- Chris Forsberg, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Miami Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter has never been short on opinions, but on the heels of a trash talk-fueled triumph over the AFC East rival New York Jets Sunday, maybe, just maybe, Porter dialed it back a touch in advance of this week's clash with the New England Patriots.
While Porter didn't deliver any new bulletin board-worthy material during a conference call with the New England media Wednesday, he did expound on a number of hot-button topics, such as Spygate, his being a dirty player, and the notion that the road to the division title will go through Miami.
This somewhat kinder, gentler Porter even passed on the opportunity to pounce when a reporter asked for his thoughts on potentially lining up opposite a rookie left tackle (Sebastian Vollmer).
"It's not really about being a rookie or whoever is in there," said Porter. "I'm looking forward to the game. It's New England week. If [Matt Light] was in there, I'd be looking forward to that. So whoever is over there, I'm going to bring my game and be ready to play. That's all I can do at this point in time, be ready to play."
"You have the answer to that already," said Porter. "You want me to say what you want me to say, like you want me to answer that question. You [want me to] answer the question [with what I] feel about Cassel, trying to say the same thing about him. And then, 'Joey Porter's talking about the backup.' You go ahead and fill in the blanks, because I'm not falling for none of the little tricks. I'm not going to sit up here and give you something to talk about.
"If that's what this conversation is going to be about -- fishing -- you guys can come down to Miami because we've got some good lakes you gotta fish in."
Coach Tony Sparano told his troops following Sunday's win that he preferred the Dolphins do their talking on the field. Porter appears to be buying into it, at least for the moment, with Miami two games behind the Patriots in the AFC East. Keeping with the fishing theme, Sparano said he doesn't have to reel Porter in.
"I don't let anyone go and do their own thing," Sparano said when asked if he gives Porter more freedom to speak his mind because of the way he plays on the field. Porter had a career-best 17.5 sacks a year ago.
"Joey's one of my captains. I do believe Joey gets it. He does a great job of speaking our language that way. Every team has a couple of players that are kind of out front. Joey's one of those guys out front. My opinion is that the media creates a lot of this. At the end of the day, Joey's been a good soldier for us."
Blaming the media for the trash-talking and all that has come of it through Porter's career is a stretch. Just last week, Porter got in a pregame shoving match with Jets safety Kerry Rhodes that led to the teams being separated before kickoff. And that wasn't the first time Porter's had his feathers ruffled before the coin flip; he took umbrage with the Patriots walking through the Dolphins' stretching lines before last year's game in Foxborough.
On Wednesday, Porter echoed one of his most famous lines, which was born out of that incident.
"Let's all be honest, they don't like me and that's fair," said Porter. "I don't like them, and that's fair. It's not like it's a divorce happening. We were never married anyway."
Porter touched on a few other sensitive subjects during a 10-minute Q&A with reporters:
In the wake of Spygate, Porter said on ESPN's "NFL Live": "[The Patriots] cheated, there should be an asterisk. They cheated and they got caught. Why, if you have nothing to hide, would you destroy [the evidence]?"
Unprompted, Porter revisited the subject Wednesday while branching off from his comments about developing a healthy rivalry between the Patriots and Dolphins: "My feelings about New England go back further, to my Pittsburgh days. I feel a certain way after some things came up way back when; some AFC championships I lost to them a couple times. Come to find out some months later why we lost. Yeah, I have a natural hate for them. And that's not going to change."
Asked if he cared to expand on his veiled reference to Spygate, Porter again allowed reporters to draw their own conclusions.
"No, you can fill in those blanks," said Porter. "We do this every year around this time when I do this conference call. You know exactly what I'm talking about. And they know exactly what I'm talking about. That's not going to change my thought process on the situation."
Before this season, Porter told the Miami media that he didn't understand why people were picking the Patriots to win the AFC East. "You got to beat somebody to be the champ," Porter told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "We had to beat somebody to be the champ."
Asked to clarify whether the road to the division title went through Foxborough -- given the Patriots' success this decade -- or Miami Gardens -- given the Dolphins' AFC East championship last season -- Porter repeated his preseason assertion.
"The division goes through the last champion. Period," said Porter. "The last champion was the Miami Dolphins, so we have the championship until we lose it. It's ours to lose."
In the interest of keeping things fresh, Porter also tackled the fact that he was voted the second-dirtiest player in the league in a recent Sports Illustrated poll of NFL players.
Asked if he felt the label of "dirty" was fair, Porter got defensive.
"I don't know what you consider dirty; I don't have a lot of personal fouls," said Porter. "So I don't know what you consider dirty. I'm fine with meanness, toughness, but dirty is a different category. I don't hit people late or stuff like that. I don't know. It's something they came up with and voted me. It doesn't really make me or break me. I'm not worried about it.
"I've got a lot of people who don't like me, that's fair to say. I don't like a lot of people. It works both ways. It's nothing that's going to change me every day, me being in that poll. [No.] 1, 2, 5, wherever they put me, I'm clearly on someone's mind, so that's cool."
Porter has often backed up his talk with his play. During the Dolphins' Week 3 upset of the Patriots last season, Porter registered four sacks on Cassel. So far this season he's had 12 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Porter and Jason Taylor remain one of the most fearsome pass-rushing duos in the game.
When focused on Sunday's contest, Porter said he expects the Patriots' offense to be as potent as ever. Porter said the key for Miami would be to disrupt the passing game and get pressure on Brady.
But he couldn't resist one little jab. Porter was talking about how the Dolphins didn't do a good job adjusting to the Patriots' spread offense when the teams met in Miami last season with New England emerging with a lopsided 48-28 triumph. He seemed to challenge the Patriots to keep the game on the ground this time around, but said the Dolphins would be ready for anything.
"They ran away from the pound game," said Porter. "We kind of pounded them up the first time, so we kind of expected the same type of game and they switched up and went to the pass formation. The game got away from us when they did that.
"That was then. This is a whole new year, whole new characters. They've got their main guy [Brady] and we've got some different guys in different situations over here, but make no mistake, we're ready for whatever they come with."
Dolphins' Joey Porter recycles some old trash talk.