Normally, preseason games have all the gravitas of a kid's birthday party — especially a game in which starting quarterbacks Drew Brees and Sam Bradford are not expected to play.
But as The Times-Picayune's Larry Holder points out, Friday's St. Louis Rams-New Orleans Saints game has a fascinating element to it: It will be the first time that Gregg Williams, the alleged mastermind of the Saints' bounty scandal, faces his old team.
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Williams has resurfaced as the Rams' new defensive coordinator, and the Saints know firsthand just how his mind works, as Holder wrote.
• Saints linebacker coach Joe Vitt, who coached with Williams, had quite the excoriation on Williams in testifying for the bounty scandal: "And the first time we brought Gregg Williams, we said, 'Jesus Christ, this guy is nuts,'" Vitt said. "You know, I mean, talking about himself, talking about his accomplishments, talking about his money, talking about how he should — you know, the guy had a pretty bad track record in being a pretty good defensive coordinator."
So they don't love each other and likely won't be exchanging golf tips before the game ...
• Vitt added: "It didn't end pretty. It didn't end nice. I'm sure that Gregg has a lot of animosity towards me now."
As Holder noted, those comments were made prior to the majority of the bounty news being made public.
• Williams has a history of settling old grudges in preseason games. In 2011, which was Jim Harbaugh's first year as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, there may have been a gentleman's agreement prior to their meeting the Saints in the preseason. The story goes that Payton felt Harbaugh should have called him about how the teams were going to handle the game, as far as starters and blitzing and such were concerned. Harbaugh did not call, and Williams sent the house, almost killing then-49ers QB Alex Smith.
"He [Williams] zero-blitzed four times out of [the first] nine [plays]," Jimmy Graham said with a smirk, per the Times-Picayune. "That's who he is, and he brings it."
• Brees once called Williams and former defensive assistant Mike Cerullo "two guys who were fired from here because they didn't fit the mold" and questioned their mental states in late 2012. You think Williams forgot those comments? Brees is expected to sit out with an oblique injury, but he might not even be safe on the sideline Friday if Williams has his druthers.
So yeah, if you're Saints quarterback Ryan Griffin, who is expected to see a lot of snaps in the game, better pack an extra set of rib protectors.
Another interesting angle to consider: Rob Ryan, who reshaped the Saints' defense a year ago, actually was named the Rams' defensive coordinator for a hot minute (like, seriously, shorter than Marshawn Lynch's "holdout" even) before reneging and coming to New Orleans.
Bad blood in the preseason!
I'll be in the press box for this one, although it's worth noting that another story — Michael Sam's pro debut — was the original draw. It would be something if that story was overshadowed by a mind-melting blitz sortie by Williams in a game that won't count in the standings. To Williams, though, this one might mean quite a bit.
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