Opponents have mentioned his mom in an attempt to psyche him out before a field-goal attempt.
Wives, girlfriends, even pets are fair game, too. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck says Hall of Famer John Randle, an all-time great trash talker, would study opponents’ bios so he could personalize on-field commentary. That meant knowing the name of a player’s dog.
“He would bring it all up,” Hasselbeck said, “wife, kids, the dog.”
Today’s game hasn’t changed much in that regard. When it comes to getting under the proverbial skin of an opponent, the psychological verbal jousting is dismissed as part of the game.
“I don’t take it easy on anybody,” said outside linebacker Erik Walden.
Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois recalled his rookie year in San Francisco, when offensive tackle Joe Staley always seemed to know how to push buttons. Jean Francois admits he’s not much of a talker, that he sometimes just tries to stare down an opponent like former heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson before a fight.
But should someone pull a Staley and really get to him, Jean Francois knows he’s capable of getting rather nasty.
“If you get underneath my skin,” he said, “believe me, I become one of the worst people you’ve ever seen.”
Hasselbeck has seen and heard it all in 16 seasons. He’s remembered for his 2004 return to Green Bay, where his career began. He likened the experience to playing in his back yard against friends. When the game went to overtime, he came out for the coin toss, looked at buddy Ryan Longwell on the other side, then pronounced after winning the flip, “We want the ball, and we’re gonna score!”
He laughs about that now, although Al Harris returned an interception of Hasselbeck for the winning touchdown.
In Hasselbeck’s experience, the louder the trash talker, typically the lesser the player.
“It’s usually the guy that’s talking tough and you’re like, ‘(No.) 94, didn’t see you in the scouting report. I’m sorry, but who are you, bro?’”
While he’s not sure if it should be considered trash talk, Hasslebeck mentions how quarterback Andrew Luck exhibits passive aggressive behavior on the field. Ever notice how Luck will give a defender an acknowledging slap after a physical hit?
“Someone hits him real hard, he’ll be like, ‘That was a good hit,’” Hasselbeck said of Luck. “I think it’s demoralizing for a guy knowing that was everything he had and the quarterback compliments him on it.”
Vinatieri, the NFL’s oldest player at 41, says he doesn’t hear much trash talk these days. Most opponents rationalize, at his age and with two Super Bowl-winning field goals on his resume, he’s immune to being thrown off by words.
But sometimes somebody says something. And when that happens, Vinatieri doesn’t have to respond.
“The funny thing is, usually (holder Pat) McAfee snaps back,” he said. “He’s my bulldog. He goes and gets ‘em. Somebody is talking anything, he fires back so I don’t have to.”
McAfee prides himself in being able to display his quick wit at a moment’s notice. He regards Vinatieri as a future Hall of Famer and nicknamed him “The Legend,” so defending him is considered part of the job.
“I will tell people to go to a place that isn’t very happy,” McAfee said. “I tell people that I don’t think they’re very nice. I will tell people that they need a hug.
“They start it. I end it.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.