NEW ORLEANS – A recording of then-New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams urging players to deliver punishing hits on specific San Francisco players was released without approval from retired special teams standout Steve Gleason, who had helped a documentary filmmaker gain behind-the-scenes access to the Saints.
“I feel deflated and disappointed. I feel frustrated and distracted,” Gleason said in a statement on his website.
Gleason, who played at Washington State and Gonzaga Prep, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and has allowed filmmaker Sean Pamphilon to capture his struggle with the incurable disease. He played for the Saints from 2000 to 2007 and maintains a strong relationship with the club, which has backed his efforts to improve the lives of those living with the debilitating symptoms of ALS.
Gleason’s connections to the team and to Pamphilon allowed the documentarian to be in the room with the Saints’ defense ahead of New Orleans’ 36-32 playoff loss to San Francisco in January.
“The Saints have been incredibly open and supportive of me and my family during my disease progression,” Gleason wrote. “From my perspective, the Saints have helped begin to shift the paradigm of how an NFL team should treat its players after retirement.
“I included Sean Pamphilon in some of these activities, because I felt my relationship with the Saints was an integral part of my overall journey. The Saints trusted me and gave us unlimited access in filming, and I, in turn, trusted Sean Pamphilon.”
Gleason said there was an agreement that he and his family would own the rights to any recordings made of his interaction with the Saints and that “nothing can be released without my explicit approval.”
“I did not authorize the public release of any recordings,” Gleason continued.
Williams is suspended indefinitely for his admitted role overseeing a bounty system that rewarded Saints defenders with cash for painful hits during his tenure with the team from 2009 to 2011. The assistant coach left New Orleans after the playoff loss and was hired as defensive coordinator by the St. Louis Rams.
The recording, which Pamphilon posted on one of his promotional websites, purports to capture Williams telling players to “put a lick” on 49ers receiver Kyle Williams to see if he had lingering effects from a concussion.
Williams also tells his players to “beat (running back) Frank Gore’s head,” and “lay out” quarterback Alex Smith. He also reminds his players that receiver Michael Crabtree “becomes human when we … take out that outside ACL,” a reference to the anterior cruciate ligament in the receiver’s knee.
Pamphilon did not respond to messages left by the Associated Press.