During a recent conversation with an NFL head coach we discussed pre-game build up and if anything that is said and done leading up to a game can have an impact.
"We might try to say it does, but it doesn't," he said.
How right he is.
A handful of players I spoke to agreed. Once the pads are on, once the first hits are made, no pre-game noise matters.
A big reason is the on-field noise is even worse.
I've had several players say the insults on game day are X-rated compared to the pre-game buildup. They wouldn't have a chance on live television or radio. The FCC would go nuts.
"I've had guys say I was a gay and all that," one player said. "Only he didn't say it in that way, if you know what I mean. It's nasty out there."
So while a lot is being made of the ugly words thrown at Tom Brady by Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, just remember they don't matter. If you think something like that will make the Patriots play harder, then you don't know football players.
They play harder in the postseason. If they're not motivated by the fear of losing, then something's wrong anyway.
Brady is guilty of being a game-day punk at times. But that's fine. He can back it up. He's earned that right. When he pointed to the Jets bench after throwing a touchdown in the 45-3 blowout earlier this season, I knew that would become an issue if they met again.
I'll be honest: I like it.
Back in the day, I remember a kid taunting me during a high-school game. One problem:
My team was winning.
I pointed to the scoreboard.
That's all that matters.
Talking smack is an art form. Backing it up is another matter.
Brady can back it up. That's why he's great. I will say this. He does get a free pass for his on-field antics. He's Tom Brady. Of course he does.
Maybe that's why Cromartie popped off the way he did. But if they Jets think they're getting into that guy's head, they can forget it. He's a pro's pro who won't let any pre-game noise bother his focus.
Jets coach Rex Ryan doesn't care if his team talks. That's a good thing for us in the media. Ryan is smart enough to know that none if it matters. If the Patriots blow out the Jets Sunday, Cromartie's words won't be the reason, but his play might.
I've seen too many paranoid coaches get too caught up in what players might say. You know, providing the proverbial bulletin-board material.
Walk into an NFL locker room and you're bound to see articles cut out and posted on the walls with yellow highlights of things opponents said about a certain player or the entire team. It's sophomoric to think those things matter. But coaches aren't always the brightest.
You know what matters? Getting hit in the mouth on the first play with a chance to move on in the postseason.
So make a big deal about Cromartie's words all you want. As soon as the foot hits leather for kickoff, they'll be as meaningful as an NCAA bowl game in December.