Gregg Williams' Motivational Talk

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ESPN compiles the most damning quotes from the leaked audio:

Williams uses one of his favorite slogans in the speech: "Kill the head and the body will die." On Gore: "We've got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore's head. We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways." 

On running back Kendall Hunter: "Little 32, we're going to knock the f--- out of him." 

On Smith: "Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head." 

On Kyle Williams: "We need to find out in the first two series of the game, that little wide receiver, No. 10, about his concussion. We need to f------ put a lick on him right now. He needs to decide. He needs to f------ decide." 

On Crabtree: "We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a fake-ass prima donna, or he wants to be a tough guy. We need to find out. He becomes human when we f------ take out that outside ACL." 

On Davis: "We need to decide how many times we can bull rush and and we can f------ put Vernon Davis' ankles over the pile."

Deadspin notes the tape of the former Saints defensive coordinator is "shocking for how unshocking it is: this is exactly what we expected to hear." 

I would not go so far. I totally expect a defensive coordinator to tell his men to "knock the fuck" out of opposing players. "Kill the head and the body will die" is not simply a Williams favorite, but something that I'd expect to hear in Pop Warner; the point being take out their best player and the team withers.

What I do not expect to hear is players being instruct to intentionally inflict potential career-enders. This is not mere hair-splitting, or the search for some allegedly blurry line. There's nothing about hard-hitting or great tackling that necessitates intentionally targeting someone ACL or ankles. Paying someone a bonus for a hard hit and paying them for a "cart off" are different things. Achieving the latter, doesn't even necessitate the former.

The general line I've heard from players, which I have heard, has been that this is no big deal and it's being overblown. I don't really have any desire to tell players how they should spend their Sunday afternoon. But I do have a desire to square my own personal morality, and my own ethics. 

Claiming that what Gregg Williams said "gets said all the time" doesn't make it easier for me to watch football, it makes it harder. It means that, on any given day, there are coaches around the league directly plotting the potential end of the careers of young men, many of whom have virtually no other skills. It's been sobering to see the reaction of players as well as analysts. 

Perhaps this is how the NFL wishes to conduct it's business. As a vendor, they have their rights. As a customer, I have mine. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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