When it comes to the typical NFL football game, the premise of most games is pretty simple. One team looks to impose its will on the other, either running over them on offense or stonewalling them on defense. Offenses try many different approaches to gaining yards and scoring points on defenses. They run sweeps and misdirection. They play-action the run to open up the deep passing lanes. They throw bombs over the top in hopes of cashing in on the big play.
But in the trenches, it is a different story. For the most part, defensive linemen and offensive linemen spend the better part of their game days slamming into each other. They will do it 40, 50 or 60 times a game and, at times, things get a little heated.
Such is the case with Ray Edwards and Dallas offensive tackle Marc Colombo. The two have battled each other for years – first when Colombo was a starter for the Bears and as recently as last January in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. In January during the playoffs, Edwards owned Colombo, registering three sacks of Tony Romo and, in the process, getting a couple of what Edwards termed "cheap shots."
Having blocks coming at his knees or when he is engaged with another blocker is nothing new. Colombo has built a reputation as a nasty-tempered game player and Edwards has felt that sting before.
"That's Colombo, man," Edwards said. "I played against him when he was at Chicago and since he's been in Dallas. That's the guy I know. All football players have nasty streaks in them. That's part of the game."
So does that make Colombo a dirty player? Jared Allen has been viewed by some as a dirty player – a charge he has vehemently denied. Yet, the perception league-wide remains. Asked it there is a difference between being aggressive and being dirty, Edwards said it isn't a fine line that separates the two.
"There is a big difference," Edwards said. "It's a line some guys are willing to cross. You have to play with it regardless of whether a guy takes a cheap shot at you. If the refs don't call it, evidently it's not dirty. You just have to continue to play ball."
Given the situation that Edwards is in – hoping to land a long-term contract that will set him up financially for life – he is leery of getting shots to his knees that could drop his value on the free-agent market. It's an unwritten rule around the league that you don't take cheap shots even when they are available and you could likely get away with it. However, those who get a reputation for being a potential crippler are accounted for in the game plan. Does a player's rep following him around the league?
"Absolutely," Edwards said. "It's one thing to be aggressive. It's another to be dirty. We definitely know the guys who have the reputation of being dirty and we prepare for that every week. If we're playing against a guy who takes dirty shots, we have to prepare for that and make sure you keep your head on a swivel because you know it's coming."
Edwards is expecting more of the same with Colombo, who was fined $5,000 for a late hit last week – yes, an offensive lineman can hit late, too. He said both of them have gained more experience and, as they have improved their game, their one-on-one war will be even more intense.
"You have to take each year on its own merit," Edwards said. "He has probably improved since last year. Hopefully I've improved since last year, so we'll see what the battle brings."
Edwards said he's ready for whatever Colombo has to throw at him Sunday and said such battles are what motivates him. He considers himself to be like a boxer (ironically, Edwards trains to be one of those in the future too). He's going to keep coming at you and pressing the action for each and every round. If you're up to the challenge? Good for you. If not, he's going to press the issue until he beats you into submission. That's how Edwards rolls and he said Colombo rolls the same way, which should make for quite a personal matchup Sunday within the team concept.
"It's like a heavyweight battle," Edwards said. "Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. You go at each other for four quarters and the first one who wears down usually loses the battle. In our situation, it's me against him all day long and those battles can get heated. I'm a fighter and I'm going to keep fighting all four quarters."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Edwards ready for ‘dirty' matchup
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