NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gregg Williams may be a step closer to returning to the NFL after being suspended indefinitely for his role in the Saints’ bounty program.
Titans coach Mike Munchak has talked with Williams and is interested in adding him to his Tennessee staff, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke Sunday to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the Titans do not discuss personnel moves until they are finalized.
Before the Titans could hire Williams, he must be reinstated by the league. Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him indefinitely for his role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program, and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Sunday the league has not yet addressed Williams’ potential reinstatement.
Munchak did not immediately answer a message left by the AP on Sunday. The Titans coach has not talked with the media about his team since the day after the season ended.
How quickly the league considers reinstating Williams may take at least a week with the San Francisco 49ers arriving in New Orleans on Sunday to kick off festivities leading up to the Feb. 3 Super Bowl.
Williams is the only coach or player who has yet to return to the NFL in the wake of the bounty scandal.
Goodell just lifted the suspension for New Orleans coach Sean Payton on Tuesday, nearly two weeks earlier than expected. Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for eight games, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six. Four current or former Saints players were also suspended after an investigation found the club had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits. The player suspensions eventually were overturned.
Williams was the Saints defensive coordinator from 2009-11 and was hired by St. Louis in January 2012 by former Titans coach Jeff Fisher before being suspended indefinitely in March 20112. Williams’ son, Blake, also was on Fisher’s staff as the Rams’ linebacker coach — but his contract was not renewed earlier this month.
Munchak has known Williams since 1990. Munchak was playing for the then-Houston Oilers when Williams became an assistant coach with the team. They also coached together with the Oilers; Munchak oversaw the offensive line starting in 1994 and Williams rose from defensive assistant to coaching special teams, then linebackers and finally defensive coordinator.
Williams left the Titans to become head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2001 before becoming defensive coordinator with the Washington Redskins from 2004-07. He also was defensive coordinator in Jacksonville in 2008 before being hired by the Saints in 2009.
Williams also has a relationship with Munchak’s current defensive coordinator, Jerry Gray. When Williams left for Buffalo, Gray went with him and served as Williams’ defensive coordinator with the Bills.
Even though Gray currently has the job, the Titans’ defense needs help, and Munchak will be coaching for his job in 2013 after going 6-10 in his second season as head coach. One reason for the losing record was Tennessee’s inability to stop anyone; the Titans set a franchise record allowing 471 points in 2012.
The only change Munchak has made to his defensive staff was letting linebackers coach Frank Bush go and moving Chet Paralavecchio into the job from assisting with special teams.
In Williams’ last season with the Titans, Tennessee ranked first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed, first in passing yards allowed and third in rushing defense. The Titans also set a franchise-record for fewest points allowed with 191 with an aggressive defense.