Cheap and legal, NFL style
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

"Learn to talk psycho-trash."
-- R-Dub's NFL Proverb No. 339

Chad Clifton
Chad Clifton didn't even get a shot at any psycho-trash talk.
Admittedly, psycho-trash talk would not have helped Chad Clifton's hip very much. In the end, he had to rely on his own vision for that. Warren Sapp may or may not be a cheap-shot artist; in essence, given the forum and opportunity, all football players are. That was a cheap shot he laid on Clifton on Sunday. It was also a legal football play. Good's got nothing to do with it. It was a good play/cheap shot. The two are not mutually exclusive. Why was it cheap? Because it was so far away from the action of the play, and because Clifton didn't see him. It's cheap because it was free lick for Sapp. And as Sapp said, in classic psycho-trash-ese:

"Hey, keep your head on a swivel."

What was even cheaper was Mike Sherman saying to Sapp on the field right after the game, "What you did was not right," or mild words to that effect, which is to say no effect at all. If he couldn't do any better than that, he shouldn't have said anything, at least not to Sapp, the Hulking Human Sound Bite, who put away that sitter with a carpet-f-bombing run. Then he psycho-trashed-talked Mike Sherman with, "Put on a jersey! Put on a jersey!" and such. Very nice, Warren. Very cute. Right up there with describing Cleveland D-lineman Courtney Brown as "Look like Tarzan, play like Jane."

Sherman was outclassed, psycho-trash-wise. Better to jump Sapp with: "Keep your head up, Warren." Let him think about that.

The object of psycho-trash talk is to make the other guy hesitate, confuse him, take the play away, even intimidate him, if possible, in a tricky way. It may not dawn on the guy until the next day, if ever, what you've actually said. Sherman should've walked off with his O-line, and then said to them, as they were passing Sapp leaving the field, so 99 could hear, "We gotta make the playoffs now, fellas, so we can fix up something special for Sapp."

One reason Sherman was upset was he knew subconsciously it was his own impatient play-calling that had put Clifton at risk -- though Clifton and all football players know to protect themselves at all times. Still, without some success in the running game, you aren't going to throw 25 yards downfield in the seams against the Tampa Bay (read Tony Dungy) Cover 2 scheme. The Pack was doing fine and leading 7-3 playing field position. Until they upgrade in their own offensive line, Tampa's O can't drive 80 yards against a stiff wind. But Sherman called the deep seamer, Favre didn't check out of it, Terry Glenn ran a punk route; the upshot was a pick and try to go, field scattered, out of balance, classic each-one-de-cleat-one.

Sapp saw he was in Clifton's blind spot.

It wasn't the lick but the landing that queered Chad's hip.

Case closed. Like a window. On your head.

***** ***** *****

Terrell Owens
Part of defeating Terrell Owens is winning the psycho-trash talk battle.
Talking NFL psycho-trash can help fire up your own squad, or, if properly used, distract and make the competition distracted.

Used judiciously, psycho-trash can be the difference.

Let's put it in words even Terrell Owens can understand. He might be saying stuff like, "What I tell you. Hunh! Hunh! Bring it on! It's all 'bout me! Love me G*&#$@%! it! I can't stand myself!" And really producing at the same time. Now, if you were a DB stuck in single on him, who wants to throw T.O. off-stride, just enough to where you might have a hope of covering him, in psycho-trash you'd say. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I can't stand you either."

T.O. will do a double-take, maybe start screaming, definitely if you start laughing at him, lose his concentration, drop a step, not eat up your cushion so fast; then he can't get his body into you, and that's where he lives. He accelerates off contact, while throwing you off balance at the same time. That's his secret. He's a strong Fokker F-7 tri-plane. But you can get in his head. Ask him what happened on the school bus when he was 8 years old, when he had to sit in the sun when he got to school til his pants dried out because some pickle-smelling, snotty-nosed skirt called him Captain Midnight.

You might say, "Hey T.O., how come me and Garrison Hearst don't got a problem being dark-skinned? Why you crying to Suzy K? You 'shamed? Compared to G-Man, you ain't dark-skinned. You Vaseline brown anyway. What you gonna cry about now?"

Guaranteed T.O. starts concentrating on man instead of ball. And if you talk your way into an ass-whipping, at least you saw it coming, not like Chad Clifton. Then T.O. gets run out of the game by the refs, and, well, there you are. They don't ask how, but how many.

Conversely, with Marvin Harrison, there's not much you can say to him. Everybody has a psycho-trash soft underbelly, we all know that, but we just haven't discovered exactly where Stoic Starvin' Speed-of-Light Marvin's might be. Oh well. It's not impossible to cover him, but you do have our sympathies. Usually psycho-trash-talk works best not on the Quiet Assassins, but the Big Woofin's.

See if you can tell who is which in the Week 12 NFL Slightly Censored Thought Balloons:

Koy Detmer
Playing it Koy: Detmer put his signature move on the Niners, then got popped.
Koy Detmer, QB, Philadelphia Eagles -- (before Monday night game) "I can do this; great game plan. (during Monday game before injury) Take that and that and that! No, ref, I wasn't taunting, that's my signature move, hey, don't take my move away from me. OK, whatever, I don't need a move, there's still more where that came from. There, the deep ball to Thrash ... it's there, it's ... (during Monday game after elbow dislocation) ... Ahh! Ahh! Pop it back in place! Pop it back in place! ... Ahhh. Thanks. Thanks, guys. Geez, I was just about to make Marc Bulger look like a piker ... thanks guys ... (later) Did I just earn my salary for the year or what? God, look at my elbow. It's the color of eggplant. Ewww."

Andy Reid, coach, Philadelphia Eagles -- "Some guys get all the breaks. The bad ones. I'm one of 'em. Trick baby Fassel will not beat me. Thank you, Houston Texans. Thank you, George Bush."

Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles -- (Monday night before Detmer's injury) "Nice, Koy. Nice. But don't even think about any controversy. (after Detmer's injury) Oh, mama, I can't look at that. Yee-ouch. I thought my broken ankle was bad."

Terrell Owens, WR, San Francisco 49ers -- "Me-me-me-me ... me ... me ... me. Only meeeeee. Enough about me, what about me?"

Mike Vanderjagt
Spread your tiny wings and fly away: Snowbird Mike Vanderjagt gets a kick out of being mile high.
Mike Vanderjagt, K, Indianapolis Colts -- "Let's see ... kick it out of the snow, off the midair flakes, 54 yards in the air, hooking with the wind, riding in the midnight air ... nothing but net ..."

Steve Beuerlein, QB, Denver Broncos -- "Don't look at me. Not my fault the guy's got a cannon for a leg. I can't throw it and catch it too. Think Rich Gannon is doing something I can't do? Rich Gannon can't carry my ... duffel bag to San Diego. Watch this. We saved some good stuff for San Diego ... why is Griese getting up?"

Eddie Robinson, LB, Buffalo Bills -- "Kid like Pennington can't run a naked boot and fool an old vet like me ... oops, who put that patch of ice out here? Nice hesitation, Kid. Everybody looking at me funny now. He would'a got Ray with that move. And like this game cost us the playoffs. We weren't going anywhere. I'm tired of lying to the press. We got no shot. I'm not getting old. I'm not."

Herman Edwards, coach, New York Jets -- "Wayne Chrebet is asking for more balls? I'm asking for more Wayne Chrebet ... man, the boys really pulled my chessies out of the fire for the last month. Can I ask them for one more? Hell, yes, I can ... five more, in fact."

Mike Martz
Mike Martz tries to think up a new scheme.
Mike Martz, coach, St. Louis Rams -- "I'll say it's my fault, not Kurt's ... but Kurt could've checked out of the play, dammit. People ask how I can be so calm. They don't know about me and Georgia. Georgia doesn't know about me and Georgia. Not yet. But I have a scheme ... something nobody's ever seen before ..."

LaVar Arrington, LB, Washington Redskins -- "Man. That Daryl Gardener is a grown-ass man. He might even be able to handle Serena. I know I couldn't. Not her and Richard, too. I thought I was a grown man, but Daryl Gardener, damn. I caused that fumble on the last play then mostly tried to get out of his way. Run through Kurt Warner or get run over by Daryl Gardener? You tell me ..."

Rodney Harrison, DB, San Diego Chargers -- (before game) "Ricky Williams. Heard of him. After the game, he's gonna have heard of me. (after game) Ricky Williams? No, thank you. Bring me some rookie, some Clinton Portis. Why do I love to hit people so? I think it's unconscious, and I'm just not happy until everybody else is unconscious, too. Even my girl wears a catcher's mask to bed."

Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins -- "No. Thank you. (giggles) I'm a (tee-hee) beast ..."

Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay Packers -- "Hate coming down here to play. Thought Gruden would ego his way through, change the D. But nooooo. Kept the same Cover 2 drop seven rush four with coach Kif. Can't go over the top. Hate not being able to go over the top. It's as bad as before. No. It's worse. Now Brooks is healthy and covering half the g&$#%!@ field and Warren Sapp is ... well, I don't really know what Warren Sapp is. I truly don't. He makes it like wrestling, and I like that. Seems like at times he can do what he wants out there. Every time he plays us, he's like that. But then I see him against Philly and he's the one playing like Jane ... tell him? Why, I'll tell him myself. Man, He dropped Chad. Chad should've been looking ... if I was big as Chad, I'da dropped him. Even though I probably can't play James Bond because of my accent. I'd try. For Halle Berry, they can use subtitles ... just let me test ... we play in the worst division in the history of the world. We lost two in a row, and did we gain a game? ... so I'm distracted. So what? Hate the practices, the meetings. Love the money."

Warren Sapp, DL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- "Now I can just relax and play. Dungy gone, so's the pressure. Too many brothers at the top getting paid, the Glazers was liable to get nervous, and I don't know whose white folks they are, I just know they ain't mine, so I had to take care of me ... (smiles to himself) here comes some more media; they love me; I know what they want. I got skills."

Marty Mornhinweg
Marty Mornhinweg did not win a road game in two years as Lions coach.
Marty Mornhinweg, "coach," Detroit Lions -- "There was logic to everything that I did in that overtime ... hindsight is always 20-20 ... and our defense was playing so well. You could see that, couldn't you, Matt ... Matt? Where are you going with that ax, Matt ...?"

Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears -- "... for the first time, I'm starting to wonder ... what another place would be like ... I have fantasies ... other places ... other scenarios ... so am I sick? Do I need a doctor? Greg Blache thinks so. He wants me to go to a marriage counselor. But I don't think so. I think I'm just a man, and a man wonders about these things sometimes. I don't need help. That kind of help I don't need. I could use Warren Sapp."

Warrick Dunn, RB, Atlanta Falcons -- "To me, me and Charlie Garner are the pure open field runners in the league ..."

Anthony Bright, practice squad WR, Carolina Panthers -- "I was just talking to the guy, next thing I know, I'm in the hospital. Sure, we were competing for the same job. Maybe I was taunting him. I don't remember a thing. What difference does it make, what it was over? If it was a woman, I don't remember her. He's going to jail. Hope they put him in with Rae Carruth. I'm all done here, though."

Fred Taylor, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars -- "Tom looks like he wants to shoot me. Just because I fumbled right before I scored. Like I was trying to do it. Like I'm the onliest one ... I still say, me and Charlie Garner are the best pure open field runners in the league."

Emmitt Smith, RB, Dallas Cowboys -- "If he's the man, let him be the man. That's what I said. And I meant it too. Just to drive home the point. You think he can be the man? Cost yourself a game or two to find out. Or give me the ball. If I die, I'm dyin' totin' it."

Daunte Culpepper, QB, Minnesota Vikings -- "Psycho-trash? Yeah, Bruschi got in a good one. He was taunting me and I told him to kiss my ass. Well. I should've said nothing because he said that would be a lot of kissing to do ... I missed the next three passes."

Troy Brown, WR, New England Patriots -- "It's on me again, I see."

Jon Kitna
Pity poor Jon Kitna.
Jon Kitna, QB, Cincinnati Bengals -- "Just go ahead and kill me."

Kordell Stewart, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers -- "I am so gone ..."

Courtney Brown, DL, Cleveland Browns -- "Sapp said I look like Tarzan, play like Jane ... OK ... Jane this. And this ... and this ..."

Aaron Brooks, QB, New Orleans Saints -- "Oof. Unh! Ow. That's right, Warren, thaat's right, set 'em off just when I gotta face 'em. You come to town now, Warren. We got something for you. Deuce. Gotta come back. Play-faking to air ... gotta eat it ... I'm throwing overconfidence picks, like Brett Favre ... never thought I'd come this far to have it like this ... every TD I complete, I'm gonna look at Sapp, point to a bruise Cleveland left on me ..."

Steve McNair, QB, Tennessee Titans -- "Steve, you choker ... but you know you're not a choker. (Monday) I mean really, how did you miss Mason (Tuesday) Let is go Steve ... how ... let it go."

Charlie Garner, RB, Oakland Raiders -- "You know it feels like to be at the absolute top of your game? Like I feel right now as I'm blowing by you on this 90-degree vertical jab cut, sucker ..."

Jake Plummer, QB, Arizona Cardinals -- "We're down to our biggest threat being from Amherst, cradle of running backs ... I'm so outta here. Kordell can have it ... Seattle? Maybe ... maybe ..."

Jeremy Shockey, TE, New York Giants -- "I can't believe that we lost to this garbage, this trash, this puke, this ... why, yes, I am Jeremy Shockey ... and you are ... ohmiGod ... are those actually real ... (later -- much later) never knew how great it could be, being a Giant. Much better than being a Yankee. Swear to God it is. I would tell my dad some things, but either he wouldn't believe it, or his heart couldn't take it. I don't believe it, and I'm living it ..."

Priest Holmes
One is the loneliest number for Priest Holmes.
David Carr, QB, Houston Texans -- "How many sacks is that so far? 58? With the Fourth Season yet to be played? Staring down the barrel of Dwight Freeney this week? Well, now (taps foot standing next to Charlie Casserly) Guess there's no question what position we'll be drafting in the first round, is there, Charley? Is there? Can you say left tackle, Charley? Huh? Can you hear me, you putz?"

Priest Holmes, RB, Kansas City Chiefs -- "So much for numbers. They don't mean wins ... but they're hella consolation, baby boy."

Mike Holmgren, coach, Seattle Seahawks -- "How you like me now? Oh. Is it ... is it too early to say that, after winning one in a row? I'm not all that familiar with slang. But maybe Paul's right, maybe I'd better get familiar with it if I want to make these guys lay it on the line for me. I told Paul that's the only difference. These guys could play if they wanted. They won't lay it on the line. So, I'll try it ... How you like me now? Is that more like it?"

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."



Ralph Wiley Archive

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Wiley: You always love the ones you hurt

Wiley: Uncensored NFL thought balloons

Wiley: The beast from 4-4 fathoms!

Wiley: Hunting season

Wiley: Eminem knocks 'em out

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