Williams disciplined for 'conduct detrimental to team'

Updated: October 1, 2003, 3:04 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- The 1-3 Falcons' season unraveled some more Wednesday when coach Dan Reeves suspended starting cornerback Tyrone Williams for Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Vikings.

The suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team" followed a Wednesday tirade by Williams against at least one assistant coach, believed to be either defensive coordinator Wade Phillips or secondary coach Emmitt Thomas. Team sources said that the incident, which occurred between meetings, was not the first time Williams had vented to coaches.

They hinted, however, that this occasion was particularly bilious, and that Reeves with left with little recourse. All with Vikings receiver Randy Moss coming to town. Williams is scheduled to return to the team next week.

"I want guys to express their opinion and stuff," Reeves said, "but it's got to be done in a correct way and a positive way."

An eighth-year veteran who spent the first seven seasons of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers, Williams was signed by Atlanta last spring as an unrestricted free agent to help bolster a suspect secondary.

Williams' suspension comes at a time when Atlanta's secondary is ranked 29th in the league against the pass, and decimated by injuries. It is uncertain at this point who will replace Williams at right corner. Tod McBride, another former Packers veteran who also was signed as a free agent in the spring, has been out all season with a broken hand. Nickel corner Kevin Mathis might be the best possibility.

Atlanta's safety unit currently lists three players, including starting strong safety Cory Hall on the league injury report. Coaches will move rookie Bryan Scott, a second-round choice who had been working at cornerback, to safety this week.

The Falcons have only one interception this season, tied for worst in the league.

Williams, 30, is under a four-year, $10.3 million contract that included a signing bonus of $3 million. The suspension will cost him one game check, or $38,529, based on his 2003 base salary of $655,000. In four games this season, he has 14 tackles, no interceptions and two passes defensed.

A former Nebraska star, Williams is coming off a particularly poor performance in last Sunday's loss at Carolina, the Falcons' third straight defeat. Williams was flagged for interference on an early Panthers drive, and later was penalized five yards for "flinching," an esoteric call to be sure, on a Carolina punt. The latter penalty kept alive the Panthers' possession, which concluded in a touchdown.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.