NFL Playoffs 2001 NFL Playoffs 2001


When in Rome ...

Blue-collar LB Phifer leads Patriots with fiscal example

Posted: Wednesday January 30, 2002 11:37 AM

Flags and Flattery
Direct Snaps
Dumbest Thing ...
The Bottom Line
By B. Duane Cross,

For NFL players, it's minimum wage: $477,000. But 17 players on the New England Patriots' roster have that base salary. Of course, the contracts also have incentive clauses, but for the most part this is a blue-collar team.

Among those of the lowest-paid Pats is 11-year veteran Roman Zubinski Phifer, the club's second-leading tackler for 2001 as a pass-rushing defensive end. Named after ex-Los Angeles Rams QB Roman Gabriel, Phifer was the Rams' second-round draft choice in 1991 after a stellar career at UCLA.

Phifer spent eight seasons with the Rams before signing with the New York Jets for 1999, the season St. Louis won its first Super Bowl. He played one season in then-Jets defensive coordinator Bill Belichick's system before the defensive guru jetted for New England. A free agent after two years in New York, Phifer rejoined Belichick with the Patriots -- at minimum wage -- for the '01 season.

It proved to be a wise investment. Phifer had 93 tackles, three sacks and an interception, and finished with five or more tackles in 13 of 16 regular-season games.

Belichick's knack for breaking down opposing offenses will be put to the test Sunday. "The Greatest Show on Turf" is being lauded as the second coming of the forward pass; how quickly the modern-day fans and pundits forget. It's defense that wins championships, the down-and-dirty trench warfare that favors the blue-collar Patriots and is exemplified by Phifer.

By the way, as for the middle name "Zubinski," Phifer's father chose it out of the phone book.

Leg up
Rams P John Baker has 86 kicks during the past two seasons. Six punters had more than that this season: Chris Gardocki, 99; Sean Landeta, 97; Todd Sauerbrun, 93; Rodney Williams, 91; Bryan Barker, 90; and Brad Maynard, 87.
Next question
As if there were a QB controversy on the Rams, Patriots S Lawyer Milloy was asked Monday to choose between Kurt Warner and Jamie Martin. He answered: ''Who the hell is Jamie Martin?''
Martz Madness
St. Louis head coach Mike Martz, not exactly the most beloved coach scratching X's and O's on a chalkboard, took a knee when asked if jealousy was a factor: "I really don't know how to answer that."
Soup Nazi
Eagles QB Donovan McNabb made it to New Orleans after all. He joined Kurt Warner on Tuesday in donating 500,000 cans of Chunky Soup to Second Harvesters Food Bank of Greater New Orleans.
Flag -- MTV
Media Day's slide, historians and sociologists will note, can be traced to the 1991 game in Tampa, Fla., where MTV got credentials for the leggy veejay Downtown Julie Brown. Thanks, guys. Really. Couldn't have done it without y'all.
Flattery -- Jerry Izenberg
Longtime scribe of the Newark Star-Ledger on Media Day: "It fits right in with what our culture has become. Everything is a gimmick now. It's just a part of the hyping of the hyping of the game by the ministers of propaganda in the NFL."
Flag -- Old news
To those who went for the morbid storyline Tuesday, it's been three-plus years since Rams LB Leonard Little was involved in a car crash that killed a St. Louis woman. Why bring it up again?
Flattery -- Marshall Faulk
He downplayed the "hard-scrabble homecoming" angle Tuesday. Every title game has the warm and fuzzy feel-good story, but rarely does an athlete deftly juke the questions. Then again, not everyone is Marshall Faulk.
Rams rookie LB Brian Allen is the first cousin of Cincinnati Bengals DE Reinard Wilson. Both played at Florida State. After his career, Allen wants to open a youth center for underprivileged children.
Patriots TE Jermaine Wiggins, a native of East Boston, Mass., attended Marshall University before transferring to Georgia along with Denver Broncos RB Olandis Gary in 1996.
Rams CB Aeneas Williams turned down a scholarship to Dartmouth. He made the team at Southern University as a walk-on; as a senior he tied for the national lead in interceptions with 11.
Patriots 12-year veteran DE Anthony Pleasant has played for head coach Bill Belichick on three teams: Cleveland Browns (1991-95), New York Jets (1998-99) and New England (2001).
"Drew, who's your favorite Teletubby?"
-- FOX Sports' Jay Mohr to Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe
(For the record, Bledsoe's choice is Po, the red one.)
Quarterback Quiz: Which New England QB said the following?

  • A: "I know that whoever is the starting quarterback will be ready to go. And whoever starts at quarterback -- we've got to win the game. So, whoever plays -- you've got to win the game."

  • B: "If Coach says, 'You're playing,' I'm playing. If he doesn't ... that's the way I've approached it all year. He knows I want to play. It's not as big of a deal to me as it is to a lot of people."

    Answer: Drew Bledsoe said A, Tom Brady said B. Either can play, but only one can start. And both bring a lot to the table, which can't be a good thing as the Rams continue preparations for Sunday's kickoff.

    Newspaper reports were used to compile this feature.

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    Super Bowl history in New Orleans
    St. Louis Rams Super Bowl history
    New England Patriots Super Bowl history's Super Bowl Glance: Tuesday
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