free agents on both sides of the ball, was brought in by Munchak and general manager Ruston Webster to change the culture and attitude of a team that suffered through a disappointing 6-10 record in 2012. That put Munchak, a Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman and long-time assistant with the franchise, on the hot seat, especially following his promising debut as a head coach with a 9-7 record in ’11.
“It has been fun to see some of the guys that have come in here and matched some personalities with coaches,” Williams said. “And it’s been fun to see that the players want to be aggressive. I have never ever coached a player that doesn’t want to be as aggressive as possible.
“I have always said, ‘Don’t use me as an excuse for being non-aggressive, because I am an aggressive coach.’ I want aggressive players. And all the coaches here do that. So, that’s been fun to watch them do that.”
Williams insisted Wednesday that his often-spirited method and message have not been muffled nor stifled by Munchak or the Titans, especially against the backdrop of his suspension by the league last season.
“All great players want to be taught, motivated and inspired,” he said. “All of (the players), they want to be as good as you can be. And when you as a coach can provide those things for them, they don’t care how the message comes across. The message has to come from Mike Munchak, and we all pass that down.”
Williams also insisted that his lack of access to the media, despite his willingness in that regard over the years, has been his choice and not that of the team. Instead, Williams claimed he has wanted to focus his energies and messages to be directed toward a defense that hasn’t made a lot of big plays in losing two preseason games thus far.
“We have to use these games as a great evaluation tool to pick the right 53 (players for the final roster),” Williams said. “And once we get that done, then the packages we’ll develop on to get guys in the right positions and special situations.
” … Our message is really the same. We just have to continue to reduce the clutter in all the coaches’ and reducing all the clutter in the players’ mind and play aggressive football. That’s been our message, to play the most aggressive football as we can.”
Before becoming defensive coordinator and being known for his aggressive stylings for the Titans from 1997-2000, Williams worked his way up the NFL coaching ladder from quality control coach in 1990 to linebackers coach from 1994-96.
Williams was head coach for the Bills from 2001-03, followed by being assistant head coach/defensive coordinator for Washington from 2004-07. After spending 2008 as defensive coordinator at Jacksonville, he took a similar gig with New Orleans from 2009-11, helping the Saints win the Super Bowl in 2009.
“I have been doing this for a long time,” Williams said. “I have been coaching for years and years and years. This is a good group of guys, a good group of coaches. So, everything has been great here.
“I enjoy every single day. I don’t take any day for granted. Every single day, I am happiest on the field. … I am going to say that I am a competition addict. I love the fact – to get a chance to compete.”
And of helping the Titans change their culture to one of aggressiveness and accountability, Williams insists that starts at the top and permeates through all parts of the organization.
“It’s a combination,” he said. “It’s a combination of some of the new guys that came in, combinations of preaching from the top down of how Mike Munchak wants things to go, coming through his coordinators, coming through all the rest of us a coaching staff. It’s not just one particular person. It’s not just one particular player.
“If you can get as many guys possible believing the same thing, it is kind of easier to flip that culture. And winning helps everything.”
The Titans play their third preseason game Saturday night against visiting Atlanta before closing the preseason next Thursday at Minnesota. They open the season at Pittsburgh on Sept. 8.