“Football Night In America” Notes & Quotes – Week 14

You just constantly preach to them all year: make good decisions.” – Tony Dungy in wake of Cowboys tragedy on what he would tell his teams as a head coach

“I had three or four drinks, and I got behind the wheel and drove home.” – Rodney Harrison on being irresponsible at age 25 before gaining perspective when he got older

“Big, big problems in Chicago.” –Dungy on Bears, who have lost four of their last five games

NEW YORK – December 9, 2012 – Following are highlights for Football Night in America. Bob Costas opened the show live from inside a snowy Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., where the Green Bay Packers are hosting the Detroit Lions. Costas was joined on-site by Sunday Night Football commentators Al Michaels (play-by-play) and Cris Collinsworth (analyst), and Hines Ward, the former Steelers wide receiver and Super Bowl MVP.

Dan Patrick co-hosted the program from Studio 8G at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios and was joined by Football Night in America analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, and NFL insiders Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. Carolyn Manno reported from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on the Saints-Giants game.

Following are highlights from Football Night in America:

ON COWBOYS TRAGEDY

Dungy: “As an NFL coach, you’re coaching very, very young men. So I would always talk at the first team meeting of the year. I would talk about decision making, about drugs and alcohol, and parties, and late hours. You just constantly preach to them all year: make good decisions. Every Friday, I used to tell our team after practice, be smart, get home early, don’t drink and drive. But you come in Saturday morning, and every coach says this, not just me, but you come in Saturday morning and you just hope everyone gets there.”

Harrison: “You coaches do a great job relaying that message each and every Friday. But at 25 years old, I’ll have to admit, I was a guy who went out, I partied on Friday. I had three or four drinks, and I got behind the wheel and drove home. Why? Because I thought I felt invincible. ‘Oh, nothing would happen to me.’ But the older I got, I started gaining perspective. I started realizing what was important. Suddenly, I became that guy who would preach to the younger players about family, about career, and about the dangers of DUI.”

Dungy: “I couldn’t tell them not to go out, because I knew they were going out. But be smart; come home at 12 o’clock. If you’re going to drink, use the vehicles, the car service, and be smart about it. But you just don’t know if they’re listening.”

King: “Yesterday, Josh Brent told a friend, ‘I do not want to get out of jail.’ He was despondent. But, today, one hour after the Cowboys victory in Cincinnati, he did get out of jail. He was released on $500,000 bail. The Cowboys are very concerned about his mental state. And Jason Garrett, I talked to him after the game, and he said to his team today after the game in Cincinnati, ‘Every one of us in this room, regardless of how you feel about the situation, is going to have to take turns to put our arms around Josh Brent, because he’s going to need us.’”

Florio on DUI discipline: “I’m told the NFL has been pushing and will continue to push for a first offense resulting in a two-game suspension. The NFLPA has resisted. But now that a member of the NFLPA has died as a result of an alleged DUI committed by another member of the union, we’ll see if the NFLPA changes its position.”

ON CHIEFS TRAGEDY

King: “I’m told that in the last seven days, at least seven players around the league have gone to their team’s security officers to turn in the firearms that they possess from their homes. I’m also told that one of these players had multiple firearms — as Jevon Belcher did, he had eight – that one of these players who had multiple firearms told his security officer, ‘I don’t trust myself with these guns in the house. Please take them away.’”

Dungy: “That to me is very, very impactful because I can say that over my career in talking to players about not using guns, I never had a player turn one in. That means this incident has had a big, big impact on our players.”

ON COWBOYS

Patrick: “You saw them do something we had not seen them do in a while: the two-minute drill.”

ON FALCONS

Harrison: “They’re a very aggressive defense, but they miss a lot of tackles in the open field…This defense, they create a lot of turnovers, but at the end of the day, if they want to go far in the playoffs, they’re going to have to stop the run.”

Dungy: “This is not a great formula for going into the playoffs: giving up hundred-yard days week in and week out, running the ball…they’re putting so much pressure on Matt Ryan, he’s got to be perfect every game. He was off today and they got behind, 23-0.”

ON STEELERS

Dungy: “It doesn’t matter who plays quarterback, if you drop passes, if you let guys run through your secondary wide open, if you can’t pass protect…they have issues they’ve got to get solved in Pittsburgh.”

Harrison: “When you lose your best cornerback, Ike Taylor, teams are going to attack those young cornerbacks.”

ON VIKINGS

Patrick: “Adrian Peterson told Peter King after the game that 2,000 yards will be easy. He’s going after Erick Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105, and that’s coming off major knee surgery.”

Dungy: “Adrian Peterson, no question, was the most valuable performer today.”

ON COLTS

Patrick on Andrew Luck’s post-game comments: “He does mention just about everybody on the roster. I think the water boy gets mentioned there with Andrew Luck.”

Harrison: “It’s not the best defense we’re going to see this year. However, they do a good job at playing fast, always having three or four guys around the line of scrimmage, and the cornerbacks have really improved. They’re very aggressive, they’re physical, they’re making plays, and they’re good tacklers in the open field.”

Dungy: “They get a lot of plays out of secondary. This might be my favorite guy, Robert Mathis. Dwight Freeney gets a lot of attention, but Robert Mathis is a great football player.”

ON SEAHAWKS

Dungy: “Let’s not give this division title to San Francisco too fast. They still have to go to Seattle and play. Seattle is playing very, very well.”

ON THE BEARS

Dungy: You saw Brian Urlacher on the sidelines. That really hurts them. Their defense is not coming up with the turnovers they did earlier in the season and their offensive line is not protecting Jay Cutler. They have Green Bay next week. Big, big problems in Chicago.”

INTERVIEWS: Below are excerpts from Costas’ interviews with Johnson and McCarthy. If used, please note the mandatory credit: “In an exclusive interview airing tonight on Football Night in America.”

CALVIN JOHNSON WITH BOB COSTAS

On possibly passing Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving yardage record: “It’s crazy to me. Never would have fathomed. Never knew exactly what the record was before this point. A couple of weeks ago, my trainer told me, ‘You have to average 150 yards a game throughout the rest of the season to reach 2,000.’ At that point, I still didn’t know that I was closing in on Jerry Rice’s record. I thought he just wanted me to get 2,000.”

On the impact on fantasy teams of being caught at the one-yard line five times: (laughs) “I definitely hear it through various media outlets about how fans feel about that.”

On playing in the snow: “I would much rather play in the snow than the rain.”

Costas: “And Lambeau in the snow kind of has that classic feel to it.’

Johnson: “It does…Lambeau is historic. To be able to play there, it’s a great feeling and then to play in the snow, not many people can say that.”

On the Lions losing 21 straight road games to the Packers: “The only person that knows fully everything about that is Jason Hanson (who has played 21 years with the Lions)…I’m going to ask him, how does it feel to be in that situation? What does it really feel like to go up there every time? And gain a little perspective from his view.

Costas: “Here’s your rallying cry, win one for Jason.”

Johnson: “No doubt.”

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MIKE MCCARTHY WITH BOB COSTAS

On the difference between last year’s offense and this year’s: “Well, No. 1, we’re definitely a different team. Last year was a special year. We were almost a fast-break offense. It was wide open. I don’t know if it was always the best thing for the rest of our team, particularly our defense.”

Costas: “So some of it’s by design?”

McCarthy: “I hate to say that we’re designing to score less points, but I think we’re a little more conscientious of field position, time of possession, things that will make us a more well-rounded football team.”

On the reaction from his hometown (Greenfield, Pa., a neighborhood in Pittsburgh) on the Packers beating the Steelers in the Super Bowl: “It was definitely positive, don’t get me wrong. But Greenfield is a proud neighborhood in the city of Pittsburgh. My parents still live there, so I would have preferred to have played someone else in the Super Bowl, frankly. That was a tough week…it really was more like, ‘Hey, obviously we would have wanted to win it, but if there was anyone else, we’d want it to be you.’”

On being a tollbooth taker on the Pennsylvania Turnpike after college: “I just graduated from college. My father was a Pittsburgh firefighter for over 30-plus years. He didn’t understand the concept of a college education, first job (as a coaching assistant), you don’t get paid. So, he had the opportunity to get me on the Pennsylvania Turnpike through some friends. It was my summer job before we went to training camp.”

On the monotony: “I worked the graveyard shift…I had the playbook. Paul Hacket was the offensive coordinator. He just came from the Dallas Cowboys. It was a pro system. I had never seen anything like it, so I definitely had a lot of studying to do.”

On being near iconic franchises (Steelers as a kid; Packers as a coach): “I feel very blessed. To be the head coach of the Green Bay Packers is just such a special, special opportunity. I just can’t say enough about this organization.”

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SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL HALFTIME

Bob Costas: “For the second consecutive week, the NFL faces tragedy. Last week, the murder-suicide committed by the Chiefs Javon Belcher. Then, early yesterday morning, 25-year-old Jerry Brown, a Cowboys practice squad linebacker, was killed in a single-car accident. Brown was the passenger in the car driven by his friend and teammate, defensive tackle Josh Brent, who has been charged with intoxication manslaughter.

“Drinking and driving is a societal problem to be sure, but it’s perhaps even more difficult to understand when it involves a football player. There are systems in place, including a “safe rides” program through the NFL Players Association, to help prevent situations like the one that ended Brown’s life. Any NFL player can just pick up a phone and arrange a ride, if he feels he’s impaired.

“Let’s bring in Tony Dungy now. Tony, what, if anything, can a coach do to influence the thinking and decision making of his players?”

Tony Dungy: “That’s something that you always wanted to do, whether it’s as a coach talking to your team, talking to youth groups, or me as a parent talking to my teenage boys. You always talk about decision making.

“I always highlighted three areas: No. 1, being in or out late after 1 a.m.; using drugs and alcohol; and then driving too fast. I would talk to the team about that over and over and over again.

“You try to think of different ways, as a coach, to get that message across. My last year in Indianapolis, I brought in a young man from the Indianapolis area who had had a vehicular homicide at 17 years old. He spent nine years in prison, and he told me that those nine years were nothing compared to the fact that he had to wake up every day realizing he killed three people. I said ‘you’ve got to tell this story to my team because I’m looking for different voices, different ways to get that across.’

“NFL coaches are trying to do everything they can to help young men make better decisions.”

ON THE BEST TEAM IN THE NFC

Dungy: “All along, we’ve said San Francisco and Atlanta because they’ve had the best records, but San Francisco has some chinks in the armor. They’ve got two tough road trips, to New England and to Seattle. They might not even be in first place in their own division in two weeks.”

Rodney Harrison: “Atlanta’s the No.1 seed, but no one’s afraid to play Atlanta. To me, the team to beat in the NFC is the New York Giants…I don’t even care about the record. When the Giants get into the playoffs, they have that experience, that pass rush, Eli in the 4th quarter. That’s the team to beat.”

-NBC SPORTS GROUP-

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