It was obvious in the NFC Championship game that part of the Saints defensive game plan was to beat the stubble off of Brett Favre(notes). Perhaps not with any hits that would be deemed illegal, necessarily, but if they had a chance to hit him, they wanted to hit him. After the fact, that was obvious.
Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, by announcing similar intentions for Peyton Manning(notes) before the fact, seems to be walking a dangerous line. Here's Williams, from an interview on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, going all Buddy Ryan on Peyton Manning (via ESPN's AFC South Blog).
“This guy’s got a great clock in his head. The big thing is that he throws the ball so early that we’re going to have to do a good job of finding ways to get to him and when we do get to him we’re going to have to make sure he gets a couple ‘remember me’ shots when we get there ...”
Then, when asked about his players worrying about incurring 15-yard penalties for hitting Manning, he added this:
“Here’s the deal. When you put too much of that type of worry on a warrior’s mind, he doesn’t play all out. If it happens, it happens. And the only thing you’d like for me to say is that if it happens you hope he doesn’t get back up and play again.”
I guess there are two ways to look at this. The first is that Williams is just being honest about something that every defensive coach probably says, which is, "Let's hit the quarterback, hit him often, hit him hard, and if he happens to get hurt, well hey, this is football, ladies." Anyone who's ever played at any level knows this is the reality. You'll never hear a defensive coach say, "The opposing quarterback is a precious flower, and his health is our biggest concern in this game."
It becomes a whole different thing, though, when you start talking about wanting to injure a player before the game. Not that Williams did exactly that here, but he got pretty close. Essentially, he said that he wouldn't mind a couple of personal foul penalties, and that if he does get one, he at least hopes that it injures Manning.
We're all willing to live with the fact that injuries are a part of the game, but an expressed desire to injure someone? That's something else entirely. That makes me feel dirty.
I can't imagine the commissioner liked that. That's just one or two steps away from a Bounty Bowl situation.