The cash bonuses were allegedly paid out for big plays, but also for big hits on opponents. However, the players echoed former Titans defensive tackle Josh Evans, who said the team never offered incentives for injuring other players.
The Tennessean interviewed 12 current and former Oilers/Titans players and coaches, and none accused Williams of promoting cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents.
"We never had any bounties when I played, I know that," said retired safety Blaine Bishop, who played for the Oilers/Titans from 1993-2001. "Gregg never had any bounties. ... It didn't happen with the Titans when I was there, so it didnât happen when Gregg was there. He just wanted you to play hard."
The newspaper on Monday did quote former Oilers and Titans who said coaches were aware of the pools to reward big plays and didnât discourage them.
"That stuff has been going on since Buddy Ryan, and long before that," said former Oilers linebacker Al Smith, who played for Ryan (the Oilers' defensive coordinator in 1993) and later for Williams. "Buddy used to put it simple: If you take the other teamâs best player out, your chance of winning increases dramatically.
"Gregg felt the same way, but thatâs the theme across the league. It was never 'Go blow this guyâs knee out and youâll get paid.' It was just football. It was a defensive mentality thing."
Williams was defensive coordinator from 1997 to 2000 under coach Jeff Fisher.
The NFL has summoned Williams to its New York headquarters for a Monday meeting to discuss pay-for-performance violations he committed while defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints and possibly while he coached other teams. The Buffalo News and the Washington Post reported over the weekend that Williams set similar big-play incentives during his time as Redskins defensive coordinator and Bills head coach, respectively.
Safety Lance Schulters, who joined the Titans after Williams had been replaced by current Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, told The Tennessean that Schwartz handed out baseball bats or boxing gloves for big hits, but that players came up with the idea to put money on such plays.
"Guys would throw out there, 'Hey, knock this guy out and it's worth $1,000,'" Schulters said. "Let's say when we played the Steelers, and Hines Ward was always trying to knock guys out. So if you knocked (him) out, there might be something in the pot, $100 or whatever, for a big hit on Hines -- a legal, big hit."