NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gregg Williams is still preaching aggressive, physical defensive play now that he's back in the NFL.
After being suspended for nearly a year for his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal, the Titans senior assistant coach for defense insists he only worries about doing the right thing, not monitoring the language he uses. That said, he is keeping a low profile in his new job, but otherwise his approach apparently hasn't changed.
Tennessee tackle Jurrell Casey finds the coach just as wild and crazy as he had heard.
Cornerback Jason McCourty said Gregg Williams has been stressing the Titans need to set the tone on defense.
And Williams said it's been fun seeing the players wanting to be aggressive.
"I've never, ever coached a player that didn't want to be as aggressive as possible," Williams said. "I've always said, 'Don't use me as an excuse for being not aggressive.' Because I'm an aggressive coach, and I want aggressive players and all the coaches here do that."
Williams talked to reporters for the first time Wednesday since training camp started July 25 and only the second time since he was introduced with other new assistant coaches in February after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell lifted his suspension. Other Titans' assistants are available on request, but Williams said he wants the story to be about the players themselves and not him.
"The fun part of it is I get to be in the mix with them," Williams said.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma still believes his former defensive coordinator got a bum rap that cost him the 2012 season. But the linebacker said he never expected Williams to change too much because the coach's philosophy works.
"He's an aggressive coach," Vilma said recently. "He's very in your face, very brash and he got players to play. He was very good at pushing that button to get you to play, so I expect him to do the same thing in Tennessee. I think what he's going to have to do, clearly, is tone down the language, tone down the phrases, all the cursing and stuff like that, but I expect him to be very aggressive."
Williams has been quieter on the field the past month than during his tenure as the Titans' defensive coordinator between 1997 and 2000. Oh, he still yells at players who don't move as fast as he wants, and his language still can be pretty colorful. The Titans have worked hard at pushing the pace in practices, trying to make it easier on players in games.
So if that means yelling at a player, Williams does just that because he said he won't compromise on effort and toughness.
"There is no excuse for a loaf in this league," Williams said. "There's no excuse for somebody not appearing tough in our league. That is what this game is about, and players don't want to play with someone next to them that don't get that, and coaches don't want to coach them. That is one of the things that really bothers me, if a guy is not 100 percent all the time when he has a chance to play this game, and a lack of toughness."
The Titans like what they've gotten from Williams. They're busy trying to improve and bury the memories of last season when they allowed a franchise-worst 471 points.
"He does it for the best interests of the guys," Casey said of Williams. "He doesn't want you out there lackadaisical, things like that. So he keeps us hyped and keeps us going. He's got the motivation with the energy to go out and practice hard."
The Titans want more turnovers, plays and big hits that get fans on their feet screaming.
"We get the crowd involved, it's only going to help us as a team for that type of motivation and when the opposing team is on offense as loud as the crowd is, that's going to help us," McCourty said. "So one thing we're focusing on is trying to set the tone."
Williams made sure to credit Munchak and Gray for the message he's helping communicate. He's here on a one-year contract trying to prove his worth again and is on the sideline in games relaying calls from Gray in the coaches' booth. Asked about putting his personality onto this team, Williams said he's not looking at that.
"I'm just happy I have a chance to help in any way they need for me to help," Williams said.
Notes: LB Colin McCarthy returned to practice Thursday for the first time in three weeks after being limited by a sore right hamstring. A defensive captain last year, he was limited to individual drills, but Munchak said they hope McCarthy can play in the preseason finale at Minnesota on Aug. 29. "We just need to get him healthy," Munchak said. "He needs to go on the field and prove to himself he can make it through a game and not have something else happen."