Ditka Says “Green Bay is an Average Football Team”

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 4 ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter,Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson previewed today’s NFL games with insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Some excerpts from today’s show:

On quarterback Cam Newton vs. the Ravens defense …

Carter: “He (Cam Newton) started training camp a little nicked up. When you get nicked up again, then the hurting is for real. So, every week, you are battling just to stay healthy. That’s what it is all about being a pro. That’s what we always talk about – ‘there’s a talent to being available.’ Right now, Cam is just going through a season where he’s going to be nicked-up an awful lot … I like his style. He’s really developed as a pocket passer. It is only going to get better.”

Jackson: “We very seldom play at a 100 percent in the National Football League once the season starts. That’s almost every player in the National Football League. I would like our viewers to be able to meet Cam Newton – 6 feet, 6 inches, 265 pounds. When you see him, you understand the freakish nature of his ability. He is not RG III … His style is an asset to the Carolina Panthers. It is always going to be there. He can lead the team in rushing, if he wanted to. But he is always going to have that in his back pocket.”

Johnson: “Because of his size and the way that he’s built, he’s not like the rest of the quarterbacks and he’s developing as a pocket passer, you can’t take his instincts away from him. When things break down, he’s allowed to run. You can do that, while other guys have to sit back there and become statues.”

Carter: “Cam Newton is Ben Roethlisberger, but a great athletic.”

Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. vs. the Panthers – Keyshawn Johnson reflects on his experiences playing against his old teams:

“The New York Jets to Tampa move – it was all good. I understood Bill Parcells (then Jets GM) and what they wanted to do … But the Carolina back to Tampa, that was a different story. I wanted to punish them … I made sure their sideline knew, that every chance that I got the football, they were going to be gutted. The animosity I had for that coaching staff and some of those players on that team, it just was totally different.”

On Baltimore Raven Steve Smith Sr. playing against his old team the Carolina Panthers …

Carter: “It is a big plot to this game. Not only because he is returning against a team that let him go and anytime you  have that situation, you are going to have a lot of energy. But, they don’t have a whole bunch of weapons. (WR) Tory Smith is not playing well … The Ravens need Steve Smith Sr. to play a good game.”

Johnson: “The interesting thing about this situation with Steve Smith is he does know that secondary. He does know this defense and he does know their tendencies. He can give information to the offensive staff and allow them to put him in great situations to take advantage of that.”

Ditka: “Just one piece of advice for Steve Smith. The only constant in life is change. Embrace it. Don’t get mad at it. Don’t get mad at the team that let you go.”

On the Eagles offense vs. the 49ers defense …

Jackson: “49ers, defensive dependent. That’s been the story of that team along with an outstanding running game. (RB) Frank Gore, basically forgotten getting with 11 carries a game. I’d say it again, (LB) Aldon Smith, at the time that he left, was as good a pass rusher as we had in the National Football League. (DL) Glenn Dorsey, nose tackle, the heart and soul of any 3-4 defense, out. NaVorro Bowman out, the best inside linebacker in football … They are not the same football team on the defensive side of the ball.”

Carter: “This is the style of football team that Chip Kelly (Eagles head coach) has had problems with, even in his short tenure with Philadelphia. Teams that can get quick penetration and make them run sideline to sidelines. The overall physicality of the interior seven of San Francisco is going to play a key role. It was always one of the keys in stopping the Oregon Ducks (under Kelly).”

While appearing on a Wisconsin radio station during the week, quarterback Aaron Rodgers urged Packers fans worried about the team’s 1-2 start to “R.E.L.A.X.” The Countdown panel shared their thoughts on Rodger’s radio comment:

Johnson: “When you start off at 1-2 and you are the Green Bay Packers, there is panic. The Chicago Bears are not going away. When you look at the injuries that they’ve had on this football team, plus the way that the offense has been playing, in particular, the wide receivers trying to adjust to this new style of passing game, there is panic. Aaron Rodgers has to get realistic here and understand you have to start winning football games.”

Jackson: “My concern is that he (Rodgers) is throwing every ball under duress. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the National football League. In fact, (Hall of Fame QB and ESPN analyst) Steve Young said the other day that ‘it is kind of a football crime that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are having difficulty doing their jobs because they are not protected.’”

Ditka: “Without Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay is an average football team. He is a class act, a credit to the National Football League.”

Carter: “This is no excuse for them, but injuries have killed them the last two years. They’ve had over 200 collective games missed by their starters. That would affect Aaron Rodgers. But his receiving corps, which was all home grown – Donald Driver, drafted and developed; Jermichael Finley, hurt; Greg Jennings, didn’t sign him and let him go to Minnesota; James Jones, let him go to Oakland, after he led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2012. All that productivity can’t be replaced. Right now, they don’t have the players. This is not nearly the football team that we were seeing several years ago.”

On how much pressure is head coach Jim Harbaugh under with the 1-2 San Francisco 49ers?

Jackson: “I think some of the actions of his players are wearing thin on him.  Do they want him out, or does he, in the end, maybe want out on his own?”

Johnson: “He’s not the type of coach that likes to sit around. He’s like my old boss, Bill Parcells. A guy who likes to move around – you look at UC San Diego, he left there. He went to Stanford. He jumped to the job with the San Francisco 49ers. He has flirted around with some other teams. You just don’t know what his mindset is.”

Carter: “He is a very good coach. One thing is you typically see a reflection of the coach on the football team. You are not seeing that with the 49ers. Jim Harbaugh was a very disciplined player. Right now, they are not a disciplined team. I do believe Harbaugh has figured this out, a lot like (University of Alabama head coach) Nick Saban, who realized jumping back and forth to college to pro wasn’t his strong suit, and settled on college where he’s a dominant coach. I believe that Harbaugh realizes he is a pro coach and is going to stay in pro football. He’s going to try to work it out with the 49ers.”

On the quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s first NFL start with the Vikings …

Jackson:  “I watched his entire career at U of L (University of Louisville), he was the most pro-ready quarterback, I believe, coming out of college. Minnesota is getting a great guy to lead their organization – not only in character and his ability to stay poised on the field, but great, great leadership …”

Carter: “Not only his physical toughness, but his mental toughness as well. People forget, at one point, he was projected to be the first pick in the Draft. How he tumbled in the draft. Mentally, he handled that. Within the Vikings organization, not only the ownership, but the general manager Rick Spielman, they feel very comfortable in the draft pick. That’s why they got him (Bridgewater). Just need to get some help around him. Don’t know what (RB) Adrian Peterson’s future is going to be. But if they put a running game, (WRs) Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, they can do some great things. I expect big things from the Vikings organization and Teddy Bridgewater.”