Sherman upset at NFLN pundits for calling Seahawks pretenders

Richard Sherman, in the midst of his post-game trashing of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, called out pundits at the NFL Network.

It was a good week for the Seattle Seahawks second-year cornerback to make waves, as his team is set to face off against the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC West showdown on “Thursday Night Football.”

On Tuesday’s edition of “NFL AM,” Sherman clarified just what motivated his comments against NFL Network.

“It was the guys in the ‘Contenders and Pretenders’ segment that called us pretenders,” Sherman said. “Anytime you’re a team that works hard and tries to show up every week and plays hard and battle you never want to be called a pretender. That kind of frustrated us.”

It’s understandable for a defense that now has beaten four of the most ballyhooed quarterbacks in the NFL — Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Cam Newton and Brady — would be frustrated with being questioned.

However, pundits are paid for their opinions, regardless of how inflammatory or incorrect.

There shouldn’t be any question the Seahawks possess one of the most physically dominant defenses in NFL. The Seattle secondary, led by Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner, Kam Chancellor and Sherman, is long, athletic and physical at the point of attack.

From Sherman’s perspective the Seahawks are being disregarded not because of how they play, but where they play.

“I think we have a great team out here in Seattle and I think we play some good football,” he said. “We play a physical brand of football. And I think it goes ignored and we never get any notoriety because they say we’re in the Pacific Northwest and who cares about Seattle, but I mean if you are playing good football I don’t think it should matters where you play it.”

Brees backs Fujita’s criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees reiterated his denunciation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent reaffirmation of the suspensions for players involved in the Saints bounty scandal on Thursday.

The record-setting quarterback told “NFL AM” that he believes the commissioner continues to misuse his power.

“This (bounty saga) could go on for a while because, certainly our players are not satisfied with some of the things that Commissioner Goodell has claimed or said,” Brees said. “It seems like so much of his suspensions have been based upon speculation and rhetoric and maybe the testimony of some pretty unreliable sources. So that’s the unfortunate thing — it seems like his decision changes quite a bit and at least the reasoning behind what his decision is. So that is the disappointing part of it for all of us.”

Former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita released a statement Wednesday condemning Goodell’s actions. Fujita, who’s now with the Cleveland Browns, accused Goodell of a “condescending tone” and called the commissioner’s actions “an absolute abuse” of power.

Brees said he concurred with all of Fujita’s comments.

“I agree with everything that Scott Fujita said in his statement. I thought it was a strong statement, certainly very true,” he said.

Brees said his team is trying to block out the bounty distractions and focusing on winning games. The undisputed leader of the Saints said losing head coach Sean Payton to a season-long suspension was difficult but the Saints won’t cite that as the reason for their lackluster start.

“We are never going to say that. We’re not going to make excuses for ourselves,” he said. “There are no excuses for our 1-4 start other than just lack of execution.”

Brees also touched on criticism from former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who thought it was inappropriate for Brees to request permission that suspended Payton could attend Sunday’s game.

“I haven’t heard his comments directly, but there’s no person who’s a bigger part of that record than Sean Payton, (general manager) Mickey Loomis, (assistant) Joe Vitt, all the coaches on suspension right now,” Brees said. “I felt it was very appropriate for them to be there because they are as big a part of that as anybody, and it really made for a special night, a historic night. I was really glad they could be a part of it.”

Colts GM Grigson says victory for Pagano was his No. 1 sports moment

Sunday the Indianapolis Colts won one for Chuck.

The scene inside the locker room after the dramatic 30-27 victory over the Green Bay Packers displayed how emotional and important the victory was to players, coaches and owner Jim Irsay  as they played for the first with without head coach Chuck Pagano, who is in the hospital after being diagnosed with leukemia last week.

On Tuesday’s edition of “NFL AM” Colt’s GM Ryan Grigson said the teams play perked the spirit of the head coach.

“He’s doing good , every day is another day of a fight. He’s in a fight right now, but he has tremendous support  here from his team, from his brothers on the staff, all of us here in the city,” Grigson said. “So he has all the support he needs, he’s a fighter, Chuck’s tough and he’s working every day, just like we are as a football team, to get better every day. So he’s in good spirits, especially after that win.”

Irsay and his general manager delivered the game ball to Pagano immediately after the post-game celebration. Girgson said Sunday’s emotional victory was the keystone of his sports career.

“I’ve been involved in Super Bowls and things of that nature and this one, everything pales in comparison because there is such a human side to this and such a strong emotional tie to that game. It was special, and everyone here feels the same,” he said. “It was the No. 1 moment I’ve had in sports by far.”

Grigson said the teams play inspired its head coach and will help him through his difficult situation.

“The best medicine for him is for us to fight for four quarters like he’s instilled in this team,” he said.

Rams DE Quinn says Kolb wasn’t scared during 9-sack night

Kevin Kolb can probably paint you a detailed fresco of the Edwards Jones Dome ceiling.

The Arizona Cardinals quarterback spent most of his Thursday night staring up at the ceiling from his backside during the 17-3 shellacking at the hands of the St. Louis Rams.

The Rams pummeled Kolb all night, tallying nine sacks, and leaving the sixth year pro bloodied and beaten.

Defensive end Robert Quinn collected three solo sacks and told “NFL AM” on Friday morning the defense went into the matchup with an aggressive mentality.

“We believe we are (an) elite defensive line and (an) elite defense,” he said. “We just try to attack and be a dominant defense every play, which coach wants.”

While he didn’t play well, Kolb stood in and took the beating all night, blowing away the preseason assertion from Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly that the quarterback was “scared” to be on the field.

“To be a professional football player you can’t be too scared to be out there, especially as a quarterback knowing you got 275, or however big d-linemen might be across the board, coming at you every play,” Quinn said when asked about Kolb being labeled scared.

Quinn also heaped praise on the offense he and his teammates stifled all night.

“I definitely think they can be an explosive offense with receivers like (Larry) Fitzgerald and (Michael) Floyd and a young running back in (Ryan) Williams,” Quinn said. “They definitely got some talent, but yesterday was our day to get the win.”

Niners’ Patrick Willis says confidence has allowed Alex Smith to play ‘lights out’

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has silenced many of his doubters with his play over the last 13 months.

After being drafted No. 1 overall in 2005 Smith spent his first six NFL seasons being questioned, heckled and (figuratively) pitched under just about every bus in the Bay Area.

Niners linebacker Patrick Willis told “NFL AM” on Friday that he thinks Smith’s superlative play over the past 22 games has to do with the quarterback’s self-assurance.

“I think his confidence level is at another level,” Willis said. “I think anytime you want to do something in life you have to have confidence in yourself … it starts with you first having confidence in yourself, then it takes those around you to believe in you and have confidence in you.”

No doubt Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in San Francisco initiated the quarterback’s meteoric rise in self-confidence. A fiery leader, Harbaugh convinced Smith that he possesses the tools to justify that No. 1 overall selection.

“When you have that [confidence] in your corner, I feel like you are capable of doing anything,” Willis said. “He’s been playing lights out.”

Bears CB Tillman says he doesn’t expect rusty refs

The return of the veteran officials in Week 4 will come with many questions over how quickly the refs will get back into football form.

Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman told “NFL AM” Thursday morning he has faith the referees will be ready to work from the first whistle.

“I think that the rust will shake off pretty quickly,” he said. “I think that they will be ok to make some calls.”

The outrage after Monday night’s controversial call in the Packers-Sehawks game was one impetus behind ending the lockout, but Tillman said he thought the replacement refs performed adequately.

“ I can only speak for me personally, I felt like in the preseason I got a couple of bad calls, but during  season, these first three games, I feel like, me personally, I think they called it both ways, from a defensive back standpoint,” he said.

Defensive pass interference was one of the most inconsistent calls in the first three weeks of the season and many offenses felt like defensive backs took advantage of the refs reluctance to call contact plays.

Tillman said his one qualm with the replacements was their lack of communication with the players.

“They really didn’t do a good job of explaining why they threw flags,” said the 10-year pro. “I had to walk a guy down one time and ask him why didn’t he throw a flag, in the preseason. I had one guy, I think it was our first game we played Indy, he gave me a warning to tell my defense line ‘hey tell your d-line they are right on that edge of being offsides.’ Other than that that was the only things that the refs ever said, they were just kind of out there, kind of quiet.”

Coming into Thursday night’s game on such short notice, Tillman believes both the veteran refs and players will have to adjust quickly to the game.

“I think they’ll have to go through an adjustment pretty quickly, us as players will have to get used to them calling the game as its used to being called,” he said.

That would imply, as we all witnessed, calls weren’t being made in the normal fashion the first three weeks.

Mario Williams says Bills must pressure Tom Brady

Mario Williams recorded his first sack and a half as a Buffalo Bill in Sunday’s victory over the Cleveland Browns.

The $96 million free agent acquisition told “NFL AM” Wednesday morning he and his front-line mates will need to put similar pressure on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in this week’s matchup.

“The biggest thing is be relentless and get him off his spot, if he’s back there relaxed and cool, calm and collected  it’s going to be a long day,” Williams said. “As a front we know that we have to get after him and make him move and let him know that he is not going to be comfortable.”

Brady has been sacked six times the past two weeks, both losses. Williams said the key to disrupting the Patriots offense is making the two-time Super Bowl MVP move his feet.

“We have to be relentless, you have to run through people, whoever is in front of you you have to put them on his lap,” said the defensive end.  “Make a move and get him off his rhythm, get him off his timing, because obviously when you got quarterbacks that are like that everything is about timing and he doesn’t want to move he wants to be in a position so he can deliver the throw on time. Get to him fast so he can’t sit there and go through his reads and be on time.”

Ravens WR Jones says Browns will play like a ‘pregnant possum’ on TNF

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones offered up the metaphor of Tuesday morning on “NFL AM” when asked about the Baltimore Ravens’ Thursday Night Football matchup with the 0-3 Cleveland Browns.

“You ever seen a pregnant possum?” the sixth-year pro queried.

To be honest, Jacoby, I hadn’t, until now.

Jones went on to extrapolate his metaphor.

“Angry. Teams like that they come out scratching and fighting,” he said. “They going to come playing hard, and we got to do what we do best and that is play Raven football.”

Whisenhunt: Fumble won’t affect Ryan Williams playing time

The Arizona Cardinals are the league’s most surprising 2-0 team after knocking off the New England Patriots last Sunday.

That’s not us making a judgment. That evaluation comes directly from head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

“Oh ya, I would say it’s fair,” he said when asked on “NFL AM” Friday morning if it was reasonable to call the Cardinals the most shocking 2-0 team. “Based on what we went through in training camp and everything people were saying about our football team, I’m certain that not a lot of people expected us to be at this point.”

Running back Ryan Williams almost fumbled away the Week 2 victory when he coughed up the ball as the Cardinals were trying to run out the clock.

Patriot’s kicker Stephen Gostkowski shanked the game winning field goal taking Williams out of the dog house.

“We’ve had discussions with Ryan I think he was broken up about the whole situation he felt he let the team down,” Whisenhunt said.

The sixth year head coach said the fumble won’t affect how he plans to deploy Williams in the Cardinals’ Week 3 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Ryan will get his chances in the normal scope in how the game goes and I don’t think anybody has any less confidence in him,” he said. “I think you just have to learn from that situation. I told him the story about Jerome Bettis when we were with the Steelers a couple years ago and he fumbled in Indy in the playoff game and Ben Roethlisberger made the saving tackle. So it can happen to a Hall-of-Fame-type player it can happen to anybody, what really matters is what you do going forward.”

Can Giants’ Barden replicate Victor Cruz’s breakout season?

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese may have struck wide receiver gold again.

We are going to indulge our overreaction gene and compare Ramses Barden’s breakout “TNF” performance against the Panthers with the fellow receiver Victor Cruz’s Week 3 2011 110 outburst, which was a precursor to many a salsa dance.

Barden caught nine balls for 138 yards in the absence of starter Hakeem Nicks. He told “NFL AM” on Friday morning Cruz’s performance last year was one impetus behind his play.

“I think (Cruz’s play) inspires a lot of people,” Barden said. “I think it inspires people from every sport, from every walk of life, to come out of nowhere and achieve something that people might not have thought you had the potential to do so.”

Cruz blew up, becoming one of the best stories of the 2011 season and played a vital role in the G-Men’s run to the Super Bowl. Barden hopes, even when Nicks returns from injury, he is given the chance to continue proving his worth on the field.

“I hope so, that’s part of my goal,” he said. “I’m here to work, I’m here to compete, and I want to help my team in whatever capacity possible.”

Cruz snagged 82 passes for 1,535 yards last season. We don’t see Barden keeping pace with those numbers, especially after Nicks returns, but if Thursday was any indication, the Giants found their replacement for the departed Mario Manningham.

Andy Dalton takes on leadership role with Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton steered the Cincinnati Bengals to playoffs as a rookie, improving a 4-12 team into a 9-7 stalwart.

The second-year pro signal-caller told NFL Network’s “NFL AM” on Friday he worked this offseason to improve his consistency and big play capability to take advantage of his playmakers, like wide receiver A.J. Green.

“One of the few things I wanted to work on was throwing the deep ball, just getting my footwork right and things like that,” Dalton said. “That was one of my big focuses,  from there, second year I’ve got more of a leadership role now, I’ve got some credibility about my style of play and what everybody can expect from me. I feel like I’ve gotten better.”

Dalton explained that being a leader in his sophomore season means being more vigilant in how his teammates execute on the practice field.

“Last year maybe in practice just worrying about getting the next play if there was a missed assignment on things, where now I’m going up and talking to guys,” Dalton said. “I think it’s just easier for me to go out and help lead these guys.”

Rams WR Amendola credits Schottenheimer for quick start

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola leads the NFL in receptions (20) and is third in yards (230).

The fourth-year pro is the favorite target of quarterback Sam Bradford, grabbing 15 passes on 16 targets in a Week 2 victory over the Washington Redskins. His dozen first-half catches tied the NFL record for receptions in a half, set by Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne in 2007 .

Amendola said Thurdsay on “NFL AM” that new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s offense is a big reason for his early success.

“So far in the NFL this is my fourth offense, and Schotty’s offense is the most intricate one, at the same time it has a mixture of all of them,” he said. “It’s very effective, it has the capability of making big plays, and we are all excited about it.”

The offense, however, will only go as far Bradford carries them. Amendola said the former No. 1 overall draft pick has put last season behind him and is geared for a great season.

“(Bradford) is a fighter, he’s a guy that had a great offseason and he’s ready to get as many wins as he can this year,” Amendola said.

Colts TE Coby Fleener says relationship with Luck same as at Stanford

Coby Fleener probably will be forever overshadowed on the Indianapolis Colts by his current quarterback and fellow Stanford grad Andrew Luck.

The rookie tight end dashed out of the gate this season, catching six passes in Week 1.

Fleener told “NFL AM” Thursday morning that his early success is a product of his relationship with Luck.

“It comes back to have timing with Andrew Luck,” he said. “Being college teammates we’ve gotten to work quite a bit longer than most rookies have together, so it’s a benefit to both of us.”

Fleener compiled eight catches through two weeks, which ranks him 10th in the NFL for tight ends, tied with the likes of Vernon Davis, Todd Heap, Brandon Pettigrew and Kyle Rudolph. His 98 receiving yards ranks him 11th overall among tight ends.

The relationship between the quarterback and his favorite college receiver hasn’t changed since they both pulled on Cardinal red.

“It’s very similar, I think we both want to work hard during the week to prepare for the game and, once game time comes, I think we are both ready and willing to go,” he added.

Colts fans, who are used to seeing No. 1 picks develop a productive relationship with tight ends, hope the connection continues to grow.

Ray Lewis: NFL lost a visionary in Steve Sabol

Owners, coaches and players who knew Steve Sabol, who died Tuesday at the age of 69 after an 18-month battle with brain cancer, raved about the NFL Films president’s ingenuity and integrity.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who is the subject of NFL Films’ “A Football Life: Ray Lewis” airing at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday on NFL Network, told “NFL AM” Wednesday morning that his trust in Sabol was what drove him to allow cameras to follow him for a year.

“You can have reservations if you have anything to hide or if you don’t trust the people you are working with,” Lewis said. “I had worked with those guys for so many years and I knew Steve and them had a great vision for what they really wanted to accomplish so when they asked me to do it I was overwhelmed and was humbled to go in ‘A Football Life’ right after Bill Belichick.”

Lewis said Sabol was one of the visionaries who helped make the NFL the league and business it has become.

“I think young kids in this business … really need to understand the impact that Steve Sabol had,” he said. “We lost a great pioneer a few days ago with Art Modell and now lose another one. These men had a vision to do something great. The beautiful thing about what they were doing is it wasn’t for them, they had a vision to expand our league to expand our game and to expand our brand.

“You will not be able to mention the NFL, NFL Films, without Steve Sabol’s name. He was one of those people that we have to learn from we have to research what spoke to him what pushed him to the edge,” Lewis said.

Ike Taylor, Steelers’ defense not concerned about ‘old’ tag

The Pittsburgh Steelers have finished in the top five in total defense the past five seasons, but with seven players who are at least 31 years old, questions linger about how long the group will remain elite.

After allowing only 219 total yards to the New York Jets in its Week 2 victory, including holding quarterback Mark Sanchez to 6-of-22 passing for 58 yards after the opening drive, without injured stars James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh seemed to have quelled any of those questions.

Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, 32, told “NFL AM” on Wednesday morning the Steelers don’t worry about the “old” label.

“We don’t pay no mind,” said Taylor, who has spent his entire 10-year pro career in Pittsburgh. “We look at it kind of like motivation. They say we’re old; age really doesn’t matter to some people. You can say some guys losing his step. I can understand because age comes with the territory, especially playing in the NFL. We got some prideful men on this group. We all know when everyone is on the same page we are tough to beat.”

The Steelers rank seventh in total defense and fifth against the pass without being at full strength in either of the first two weeks.

Taylor, the two-time Super Bowl champion, has never made a Pro Bowl, despite being a stalwart of one of the top defenses for the past decade.

He told “NFL AM” analyst and former Pro Bowl cornerback Eric Davis he blames his stone hands for keeping from a trip to Hawaii.

“It’s all about picks man and you know my hands been suspect,” he said. “I just want to understand: What do you call a shutdown corner? I understand the picks and everything, but hell, if I’m doing my job give me some kind of credit, just a little bit.”

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