NFL Nation: Speed Dial

Speed Dial: Did Cromartie cross a line?

January, 13, 2011
Time for another edition of "Speed Dial," where I call a few folks from my Rolodex to get their takes on a particular subject.

Today's question: In light of what New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie recently said about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, is there a line that can be crossed when it comes to trash talking?

Ruben Brown, Buffalo Bills guard (1995-2003):
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If it's said to a player who will respond, then, yes, there is a line. But when it's a pro like Tom Brady, this is just going to roll like water off a duck's back. He'll say 'There's another crazy guy, talking smack.'

"You're totally wasting your time. It's like trying to call Peyton Manning out. Tom Brady and the elite, elite players, there's no real need to trash talk. Would he say that to Ray Lewis? No, because Ray would knock his block off. Those guys' work speaks for itself. What has Cromartie done compared to Tom Brady? Cromartie's not a Tom Brady, so Tom doesn't have to worry about him.

"I don't know if he really hates Tom or he's just getting himself pumped up for the game. I know plenty of times I've been psyched up for a game. You get tired of hearing the same questions over and over and you just lash out and say 'Screw that guy. I'm sick of hearing about him.' "

Ken O'Brien, New York Jets quarterback (1984-92):
"I think there definitely is a line and things that should not be said. I just think, regardless of the parties involved, that it's a common-sense thing. It comes down to the way you would want to be treated and the way you're raised. Just because you get asked a question, there's no need to sensationalize. In that situation, I think if you had time to think about it, you wouldn't want to say that.

"I don't even look at it in terms of being professional or affecting competition. It's not going to affect the outcome, and knowing Tom a little I'll bet he didn't think about it for two seconds. I look at it as how you represent yourself to people. I just think there's no place for that. Life's way too short. Talk about things that are positive, and you'll serve yourself a lot better."

Sam Madison, Miami Dolphins cornerback (1997-2005):
"It's the heat of the moment, and right now you're talking about the playoffs. You see the way their leader, Rex Ryan, is treating the situation. His players are taking the same approach their coach is dishing out. That's something that's brewing in the locker room among those guys, and [Cromartie] just had the nerve to say it.

"But when you get into it with one of the best quarterbacks in the league, you have to be ready to back it up. It gives Tom Brady more bulletin-board material. But all year, when wasn't there bulletin-board material coming from that Jets regime? It's just the way everybody's building up for a big football game."

Speed Dial: Tales of The Turk

September, 3, 2010
Time for another edition of "Speed Dial," where I call a few people from my cell phone address book to get their insight on a particular subject.

Today's question: With the deadline to finalize the 53-man roster coming at 6 p.m. Saturday, what comes to mind when you think of The Turk, the mythological being who lets a player know he has been cut?

Rod Rust, former New England Patriots head coach:
"The name carries connotations that sound like somebody with a scimitar, going around and cutting people's heads off. It's not as heartless as it sounds. The coaches talk about how to minimize the moment. There's always a lot of thought put into it because there's a bond between the coach and player with all the hard work they put in. And then 'Oh, by the way, you're not going to be around.' It's not easy for anybody.

[+] EnlargeRod Rust
Focus on Sport/Getty ImagesFormer Patriots coach Rod Rust says roster cuts are difficult for everyone involved.
"Some places it's a messenger that says 'The head coach wants to see you.' More often than not, The Turk is not a person far up the organizational chart. He's someone near the bottom. It's pretty impersonal, but the person's not at any emotional risk because he clearly is not the one who made the decision. There's a psychology there, obviously.

"I can remember being very, very depressed on that day. That's the hardest day of the year. A lot of coaches will tell you that. It's absolutely no fun."

Al Groh, former New York Jets head coach and Patriots defensive coordinator:
"The Turk has been many people and a much-storied individual, that's for sure. He's somebody that you don't want to know. I was never The Turk. I just had to deal with the aftermath of The Turk's visit. It was always very touching to see, really, how they were affected by it and, in many cases, realized how the course of their life was about to change.

"I did have a circumstance when I was coaching the linebackers for the Jets with Bill Parcells. His name was Chad Cascadden, a walk-on player and very bright. I had been his position coach, and now I was head coach of the team. I'd been in that meeting room with him every day for three years, spent a lot of time with Chad and admired him. My wife and I went to his wedding. And it was my chore to tell him he wasn't going to be with us anymore. That was particularly difficult."

Herm Edwards, former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs head coach:
"When I went to training camp there were 125 guys. It was two months and six preseason games. The Turk was alive and well. They were cutting 10, 15 guys at a time. You'd get five or six on a Monday, then get another four or five on Tuesday.

"My rookie year in Philadelphia they used to slide a white piece of paper under the door. It would have the name and say 'Bring your playbook.' I was roommates with a guy by the name of Skip Sharp. We both were defensive backs. He was a draft pick. I was a free agent. The second week of camp, they slid the paper underneath the door, but you couldn't see the name. I was an early riser, and when the paper came under the door around 4:30 in the morning or so, I go 'You gotta be kidding, man. They're getting ready to cut me?' I thought I was doing pretty good. So I picked up the paper, and it had Skip's name on it. I didn't wake him up at all. I got out of there. I put the paper down, went to facility at about 6 in the morning and checked my locker to make sure my gear was still in there."

Ted Cottrell, former Buffalo Bills, Jets and San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator:
"Sometimes a player gets cut not because they can't play, but because you don't have a spot for them at the moment. A lot of times, you cut a player and you bring him right back as soon as there's an injury.
"I can tell you a story. When I was with Kansas City in 1981, we had a player I had gotten a tryout. I had coached him at Rutgers University. He signed as a punter and got an opportunity to play in the exhibition season. Because of some injuries, I got him an opportunity to play safety the last couple games. He did a great job, but he did not make the team. He was one of the last cuts. I said 'As soon as someone gets hurt, you're probably coming back here because of what you have done.' Three weeks later, he was brought back. He goes on to make six Pro Bowls. He's on their Ring of Honor. His name is Deron Cherry."

Speed dial: Too many dollars for Dansby?

March, 8, 2010
Time for another installment of "Speed Dial," where I call three people in my cell phone address book and get their insight on a particular subject.

[+] EnlargeKarlos Dansby
Gene Lower/Getty ImagesThe Dolphins are betting that Karlos Dansby's signing won't be another high-profile mistake.
Today's question: Did the Miami Dolphins overspend when they gave Karlos Dansby, who never has been selected for a Pro Bowl, a five-year contract for $43 million, making him the NFL's highest-paid linebacker?

Marty Schottenheimer, 21-year NFL head coach:
"That sounds to me that it's expensive. It reminds me of when I was 6 years old and used to walk to the little grocery and candy store. When I say little, I mean you could barely fit five people in there. I used to go in there with my four, five, six, seven pennies. I could barely see above to counter. And I would say 'I want to take one of those, two of those, one of these ...' Mrs. Pascoe would have to stop me and say 'I'm sorry that's all the money you have.' That was my first exposure to what it was like to be a coach in the National Football League. My math has never been very good, but I understood what it meant.

"My theory has always been there's an amount of money you can spend, and you need to spread it out the right way to find the players that will help your football team. Some guys get paid more than they're worth, and some guys get paid less than they're worth. The market for Dansby was established somewhere by somebody.

"There are a number of people that would not be willing to make that kind of commitment, but the Dolphins know their situation better than anybody, and there might be other factors they desired other than play on the field -- leadership ability and the like. I've always thought that when it comes to free agents nobody knows what you're looking for like you do. The benefit you have in free agency is you have a pretty good idea how a guy is going to play at this level. Coming out of college, there are no assurances."

Kim Bokamper, Pro Bowl outside linebacker for the Dolphins and sports anchor of Miami's CBS affiliate:
"I've gotten to a point with free agency where I have to wait and see before I have an opinion because so many times they pick up guys you feel good about and they don't perform. That, to me, has always been the biggest question: Will he play as hard now that he's got the cash in his pocket compared to when he didn't -- relative to the amount of money these guys make. A perfect example is Ernest Wilford. He got some money in his pocket and put it in neutral.

"But with Dansby, you bring in a guy at middle linebacker who's a playmaker that they need. It kind of signals that the owner or the management feels that they're close and they're willing to go out and make a splash and spend a big chunk of change on someone who can put them there they need to be this year, and that's the playoffs.

"I have these visions in my head of running backs and tight ends running crossing routes or running down the middle of the field and watching our linebackers trailing them, two or three steps behind. If Dansby resolves that, then I'm all for it.

"Is there another guy out there considered better? If so, then I'd question the money. I don't think anybody can argue you'd pay more for anybody else out there than you would on this guy."

Keith Sims, three-time Pro Bowl guard for the Dolphins in the 1990s:
"I'm hoping we're not talking about another Dolphins free-agent bust like Eric Green, Ernest Wilford or Gibril Wilson. They haven't hit on their free agents. Otherwise, they'd have that cornerback, have that safety, have that receiver.

"Barring injury, [Dansby] will be a solid player for years. My question is whether he's going to be worth the dollars. I think it was a glaring need for the Dolphins, and he's a guy that's been productive. I think he brings a lot to table, and the one thing the Dolphins did not want to do was allow him to go to another team for a visit. He was able to force their hand and force them to pay top dollars to stop him from getting on that plane.

"Maybe they overpaid a little bit, but he solves a huge hole in the middle of the defense. The Dolphins identified what they wanted, saw he was the best player on the market and did what it took to go out and sign him. They went with the -- quote, unquote -- safest guy as they possibly could find and gave him the money.

"It's perfect timing for the player. He had all the leverage in the world. The team was desperate to fill the position, and they could've drafted [Rolando] McClain out of Alabama, but I always feel more comfortable paying top dollar to a veteran who has produced rather than a guy who's unproven, coming out of college."