NFL Nation: Barack Obama
United States President Barack Obama will honor the Super Bowl VII champion Dolphins on Tuesday at 2:05 p.m. ET, according to the team. Miami became an undefeated champion more than four decades ago, but that was before the tradition of White House visits began.
The 1972 Dolphins remain a major source of pride in Miami and will get another chance in the spotlight next week. No NFL team has been able to match Miami's undefeated title run.
WASHINGTON -- Before the Baltimore Ravens handed a purple No. 44 jersey to President Barack Obama, the 44th president, coach John Harbaugh delivered a celebratory message on the South Lawn of the White House.
"I want you to know, we have plans to be back next year," Harbaugh said.
This was one of the few times Wednesday that the defending Super Bowl champions looked ahead to the future. This week is about reminiscing for a team that went on an unlikely championship run and got ripped apart like no other Super Bowl team. Three months after parting ways with seven starters, the Ravens came together for a visit to the White House on Wednesday and the ring ceremony Friday.
While five former players didn't attend the White House event (Anquan Boldin, Bernard Pollard, Matt Birk, Cary Williams and Paul Kruger), Ray Lewis and Ed Reed fittingly stood side by side just a few steps to the right of Obama. This marks the first time in 12 years the two future Hall of Fame players won't be teammates. Lewis announced his retirement during the season, and Reed signed with the Houston Texans in free agency.
"You can't think about Baltimore without thinking of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, two of the greatest defenders who ever played the game," Obama said. "Now, these two won’t be wearing purple next year. Everybody is going to have to get used to that. It’s welcome news for quarterbacks."
Wearing a purple tie and gray suit, Obama gave the Ravens a tour of the White House before delivering some playful jabs at the players:
On Ray Lewis: "Ray retired on top, coming back from a triceps injury, which I believe was caused by that dance he does."
On Ed Reed: "I will point out, by the way, that Ed is getting some gray hair, though. You’re like an old man."
On Joe Flacco, who was standing in the back row: "Good timing with that contract up. That was some good timing. Capped off one of the greatest post-seasons ever by a quarterback -- 11 touchdowns, no interceptions. I don't know about you, Joe, but I would say that qualifies as elite. And I’d say that if you keep on playing like that, you’re going to challenge (Vice President Joe) Biden for the most popular person from Delaware."
Wait, weren't the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens supposed to be the big talkers during Super Bowl week? They're multiple-syllable underdogs at this point.
Moss stole the show at Super Bowl media day by declaring himself the greatest receiver of all time.
"I think I'm the greatest receiver to ever do it," Moss said. "Because I think back when Jerry was playing -- and no disrespect to Jerry Rice, because he's arguably the greatest -- but for me to be able to go out here and change and revolutionize the game from a single safety to a Cover 2 safety and dropping three guys deep and dropping four guys deep and still be able to make it happen? That is why I really hold my hat on that, that I really feel in my heart and in my mind that I am the greatest receiver to ever play this game."
If Rice had the greatest career of any receiver in NFL history, which seems indisputable based on longevity and raw numbers, Moss at his best was arguably the most feared.
Moss was faster. I think he was more athletic. If both receivers were to line up on opposite sides of the formation while in their prime, defenses would face a dilemma. I think they would fear Rice more on shorter and intermediate routes. I think they would fear Moss more on deeper routes.
Rice benefited from beginning his career under Bill Walsh and spending most of it with either Joe Montana or Steve Young throwing passes to him. That doesn't diminish his achievements, in my view.
Rice dominated. He reached 1,000 yards receiving 14 times. Moss did it 10 times. Rice scored at least nine touchdowns in a season 12 times. Moss did it nine times. Each had nine seasons with at least 10 touchdowns. Rice had four seasons with at least 1,500 yards. Moss had one. Rice had six seasons with at least 1,400 yards. Moss had four.
Moss also played with a couple of Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Brett Favre, but the years he spent with them were exceptions, not the norm. Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Todd Bouman, Spergon Wynn, Gus Frerotte, Kerry Collins, Andrew Walter, Aaron Brooks, Matt Cassel, Vince Young, Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick have also thrown passes his way.
To this point, Rice's status as the greatest has been pretty much assumed. Those with a strong grasp of league history might acknowledge Don Hutson's achievements as unique. However, Rice is an overwhelming choice as the best receiver in NFL history.
An ESPN.com panel featuring Raymond Berry, Boyd Dowler, Mike Holmgren, Ken Houston, Warren Moon, Keyshawn Johnson and Ted Thompson voted Rice first and Moss second in anonymous voting five years ago.
"Jerry Rice, he's so obvious, it scares me," Dowler said at the time.
"I have a four-month-old son, Jack Harbaugh, and if President Obama feels that way, then there will be a little less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets older," Harbaugh replied, stirring the room into laughter.
Great answer, and Harbaugh wasn't finished.
"It's still early," Harbaugh continued. "Jack is five months old but he's a really big kid. He's got an enormous head. We don't have a 40 time on him yet, but his wingspan is plus-one. As soon as he grows into that head, he's going to be something. It's early, but expectations are high for young Jack."
The answer revealed where Harbaugh stood on the matter. It also revealed a lighter side that Harbaugh used to his advantage throughout this session.
Harbaugh feigned injury to his pride when a reporter innocuously used the word "necklace" to describe the rope from which Harbaugh hangs a pen during games.
"Well, I take great offense that you call it a necklace," Harbaugh said. "It's a whistle. It's a coach's whistle that coaches have long worn. Every coach should have a whistle. It would be hard to go down to practice without a whistle."
Harbaugh beautifully captured his former college coach, Bo Schembechler, when asked about the University of Michigan legend's influence upon him as a coach.
Harbaugh had called Schembechler right after becoming a head coach for the first time, at the University of San Diego. From the top, Schembechler made Harbaugh take an oath to old-school football before the conversation continued.
"Jimmy, tell me you are going to have a tight end that puts his hand on the ground on every snap, tell me you will have a fullback who lines up directly behind the quarterback, and a halfback in the I-formation," Schembechler said, according to Harbaugh.
Of course it would be that way.
"Good," Schembechler said, according to Harbaugh. "Then congratulations on getting the job."
The charismatic linebacker's mouth was running 100 miles per hour during New York Jets practice this past weekend. Scott got on the Jets' quarterbacks, Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez. Scott got on Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Scott got under the skin of the offensive linemen.
No one was immune in training camp -- and Jets head coach Rex Ryan likes it that way.
"The funny thing is when you talk like that, it puts pressure on you to play well," Ryan explained. "You can tell that Bart feels great about himself, and he feels great about this team. That is why he is the way he is right now. He is all over everybody -- offense, defense, especially offense."
The Jets were humbled by last season's 8-8 record and late-season implosion. But if Scott's mouth is any indication, it appears this team is getting its swagger back.
There have been no Super Bowl predictions and no preseason talk of supplanting the New England Patriots in the AFC East this season. But watching the Jets practice, you sense this team has an edge to it. Sometimes that edginess goes overboard and leads to fighting among the players, which explains the reported 20-player scuffle the Jets had on Monday and a second fight on Tuesday.
The Jets undoubtedly will do damage this year. The question is, will they do more damage to themselves or their opponents? New York must first prove that this group is bonding and will no longer be "team turmoil" in 2012.
THREE HOT ISSUES
1. Can the Jets handle the Sanchez-Tebow dynamic? Even U.S. President Barack Obama has his concerns about the Jets’ two-headed monster at quarterback. Obama said he doesn’t think Tebow’s immense presence will be good for Sanchez. The Jets, however, say they're unfazed by Obama’s comments.
“He doesn’t play football for the Jets,” New York guard Matt Slauson said.
It appears Sanchez and Tebow get along fairly well. But things could become tense if Sanchez struggles early in the regular season.
2. Is chemistry still an issue? The Jets didn’t miss the playoffs last year because they lacked talent. New York missed the postseason for the first time under Ryan because they lacked togetherness and chemistry.
Things fell apart for the Jets in the locker room, and it showed on the field. Too often players weren’t on the same page, and Ryan admittedly dropped the ball in fixing those issues. It’s Ryan’s job to make sure those things no longer happen. But there already are ominous signs that the locker room could be combustible again in 2012. In addition to the reported scuffles, cornerback Antonio Cromartie created tension by claiming to be the second-best receiver on the team. These things add up. The Jets need to end the in-house silliness now before it shows up in the regular season.
Sanchez, a team leader, wasn’t particularly happy about the brawl that went down.
“At this point in camp, especially after the scrimmage, tempers flare,” Sanchez said. “That stuff happens; there’s no excuse for it. There’s no throwing the ball at a teammate. There’s no shoving the guy out of bounds into the signs. One, it doesn’t look good, and two, it sends the wrong message to our team. We want to take care of our guys.”
3. Who is the No. 2 receiver? Cromartie apparently thinks he's it. But despite his controversial comments, the Jets have to find other players to step into that role full time. Players such as Patrick Turner, Chaz Schilens, Jeremy Kerley and rookie Stephen Hill are all competing for the role to start opposite Santonio Holmes.
The Jets will rely more on the run than the passing game, but they must make the most of passing opportunities. Holmes’ rib injury will allow other receivers to get more reps. This is a golden opportunity for someone to emerge and provide another target for Sanchez.
Hill appears to have the best chance to fill this role long term. But it may take an experienced player such as Turner or Schilens to step up until Hill acclimates to the NFL.
As noted earlier, New York’s defense looks tremendous. The Jets were the most impressive defense of all the AFC East training camps we’ve visited in the past two weeks. The front seven is allowing few rushing lanes, and the cornerbacks are covering well, as expected.
“I feel great about the defense,” Ryan said.
It’s easy to forget that New York had a top-five NFL defense last year because the Jets didn’t play that way at times. But this defense thinks it can rank No. 1 in 2012. Based on what we’ve seen, that goal is not out of reach. New York’s defense doesn’t have many holes.
REASON FOR PESSIMISM
The Jets' passing game appears shaky, which could be a major issue for the team this season.
New York wants to ground-and-pound its way to victories. But the NFL is a passing league, and winning by running the ball 40 times is becoming increasingly more difficult. The Jets at some point will have to air it out if they want to score enough to win consistently. The defense is great. But New York can’t win every game 13-10 or 17-14. That puts too much pressure on one side of the ball, and the offense not holding up its end of the bargain is one issue that caused chemistry issues last year.
What if teams stack the box against tailback Shonn Greene and Tebow and the Wildcat? Can Sanchez make enough big throws to keep defenses honest? The Jets were 2-5 last year when Sanchez threw the football 35 or more times. Expect opposing defensive coordinators to keep that stat in mind when preparing for the Jets this year.
Sparano wants to play conservatively and win on the ground first. But defenses won’t make it easy. At some point this year, Sanchez and his receivers will be forced to win games, and this team might not have enough quality personnel to pass the football consistently.
- Tebow admittedly never played special teams. But the backup quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner looks like a natural in the third phase of the game. Tebow will serve as the punt protector, which gives the Jets options on fakes, as Tebow could run or pass on fourth down. Tebow also has been getting work on the kickoff team, and he looks good moving downfield and tracking the ball carrier.
- New York’s starting offensive line and backups appeared to have been pushed around too often during our camp visit. That should be a concern for Jets fans. New York wants to establish a physical identity on offense, but the line has been unable to establish many running lanes against its defense. Granted, most defenses aren’t as good as New York’s. Preseason games will provide a better indication of where the Jets’ offensive line stands.
- Hill needs to work on his consistency. There are days in practice when he is a nonfactor and others when he shows why he's a highly touted second-round pick. Hill beat Cromartie and Darrelle Revis on a pair of deep balls in practice in recent days. Yet Hill disappeared in Saturday's teamwide scrimmage. Hill has the physical tools; he just needs to sharpen his routes and bring strong effort consistently. “The route running is still coming. I’m not even going to say I’m perfect on it,” Hill said. “I’m still working and still learning on it. Revis and Cromartie are actually helping me on it, because they’re noticing I do certain things [to tip them off].”
- One of the most impressive players during our visit to training camp was defensive end Aaron Maybin. The former first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills has really come into his own with the Jets. Last year, he recorded a career-high six sacks, and he looks even better in his second year in the system. Maybin says the “mayhem” is back, and it has looked that way in training camp. He had a sack and quarterback pressure in Saturday’s scrimmage.
- It's difficult to get a feel for new Jets safety LaRon Landry. His action in camp remains limited because of last year’s Achilles injury that was never surgically repaired. Landry practices with the team about once every three days to stay fresh. He played in Saturday’s scrimmage but wasn’t tested much. The Jets have high expectations for Landry, so we're curious to see how well he moves in exhibition games.
- Free-agent signing Yeremiah Bell is bringing exactly what the Jets expected at safety. He’s made some big hits and solid plays against the run, but he hasn’t been great in coverage. The combination of Bell and Landry on the back end means the Jets must do a lot of scheming to protect their safeties. That involves a lot of blitzing to get to the quarterback and playing Bell or Landry in the box.
- The backup running back situation is interesting. Joe McKnight entered camp as the favorite because of his athleticism and experience. But relative unknown Bilal Powell has been outperforming McKnight. Powell has been more consistent, and McKnight still has a penchant for fumbling.
Before Friday, I had never had the remote inclination to watch a championship team's visit to the White House. So while I have no context for comparison, the Green Bay Packers' visit Friday afternoon was fun and particularly interesting for its NFC North angles.
Among them: The President of the United States' request to trade quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the Chicago Bears. More in a bit.
President Barack Obama, of course, is a longtime Bears fan who provided the Packers some bulletin-board material last January when he said he would attend Super Bowl XLV only if the Bears won the NFC Championship Game. After the Packers' victory, cornerback Charles Woodson told teammates that if Obama didn't want to see the Packers play in the Super Bowl, "we'll go see him" by winning it.
Friday, Obama said he had learned something during that episode: "Don't mess with Charles Woodson."
In light-hearted remarks during a 10-minute ceremony, Obama said: "I'm just going to come out and say it: This hurts a little bit. This is a hard thing for a Bears fan to do."
He added: "You guys [are] coming into my house to rub it in. What are you going to do, go to Ditka's house next?"
Packers fans, Obama said, should "enjoy it while it lasts" because Bears fans "have two dates circled" this season -- the two Bears-Packers games. Joking, I think, Obama reminded the Packers that "if you guys are on a roll" late in the season, "just keep in mind that there is only one person here who can ground all planes in and out of Green Bay if he has to."
Obama got in the obligatory joke about linebacker Clay Matthews' hair and, after Woodson presented him with an honorary share of Packers stock, Obama said: "If I'm a part owner, what I'm thinking is we should initiate a trade to send Rodgers down to the Bears. What do you think?"
Woodson then clarified that Obama is "a minority owner."
(An aside: Jay Cutler just can't get an ounce of love -- not even from the President of the United States!)
Meanwhile, Packers players filled Twitter with some cool photographs from their day at the White House. Some of the best:
- Linebacker A.J. Hawk, tight end Spencer Havner, linebacker Brad Jones and Rodgers in front of an Abraham Lincoln portrait.
- A view of the White House from tight end Tom Crabtree that you don't normally see.
- Safety Nick Collins' view of Obama's entrance with coach Mike McCarthy, team president Mark Murphy and general manager Ted Thompson (not shown).
- Receiver Greg Jennings' photo with Woodson and Obama.
ESPN.com took its positional Power Rankings series off the field and into the boardroom to rate the owners. None of them are popular fellows these days, but for the purposes of this project, nobody was more respected than the Rooney family.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' owners were listed first or second on all eight of the panelists' ballots.
By any definition, Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II qualify as powerful.
They're winners. The Steelers have played in eight Super Bowls and won six of them with three head coaches. The family's success has spanned such a long timeframe that Dan and the late Art Rooney Sr. were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame 36 years apart.
They're transcendent. President Barack Obama selected Steelers chairman Dan Rooney as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
They're influential. Dan Rooney was behind the so-called "Rooney Rule," which changed sidelines dramatically by stimulating minority hires. When it comes to the lockout, Rooney is a prominent voice of reason and could help broker the eventual deal.
"The Steelers selection is a no-brainer," ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton said. "The Steelers under the Rooneys have been the model of franchise ownership in sports. They are successful, consistent and supportive.
"They don't undergo the constant changes of other franchises. Plus, the family has been so instrumental in doing things that help advance the league, sometimes at the expense of their own franchise. It's no secret that two Rooneys are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
Clayton, AFC North blogger James Walker, AFC West blogger Bill Williamson and NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas each had the Rooneys atop his ballot.
"The Rooney family is the perfect combination of tradition, consistency and success," Walker said, echoing Clayton's thoughts almost verbatim. "The easiest thing to point out is they've had the most Super Bowl wins and fewest head coaches since 1969. But they also set trends off the field with things like the Rooney Rule. They're very well respected and there's a special sense of pride about the Steelers from players and fans that you don't see in many places. It starts at the top."
But the Rooneys were not unanimous choices in our ownership Power Rankings.
What about the power of the people?
The Green Bay Packers' ownership received three of the four remaining first-place votes. NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert, NFC West blogger Mike Sando and I all listed the Packers first because of their unique kind of power. Rules governing the other 31 franchises don't apply to them.
The Packers are the only publicly owned franchise. Green Bay Packers Inc. is a non-profit organization formed in 1922. About 112,000 stockholders own roughly 4.75 million shares of the team. A seven-member executive board oversees the team on behalf of the stockholders.
Packers fans never will have to worry about the team being sold or moving away. The Packers are the only franchise that must open its books.
Oh, yeah. They also just won their NFL-record 13th championship.
Seifert explained why the Packers are special.
"My criteria for this category was twofold," Seifert said. "Do the owners fund the team's operations well? And do they operate the team well?
"I think the Packers' arrangement is currently doing both and has none of the baggage that goes along with single-family ownership. Shareholders don't take dividends, so no one is driven by individual profit. All profits go back into the franchise. In my experience, no expenses are spared in operating the team. People might note that general manager Ted Thompson doesn't sign many free agents, but that's a football decision. He's spent plenty on retaining the Packers' own free agents.
"The executive committee has hired a competent president in Mark Murphy, and after a bumpy start on the Brett Favre departure, Murphy has facilitated excellent work from the GM and coach he inherited.
"Finally, the Packers' ownership arrangement requires Murphy, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy to be more accountable to 112,000 fans than any other NFL official is to his fan base. Shareholders can't make operating decisions, but they have the right to question decisions, to know how money is being spent and to get straight(er) answers than fans of any other NFL team."
Clayton, however, wasn't impressed. He omitted the Packers from his ballot, ensuring they didn't finish second overall in the Power Rankings despite their three first-place votes.
One gets the impression that if Clayton were to slot all 32 ownerships, he would jot the Packers last.
"I couldn't vote for the Packers because it is a community ownership, not a normal ownership," Clayton said. "It's not as though one owner makes the decisions and has to stand up for the praise or criticism. Assigned the chance to vote for ownership, I felt more comfortable voting for individual owners or family owners."
AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky listed Kraft above all. Kuharsky had the Rooneys second and the Packers third.
Kuharsky had the most efficient Power Rankings ballot. He was the lone panelist to vote for all of the owners who finished in the top 10.
"Robert Kraft versus the Rooneys is a close call," Kuharsky said. "I went Kraft because I feel he and his team have done more lately. In many ways, the Patriots -- not the Steelers -- are the standard-setters for the league. And while I prefer the way Heinz Field is in the middle of Pittsburgh, that development around Gillette Stadium has to be the envy of a lot of owners."
New York Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch came in fourth, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was fifth and Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was sixth.
From there, everybody else on the Power Rankings top 10 was omitted from at least one ballot.
Eclectic Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who was able to help land a Super Bowl in a nontraditional locale, came in seventh. Irsay rated no higher than sixth on any ballot, but he didn't make Williamson's top 10.
"I know it sticks out because I was the only one not to rank him, but if he was in the top three, I'd re-evaluate my reasoning," Williamson said. "But I can live with not voting for the No. 7 finisher. To be frank, I never considered Irsay. I considered 14 ownerships in all. Other than his random tweets, Irsay doesn't stick out to me, good or bad."
When it came to voting, money didn't necessarily equal power for some panelists.
I ranked Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones third, higher than any other voter. Sando and Yasinskas didn't rate Jones at all.
Jones ended up eighth overall.
To me, you can't argue with his money or his presence. Forbes ranked the Cowboys the world's fourth-greatest sports brand behind only the New York Yankees, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Their estimated brand value was $128 million more than the NFL average and $15 million more than the Eagles and Giants combined.
Forbes estimated the Cowboys franchise was worth $1.8 billion, nearly $300 million more than the next-closest NFL club, the Washington Redskins.
Jones also serves as general manager. That puts him in control of every business and personnel decision. Sando saw that as a drawback.
"Jerry Jones is more involved in football operations than an owner ideally would be," Sando said. "He has shown questionable judgment in hiring head coaches. His involvement in football operations had made those coaches' jobs tougher. Jones dispatched with Tom Landry harshly and later failed to sustain the success Jimmy Johnson orchestrated.
"Also on Jones' watch, the Cowboys have suffered through the practice-bubble catastrophe, a Super Bowl experience that produced poor reviews and a video purporting to show Jones' drunken antics in a bar. Jones also was part of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee when the league agreed to the ill-fated 2006 collective bargaining agreement. Overall, the team hasn't enjoyed enough success recently to say the ends justify the means."
Yasinskas contended Jones simply is overrated these days.
"If Jerry Jones had continued the success he had with Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer back in the 1990s, he'd be at the top of my list," Yasinskas said. "But the fact is the Cowboys really haven't been all that relevant for a long time. Part of that is due to Jones.
"He's done some good things and the new stadium is fabulous, but he's been way too hands-on with that franchise and he's run through lots of good coaches and players without any real results."
Let us know what you think.
In a way only Scott can, he described how Ryan sets himself apart from other head coaches.
"It's how he talks and says what he's thinking and how he lets us be loose and talk," Scott told New York Metro reporter Kristian Dyer. "People don't think the president is supposed to be black either. They think a president is supposed to look a certain way. It's the same thing with Rex. He doesn't look and act the way other coaches act. And we love him for it."
Scott believes the New England Patriots secretly want to be the Jets and points to Wes Welker's playful exchange with reporters before their playoff game. Welker made 11 foot-related comments in a nine-minute news conference to poke fun at Ryan's purported foot fetish. Patriots coach Bill Belichick responded by benching Welker at the start of the game.
"That doesn't sound right, that kind of talk," Scott said. "That's when you know they're buying into us, when they start sounding like we talk. Wes Welker starts trying to be us, sounding like we do. That's how you know they want to be us."
During his season-ending news conference at Lambeau Field, McCarthy was asked if he was in favor of the 18-game proposal. As you might have heard, the Packers finished the regular season with 15 players on injured reserve and had several more suffer significant injuries in Super Bowl XLV.
"I know what the company line is," McCarthy said. "But you are talking to a guy that just barely made it through 16. You can figure that one out for yourself."
Theoretically, a coach doesn't have a financial incentive pulling him between 16 and 18 games. His only concern is preserving his assets -- players -- over the course of the season. The Super Bowl-winning coach has a bit more latitude to speak his mind than others, but I'll be interested to see if anyone else speaks out on the topic as the offseason progresses.
You can read the entire transcript of McCarthy's news conference on the Packers' website. A few other highlights:
- Receiver Jordy Nelson, who was on crutches Tuesday at the Packers' "Return to Titletown" event, has a bruised bursa sac in his knee, an injury he played the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl on. It's not considered serious.
- Linebacker A.J. Hawk will have arthroscopic surgery for a chronic wrist injury.
- McCarthy received a congratulatory phone call earlier this week from President Barack Obama. McCarthy said the conversation began with, "This is a tough phone call for a Bears fan to make," but added: "It was a neat conversation. He was very complimentary of our football team and what we endured as a football team. Very complimentary of Aaron Rodgers [and] Charles Woodson."
- McCarthy said he had nothing to report on a possible contract extension but reiterated he hopes to remain in Green Bay as long as possible: "My family, we're very comfortable here. We want to be here, and we hope [life] stays the same. I still go to Starbucks every morning. Got a cup with 'Congratulations' on it today. That was nice. But other than that, they still charged me. So everything's staying the same."
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the face of the franchise, a captain and a top leader. But it's clear that cornerback Charles Woodson has emerged as the Packers' soul. Woodson spoke for about a minute, delivering a thoughtful, well-planned and rousing talk that exceeded most anything you'll hear in the incoherence of most postgame NFL locker rooms.
Perhaps you've seen video of it circulating around the Internet. If not, here's what Woodson said:
"Think about one thing. One. For two weeks, two weeks, think about one. One mind. Let's be one heartbeat. One purpose. One goal. One more game. One. Let's get it! And check this. President [Barack Obama] don't want to come watch us play in the Super Bowl? Guess what? Guess what? We'll go see him. White House on three. One, two, three. White House!"
"He took the words kind of out of my mouth," Rodgers said.
The Packers rotated captains during the regular season but recently voted Woodson, Rodgers, linebacker A.J. Hawk, receiver Greg Jennings, place-kicker Mason Crosby and special-teams cover man Jarrett Bush as captains for the postseason. That group pushed Woodson to the front as their lead speaker. His history as an elite player has always engendered unspoken respect among teammates, but now more than ever, he is capitalizing on it for leadership purposes.
"I think he's starting to realize he has a lot of respect in the locker room," Rodgers said. "And guys listen to him. They appreciate what he has to say. And he's pretty good at it, too."
Said Woodson: "I feel like I've played this game a long time, played it at a high level. I feel like the things I can say to the team are things that mean something to them, and I can give them something that maybe I've been through and just shed a little light on this process. So it just kind of happened that way. But it's a road that I feel comfortable with."
Those of you who read Jeffri Chadiha's profile of Woodson last year know he was once a cocky young player who "literally would walk into a meeting room, put his playbook on the floor and go right to sleep," according to former teammate Bucky Brooks. Now, Woodson not only leads Packers defensive backs through their film study, but he also spends time preparing his postgame speeches.
"You have to give it some thought, absolutely," he said. "You don't want to just go up there and rant. You want to give it some thought because you're talking to your peers, and at the same time you're talking at a time where the games are bigger than ever.
"So you put some thought into it, and you want to be able to tell them something, something that they could feel. You don't want to just talk and cliché guys to death. You want to give them something they can feel. So that's what I try to do."
One more to go.
"I'm glad to see that one of the greatest rivalries in sports is still there," Obama said. "And we will get you next year. I'm just letting you know."
Obama had predicted a 20-17 Bears victory in the NFC Championship Game. Wednesday, he said: "In the spirit of sportsmanship, I wish you 'good luck' in the Super Bowl."
Until next year, of course....
It appears he has already learned the final score.
Full security clearance can do that for a guy.
The Chicago Tribune reports Obama has predicted a 20-17 victory for the Chicago Bears.
(Is he having a flashback to the teams' Week 3 game?)
If you're the Green Bay Packers, you now know the stakes of this game: It's you against the (leader of the free) world.
According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, Obama would be the first sitting president to watch a Super Bowl in person.
Here's a thought: Maybe at halftime he can pull NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith into a side room and negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. Halftime at the Super Bowl is twice as long as a normal game, after all.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are hoping to prove the new president wrong. Barack Obama is taking the Steelers.
Max Jarman of the Arizona Republic looks at Cardinals memorabilia sales.
Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic looks at the Cardinals' penchant for trick plays. Coordinator Todd Haley concedes that the "Philly Special" might not work a second time.
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune traces the Cardinals' improvement to Michael Bidwill's arrival as team president in 2002.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune looks at Rod Graves' role in building the Cardinals.
Niners general manager Scot McCloughan says the team hopes Alex Smith can compete with Shaun Hill to become the 49ers' starting quarterback. McCloughan: "I still believe Alex Smith is going to be a good quarterback in the NFL and if we can have him back competing with Shaun, we'd love to do it."
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle isn't sure what to make of the 49ers' interest in Dan Reeves and Hue Jackson as potential offensive coordinators. Crumpacker: "With his sixth and seventh candidates interviewed, Singletary is either exercising due diligence in his search for a coordinator or is struggling to find someone compatible with his vision for the 49ers' offense."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says hiring Jackson, now with the Ravens and formerly with the Falcons and Bencals, would "open the door to troubled but talented players such as Ocho Cinco, [Michael] Vick and to lesser extent [T.J.] Houshmandzadeh."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat traces Reeves' candidacy to former 49ers coach Mike Nolan. Maiocco: "When Mike Nolan was named 49ers head coach in 2005, there were rumblings he might bring along his mentor, Dan Reeves, to assist him. Nolan is gone, but Reeves accepted a surprise invitation Friday to visit the 49ers team headquarters and discuss the offensive-coordinator position with new coach Mike Singletary."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Singletary couldn't find a more old-school coordinator than Reeves.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer questions whether the Seahawks will keep two kickers for the long term. General manager Tim Ruskell says Olindo Mare will be back. The plan -- "right now," Ruskell said -- is for Brandon Coutu to return as well.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says special-teams coach Al Roberts is one of the assistant coaches not coming back to the Rams. Strength coach Dana LeDuc and quarterbacks coach Terry Shea also will not return. Thomas: "Some holdover assistants who are still being considered for jobs are scheduled to meet with new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and new defensive coordinator Ken Flajole over the next few days."
Also from Thomas: a chat transcript that says the Rams do not have anyone negotiating contracts at the moment.
The New England Patriots quarterback consented Wednesday to his first real interview since tearing up his left knee in September.
He was on the air for only 10 minutes. The first part of the interview was devoted to Barack Obama's inauguration and Brady's philanthropic works in Africa, and some of the segment was dedicated to hawking a sports cream, the reason for his interview to begin with.
Still, he spoke and didn't dodge any questions that were set forth, although I was told by someone in the know concessions were made in arranging the interview and certain topics, including girlfriend Gisele Bundchen, were verboten.
He was not asked whether he would be ready for training camp, about the NBCSports.com report his rehab was delayed by an accumulation of scar tissue or if the Patriots would need Matt Cassel to stick around for a while.
Brady showed his interview skills were rusty when he unleashed a curse word not allowed in the U.S. or Canada.
What was it like to watch an entire season and not be able to play?
Tom Brady: You play this game long enough, and [expletive] happens, so to speak. The reality is it happens to everybody. I'm in a new part of my career, and I'm excited about rehabilitation and different challenges. The tough part is you're not experiencing something you love to do. But you get over that and you focus on what you've got to focus on and you just say, "OK, well, it happened. We're moving on."
Could you follow the team closely, or was it too hard?
TB: I watched everything. I was the biggest cheerleader. It's painful when you see our team lose, and I thought we really had a great year, being that we finished 11-5. It was tough enough to not make the playoffs, and a team that's in the Super Bowl, the Arizona Cardinals, we beat by 40 points.
So I was disappointed along with the rest of our team and coaches, but it was what it was. It was a tough competition in the AFC this year. We're going t try to make some improvements this offseason and see if we can make it back to being the division winner next year.
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