ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman, analysts Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson and Merril Hoge and Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter previewed today’s NFL action with Wendi Nix, Cris Carter and Mike Ditka, who joined the show from Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Excerpts:
On the New England Patriots vs. the Green Bay Packers…
Jackson: “It’s about them (Green Bay) winning at home. And I think if they win, they still haven’t proven to me that they’re the best team in the NFC, ‘cause that team I saw play Thursday night – Seattle, that’s the team I saw in New York, in February, beat up on the Broncos.”
Johnson: “The New England Patriots – it’s a proving point for them. They haven’t been great on the road – they’re 3-2; they’ve been really dominant at home – 6-0. If they go into Green Bay and they dominate that football team like they think they can do, then this team not only will go to the Super Bowl, I pick them to win the Super Bowl.”
Ditka: “It’s going to be a pride thing for the defense to prove that they can help carry their football teams today.”
On Ray Rice – how realistic is it that he will find work this season?
Jackson: “I think it may be unlikely because a lot of people are going to be measuring not only his ability on the field, his ability to help you as a football player – which I think certainly is in question as you mentioned the down year that he had last year – but the baggage that’s gonna come with it. But I want to say from a personal aside, I think that we are a nation of second chances. When you look at the situation from beginning to end, Ray Rice and Janay have suffered tremendously. Yes it was a horrendous incident in the elevator. It was 30 seconds of their life I believe that as she said it was a first-time, one-time incident. He lost his job. He lost millions of dollars. He became the face of domestic violence. So I think if there has ever been a guy who deserves a second chance, I believe that it is him. And I want to make clear when Mort talked about that ruling of Judge Barbara Jones; when she said that I found Ray Rice to be credible, that he was not lying – and I want anybody who wants to out there fill in the blanks. CC, he said that and you go, okay, if he wasn’t lying, then what?”
Carter: “I’ve been in conversations with Ray Rice and Janay since the beginning and yes, there is discipline. Yes, we have a new policy. Yes, but there’s also called help, rehab, counseling. And out of all the players that we have seen that have been involved with domestic violence or any other off-the-field issues this year, Ray Rice is one of the stand-up guys who has made amends – not only with her parents, with his mom, he made amends with the Baltimore Ravens. He has fessed up to it. He realized it was a horrific day; it was the worst day of his life that was caught on video. He has suffered a tremendous penalty, but at some point, part of his rehab is gettin’ him back to work. He should be playing in the National Football League. Someone should take a chance on him. And the reason why I can say this – he had a bad night, but that does not make him a bad person.”
On the Washington Redskins – at least for this season, did they give up too soon on RG III?
Jackson: “I think the only thing that counts in the National Football League is production. That production has to translate in the form of winning. That has not happened for RG III.”
Johnson: “When you look at RG III and you look at the short dose of his career – two years ago we were all singing praises about what type of player he was. When he took that team to the playoffs – great. All that, marketing, everything was great. But since then he hasn’t lived up to the billing of that quarterback, the draft picks… I think his injury has hurt his career. Whether people want to admit that or not, when you lose that confidence – can he still be an effective quarterback in the National Football League? Of course. Can he still dominate? Of course. But he has to get that confidence back.”
Carter: “Also, I think we’re missing on something. It’s called player development. It’s called working on your fundamentals. Maybe analyzing your own game after he got injured and realize how do I keep this up or play at a higher level?”
Berman: “What you guys are all saying is the savior needs to be saved. His vision and the big picture was clouded early. It’s how he handles the next four to five months – only one of which of course is during the rest of the season – that may ultimately determine his future in Washington or elsewhere.”
On the Pittsburgh Steelers’ James Harrison and Dick LeBeau…
Jackson: “If you think about Dick LeBeau – who’s been there forever, he’s one of the great defensive coordinators in the history of football – it’s always been about attitude, it’s been about physicality and production off the edge. And when you think about James Harrison, he brought all three of those things and brought ‘em instantly as soon as he got to the lineup.”