ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 9

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ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 9

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown with Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson and Ray Lewis previewed today’s NFL games. Some highlights:

Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter reported new developments this morning about Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin …

Mortensen and Schefter reported that Martin has not filed a formal harassment complaint with the NFL Players Association because Martin fears retribution, primarily from teammate Richie Incognito. ESPN reported that the matter is under review and preliminarily identifies Incognito as an alleged offender in multiple incidents of possible harassment and bullying over the past two seasons, with Martin not the only victim. (The Mortensen/Schefter report via ESPN.com.) 

On the alleged harassment situation involving Martin and the Dolphins …

Ditka: “I can’t comprehend how this could happen. When this would happen in my time: you take the bully and you kick his butt. I mean you go to ‘fist city’ with this guy.”

Carter: “Maybe it’s not just one guy. As an offensive line, typically they’re one of the stronger units on the football team. … In this business, you need to know your players. You need to know every ounce of information – what they do around the clock. For me, as a general manager and a head coach, if you don’t know this information that we know about Richie Incognito, it’s criminal. It’s criminal because they are not protecting this young man.”

Jackson: “You would certainly think that some of those guys – or one of those guys at least — would have the courage to stand up and speak out on behalf of a teammate, and understanding that there is a difference between hazing and hate. … Something needs to be done about it. I believe that something will be done about it. And this kind of culture, when the coach sees it – when he knows that it’s going on — his efforts ought not be made to issue a joint statement. His efforts ought to be made to end it. … (On Martin) He’s scared of his teammates and what they will do to him.”

Lewis: “Guys don’t leave the team for hazing. … If I’m the head coach, that guy (Incognito) has to be removed from my team.”

 

On John Fox’s health and how his absence from the Denver Broncos will impact the team …

Ditka: “The coaches can handle it. … You think football’s football. This is life. This is family, your life. Relax. You’ll be back in a couple of weeks.”

Jackson: “On the field, I think that there will be a couple of decisions that will be missed, and they will be made collectively by the staff. …They’re fortunate in that Jack Del Rio has some head coaching experience.  … And, I think no team – because of the quarterback – is better equipped to handle this than the Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning’s attention to detail will now be a plus for this team without their head coach.”

Carter: “When you’re in a Super Bowl chase, you’re always looking for those moments that galvanize your team. There’s not a lot of football teams — and the players — that have more respect for their head coach than Foxy. So, you’ll watch these guys. There won’t be as much horseplay. Guys will be more focused coming to work. Because they know over the next 3-4 weeks, someone’s got to carry Coach Fox’s water. Everybody’s going to take a scoop full and try to make sure the job gets done.”

Lewis: “They are that veteran ball club. They are the team that could pull this off. … This team is now put into position where it could motivate them – to go to another level.

Johnson: “It can derail them to some degree. When you have your guy not there, making those adjustments … .

Carter: “There’s no player in the National Football League – there’s 1,600 of them; there’s no player – Ray Lewis included, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning — that can replace a head coach. What they do and what they say is special in itself. That’s why they’re head coaches in the National Football League.” 

 

On why the Dallas Cowboys have difficulty closing games …

Jackson: “I have always thought that the aura of who they are – America’s football team, the stadium that they play in, the attention that’s given to them, and gotten partly because of the owner – it offers a major distraction to doing the deal of playing the game in between the lines. They are distracted by so many other things when it counts that they can’t figure out a way to focus and win football games.”

Ditka: “What distracts the team most is the other team’s offense. … Their defense can’t stop anybody.”

Johnson: “This football team over time has gotten better. The problem they have is they can’t close out games. … If they can figure out – whatever it’s been since Jason Garrett became the head coach — that four-minute offense and four-minute defense is not working no matter who the coordinators are. Figure it out so you can get in the playoffs and worry about those statistics.”

Lewis: “When you think about the Cowboys, you think about a bunch of individuals, but there’s never been a true, true leader to help that team.”

Berman: “They’re an NBA team. They can make the three-point shots and the slam dunks, but where is the bounce pass?”

 

On the struggles of quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Redskins …

Jackson: “Love RGIII’s compassion for the game, his competitiveness, his bravado. I think that he can do himself a favor if he said a lot less. Don’t give people the same access that you gave them as a rookie. They don’t need it right now.”

 

On the comments made by Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather this week about targeting players’ knees …

Jackson: “The league has designed the rules: they’ve left the target area around the knees. … I personally could not do this. I could not go around hitting people on the knees and ending their careers, and go home and sleep at night. He is in a quandary. … I think that what he was attempting to say was that, ‘I’ve got one area open to me, and I’m going to take advantage of it.’”

Johnson: “What he’s saying is: the strike zone has changed. You leave me no other choice. … He just didn’t explain it right.”

Lewis: “You would rather be hit up high because you have a helmet and shoulder pads. That’s what they put the pads in place for. … There’s no such thing as targeting in this business. If somebody’s trying to catch the ball, my job is to knock the ball out, and you can’t do that going towards somebody’s knees.”

 

On quarterback Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers …

Carter: “Philip Rivers’ ability to call plays at the line of scrimmage is the drastic difference in his completion percentage going up. In the old system, he had a lot of ‘call it and run it’ plays – he was very limited at the line of scrimmage. Now he has the thing that Brady can do, that the Manning’s can do. He has the ability to get into any play and that kind of confidence is starting to go through that football team. But you can’t give enough credit to Mike McCoy and what he’s doing with this organization … he got his quarterback to know ‘listen, you are a superstar in this league, and you are our franchise quarterback.’ That was the key to the turn-around.”

 

On the Pittsburgh Steelers struggles …

Ditka: “What made Pittsburgh great for all these years is what they can’t do right now. They can’t pound you with the football. They don’t harass you with the pass rush, and they’re not great tacklers in the secondary. That’s what made them great.”

Johnson: “After this season, they’re probably going to have to dismantle the team, especially some of the veteran guys. … They don’t have the players on defense. When you lose guys, they haven’t been able to replace them.”

Carter: “They put no fear in the offense … Typically, they have three or four rushers, off the edge, middle linebackers that collapse your pocket. You have no time to run your routes.”

Lewis: “Seventeen years of playing against them, twice a year, they were built a certain way. They were built from their front sevens on both sides of the ball. … That front seven is just not in place anymore.”

 

Also of note: the three-hour Countdown included a feature on Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso (#LegendofKiko) and a story by ESPN.com’s Greg Garber on the New York Jets’ School Bus.

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Bill Hofheimer

I oversee ESPN’s pro football PR, including Monday Night Football and NFL studio shows. Other programs I work on include ESPN soccer, Around the Horn and PTI.
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