ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 12

ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown logoESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown with Chris Bermanand analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, Ray Lewis and Ron Jaworski previewed today’s NFL games. Highlights:
 
From the Wes Welker interview with ESPN’s Tedy Bruschi:
On whether he has any hard feelings towards the Patriots organization about leaving the team …
Welker: “No, not at all. It’s part of it. It’s the way the business model is set up, and the way things go in pro sports these days. There’s no hard feelings.”
 
On a difference he noticed going from the Patriots to the Broncos …
Welker: “It’s just different as far as the media in general. You have 15 reporters trying to get you to slip up just a little bit, where in Denver it’s a little bit of a different feel.”
 
On the biggest similarity between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning …
Welker: “I think one of the key things they do is keep their teammates accountable. They do a great job of staying on top of guys and yelling when they need to and lifting guys up when they need to, having private talks with guys when they need to. It’s all those different things that make a great quarterback.”
 
On whether he still has a good relationship with Bill Belichick, and what he thinks it will be like seeing him in a quiet moment after the game …
Welker: “I think so. … I think whatever the most awkward situation that could possibly happen, that’s probably what it will be.”
 
On Wes Welker coming back to play the Patriots …
Jackson: “He had 672 catches contributed over a period of years when they had tremendous success. I believe he would like to play really well tonight.”
Carter: “The other veterans who left New England, the big difference was they had Super Bowl championships. Wes does not have that Super Bowl championship, so he’s more motivated about getting that championship than he is revenge.”
Ditka: “There’s no loyalty in football guys. Get over it. When it’s time to go, you’re going to go. When it’s time to stay, you’ll stay. He had his time for him to go. They made a decision.”
Johnson: “He’ll be very close to getting that Super Bowl ring in Denver. He can’t let the emotions of going back to Foxboro get in his head because the one thing I do know is Bill Belichick is going to spend plenty of time trying to take him out of the game in particular because he does not want to see him succeed.”
 
From Greg Garber’s feature “The Patriot Way” about New England’s philosophy of letting veteran players go and replacing them with younger ones who make less money:
Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe (1993-2001): “If they decide they can live without you and they can find someone else to play that position for less money, you’re out the door.”
Patriots cornerback Ty Law (1995-2004): “They put a cap on you. They say this is what they value you, and they stick to what works for them.”
Patriots lineman Damien Woody (1999-2003): “I remember coach (Belichick) telling me Bill Walsh once said that it’s better to get rid of a player a year early than a year too late.”
 
Law: “You can’t help but take things personal, even though you know it’s a business. … I didn’t feel I needed to restructure or take a pay cut when I was at the top of my game. … I think it has cost them championships. I think they let go of too many guys that can rally the troops and win those playoff games or Super Bowls.”
Bledsoe: “I think it would be a hard case to make that their business model is costing them that much. … If you play for the Patriots, and honestly it doesn’t matter if you’re Tom Brady, if they have another guy that can play the position as well or better, then Tom will have his time too, and he knows that.”
 
On the Patriots’ model …
Johnson: “You’d like to see New England make more of a financial commitment to players that have been in the organization that helped them win football games, but that’s not the way this game works.”
Lewis: “This is simply the way the Patriots do business … Their loyalty is not in the player. The loyalty is into the system. As long as the system keeps rolling, we don’t really care what the player feelings are.”
Ditka: “Same thing happened with the 49ers. Bill Walsh got rid of a lot of guys. … They could still play but one or two years later they weren’t going to be the same players.”
 
On the development of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton …
Jaworski: “He’s a flowering quarterback and the past few weeks he’s been in full bloom.”
Jackson: “Much more patient in the pocket although he realizes he may be the best athlete to ever play the quarterback position. He also understands when he’s off the field, when they win games it is all about ‘we.’ When they lose games, it is all about ‘I.’ He is learning to be a true professional quarterback.”
Carter: “We can give Cam credit but we have to talk about the people around him. The receivers are playing better, the defense only giving up 13 points. That’s going to make your quarterback better, but no greater influence than Mike Shula, the previous two years as his quarterback coach, this year the first time as his offensive coordinator.”
 
On the Panthers defense …
Lewis: “This is what makes Carolina’s defense so special. They have an ability with their front seven to create so much push up front it makes the back feel comfortable in pass coverage.”
 
On Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco …
Lewis: “There’s no real balance that (the) Baltimore Ravens have right now and they want to make Joe Flacco – they gave him $100 million, I understand that – they want to make Joe Flacco a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. He’s not that type of guy. He’s a system type of guy that if you have the balance – that you have running the ball, doing the things you need to do – then Joe Flacco excels.”
On New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith …
Johnson: “Geno Smith right now is regressing at the quarterback position. … He’s trying to do a lot by himself. He doesn’t have the necessary playmakers around him. And trying to do a lot he puts himself in bad situations. … If he can continue to just grow, over time I think he’ll be a pretty good quarterback once they get some help around him. Right now he has to calm down and take his time.”
On the state of officiating in the NFL …
Jackson: “It’s always been a tough job. We saw that when we had the replacement refs, but I think you look for consistency. Whether it’s on the defensive side of the ball or the offensive side of the ball, I want the plays called the same.”
Johnson: “I believe that the officials should adopt the college rule – go under the hood, take a look at it and see when it’s an important situation like this in a game, you have to make sure that you make the right judgment call.”
Lewis: “I respect the officials for doing their job. We just need to give the officials help.”
 
On whether the Giants can make a run and get into the playoffs …
Lewis: “The Giants have a formula that they get hot at the end of the year. Now who knows can they make the playoffs, but I think the way they are playing right now, it took them to the Super Bowl a few years ago.”
Carter: “Hakeem (Nicks) needs to be focused on this stretch drive. If he returns to the Pro Bowl level he plays at, now they are a dangerous football team.”
Berman: “Give the Giants credit. That pickup in September of Jon Beason, linebacker … you usually don’t make deals in the season, (general manager) Jerry Reese, that was one of the best moves made and that’s made a big difference.”
 
On recent situations in the NFL and NBA involving athletes using the N-word …
Carter: “Collectively, the situation won’t go away. … It’s time to policy this. Enough is enough. Let me give all the players a warning, okay: you might be able to use this now, but your next job you go to, you’re not going to be able to use this word. So they need to stop using it right now.” 
 
On his personal experience playing an NFL game 50 years ago today, two days after President John F. Kennedy’s death …
Ditka: “It was a strange feeling. … Let me preface all this by saying the 60s were a pivotal time in America history. There were a lot changes. … Jack Kennedy was the best thing I knew that ever happened in this country because he did provide hope, and when he made the statement ‘ask not what your country can do for you, what you can do for your country’, that was so significant. … I can remember being in the stadium, playing the game – yeah it was our job … They (fans) were there but nobody was making noise. I don’t remember noise. … It’s not about the game. It’s about the loss of a great man.”
 
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