Sunday, December 19, 2010

NBC Sunday Night Football Pregame Notes - Week 15

From NBC Sports -


“If everyone would give a little, everyone would get a lot.” – Commissioner Roger Goodell to “Football Night’s” Bob Costas on labor negotiations

“They outplayed the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh.” – “Football Night’s” Tony Dungy on the Jets

“I think it means his future is definitely done in Washington.” – “Football Night’s” Peter King on Donovan McNabb

NEW YORK – December 19, 2010 – Following are highlights from NBC Sports’ “Football Night in America.” Bob Costas, who has been called the ‘best interviewer in sports’ by Sports Illustrated, hosted the show live from Gillette Stadium and interviewed Commissioner Roger Goodell on site live. Costas was also joined on site for commentary by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. Co-host Dan Patrick, analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, and reporter Peter King covered the news of the NFL's 15th week live from NBC's 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios. Alex Flanagan reported from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa., on the Jets-Steelers game.

Following are highlights of Bob Costas’ interviews with Commissioner Roger Goodell and Packers CB Charles Woodson:


Costas on Brett Favre situation: “How close are you to making a decision?”

Goodell: “I’ve got an initial report, I’m following up with a couple areas, and my staff is going to get back to me. But I hope to reach a conclusion soon.”

Costas on the season winding down: “You’ve got to do something soon, right?”

Goodell: “Yes, but I want to make sure we do what’s right. We’ve been very serious, we’ve been very thoughtful, we’ve been very thorough and we’re going to continue to do that. We take this issue very seriously and I want to make the right decision.”

Costas: “But some decision, I’m inferring, will be made before the season is over?”

Goodell: “I expect to.”

Costas: “One of the subplots of this season has been your effort to curtail head injuries by cracking down on helmet-to-helmet hits on defenseless players. Many coaches and players seem to be on board with that initiative, others have bristled at it … Can you really change the culture of the sport?”

Goodell: “I think we can. I think we have. The players’ safety has to be our priority and it is our priority throughout the NFL. I think there are certain techniques that have been identified to be dangerous, not only to the individuals being hit but also the individual doing the striking. And we can change the game for the better, change behavior, and make the game safer for everybody.”

Costas: “What would you say to the parents of an athletically gifted 12- or 13-year-old boy, who say, ‘Mr. Commissioner, we are lifelong NFL fans. We love the game. But knowing what we know now about the risk of catastrophic injury and perhaps the long-term effects, we’re not going to allow our son to play football.’ What would you say?”

Goodell: “I talk to those parents and what’s happening in the NFL is there is great awareness of concussions and the proper treatment for those injuries. And we have to do everything we can to make our game safer, but also every other sport. Concussions happen in other sports and they happen in life, and we have to make sure we’re doing everything possible to treat those properly. And I think when you do, you can go on and live obviously a very healthy life, and that’s what we’re all interested in doing.”

Costas: “They can happen in any sport, and they do, but they happen, as you know, with greater frequency in football than any other North American team sport. It’s just part of the game.”

Goodell: “They also happen outside of sports. One of the things that’s been most intriguing as we’ve been going through all this is our U.S. military and how they’re having to deal with return to battlefield. And the NFL, through its work, has really helped our military be able to address this issue for men and women overseas who are defending our country, make sure we’re dealing with their concussions in an appropriate way. The work that we’ve done, the research that we’ve done including return to play, they have returned to battlefield.”

Costas: “Earlier tonight on this program, Charles Woodson said that he’s completely against an 18-game season … Earlier this year Hines Ward said the league is hypocritical … What do you say in response?”

Goodell: “I understand our players’ safety has always got to be the priority and it will be. We are playing a 20-game format. It’s clear from both the players and our fans that preseason is not something they’re interested in. Unfortunately, players get injured in the preseason also. We have to go back and look at everything we’re doing from preparing our players in the off-season to training camps to the regular season to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make it safe. But we also have to make sure we take our game forward and into the future, and figure out a way to do it responsibly.”

Costas: “If you go to 18 games, do you add an extra bye week? Do you expand rosters?”

Goodell: “All of those things are under consideration. They’ve been evaluated over the last couple of years. We’re talking with the Players Association on those issues. I think you do have to do some of those things. I think expanded rosters is something that we’ve been very up-front with, with the union.”

Costas: “Here’s another consideration. If you play 18 games and you push the regular season deep into January, you’re going to have some games involving teams that are out of the race in bitter weather conditions and you’re going to have some empty seats, maybe even you’re going to have some people say, ‘If two or three of these nine home games are going to be in brutal January conditions and I don’t think my team is any good, I’ll just stay home with my high-def TV.”

Goodell: “One of the things that our fans are saying is, ‘We don’t like preseason games. We don’t like meaningless games and we don’t like games where we’re not seeing the players we want to see. That’s what we’re trying to address. We’re going to have to be sensitive of those issues. Getting people into our stadium, our fans, has become more challenging as you do a better job on television, as greater technology at home. But the experience here that you’re feeling tonight, there’s nothing like being at an NFL game on a night like tonight. This is exciting.”

Costas: “Given the incredible television ratings and the record revenues how far is the league willing to push it to try and get a better deal and run the risk of a work stoppage and maybe alienating the biggest fan base in all of American sports.”

Goodell: “We’re aware of what it could do to our fans. I think the most important thing is we get an agreement to keep bringing football to our fans. When you get into cases like this, if everyone would give a little, everyone would get a lot, especially our fans. In any negotiation you have, you have to make sure that you realize you’re not going to get everything you want. Hopefully, you can get everything you need and the game can continue to thrive for years.”

Costas: “The issues obviously are very complicated so I’m more than generalizing but some fans may say, ‘Look, the owners have record revenues, they have a salary cap, even the least well off team has more money than the salary cap allows just from national television before they begin to sell tickets and collect other revenues, how can this possibly be so bad for the owners?’”

Goodell: “They’ve done a great job of managing their business, but there are some very clear things that need to be addressed in a collective bargaining agreement. To start with the rookie pool; the rookie compensation system is really going out of whack. We have got a system now where we paid over the last two years to our rookies, close to $2.5 billion. Almost half of that is guaranteed money just to 500 young men. That money needs to be shifted to proven veterans and to our retired players to make a better system. So what we’ve got to do is work to make our game great and look forward of how we’re going to continue to do that.”

Costas: “How gratified are you, not just by his play, but with the way Michael Vick has conducted himself so far. None of this is to diminish the severity of what he did. And there are those understandably who will never forgive him. But he is back in the league and so far seems to be doing ok.”

Goodell: “I think anyone would say that what he was involved with was horrific but I also believe that when someone recognizes their mistakes, takes responsibility, they’re accountable. He earned the opportunity for a second chance and he’s demonstrating it, not just on the field but what he’s doing to live his life. And I’m proud of what he’s doing off the field. Obviously he’s having an extraordinary season on the field and I’m glad for that.”


Costas on famous ‘Tuck Rule’ game nine years ago when Woodson was with Oakland: “You think you’ve won the game. Not so fast.”

Woodson, who appeared to have sacked Brady and recovered the forced fumble: “Yeah. Where did that come from? … The ball comes out, lay on it, game over. We’re fired up. And all of a sudden, there’s some commotion, and we’re trying to figure out why they’re not saying, ‘Oakland ball. Let’s run this clock out.’ They come back and they explain this tuck rule. It’s just a terrible rule.”

Costas: “It seems to me that you haven’t quite forgotten it. That was has taken a lot of time to get over.”

Woodson: “You don’t get over it, especially around this time of year. The playoffs are coming around.”

Costas: “You and Tom Brady were teammates for a while at Michigan. You were quoted as saying, ‘Brady stole my ring and I still don’t have one.’”

Woodson: “That’s the truth and he knows it. The Patriots know it. I still think about it. It hurts. I don’t mind getting beat but I hate being robbed.”

Costas: “If the league goes to 18 games, is that a good idea?”

Woodson: “Not at all. The toll that it takes on the body … The players truly understand what that is. Just look at the number of concussions you’ve seen this year from guys. This is something that they’ll have to live with the rest of their lives, those guys that have to hit every play, to take that to two more games will be devastating for a lot of guys.”


Patrick: “One of the greatest finishes in NFL history.”

Patrick on DeSean Jackson’s game-winning punt return TD: “He kicked it to Jackson and then a video game takes place.”

Dungy: “The play that really got Philadelphia back in it was the onside kick … Should have had their hands team in but they still made mistakes after this: they were trying to run the clock out; they had a false-start penalty; they throw the ball on third down and stop the clock. They gave Philadelphia a lot of chances and Vick took advantage of it.”

Harrison: “This is a devastating loss for these guys.”

Dungy on what Coughlin needs to do: “You could see he was down after the game and he’s got to be the leader. He’s got to step up and say, ‘You know what, we did blow a game but we can still make the playoffs.’”


Dungy: “They really needed it and it was a total team effort … But I thought Mark Sanchez played under control, no turnovers and that was a big thing going into Pittsburgh…They outplayed the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh.”

Jason Taylor to Alex Flanagan: “We made it interesting again. We let them drive down to the what, nine-yard line? And playing against a team like this with Roethlisberger he’s going to do that. He’s going to extend plays, run around a little bit, by some time, and that’s just how he is. And we knew that coming in we had to stay after him and be relentless. It was a good team effort, a lot to correct though, and we understand that.”


Harrison: “Pittsburgh’s defense definitely missed Troy Polamalu, didn’t get a chance to create any turnovers. They definitely missed that guy.”


Dungy: “He talked about Rex Grossman not surprising him. He didn’t surprise me either. Four touchdowns, but interceptions, sacks, fumbles. I don’t think he’s their quarterback of the future. Washington played hard today and they responded to the quarterback change.”

King: “The news coming out of today is that Donovan McNabb was the backup quarterback today in Dallas. He will be No. 3, according to Shanahan, for the last two weeks of the season. He told me he wants to see not only Rex Grossman but John Beck, and I think that means Donovan McNabb’s future, although Shanahan did not say this, I think it means his future is definitely done in Washington for a very simple reason: $10 million as soon as he plays one game for anybody in 2011. The Redskins are not going to pay that money. I think the three places that are going to be looking hard for quarterbacks in this off-season: Miami, San Francisco and Minnesota. I think it will be one of those three spots.”


Harrison on Tom Brady’s play without the pressure of having to throw to Randy Moss: “That’s why he’s more comfortable in his offense because now he can spread the ball out and allow these guys, who don’t really care how many catches they have, to just make plays.”

Collinsworth on if Brady is back at his 2007 level: “If not better. When you think of that season, what made it so remarkable was that you had two of the greatest players of all time putting up historic numbers, Tom Brady and Randy Moss, fifty touchdown passes, eight interceptions. Now I’m certainly not going to compare a 29-touchdown pass season, which is what he’s done this year, but the ratio of touchdown to interception, is actually better this season. Little more ball control, not as many big plays, but the way he is manipulating the defense … has been fantastic.”

Costas: “The surging Pats are now the consensus Super Bowl favorite.”


Collinsworth on Matt Flynn: “Within the Packers organization they like him, they really do. There are some guys that really have that charismatic style to them, and they say that Matt Flynn is one of those guys that’s constantly joking, he’s breaking the team up in the huddle, he’s always playing around. They compared him to Brett Favre personality wise. So it’s a guy that they’re going to want to have success with. You’re going to get the full effort plus the fact that the Packers a week ago were humiliated, and very seldom in this league do you see a good football team like the Packers lay two eggs back to back.”


Patrick: “They’re great in the Dome. They’re pretty good on the road, too.”


Dungy: “That was a death blow to their playoff hunt. Unfortunately, Tampa did not stop the run today. It’s been a problem all year. Maurice Morris got over a hundred yards, Calvin Johnson made some great catches, but Tampa is still a team to watch. Josh Freeman played great today.”


Harrison: “This is a different team with Matt Cassel. Matt didn’t play particularly well today, but they were able to run the ball, play some good defense, and they put themselves in a position where, if they win these next couple of games, they’re in the playoffs.”


Dungy on controversial fourth-and-one call: “Jack Del Rio’s done it in the past. Bill Belichick did it last year. You’ve got to play smart football. Jack, you didn’t need a yard then. Punt the ball. Play defense. Play smart football … Everyone thinks, ‘I’ve got to outscore Manning.’ Play smart. Play fundamental football.”

Harrison: “Bad call by Jack Del Rio.”


King on Terrell Owens: “He’s going to be 37 years old, turning 38 next year. He says he’s got two more years to go and I believe he’s going to try definitely to play. It won’t be in Cincinnati though.”


King: “John Fox will not be back in 2011 and he and his $6 million salary will go because the Panthers do not believe now anymore in paying a coach that much money. I believe they’ll go with a young, aggressive defensive coordinator and about a third to half of that price … They’re leaning very hard toward Andrew Luck, the quarterback of Stanford, if he does comes out. One other thing about their coach, it will not be Bill Cower because Bill Cower is just going to be too expensive for their taste.”


By now, you all know what happened between the Giants and the Eagles today in New Jersey. With New York up 21 points with seven-and-a-half minutes left, the Eagles scored four touchdowns and won in regulation.

For the Giants, the usual adjectives – brutal, frustrating, devastating -- are somehow insufficient in this case. To lose this way is beyond unthinkable. It borders on the impossible. Now it's one thing to have Michael Vick and the high-powered Eagle offense come to life for a couple of scores. It's another not to anticipate an onside kick. And then, with 14 seconds on the clock, fail to punt out of bounds. And then fail to tackle DeSean Jackson once he gets his hands on the ball.

Professionals excel at putting today's game, outcome good or bad, behind them. But this one is both so painful and preposterous it may --- for all the wrong reasons -- be unforgettable. One word of advice for Big Blue on a blue Monday: don't turn on the radio. In the best of times, sports talk is hardly a bastion of reasoned and nuanced discussion. This week in New York, fahgettaboutit. Invective will fly.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, where the locals once infamously booed Santa Claus. All is well this holiday season. The Eagles virtually clinched their division, and deal the Giants a defeat so galling and self-esteem-shaking that it makes the Joe Picarcik fumble -- the original miracle at the meadowlands -- seem almost trivial. And it comes just a few days after the Phillies snatched cliff lee out from under the Yankees' noses, simultaneously wounding both New York teams -- the Yanks and the already underachieving Mets, who reside in the same division as the frighteningly formidable Phils. And oh yeah. Yesterday, the Flyers beat the Rangers. What's next. Mr. Met forced to serve as the Phillie fanatic's errand boy?

Well for this week at least, in Philadelphia, sports talk radio should be easy listening.

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