Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Best of NFL: AFC West players
By Bill Williamson
As part of Best of the NFL Week on ESPN.com, here are five bests for the AFC West:
Best trash talker: One of the NFL’s greatest talkers is San Diego linebacker Shaun Phillips. In league circles, Phillips is known for being an underrated pass-rusher. But he can also talk plenty of mess. I know several players who can’t stand Phillips’ mouth. He has gotten under the skin of many offensive players. He is consistently in offensive linemen’s ears, and he had a famous on-field tiff with former Denver quarterback Jay Cutler. Then there was a classic pre-game trash-talk fest with former Denver coach Josh McDaniels. Phillips knows how to press buttons.
Opposing players can't stand the mouth of San Diego's Shaun Phillips -- the top trash talker in the AFC West.
Best short fuse: It’s got to be San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers. A highly religious man and truly a kind heart off the field, Rivers gets fired up on the field. I’ve received countless emails from fans around the league accusing Rivers of being a “crybaby.” He does get upset quickly when things go awry, and he’s been known to let whoever is near him -- opposing players, teammates, referees, opposing fans -- know about it. But that’s the beauty of Rivers. He’s a great competitor who leaves his heart on the field. You know how badly he wants to win just by watching him.
Best individual rivalry: It has to be San Diego center Nick Hardwick versus Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour. These are two very good players. And they don’t like each other. This rivalry began when Seymour was with New England. After the AFC title game in the 2007 season, Hardwick had this to say about Seymour: “Richard Seymour is the biggest (expletive) I've ever come across in football,” Hardwick said. “They've got 10 good football players on that (defense). Richard Seymour is a dirty, cheap little pompous (expletive)." Fittingly, Seymour’s first game as a Raider in 2009 was against Hardwick and the Chargers. Hardwick suffered a serious ankle injury that day. The two teams have met since. There haven’t been any major fireworks, but I’ve seen some pushing and shoving. As the rivalry between the improved Raiders and the Chargers heats up, this rivalry is a delicious side dish.
Best interview: I feel fortunate to cover the AFC West because there are several great talkers in the division. Even better, many of the division’s better players are also some of the division’s best talkers. A notebook can get filled fast in an AFC West locker room. Rivers, Seymour, Nnamdi Asomugha, Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins and Antonio Gates are all fabulous interviews. But I’m going to go with Chiefs’ Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters as the best interview in the division. He’s the epitome of being a go-to talker. He’s the type of guy who can talk about any aspect of the game and break it down both colorfully and technically. This is one of my cardinal rules: When in Kansas City, stop by Waters’ locker. It’s a must.
Best intimidator: One of the reasons Hardwick and Seymour have had problems is that Seymour is an intimidator. He has a reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. I don’t think Seymour cares. His toughness is one of the reasons Oakland gave up a first-round pick for him. He has given Oakland’s defense a nasty demeanor it was lacking. He’s been kicked out of games for his rough play. That, of course, isn’t what the Raiders want from Seymour. They want him on the field. But the idea that Seymour may do something has to get into the heads of opposing teams, and that’s a step toward a victory for Oakland.