But now, two other Walking Dead exec producers -- showrunner Scott Gimple and special effects guru Greg Nicotero -- have disputed that claim, telling Entertainment Weekly that they made no such changes to the show's content.
Gimple pointed out that the premiere, in which Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) beat two characters to death with a baseball bat in vivid detail, was supposed to be more violent than usual, and nothing else in the season is intended to match that level of brutality.
"The violence in the premiere was for a specific narrative purpose and I would never say that that's the baseline amount of violence that we would show on the show," said Gimple. "If we're ever going to see something that pronounced, there needs to be a specific narrative purpose for it."
However, according to Hurd, the less overt violence in subsequent episodes was due to viewer backlash. "We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence," Hurd said during a Walking Dead panel at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Miami last Wednesday. "We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season."
Nicotero issued a flat denial when asked if The Walking Dead toned down the violence due to viewer response. He added that they wouldn't do the premiere differently, either, and that they'll probably never tone down the violence.
"I don't think we'll ever pull ourselves back," Nicotero said.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, Feb. 12 at 9/8c on AMC.