Following a special report on playing for incentives in NFL’s Week 17, Countdown panel discussed the effect of incentives on players … Agent Drew Rosenhaus – “Guys play for the game, but they also play for the economics.” Green Bay running back Ryan Grant – “This is our business. This is our craft. This is our careers and how we feed our families.”
Johnson (Discussing player incentives and pressure to perform in Week 17 as a player): “In the pre-game, I’m in the locker room, I’m telling (quarterback) Vinny Testaverde, ‘look Vinny, I need 57 yards to make half-a-million bucks ($500,000). Make sure that we throw the ball’ … I catch the football, breaking my ankle at the end of the second quarter – $500,000 to get over a thousand (yards). I snap my ankle. Now I’m talking to the trainers as I’m getting up, ‘are you sure I can’t go back in and get that 20 yards?’ … I’m going to play to win the game. But I am mindful that I had these (incentives) in my contract. Who wouldn’t be?”
Jackson: “I am not arguing with the fact that anybody would take the money if it is offered. I am wondering why it is offered. Julius Peppers, if I signed a $90 million contract, why would you give me a $100,000 to go to the Pro Bowl? With $90 million, I expect you to go the Pro Bowl.”
Ditka: “1964, we played a college all-star team after winning the championship in ’63. I dislocated my foot. Put in a cast. Left in a cast, I didn’t play in a preseason game. Started the whole season. Played the whole stinking season on shots, injections, whatever. I was picked for the Pro Bowl. I said I was going to the Pro Bowl. Coach (George) Halas said, ‘I don’t want you to go, you might hurt your foot.’ I said coach, ‘it’s too late to worry about that, I think. Here’s what I’ll do, I won’t go if you give me the $1,000 the winners get for the Pro Bowl.’ He said, ‘why don’t you go.’”
Carter: “We have to adapt to the new business of the National Football League. The incentives are a huge part of these contracts … Only two things you take from this game – one is memory, the number two is money. You’ve got to get as much of both as possible.”
Jackson: “You know what the incentive was when I played. The incentive was to play as well as you could to get to the playoffs and get a chance to be at the top of the league. That would be the only incentive I really needed.”
Should the Bears play starters to eliminate Packers? (After a feature on the Bears-Packers rivalry)
Ditka: “Yes, you’ve got to do it. The Packers are a big rival, you don’t want them in a playoff game. Not the way they are playing football. The Bears are on a roll right now, why stop the roll. They are playing pretty good football … Get the Packers out of this.”
Jackson: “I think it is even big because we watched a great feature on the history of the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers and what is involved with that. And now, you come out and you are going to sit on your butt because we got our playoff position wrapped up. (Bears coach) Lovie Smith can do whatever he wants. He’s the head coach. I said the same thing about the Colts last year. You do whatever you want. As a player, you put me on the field. I only know one way to play – that’s going to be full speed, play to win the football game. I think the Bears and their history tells me that’s what they are going to do out there.”
Carter: “In the 15 years I played in this division, when it was called the black and the blue. I played for Minnesota and we had our rivalry with Chicago and Green Bay. Under no circumstance would I allow Green Bay to beat me to get to the playoff. I don’t care what the coach says. That’s a mentality. You have to know who in your division you have to beat.”
Bigger surprise: Bears first round bye or Packers fight for playoff berth?
Johnson: “Chicago. Julius Peppers, I am not surprised that he’d make the defense better. But when you look at turnover machine offensive coordinator Mike Martz, turnover machine Jay Cutler at quarterback, and you put those two together, we all thought it would be a disaster. So, it is definitely Chicago Bears.”
Jackson: “I predicted, at the beginning of the year, that Jay Cutler was going to throw 32 picks because I knew he was going to be under tremendous pressure. If you look at the first six games, those 27 sacks, he was going to get sacked 60-plus times if you prorate it. What happened here is, Mike Martz and the adjustment was added protection. Sometimes, max protection and running the football with Matt Forte. So, I give coach Martz credit for turning this thing around.”
Ditka: “Earlier in the year, I did pick the Packers to go to the Super Bowl. That’s a big surprise to me that they are playing to get into the playoffs … The Packers, to me, if they are in, duck. They’ve got that one thing, they can score points … Last week, they ripped a pretty good Giants team.
How did this season impact your view of Brett Favre’s legacy?
Jackson: “When you see that list of records, I think the one at the top – the 297 consecutive starts – is what’s going to define him. I think that his love of the game, his biggest asset, was also his greatest fault, because it forced him to stay around and keep playing the game. As far as the personal stuff, it’s none of my business. I don’t care.”
Carter: “As far as the numbers, the thing that sticks out to me is 186 wins … Two weeks ago on Monday night when I had the chance to be there on the Monday night field, I talked to Brett before the game and I told Brett that ‘your dad would be proud of you. Your first football coach, he would be proud of you standing up and the stand up guy this last year.”
Ditka: “As important as the destination is, it is not as much important as the journey is. Now, thanks for the memories.”
Berman: “It wasn’t the best dessert. But it was the greatest meal ever. You’re not going to say I’m not going to that restaurant because the cake was a little off. You know what my image is – it is funny. Tuesday night, he’s not playing, but Brett loved being a teammate … ‘I’m one of the fellows. I am with the fellows.’”
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh: Which team needs AFC No. 2 seed the most?
Jackson: “The Pittsburgh Steelers – They would be a real dynasty in terms of winning Super Bowls if in fact they can avoid playing the New England Patriots, who already beat them twice in championship games.”
Johnson: “Pittsburgh Steelers – they needed to get healthy.”
Carter: “Pittsburgh, resting their players is key.”
Ditka: “Baltimore needs to rest their players. They are more of an aging team. They are both aging teams, but I think Baltimore can use the rest a little bit more than Pittsburgh right now.”
Berman: “Both are road warriors. Pittsburgh 6-1 on the road this year. Baltimore has done it on the road in the playoffs. This Baltimore group, under (head coach John) Harbaugh and (quarterback Joe) Flacco, never had a rest. Let’s see what happens if they got a rest, had a week off. See what they can do. See if something would be a little bit different.”