Continued from page 1

After Vitt’s appeal was heard, his lawyer, David Cornwell, was asked about the audio tape. Cornwell said Payton viewed Williams‘ comments as “a rogue coach about to get fired.”

“He was fired two days later,” said Cornwell, who also serves as executive director of the NFL Coaches Association. “He was on the way out.”

But when Williams left New Orleans for the Rams in January, nobody with the Saints characterized it as a firing. At the time, Payton said it was apparent shortly before the season ended that Williams, with his contract expiring, was likely going to join new St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, an old friend. The Saints and Williams never discussed an extension, Payton said then.

The league informed the Saints at the start of the playoffs that it was reopening its bounty investigation. Cornwell said Loomis and Payton then told Williams, “There’s no place for this in this organization or this league.”

The NFL, however, in its statement last month announcing the penalties for team officials, said the GM and coach made only “cursory inquiries” into the possible presence of a bounty program.

Pamphilon said Payton and Loomis were not in the room when the recording of Williams was made.

Williams can be heard using metaphors he has often used throughout his coaching career, such as, “kill the head and the body will die.” That was Williams‘ way of urging players to disrupt opposing teams’ star players with intimidating and nasty physical play. Another of Williams‘ mantras was that “respect comes from fear,” which he repeats in the recording.

“We’ve got to do everything we can in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head,” Williams says. “We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways.”

___

AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this report.