By Larry Fine
(Reuters) - Gregg Williams, banned for orchestrating the New Orleans Saints' bounty program, was reinstated by the NFL on Thursday and hired as a defensive coach by the Tennessee Titans, vowing he would find "positive ways to inspire."
Williams, who was hired by the St. Louis Rams before the 2012 NFL season before being suspended indefinitely by the NFL and subsequently fired from that job, was introduced as the Titans senior assistant/defense at a news conference.
"I take full responsibility and apologize for my previous actions," said Williams. "I used this year to organize my life and focus on positive energy and positive ways to inspire and coach and motivate in this profession."
The Titans said National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell notified Williams and the Titans that the coach's contract had been approved.
"The commissioner cited several reasons for the reinstatement, including Williams' forthcoming acknowledgement of and acceptance of responsibility for his role in the bounty program at the Saints, his commitment to never again be involved in a pay-for-performance or bounty system, and his pledge to teach safe play and respect for the rules at all levels of the game," the Titans said in a statement.
"The commissioner emphasized that Williams must fully conform to league rules and will be subject to periodic monitoring to confirm his compliance."
Williams was banned last March after an NFL investigation determined the defensive coordinator had a leadership role in the Saints bounty scandal, a program that gave players cash rewards for knocking opponents out of games from 2009-2011.
On a recording that surfaced shortly after his ban, Williams could be heard instructing players to injure members of an opposing team ahead of a playoff game last year.
Williams did not appeal his ban.
Titans head coach Mike Munchak said he had initiated the process by calling Goodell to inquire about Williams and his role in the scandal.
"He felt that with the way Gregg handled himself during the past year, how honest he was with them ... that he was going to resinstate him," said Munchak, adding that Goodell told him it was all right to call Williams about a possible job.
"He's been very humbled by what he went through," the head coach said about Williams. "I knew that he just wanted to move forward. He was hoping for a second chance."
Munchak, like many coaches on the staff, has had a long association with Williams.
"I've known Gregg for 20 years," Munchak said. "I saw how the players played for him, saw how they bought into the way he did things, the enthusiasm, the way he made players better."
Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said he looked forward to working again with Williams.
"Of my 16 years in the league, I was with Gregg for nine," said Gray, who added he would feel comfortable working with him.
"When Mike (Munchak) asked me, that was an easy decision. I said 'bring him on.' He knows how I think, and I know how he thinks. It's probably more like brothers, than anything."
Williams's credentials in 12 seasons as a defensive coordinator are impressive as his defenses have ranked in the top 10 for points (four times), overall yards allowed (four times) and red zone defense (seven times).
For Williams, the contract marks his second stint with the Titans, having previously worked for the team from 1990-2000, including four years as defensive coordinator. In his final season with the Titans, the team ranked first in the league in defense and second in scoring defense.
He joins a Titans that finished last season with a 6-10 record and ranked last in the NFL in points allowed (29.4 per game) and 27th among the 32 teams in yardage allowed.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)