NFL NOTEBOOK: Bountygate architect Williams un-banned, hired by Tennessee; UGA's Grantham headed to Saints

Former Super Bowl-winning Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams left New Orleans at the end of the 2011 season to take the same job with the Rams — but was quickly fired before the 2012 season began after being suspended indefinitely for overseeing a bounty program during his time in the Big Easy. (Reuters News Service)

Former Super Bowl-winning Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams left New Orleans at the end of the 2011 season to take the same job with the Rams — but was quickly fired before the 2012 season began after being suspended indefinitely for overseeing a bounty program during his time in the Big Easy. (Reuters News Service)

UGA defensive coordinator Grantham set to join Saints?

NEW ORLEANS — Reports say that former Dallas Cowboys assistant Rob Ryan is expected to be hired as the New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator — but the New Orleans Times-Picayune says that is not a done deal.

The newspaper reports the Saints will interview University of Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham before even talking to Ryan today.

“Right now I’m the defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia and I’m looking forward to coaching these guys,” Grantham said.

Grantham, 46, spent the past three seasons at Georgia after a decade in the NFL. He was the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive line coach from 1999 to 2001, the Houston Texans’ defensive line coach from 2002 to 2004, the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator from 2005 to 2007 and the Cowboys’ defensive line coach from 2008 to 2009.

The Saints are seeking a defensive coordinator to replace fired Steve Spagnuolo and head coach Sean Payton says the team’s intention is to move to a 3-4 base scheme — Grantham’s specialty.

Ryan, the son of Buddy Ryan and the brother of New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, has spent decades coaching the 3-4 scheme. Rob was fired by Dallas.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gregg Williams, who was banned indefinitely for orchestrating the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal, was reinstated by the NFL on Thursday and hired as a defensive coach with the Tennessee Titans.

Williams, who was hired by the St. Louis Rams before the 2012 NFL season but missed it due to the ban and was subsequently fired, was introduced as the Titans senior assistant/defense at a news conference later Thursday.

The Titans said National Football League 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 he 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, who was named defensive coordinator for the Rams before news of the bounty system surfaced in March, did not appeal his ban.

His 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), rushing yards allowed (six times), third down defense (five 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 team 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.

“I have known Gregg for over two decades and have seen him work his way up from a quality control coach to a head coach,” Titans head coach Mike Munchak said in a statement. “He will bring a great deal of defensive knowledge and energy to our staff. The decision to bring him here only came after going through a thoughtful and thorough process.”

RAVENS HOPEFUL THEY CAN RE-SIGN FLACCO: Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome told reporters that he’s “optimistic” about retaining Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco.

Flacco doesn’t have a contract for next season. Newsome added that the sides were close before the season but mutually agreed to halt talks until the end of the season.

“I’m coming away thinking that we can get a deal done,” Newsome told reporters at the state of the Ravens season-ending news conference Thursday. “We’ve got deals done with Haloti (Ngata), JO (Jonathan Ogden), Ray (Lewis), Ray Rice, Ed Reed, (Terrell) Suggs. I’ve got a very good owner who understands the business and understands the importance of certain positions. So, I’m optimistic.”

Without an agreement, the Ravens will slap Flacco with the franchise tag, preventing him from becoming a free agent while taking up $20 million in cap space.

“We’re looking to get a fair deal done with Joe,” Newsome said. “If we’re able to get a deal done, it will allow us to be able to participate more in the market if we so choose. But we understand what the priority is.”

Flacco, 28, is younger than Peyton Manning (who’s earning $18 million per year) and Drew Brees ($20 million).

“When you do a contract of this magnitude, you look at what is the player’s body of work presently,” Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, told CNBC. “And what are the expectations going forward over the next four, five or six years? Joe wins on both accounts.”

After nearly breaking NFL single-season rushing record, Vikings’ MVP RB Peterson reveals he played through sports hernia

MINNESOTA — Adrian Peterson, who nearly broke the National Football League’s single-season rushing record last season during an MVP campaign, had surgery Thursday to repair a sports hernia, the Minnesota Vikings said.

Peterson, who was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the 2012 season a year after suffering a torn knee ligament, is expected to make “a speedy recovery with no long-term concerns,” the Vikings said in a statement.

Despite an injury that forced the Vikings to list Peterson on their injury report in the final month of the 2012 season, Peterson kept playing and came within nine yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record set in 1984.

Peterson rushed for 199 yards in a victory against the Green Bay Packers that closed out the regular season and secured a playoff berth for the Vikings.

TITANS PLANNING TO KEEP JOHNSON: Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson will return to the team in 2013, according to an ESPN report.

The Titans kept Johnson following a Thursday conversation between their star and Titans head coach Mike Munchak.

The Titans had to make a decision by Saturday, when $9 million of Johnson’s $10 million salary would have become guaranteed if he remained on the roster.

Johnson rushed for 1,243 yards and six touchdowns this past season.

RELATIVES OF 49ERS’ WALKER KILLED AFTER SUPER BOWL: Hours after watching nephew Delanie Walker play in the Super Bowl for the 49ers, Alice and Bryan Young were killed in a car accident in Louisiana by a suspected drunken driver.

Walker, a tight end, said Wednesday on his Twitter account: “Alice and Bryan Young my aunt and uncle was killed on Monday at 5 am after the super bowl by a drunk. Im going to miss y’all but i know they are in a better place.”