ATHENS - Kirk Olividatti is now entering his second year as Georgia's inside linebackers coach. But for 11 years prior to that he was an assistant coach with the Washington Redskins - and for four of those years, he worked under Gregg Williams.
As you have doubtless heard, Williams is embroiled in the bounty scandal, where players received rewards for trying to injure opponents. He has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL, and on Thursday a graphic audio file emerged of Williams apparently urging his New Orleans Saints to injury their playoff opponents in January.
Olividatti clearly didn't want to talk about it after Thursday's spring practice. Initially he shook his head, saying "out of my pay grade," and "not touching it."
"I have an opinion on it," Olividatti said. "But I'm not gonna say anything about it."
But after some prodding, Olividatti did talk, though not expressly in support or condemnation of Williams. Olividatti had not heard about the audio file, in which Williams curses liberally about injurying members of the San Francisco 49ers. But he wasn't surprised to hear about Williams' colorful language.
"I can say this: Gregg was very graphic in the way that he explained things," Olividatti said. "I can probably verbatim say what he said because he has the same script a lot of the time. I know it was graphic and it was crazy and all that kind of stuff. I can imagine what it was."
Olividatti then went on a long explanation of how he felt the game should be played. He said several times that there "was a right way and a wrong way" to play physical football, which he has explained to his players.
"You never want to injury somebody. You never want anybody to get carted off the field or any of that stuff," he said. "That's not what you want to do with that stuff. You want to play the game the right way, there's a physical aspect to it, that you want to knock people back there. There should be some wide receivers hearing footsteps, and all that kind of stuff. Well, there's a way to do that and do it the right way, and do it within the right rules. There's a right way to do it and a wrong way."
The audio file has Williams talking about knocking a player's head off, which is a common euphemism, but it also talks about going after a player's ACL.
"Knocking your head off is one thing, but going after specific stuff," Olividatti said, his voice trailing off. "There's a way to play and a way not to play. And this game has been played for a long time and it's going to be played a long time after us, and there's a right way to play and a wrong way to play it, and you're supposed to play it hard, it's supposed to be physical, it's supposed to be knock-back, you're supposed to run into dudes as hard as you can, they're supposed to run into you as hard as they can, and that's physical enough. That's physical enough."
Olividatti didn't describe himself as close with Williams. He said he probably ran into Williams at an NFL combine at some point, but the last conversation he recalled having with him was around 2007.
"I don't talk with him on the phone with him all the time or anything like that," he said.