MIAMI – Terrell Owens. Chad Johnson. Keyshawn Johnson. Plaxico Burress.
Terrific receivers, one and all. With mouths to match.
Sometimes you wonder if one of the prerequisites of being an elite receiver on the field is flapping your gums off it.
Then you see Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne prove you don’t have to be a “me” guy to make it to the Super Bowl. They line up. They run their routes. They catch the ball. They go back to the huddle. And do it all over again.
No taunting opponents with pregame quotes. No showing up their quarterbacks by waving their arms if they’re open on a particular play.
Just two professional receivers.
What a concept.
“A lot of guys talk, and I don’t know if it’s for publicity or what,” Harrison said at Media Day earlier this week. “The bottom line is on Sunday, when you go out there and they call your number, that’s going to speak for itself. I have no problem with guys who do a lot of talking at this position. Sometimes, it’s hilarious, but we all have our own personalities. As long as it’s not disrespectful, it’s good for the game. As a receiver, you do bring a lot of excitement to the game.”
But Harrison in particular brings an elegance to that excitement that few receivers have. He doesn’t open his mouth before games. In fact, the only reason he spoke is because league rules mandate that all players have to show up and talk on Media Day. He believes that any sense of self-promotion should be based on what you do on the field, not on the contrived celebrations you do after touchdowns, or the over-the-top things you say in the locker room.
He’s never had a contract hassle. He’s never had a problem with the law. He’s never called out a teammate. Never questioned his quarterback.
“Marvin doesn’t open up to a lot of people, and he’s a very guarded guy,” said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. “But on the football field, he’s as intense as any player I’ve ever been around. He had a great comment. He said he’s playing the games for free, and he gets paid to practice. How many other marquee NFL receivers have that kind of attitude? To me, that’s what makes him special.”
Maybe it’s that attitude that has rubbed off on Wayne, another first-round receiver who has helped make the Colts offense nearly unstoppable. Wayne is a bit more outgoing than Harrison, and he doesn’t mind playing with a bit more emotion. But there is an underlying sophistication that makes you appreciate his accomplishments even more. He doesn’t need to act like an idiot to attract attention. He simply needs to catch passes and score touchdowns, and the attention will follow.
It has been a particularly trying season for Wayne, whose 32-year-old brother, Rashad, was killed in an automobile crash last September, when his delivery truck hit a guardrail in Kenner, La. He has dedicated the season to his brother’s memory.
“I think about him every day, even if it’s not a game week,” Wayne said. “It’s going to be huge for me. I want to win so that he’ll look down and smile at me.”
By their lofty standards, Wayne and Harrison have not had the kind of playoff production they’re used to seeing. While tight end Dallas Clark leads the team with 17 catches for 281 yards, Wayne has 15 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown, while Harrison has 10 catches for 134 yards and no TDs.
They’re both hoping for breakout performances on Sunday against the Bears.
Maybe then, Harrison will actually remember a catch from the game. He was asked if he had one particular catch he’s made during his career that he considers unforgettable, but he couldn’t come up with one. Hey, that’s what happens when you’ve scored more than 100 touchdowns.