Published January 31, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS – Hear what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told the pep rally before leaving New England for the Super Bowl? He got 'em riled up by saying he hoped to come back as a winner, greeted by an even larger crowd.
Wait, don't yawn! Sure, it's not the most controversial comment, not even close to a foot-in-mouth moment. But it can't be overlooked.
For this Super Bowl rematch, Brady's tame words are about as trashy as it gets.
The Patriots (15-3) and the New York Giants (12-7) don't have any bad things to say about each other. Even if they did, their coaches wouldn't allow it. Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin are long-time friends who share the same old-school philosophy when it comes to saying anything about the opposition.
Zip it. Tight.
"Players have personalities, and they are who they are," Coughlin said Monday, shortly after the Giants arrived from New York. "You want a certain amount of that on your football team, but you don't want someone who puts themselves in a position to hurt your team. So there's a standard there with how flexible you are."
By Super Bowl standards, it's extremely tame.
The most memorable moments leading up to the title game have been delivered by players willing to say exactly what's on their mind. Joe Namath started it with his guarantee of a Super Bowl win, back in the days when etiquette called for players to say nothing even remotely inflammatory.
As the culture of the game changed — more trash talk, touchdown celebrations and look-at-me moments — the Super Bowl became the big stage for the biggest mouths. During the title game of the 2005 season, for instance, Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens ignited a back-and-forth with Pittsburgh's Joey Porter by suggesting Seattle was going to win. Porter shot back that Stevens was a "first-round bust" who was "soft" and would end up "on his back" a lot during the game.
The trash talk made for a lively week capped off by the Steelers getting the final word with a win.
The Giants did a little trash dressing when they played the then-undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl four years ago, arriving in Arizona in black suits to show they were serious about ending New England's bid for a perfect season. Eli Manning led a late touchdown drive for a 17-14 win.
When they arrived for the rematch on Monday, the Giants' clothes were as subdued as their words — no statements anywhere.
"Honestly, for us, that '07 thing was kind of like us coming together as a football team," defensive end Justin Tuck said of the "Men In Black" look. "We just said we wanted to kill a dynasty, and that's what they were. But now, we've been here before and we felt as though all that is secondary."
Their coaches have to be pleased.
Belichick is known for cracking down when one of his players spouts off. Last year, receiver Wes Welker sat out the opening series of a playoff loss to the Jets after he made several foot and toe references — subtle digs on Jets coach Rex Ryan, the subject of foot-fetish reports in New York.
This season, Belichick muzzled longtime self-promoter Chad Ochocinco, known to do anything — including changing his name — to get attention when he was in Cincinnati. The receiver has been on good behavior this season after arriving from the Bengals in a trade, wanting to play in a Super Bowl rather than cover one for his social media network.
So, Ochocinco has followed the team philosophy, which receiver Deion Branch summed up on Monday.
"Do what's right, put the team first," Branch said. "You're not going to jeopardize what we have going here. Look at the big picture and put the team first."
Coughlin sees it the same way, which is why his Giants weren't about to instigate anything when they hit town. Coughlin's philosophy, which he had printed on T-shirts in 2007: "Talk is cheap. Play the game."
Not even a little prodding could get them riled up. When Brady's comments to the pep rally back home were mentioned on Monday, the Giants immediately came to his defense.
Yes, they took his side.
"Man, it was a pep rally," Tuck said. "What was he supposed to say?"
Linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka had the same reaction when reporters gave him a chance to put a little edginess into Super Bowl week.
"I wouldn't expect anything else," Kiwanuka said, referring to Brady's comment. "Now if someone wants to come out and throw some legitimist trash talk, we will talk about that.
"But it's just that you guys need something to do for the week, I guess."
Could be a quiet week.