January 1, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on the sidelines during heir game with Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE
By Nate Davis, USA TODAY
Kudos to 49ers GM Trent Baalke for reaching out to his friend, disgraced former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and making a magnanimous gesture by essentially forgiving Williams after he encouraged his defenders to target specific injuries and body parts of San Francisco players when the teams met in last season's divisional playoff round.
But we've got to pour some cold water on this story by asking this question: Why are Williams and Baalke speaking at all?
Even as reports surfaced Wednesday that Williams and the NFL have begun the process to map out the current Rams assistant's road to reinstatement, it seems pretty obvious that Williams has already violated the terms of his indefinite suspension for running New Orleans' pay-for-pain bounty program from 2009-011.
Williams was suspended effective immediately on March 21, well before audio of him spurring his players to go after 49ers Kyle Williams, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore and Alex Smith surfaced. In an e-mail to USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote:
While suspended, coaches or club executives are prohibited from direct or indirect communication of any sort with employees of the 32 NFL Clubs, including through third parties; and such prohibited communications shall include, but are not limited to, phone or electronic contact with employees of any of the 32 NFL Clubs. Except for reasonable contact with the affected club's principal owner and/or human resources manager for personal reasons, this prohibition applies to all club personnel.
And the loopholes to that policy seemed pretty narrow with the NFL adding suspended parties "must report any personal and/or emergency contact with any employee of the 32 NFL clubs within 24 hours to NFL security."
It's possible Williams and/or Baalke reported their conversation, though it seems to clearly violate league policy, no matter how well-intentioned such communication might be.
"I don't feel any differently about him today than I did 20 days ago," Baalke said Wednesday. "I've worked with Gregg. Gregg's a friend and he's been a friend. It was only fitting that you reach out and speak with him, and I felt very good about the conversation."
We're still awaiting word from NFL headquarters to see how the league feels about it, but this only seems to illustrate how difficult it could be to police the interactions of Williams, Saints coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis, etc., no matter the nature of such communication.