There’s a verbal slap fight going on in the NFL centered around Jeff Fisher’s supposed reputation of breeding so-called dirty teams. On Sunday, Fisher’s Rams knocked out Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and after the game Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer laid the blame at Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Later that night, NBC Football Night in America analyst Rodney Harrison ratcheted up the blame.
“I wasn’t surprised because it happened to me in 2006,” Harrison said. “[Titans receiver] Bobby Wade came and chopped my knees and tore my knee up. I’m lying on the ground, and I look at Jeff Fisher and he’s smiling and laughing. So this is typical of Jeff Fisher-type teams.”
Somehow Kevin Mawae’s hit on Shawne Merriman in the 2007 Pro Bowl got pulled into the mix, which Mawae explained as retaliation for an unnecessary hit on Vince Young. A 16-year pro with eight Pro Bowls, eight All-Pro teams, an All-Decade Team nod, the winner of the 1998 Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award and now a host on ESPN’s Baton Rouge affiliate, Mawae defended himself as a clean player that wouldn’t shy away from knocking an opponent out with a legal hit. “Have I ever forearmed a guy in the face? 100 percent I have. My rookie year I put a forearm in Ray Childress’s face at the end of the play when he was on his knees to let him know I was not some punk rookie against an All-Pro player.”
Mawae launched into a 10-minute rant explaining the difference between a dirty player and a player who refused to be messed with, but the most entertaining part was this Albert Haynesworth story from their days with the Tennessee Titans.
“My first year (with the Titans) in 2006 we go to mini-camp, I’m a 12-year vet, he’s a four, five-year guy (it was his fifth year), and he’s trying to blow me up during mini-camp, no pads on. And I told him, ‘Albert, you need to slow it down because if you don’t you’re not going to make it out of practice. I promise you you’re going to get carted off this field.’ And the next play he did it again: came at me, put a hand to my face, knocked me back. Full speed, got no pads on. I said, ‘Albert, this is your last time. I gave you a warning.’ The next time, I quick flipped him, got him on the ground and said, ‘That’s it, I’m done.’ He didn’t come back in practice the rest of the day.
“The next day before practice we were all in the training room getting taped up and in the Titans’ facility the head trainer’s office (walls) are glass. I called Albert into the office, behind the glass, and shut the door. I said, ‘Albert, here’s the deal, man. I’m in my 12th year, I’ve been to six Pro Bowls. I’ve got nothing to prove to you, and I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve had a great career. We can go out to practice today and we can do it one of two ways. We can go out there and be professional, help each other get better. But if we’re going to do it the way you want to do it, I promise you you’re going to get carted off. It’s not going to happen. I’m not going to let you do this. I don’t care if you’re my teammate or not.
“And guess what? Albert Haynesworth did not practice the rest of that mini-camp.”
Click here to listen to Mawae tell his stories. Worth 10 minutes of your time.