Some of them can't even guarantee they'd recognize him.
Aaron Smith is in his ninth season with the Steelers, a standout
defensive end who made the 2005 Pro Bowl and will be pressuring Tom Brady on Sunday when the NFL's best team meets the league's
Anthony Smith is a free safety in his second pro season and
starting only because Ryan Clark's season ended in late October
with an inflamed spleen that was removed last month.
"I didn't know who he was until we started preparing for
them," Brady said.
Smith is a third-round draft choice from Syracuse. He started
four of the 16 games he played last season and had two
interceptions. This year he's started the last six games, has one
interception and is sixth on the Steelers in tackles.
He's also the guy who may be too sure of himself.
"We're going to win," he said Wednesday. "Yeah, I can
guarantee a win. As long as we come out and do what we got to do.
Both sides of the ball are rolling, and if our special teams come
through for us, we've got a good chance to win."
Any Patriots player who said that would be guaranteed one thing:
sharp tongue-lashings from his teammates and coach Bill Belichick.
"Well done is better than well said," Brady said. "That's been the
motto of the team."
"That wouldn't happen in this locker room. It just wouldn't,"
Junior Seau said. "We won't allow it. We don't talk. What we try
to do is just work every day and build for tomorrow. That's all we
Belichick knows teams could use such pronouncements as bulletin-board
material to provide extra motivation. But he suggested that wasn't part of his pregame plan.
"We can sit around and put a bunch of stuff up on a board and
write stuff down on paper and all of that," he said. "I think in
the end it comes down to whether you can outplay the other team on
Sunday or not outplay them. On a priority basis, that's what our
priority is, trying to prepare well and play well."
As usual, his attitude was the players' attitude. They reacted
calmly to Smith's remarks.
"I don't think that prediction's going
to have much bearing on the outcome," linebacker Mike Vrabel said.
Running back Heath Evans: "I don't see why anyone's comments
outside of our head coaches and our position coaches should affect
how we do things."
Smith, though, has reason to be confident. The Steelers (9-3)
have allowed the fewest points and fewest yards of any NFL team.
The Patriots (12-0) are coming off a pair of three-point wins that
came down to the final minutes.
Then Smith made his guarantee.
"I agree with it," Evans said. "If we don't get better,
they're going to beat us."
The Patriots have used opponents' remarks to motivate themselves
in the past.
Before the 2005 Super Bowl, Philadelphia wide receiver Freddie Mitchell said he knew only the numbers, not the names, of New England's cornerbacks.
"If he doesn't [know the names], he will," Patriots tight end Christian Fauria responded.
The Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21.
Before New England's first playoff game that season,
Indianapolis kicker Mike Vanderjagt said of the Patriots, "I think
they're ripe for the picking."
At the time, Belichick was asked if he had ever used such
remarks to motivate his players.
"Yeah, probably I have," he said before the 20-3 win over the
Now an opponent has spoken again.
Kyle Brady remembers when he was playing for Penn State and an
Illinois player guaranteed a win if his team scored 28 points.
"He was basically guaranteeing that their defense would hold
our offense under 28," the tight end said. "They weren't able to
do it. We beat them 35-31."
So maybe a guarantee guarantees just one thing: that it will
fire up an opponent.
"Does it play a factor in the game? Perhaps it could," said
Patriots linebacker Chad Brown, Smith's teammate in Pittsburgh last
season. "If someone is confident enough to make a guarantee, maybe
you should be a little concerned."