Bounty architect joins the Titans

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Bounty architect joins the Titans

From Comcast SportsNetNASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Gregg Williams knows he's got to prove himself every day.The former Saints defensive coordinator said he received a "great rebirth" Thursday when he was reinstated by the NFL and hired by the Tennessee Titans after serving a nearly yearlong suspension for his role in the New Orleans bounty scandal.But now that he's back in the league, he'll have to change the way he's done things in the past."I've got a very positive outlook on things," Williams said. "I understand and respect the game an awful lot, and the past is the past and what I'm talking about doing right now is creating a resume from this day forward."Williams took the first step when the Titans hired him as a senior assistant coach for defense. Williams thanked Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstating him while speaking at a news conference."I take full responsibility and apologize for my previous actions, and I've used this year to reorganize my life and put focus on positive energy and positive ways to inspire and coach and motivate in this profession," Williams said, reading from a statement."I'm grateful for this opportunity."The league issued a statement saying that Goodell cited several reasons for reinstating Williams, including Williams accepting responsibility for his role in the bounty program, his commitment to never be involved in any pay for performance system and pledging to teach safe play and respect for the rules."The commissioner emphasized that Williams must fully conform to league rules and will be subject to periodic monitoring to confirm his compliance," the NFL said in its statement.While he was out of football in 2012, Williams started his path back.He said he spoke to football players from the Pop Warner level up to high school over the past year. He also worked with his charity, traveled and tried to improve himself including losing about "a kindergartener" when challenged by his sons to lose weight.Williams, suspended indefinitely last March, now is the last person involved in the scandal to be reinstated by league. New Orleans coach Sean Payton had his suspension lifted on Jan. 22.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 coached for the Saints between 2009 and 2011 and was hired as defensive coordinator by the St. Louis Rams in January 2012 before being suspended. Williams had been free to look for a new job in the NFL since the playoffs started, and now he is returning to the team where he got his start in the league back in 1990 as a quality control assistant.Titans coach Mike Munchak said he spent the past month trying to figure out how to improve his coaching staff and a defense that set a franchise-record giving up 471 points. He immediately thought about Williams, so Munchak said he called Goodell for a long talk to learn about the bounty situation and Williams' status.Munchak said hiring Williams on a one-year contract was "the right thing to do.""What better place for him to come back to for a second opportunity after making some mistakes and to recharge his career going forward," Munchak said."He knows we're going to do things the right way. He knows how we do things. I think he knows changes have to be done maybe in some of the ways he's done things in the past. I think we're on the same page. I think we're excited about the opportunity."Still, this is the NFL, and Williams said an aggressive approach on defense is what people get when he gets a chance to help."It's been my thought process as a player, as a coach, in all the years I've been doing this is that I'd rather be aggressive than passive," Williams said. "And sometimes the fastest approach to getting a job done is being more aggressive, and that can be a style of defense, scheme of defense, attitude of defense. ... I feel like that will always be a huge tenet of the National Football League."How well this move works for both the Titans and Williams remains to be seen.The Titans missed the playoffs in Munchak's first season on a tiebreaker in 2011 before slumping to a 6-10 record in 2012. Fans have not been happy that Munchak has kept Jerry Gray as coordinator after a season when Tennessee also gave up at least 30 points in seven different games and ranked 27th in yards allowed.Munchak previously made only one move on his defensive staff, firing linebackers coach Frank Bush and moving Chet Parlavecchio from assisting with special teams to linebackers coach."The bottom line guys is winning next year," Munchak said. "We know that."Williams and Gray have worked together for years first in Tennessee, then Williams took Gray with him to Buffalo when hired as the Bills head coach in 2001 after four seasons as Tennessee's defensive coordinator under then-coach Jeff Fisher. They worked together in Washington between 2004-07 before Williams went to Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008 and then the Saints.Gray said he told Munchak to bring Williams on in when asked for his opinion of a man who's like a brother. When pressed on who will make the defensive calls in games this season, Gray pointed questions to Munchak who said Gray is the coordinator making the calls "right now."Notes: The Titans face a deadline Friday where they could release Chris Johnson and avoid guaranteeing 9 million of the 10 million salary due in 2013. Munchak said they will be honoring both Johnson's contract and that of safety Michael Griffin, who is due 6.2 million this season.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

BOSTON – Saturday was yet another night when the opposing team – this time it was the Portland Trail Blazers – that up the Boston Celtics with an avalanche of points that ended in a 127-123 overtime loss.

And yet through the rubble of all those lay-ups and put-back baskets and mid-range jumpers, Stevens saw something he has not seen in a while – hope that better days defensively were coming sooner rather than later.

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“As crazy as it sounds with them scoring (127) … I actually thought we were a lot closer to defending the way we want to defend," said Stevens. "I thought we were really locked into those guards, and I thought we tried to make it as tough as possible. Those guys are really good players, obviously, but I thought, I thought we did a lot of good things in that regard.”

For the most part, Boston and Portland played a relatively even game that wasn’t decided until the final minute of overtime.

“They just made more plays down the stretch,” said Boston’s Al Horford.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday’s game.

 

STARS

C.J. McCollum

He tends to get second billing to Damian Lillard, but he was a first rate problem for the Celtics. He led the Blazers with 35 points on 11-for-21 shooting.

Damian Lillard

After a foul-troubled first half, Lillard stepped up like the All-Star he is in the second half to finish with 28 points and seven assists which included seven of Portland’s 14 points in overtime.

Isaiah Thomas

It was another dynamic scoring night for Thomas, finishing with a game-high 41 points which included 21 in the fourth quarter and overtime.


STUDS

Terry Rozier

Making the most of his chance to play due to injuries and illnesses, Rozier came up with a number of big shots all night. He finished with 15 points which included a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds in the fourth that forced overtime.

Mason Plumlee

In addition to doing a solid job protecting the rim, Plumlee also tallied a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while dishing out a game-high eight assists.

Meyers Leonard

Easily the big X-factor of the game, Leonard had 17 points off the bench on 6-for-7 shooting.

 

DUDS

Celtics Turnovers

This is the one area where the Celtics have been really good all season. Saturday? Not so much. Boston turned the ball over a season-high 21 times which accounted for 34 points for the Blazers.