ESPN’s Tom Jackson: Matt Cassel Has To Play

 ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson previewed today’s NFL action. Some excerpts:

On Eagles quarterback Michael Vick taking a lot of hard hits and not always getting the calls…

Johnson: “There is a double standard with Michael Vick. … It’s because he’s an athletic quarterback.”
Jackson: “His style’s gonna bring a couple of added hits to him, but let’s be fair. Judge him as a quarterback. … Let’s make sure that this kid is protected just like any other quarterback in the league.”
Carter: “The way they ref the other 31 quarterbacks starting in the league is not consistent with the way they referee Michael Vick.”


From Chris Berman’s taped interviews with Vick and Eagles head coach Andy Reid…

Vick: “I trust Coach Reid in all phases of my life. He provides that comfort level for me, on and off the field, constantly checking up on me. Kind of makes me feel like I’m a 21 or 22-year old again. …

“Playing the quarterback position you have to be disciplined. You have to have a great work ethic, study habits, being the leader. I didn’t know in Atlanta. I really relied on my athletic ability. I thought I knew enough. I thought I was probably the most unstoppable force in football.”

“But he wasn’t doing everything right in the pocket. He wasn’t doing all the subtle things or reading the defense. He spent no time at that. I mean he didn’t study.”

On what Vick learned from his experience…

Vick: “Leadership overall has helped me in my life. You got to take control. You got to make the right decisions at the end of the day, just like you have to do as a quarterback, and they have to be good ones.”

Reid: “There’s rules for Michael Vick. There’s rules. And you mess with the rules whether it’s on a football field or in life, you’re gonna pay the fiddler. He’s trying to right his wrong, knowing that he can’t erase it.”

On Donovan McNabb’s benching by Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan…

Ditka: “You have humiliated a kid who has played in the league at a very high level for a long time now.”
Carter: “No elite player in our time we’ve seen go through what McNabb has gone through…. In this situation, he’s all by himself. That’s why this is the worst situation.”
Johnson: “The Shanahan’s, they need to stop poking Donovan McNabb. Stop messing with him. Stop trying to embarrass him. … You look at Mike Shanahan…you haven’t won anything since John Elway and Terrell Davis. Period. … If you don’t want Donovan McNabb, get rid of him. Go ahead and deactivate him.”
Jackson: “He hasn’t played well (this year), but he doesn’t deserve this. It’s been one of the strangest careers in the history of football with what he’s accomplished and what he’s gotten in return.”

On whether Rex Ryan is losing his grip on the Jets…

Carter: “You have to be careful saying everything that you think. … When you start giving your team a disadvantage, then it’s time to button up your mouth.”
Jackson: “They’ve lost the swagger. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get it back, but you don’t get it back threatening the quarterback and threatening the defense.”
Johnson: “He should pipe down a little bit … Understand that he’s in New York. There’s a target on your back. New York is big — they make everything out of something. This whole bravado, ‘I’m the man, I’m in town, ’it will bite you in New York.”
Ditka: “Winning breeds confidence. … Right now there’s a whole lot of doubt in New York.”
Berman: “That conga line on the special teams. I hope they don’t unearth anything else. Because that was not good and that’s actually turned a lot of public opinion around the league.”

On the Baltimore Ravens’ difficulty closing games…

Ditka: “They’ve gone away from their philosophy of playing. … Get back to being physical. Hit somebody in the mouth.”
Jackson: “On defense, it’s an aging defense. They’re never going to be what they were seven, eight years ago, but on offense they have an identity crisis…. When (Joe) Flacco started to throw the ball well as a rookie, they started to think about being a passing football team, and right now they’re right in between – a passing football team, and a team that wants to be hard-nosed and run the football — and that puts them in flux.”

On whether Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel should play just a week and a half since his appendectomy…

Ditka: “They cannot win their division if Matt Cassel does not play quarterback for them.”
Jackson: “Matt Cassel has to play. Who would have thought we would ever said that?”

On whether the Jacksonville Jaguars will be able to beat the Colts…

Jackson: “The Jags are the perfect team to beat the Colts. …Everything going for the Jags, and I still don’t think they can go to Indy and beat the Colts because of one thing – No. 18’s going to find a way to get it done.”

Ditka: “I love everything about the Detroit Lions except their record.”