NFL warns teams about trash talk

Updated: January 16, 2011, 11:14 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NFL has told multiple teams the trash talk and bravado that surfaced this past week was expected to stay off the field.

As a result, players' controversial comments could be taken into account in evaluating any potential disciplinary action that results from illegal hits or other banned physical acts in this weekend's playoff games.

League spokesman Greg Aiello on Saturday confirmed the communication from Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president for football operations, to the clubs. There was no indication whether Anderson, the league's chief disciplinarian, specifically named any players.

Since October, the NFL has ratcheted up its enforcement of hits to defenseless players with a series of fines -- and the threat of suspension. No suspensions have been handed out, but the recent rash of trash talk before playoff games prompted Anderson to further emphasize the need to respect the game and opponents.

The latest salvo came Friday from Jets linebacker Bart Scott in reaction to Wes Welker's apparent tongue-in-cheek references to feet and toes as he spoke to the media Thursday.

The Patriots receiver is widely thought to have been poking fun at Rex Ryan over videos of the Jets coach's wife that surfaced on the Internet.

But Scott wasn't laughing.

"I'll tell you what," Scott told Newsday Friday. "Be very careful what you say about our coach. His [Welker's] days in a uniform will be numbered. Put it like that."

Scott's heated comments came three days after Antonio Cromartie unleashed a profanity-laced tirade against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, though the Jets cornerback since has said he didn't intend it as trash talk.

"I just spoke on how I felt about somebody -- that's not trash-talking to me," Cromartie said Friday. "If you feel a certain way about somebody, then that's how you feel. I don't really care if they take it as trash talk, if they put it on the bulletin board for them to see when they walk out of the locker room. I really don't care."

The Jets face the Patriots Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Mass.

On Tuesday, Cromartie complained in the New York Daily News about Brady pointing to the Jets' sideline after he threw a touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter of the Jets' 45-3 loss to the Patriots on Dec. 6.

"We see that a lot. He does it a lot," Cromartie told the Daily News. "That's the kind of guy he is. We really don't give a damn, to tell you the truth."

Asked what kind of guy Brady is, Cromartie said "ass----," according to the Daily News.

"That's what I think about him. I don't really give a damn about him," he said, according to the report.

On Friday, Cromartie said Brady was a "professional" who likely wouldn't need to use Cromartie's remarks as motivation for the Jets-Patriots divisional playoff game.

"If a guy is not motivated now, then he really isn't going to be motivated," Cromartie said. "... It's all about doing your job. I could really care less about the trash talk, or so-called trash talk."

Steelers receiver Hines Ward wasn't among the antagonists in the lead-up to Saturday's AFC matchup with the Ravens.

But that was before Pittsburgh's 31-24 win at home, before Ward was called for an unnecessary roughness call after slamming Ravens safety Ed Reed to the turf on the Steelers' first offensive play of the game.

"Sometimes when you're fighting the bully, you have to hit him in the mouth, shut him up," Ward said Saturday night.

"I got a roughness call, and I had four guys beating me up. I love it," Ward said. "That's what it is all about. Ed Reed and I have our battles. No disrespect to Ed. He probably thinks it's a little personal. But it's playoffs. Loser goes home. So why sit there and save it? I am going to go out there and fight, scratch, and claw to win a ballgame."

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs had been seen wearing a T-shirt with a Raven on it extending a middle finger. Suggs said he was "representing" Baltimore as it entered Saturday's game.

In the second meeting of the regular season between the AFC North rivals, the Ravens broke Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's nose -- accidentally -- on a hit by nose tackle Haloti Ngata.

"I was glad we broke his nose," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said with a wry grin earlier in the week, "and I was very impressed he played through it. Obviously, you can throw very effectively with a broken nose. He proved that."

Although Harbaugh was kidding, the comment did rankle some people in Pittsburgh, and perhaps elsewhere around the league.

Ryan had mentioned earlier in the week that players need to dislike their opponents at this time of year.

"You shouldn't like who you are going up against right now," he said. "This is the playoffs. I can tell you our whole team respects Brady and the Patriots. But hey, we don't like any of them right now. You shouldn't. [Former Jets running back] Danny Woodhead is a great kid, but I can't stand Danny Woodhead right now.

"I think that's just part of it, and trust me, the feeling is mutual."

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley and The Associated Press was used in this report.