Defensive ends wear a ton of padding whereas rugby players hardly wear any at all – convince us American Football is equally brutal…
It’s the collisions that differentiate our sports. We can be 20 or 30 metres from each other, run at full speed and slam into each other. They equate it to being in a car accident – every weekend we’re in a crash. Including the post-season, we only play 20 games a year. ?A lot of guys can’t even make it through that.
Surely it would be more exciting without the pads though?
They used to do that back in the day, but if you look at those guys now they can barely walk, their faces are totally scarred up and they have no use of their hands. Now people are bigger, faster and stronger. So to do what we do without pads would be a very bad idea.
With only 15 games in the regular season, what do you do with all that time off?
I usually take two months off and do nothing – eat, get fat and heal up from the season.
How much do you know about “real” football and rugby?
I know they’re big, but not much else. I respect the heck out of those sports – the passion the players and fans have. And soccer players seem to be able to run forever. I don’t know much about rugby either, but I did have dinner with Martin Johnson last night so I learned a little bit from him.
What about cricket?
You can keep it. I don’t understand the first thing about it. I watched an hour of it the other day and all I figured out was that the guy who runs and throws the ball is called a bowler.
Do they all just seem a bit soft to you?
No, but I do need more action than there is in soccer – more scoring. To run around all day and just score one goal? It doesn’t appeal…
How would Beckham fare in the NFL?
He could play for us. Our old kicker was a big soccer player. It’s the same skill set and they don’t really get hit. He could be our kicker, but I don’t suggest him going anywhere else on the field.
Do you and your team-mates psych yourselves up before a big game by head-butting lockers and each other?
I’m pretty chilled on game day. Just the idea that someone wants to kick my ass is enough to get me worked up, or the fact someone’s trying to embarrass me on national TV. When I walk out and hear the crowd, that’s enough.
And what sort of stuff do you get up to on the team bus?
On the way to games it’s pretty mellow – you’re thinking about taking care of business. On the way home, if we lose, it’s pretty quiet. ?If we win, it’s crazy. The NFL’s really cracking down on the whole alcohol thing so I have to tread lightly here. We might have a cocktail – a little liquid Tylenol [American pain medication]. And we’ve been known to have a card game.
Is American football anything like what we’ve seen in Jerry Maguire?
No. Hollywood has taken a lot of liberties there. All the crap he got up to in the locker room, talking to his team-mates, the selfish crap, you don’t see that. That shit wouldn’t work in our locker room. Like when the agent was in the bathroom – what the hell was he doing in the bathroom with him?
So you’ve never said “Show me the money”?
Well, maybe to myself, but not to anybody else.
Could you and three other defensive linesmen fit in a small European car?
Not in these shoeboxes they have out here. Smart cars? I’m still waiting to see my first SUV over here. With all the small roads I think if I came over here with my Escalade I’d make a mess of the place. Even the big trucks here are like Honey, I Shrunk The Truck.
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever had from a fan?
People ask me to sign their babies. Or buy them houses. I had one guy who asked me to sign his arm. An hour later he came running back saying, “Look!” He’d had the autograph tattooed onto his arm. That was a bit extreme.
We hear you lot can sail through university without ever going to class as long as you play ball for the school…
Let’s just say thank God for football! Actually, the focus became more on football than it should have been towards the end. And I say that now because I’m a father and I want my kids to do the right thing. You have a better chance of winning the lottery than you do of making it to the NFL, so I was very fortunate.
Any good frat-party stories?
Plenty. But if I told them my wife would kick my ass. College years are the best of your life: it’s when you have your independence but have no responsibility yet, so you act accordingly.
In “soccer” it can get quite personal on the pitch. What’s the worst thing that’s ever been said to you on the field?
Nothing really bothers me. I’ll just talk back and it doesn’t really piss me off. It’s easy to get pissed off when someone’s kicking your ass and talking. That’s when you end up head-butting somebody in the chest or whatever.
Baseball pitchers and cricket bowlers sometimes tamper with the balls – is it possible to cheat at American football?
Kickers used to take the ball and brush it down. They had this whole technique that made them softer so they flew better. By nature a football has a wax on it, so it’s slippery and sometimes, when it gets cold, the balls could slip out of a quarterback’s hands. They used to take the balls and really work them over, scrub them down, wet them and let them swell up a bit so they could hold them better.
Ever resort to dirty tricks?
The game is so tilted in favour of the offence. They protect quarterbacks like they’re prima donnas. You can’t hit them late, you can’t hit them early, you can’t hit them below the waist, you can’t hit them above the shoulders. Why the hell do they have pads on? Go play soccer or something…
Does anyone ever just throw a punch when the umpire’s not looking?
Oh yeah, people sneak in punches and kicks. Or steps on hands. You can’t really bite because of the facemasks.
Players seem to thank God a lot after a good play or win. Why do players never blame God after a fumble or shit game?
Because it ain’t God’s fault at that point. He can’t cause a fumble. We blame the devil though. I used to think God was a Dolphins fan, but we haven’t made the play-offs in five years so I’m starting to wonder.
Finally, can you envisage a time when NFL players might be replaced by huge bladed robots with lasers?
It would be interesting. It could become gladiator-like, in giant stadiums and with more violence. Players would be easier to deal with if you could control them, I suppose.
Original interview by Will Cockrell in the November 2007 issue of FHM UK magazine