Isn't that special: Cardinals' Morey won Super Bowl ring with Steelers
Arizona special teamer Sean Morey won Super Bowl title with Pittsburgh
Morey called his three seasons in Pittsburgh 'the greatest years of my life'
The politicking is heating up for Pro Football Hall of Fame's 17 finalists
Three years ago, on a Super Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit, special-teams standout Sean Morey of the champion Steelers found himself with one of his best friends, defensive end Brett Keisel. Morey was getting out of the shower, while Keisel stood at the sink, shaving off his playoff beard with a huge cigar in his mouth.
"Zsa-Zsa,'' Keisel called out, using the diminutive Morey's nickname, "we just reached the pinnacle of our careers.''
You can bet that's never been said since at Ford Field. But that's another story. This story is about the affection Morey, the hard-trying Steve Tasker of the Steelers from 2004 to '06 and of the Cardinals for the past two seasons, has for his three years in Pittsburgh. He's not alone. Even though coach Ken Whisenhunt and assistant head coach Russ Grimm have hurt feelings after being passed over for the Steelers coaching job 24 months ago, they also carry deep memories from their days in Pittsburgh, as do former Steelers quarterback Brian St. Pierre and linebacker Clark Haggans.
Morey grew up around Boston, so he knows sports passion. He went to Brown, so he's smart. In fact, in a 45-minute interview this week, he quoted American civil-rights activist William Edward DuBois. Of his three Steelers years, Morey, 32, said: "The time I spent in Pittsburgh was probably the greatest three years of my life.''
From the old-fashioned training camp in Latrobe, to the black-and-gold neighborhoods he rented homes in, to the drive into the stadium on football Sundays, to the intensity of Steelers games, to the kindness of owner Dan Rooney, Morey said he'll never forget the times he had in Pittsburgh. "On some teams, you graduate from special teams into an offensive or defensive starting position, so it's kind of like you pay your dues and then move on,'' he said. "In Pittsburgh, there was this mentality I hadn't seen in the NFL -- that every snap in the game, whether it was on special teams or offense or defense, was so important. James Harrison was right next to me in kickoff coverage. He played everything. A beast. Nobody wanted to block him. Nobody could block him. To see what a great player he was, and how dedicated he was to every play was really something.
"The thing I'll also remember -- I'll always remember -- is that after every single game, win or lose, Mr. Rooney would walk around the locker room, and, one by one, shake the hand of every player on the team. I remember playing for that. As players, you want to know that regardless of how much money you make, your effort is appreciated, and that gesture by Mr. Rooney meant more than anything.
"When I left Pittsburgh, I was worried that I was never going to duplicate the feeling I had playing football there -- just going to the games, how important it felt. But now, this year, the identity of the Cardinals is really starting to build. There's a long way to go, but our mentality has been fostered by the attitude Coach Wiz and Coach Grimm brought from Pittsburgh.''
Interesting. Rarely do you hear a player so affectionate for a team he left --especially one he's going to have to play in the biggest game of the year. It's a measure of the bedrock respect the Steelers have built under the Rooney family over the past 40 years. It's where so many franchises, such as the one in Arizona, want to get to.
Elsewhere around the NFL:
New Kansas City GM Scott Pioli allowing Gunther Cunningham to leave the coaching staff with a year left on his contract to be Detroit's defensive coordinator tells me Herman Edwards is in his final days at the helm. Why let a trusted guy walk if you're not planning a change?
Rams corner Ron Bartell, who played Larry Fitzgerald well in two meetings this year, particularly on deep fade routes, says the Cardinals will win the Super Bowl if they can protect Kurt Warner. "The key to this game will be the Arizona line giving Kurt the time he needs,'' Bartell said. "That's not going to be easy because Pittsburgh can get to the quarterback rushing four. But Kurt is good under pressure, so as long as people aren't hitting him, he'll be able to get the ball out.''
Jim Bates as defensive coordinator is a great match for new Bucs coach Raheem Morris, who wants to put more consistent pressure on the quarterback than Monte Kiffin did. Bates will blitz more than Kiffin did.
The politicking is going on hard for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 17 finalists. As one of the 44 voters, I'm getting e-mailed and pushed hard for many candidates. One of the interesting first-timers we'll take a long look at is defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, a great player on some bad Seattle teams; he was defensive player of the year in 1992 (amazing, considering the Seahawks were 2-14) and made eight Pro Bowls in 11 years. I've always thought of him as Warren Sapp with much better run-playing ability.
"He's the best player in Seahawks history,'' said longtime Seattle scout and current Saints GM Mickey Loomis. (He might get an argument from the Largent-philes there, but it's close.) "There ought to be a place in the Hall of Fame for the best player in a franchise's history. I think he gets hurt because he wasn't on a lot of great teams, and he didn't play in New York or LA.''
Sometimes the New York thing hurts a player. But in Kennedy's case, I'm happy he'll get his case heard in front of the electors. He deserves it.