ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” host Chris Berman and analysts Mike DitkaKeyshawn JohnsonCris Carter, and Tom Jacksonpreviewed today’s NFL games.  Some excerpts:


Key quotes of the day:

 “Most fans don’t know what it is like for a 25 year-old guy to crawl across a floor in the middle of Sunday night trying to get a drink of water.”

Tom Jackson on pain and NFL players


“The secret to this whole thing is your ability to accept pain, and your ability to dish out pain.”

Hall of Famer Deacon Jones on dealing with pain in the NFL


“Now, if you think that the Cardinals didn’t show up last week, wait till you see this drive-by today.”

Mike Ditka on what to expect from Arizona Cardinals today at New England


“Pain” in the NFL

In a feature by Tom Jackson, past and current players shared their thoughts on “playing with Pain” in the NFL:

— “Setting aside pain is going inside your will.  Your ‘will’ will always push you through to do your job, because most times in life before you do anything great, you’re going to feel pain” – Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis

— “The secret to this whole thing is your ability to accept pain, and your ability to dish out pain” – Hall of Famer Deacon Jones

— “Some will fight it.  And some, I call pussycats — they feel a little pain, and they want to get off the field” – Hall of Fame Eagles linebackerChuck Bednarick, whose punishing hit on Giants Frank Gifford in 1960 came to represent the image of pain in the NFL 

— “You can’t make the club in a tub, period.  You’ve got to be able to play.  You’ve got to be able to play hurt” – Cincinnati Bengal Chad Johnson.


Jackson’s final thought on the feature:  “I was certainly a bit undersized when I played.  As I look now with the artificial right hip, the artificial right knee, the pin in the right shoulder, there is a price you pay to play in the National Football League, and to play well.  But I always tell people I would not have traded a single second of what I did, or was honored to do.”


Dealing with Pain in the NFL:

Jackson:  “One of the things you have to realize and you heard it from those guys, there’s a kind of a John Wayn’ mentality that existed where you wanted to be able to do it.  I knew that boy, I’m hurting, if I can go out and out-perform the guy in front of me with the bum shoulder, with the bum leg, then what does that mean about me?  It says something very positive about me.”

Johnson:  “Injuries, for me, it wasn’t even worth talking about it.  If something was wrong, so what?  I knew that I was being paid.  I wanted to win games.  I went out there and I took care of business.  And if I walk into the training room and saw one of my teammates, you better be going into surgery the next day than sitting on the table watching videos and movies, I wasn’t going to be happy with you.”

Ditka:  “It’s about pride and will.  I think Ray Lewis said it, ‘you will it.’  I’ve played through it.  Football doesn’t owe me a thing.  I owe my whole life to it and I had more fun doing it.  I took all the injections, the pain pills.  You did it and you played and you were expected to.  You didn’t want to let your teammates down or the organization.”

Carter:  “It started for me early, when I was in college.  In Ohio State, they used to suit the guys who were hurt in Michigan uniforms.  So, I never wanted to be in Michigan uniforms … You have to train your body to do this … I prided myself, when Denny Green was with the Vikings, for 10 years, I never missed a day of training camp.”


Dealing with a teammate who was hurt a lot:

Carter:  “Robert Smith, he works here (at ESPN) in college football, was my teammate in Minnesota, came from Ohio State.  I really had to work hard on our relationship when he got into the league.  He was a guy that came into the league with a lot of fanfare – injured his knee, chicken pox, measles, then hurt his other knee.  He was always in the training room.  I knew, from his work, I didn’t want to be next to him but I wanted to be friends with him.  Eventually, he got over that and ended up having a great career.”

Jackson:  “Former Cardinal Charlie Johnson, played quarterback when I came in, first quarterback that I had as a Denver Bronco.  Breaks his collarbone on one side, breaks it on the other side against Atlanta.  We’re wondering how he threw two interceptions in a row.  Finally came off the field, he’s lying down on the table in the training room, shaking like that.  I had the ultimate respect for what he did … Most fans don’t know what it is like for a 25 year-old guy to crawl across a floor in the middle of Sunday night trying to get a drink of water.”

Johnson:  “I played with (NY Jet) Curtis Martin, banged up all the time, all the time, but stayed on the football field.  Never let it stop him.”


Jets, Dolphins or Patriots:  Who do you trust most today?

Carter:  “Miami.  Kansas City used to be a special place to play.  But, last Sunday before Christmas, a lot of people will be doing some shopping.  No fans in the stands.”

Jackson:  “I trust New England.  Been there, done that.  This is their kind of weather.  Arizona looks like they already have given up because they already have won that division.”

Johnson:  “I trust the Miami Dolphins.  You know exactly what you’re going to get.  They are playing Kansas City Chiefs, they can’t figure it out right now.  Who’s the general manager?  My coach is getting an extension?  They’ve already packed it up, they’re gone.” 

Ditka:  “I’m extremely comfortable with New England, they know how to play.  Now, if you think that the Cardinals didn’t show up last week, wait till you see this drive-by today.”


Matchup to watch in the Pittsburgh-Tennessee game

Jackson:  “I’m looking at (Pittsburgh’s) James Harrison.  I think that you’ve got to figure out a way to keep him off your quarterback.  You’ve got to figure out a way to keep him out of your backfield … anything you can do because right now, he’s the biggest game-changer in football.”

Ditka:  “Pittsburgh offensive line vs. Tennessee defensive line.  Without those two guys – (Albert) Haynesworth and (Kyle) Vanden Bosch, I think you have to keep that line off of Ben (Roethlisberger).”

Johnson:  “I’ve got to look a Kerry Collins at quarterback and Troy Polamalo at safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers to see if Kerry is able to move them around, that secondary, with shoulder and eyes, to get the wide receivers open.”

Carter:  “I’ve got to look at (Tennessee’s) Cortland Finnegan and (Pittsburgh’s) Hines Ward.  A lot of times when you watch NFL games, they cheat you because they watch the interior part and watch the football.  But if you look outside the hatch, every receiver and every defensive back is not a prima donna.  Both these guys play through the whistle.  Both of them, questionable hitting after the whistle.  And both of them have gotten fan mail from the commissioner’s office this year.”


Best Team in the NFC

Carter:  “Week No. 1, I thought it was the New York Giants.  Week No. 16, I still think it is the New York Giants.  The reason why is Brandon Jacobs … I am not saying the Giants aren’t a tough football team, because we know they are, but they are a lot tougher with Brandon Jacobs.”

Jackson:  “I think that the Giants, with Jacobs, are the best team in the NFC.”

Johnson:  “Yesterday, I was for the Dallas Cowboys.  After last night, throw it out.  I’m saying it is the Giants now, and that’s because of the quarterback in Carolina.  I don’t trust him.  I just don’t trust Jake (Delhomme) …”

Ditka:  “I picked the Giants early.  I stay with the Giants.  I don’t know what happened to their offensive line last week, but I think they’ll get back on track.”



More likely to be back in 2009: Brett Favre or Mike Holmgren?

Ditka:  “If you listen to Mike and you believe him, Brett Favre will be back in 09.”

Johnson:  “Coach Holmgren, they are going to throw him enough money and he’ll get those vacations in off-season.”

Carter:  “Not moved by the money like you Key (Keyshawn Johnson), Holmgren’s wife said he wants to come back.”

Jackson:  “I don’t think coach Holmgren is interested right now in the money, but he loves the game.  I think he’ll take a year away.  Brett Favre will come back and play.”


Biggest Pro Bowl snub?

Ditka:  “Chad Pennington for sure.  And I have Ben Roethlisberger, it doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Johnson:  “John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons, and Matt Cassell, quarterback, New England Patriots.”

Carter:  “Chad Pennington, never been voted to the Pro Bowl, but definitely deserves it over Brett Favre this year.”

Jackson:  “He’s a rookie and but he deserved it.  It doesn’t mean somebody else should be out, need another couple spots, Matt Ryan.”


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