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“FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA” NOTES & QUOTES – WEEK 3

NEW YORK – Sept. 23, 2012 – Following are highlights for Football Night in America. Bob Costas opened the show live from inside M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore where the Ravens are hosting the New England Patriots. Costas was joined on-site by Sunday Night Football commentators Al Michaels (play-by-play) and Cris Collinsworth (analyst), and Hines Ward, the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Super Bowl MVP and newest addition to NBC Sports’ NFL team.

Dan Patrick co-hosted the program from Studio 8G at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios and was joined by Football Night analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, and NFL insiders Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.

Following are highlights from Football Night:

ON FALCONS

Dungy: “They made a statement to me this week. The defense is playing great and in six days Matt Ryan outplayed Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers.”

ON CARDINALS

Harrison: “At this point, I have to buy into the Cardinals. Last week, I thought that it was a fluke going into New England and winning that football game, but today was a complete effort by this team.”

Patrick: “Break up the Cardinals.”

ON TEXANS

Dungy: “Bob McNair should be excited. He’s got a great offense, but they’ve also got a great defense. They forced Peyton Manning into 26 incompletions today and that’s because they’ve got four guys who can rush the passer.”

ON SAINTS

Michaels: “Clearly, what happened in the off-season has had a tremendous impact on the New Orleans Saints.”

Dungy: “We figured them as Super Bowl contenders. They are dead in the water right now.”

Dungy on if the Saints are done: “I think they are, at 0-3 with two home losses. This was a bad loss today.”

ON 49ERS

Michaels: “Figuratively speaking, the 49ers started to read their own press clippings. Everybody was making them No. 1 after their first two games … All of a sudden the 49ers, 2-1 with a cross-country trip as they face the Jets, look a lot different than they did last Sunday night.”

ON VIKINGS

Dungy: “There were a lot of eyebrows raised when Minnesota took Christian Ponder that high as their No. 1 pick. He proved today what they were seeing.”

ON LIONS

Collinsworth: “Expectations are a little higher than the results so far in Detroit.”

Harrison on the end-of-game fourth-and-one: “I’m a coach of an eight-year-old football team and we practice this three times a week. If you want to be a playoff team, you can’t have these types of mistakes. This is just too simple.”

ON RAVENS

Hines Ward playfully recounted a story of playing at Baltimore when he was with the Steelers, in which three generations of Ravens fans -- a grandfather, father, and young son -- all made an obscene gesture directed at the team

Costas in response to Ward’s story: “It’s so heartwarming when the traditions of sports extend to a toddler learning to make an obscene gesture.”

Ward on Ray Lewis: “Ray Lewis had to change his whole game; his whole lifestyle. He shed off the weight to lose the pounds, so he’s able to cover these guys in coverage, but in doing that he sacrifices run stopping dominance. I spoke to coaches around the league and asked, ‘is Ray Lewis the same player?’ They say he looks great, because he lost a lot of weight, but he’s still not that guy to make tackles for negative yards. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still making tackles, but he’s making tackles three or four yards down the field.”

Costas: “He’s going to bring you down, but he’s not going to flatten you on the run like he used to.”

Ward: “Correct, now he’s just trying to lose his weight so he can stay on the field and keep up with these younger guys.”

ON COWBOYS

Patrick on Kevin Ogletree stepping on an official’s hat in the end zone: “With the NHL lockout, this might be as close as we get to a hat trick as you’ll see.”

ON STEVE SABOL

Patrick: “One more piece of news from the NFL this week: the passing of Steve Sabol, longtime president of NFL Films, after a battle with brain cancer. Along with his father Ed, Sabol began NFL Films in the 1960s, and was the creator of a style of storytelling that helped drive the growth of the game over the next half century.

“From vivid cinematography, to microphoning coaches and players, and much more. The words ‘visionary’ and ‘innovator’ are thrown around a lot these days, but there’s no doubt Sabol impacted how football, and sports, are watched as much as anyone in history.

“Steve Sabol was 69 years old.”

Below are excerpts from Costas’ interview with Ravens QB Joe Flacco and Harrison’s interview with Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski.

JOE FLACCO WITH BOB COSTAS

Flacco on AFC Championship Game: “Right after that and the couple weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, you think about it a little bit. But once the Giants and the Patriots matched off against each other and that game was over, I tend to put it behind me and try to forget about it. From then on, I honestly didn’t think about it too much. We move forward and now it’s just about getting better for this year.”

Flacco on the Replacement Officials: “I don’t blame those guys. They are doing the best job that they can. I don’t fault them. Sometimes you’re a little over matched and things are a little bit too quick. I do disagree with a couple calls. I just can’t believe we are at this point. We are the National Football League and we’re supposed to be the greatest sport in America. I think this is a pretty big issue.”

Flacco on “Substitute Teacher Syndrome” and Replacement Officials: “If you feel like you can push the limit a little bit and get away with it, I would say you’re not very smart if you’re not doing that. The guys on the defense are going to come up and put more pressure on the wide receivers and grab them and give a lot of contact 10 yards down the field. If you do it 10 times and you only get called for it once, you probably did a good job.”

Flacco on being an elite quarterback and believing he’s the best in the NFL: “I have a lot of confidence in my ability and I don’t come out and just make statements unless I feel very strongly about something. It wasn’t like I was just coming out and making a statement. If I am asked that question, then I’m going to give you my honest opinion and that is my honest opinion.”

Flacco on being the best quarterback in the NFL: “Yes, that’s what I think.”

Flacco on being on equal footing with Tom Brady: “No doubt. When I step on that field, I feel like I’m at home and I feel like I’m the man.”

Patrick, Dungy and Harrison reacted to the interview:

Dungy: “He’s not the best quarterback in the NFL, but I’m glad he feels that way. That’s what you want your quarterback to say.”

Harrison: “You want your quarterback to lie to himself?

Dungy: “You want him to have confidence.”

Harrison: “It’s one thing to be confident. ‘I’m a good quarterback but I’m not better than Tom Brady.’ Let’s be real here.”

Patrick: “Okay, but what would he say if he were asked that question? Are you the best quarterback?”

Harrison: “Say, ‘I’m a pretty good quarterback. I’m working hard to get better. I’m not better than Tom Brady. I’m not an elite quarterback.’”

Click here for video of the complete interview:

http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/22825103/vp/49142426#49142426

ROB GRONKOWSKI WITH RODNEY HARRISON

On practice after a loss: “You know how it is, it juices up a notch. But we’re definitely focused this week, definitely practicing hard, and just trying to keep the train rolling.”

On thoughts of Super Bowl XLVI loss: “In the off-season, it was all the time. Still to this day, you think about it; it’s hard to get over. You probably never get over it, in your lifetime, to tell you the truth. What was great was starting the season back up, you get a whole other chance, a whole other season to keep working to keep improving to try to get back to that point one day.

On media focus of his off-field behavior: “It’s definitely frustrating at some point, but really I’ve just learned to not turn on that TV anymore or go on the internet. I’m not really out there focusing on what I can’t control.”

On reaction of Bill Belichick and veteran teammates: “You know how it is around here. We just focus on our work, and at game time we’re all focused; we’re all ready to go. My teammates—they’re all focused, and it just makes you want to be just as focused as everyone else.”

On good relationship with Bill Belichick, despite contrasting personalities: “We basically have a player-coach relationship. I come in, he coaches me. I go out and do what he says. So obviously, he knows way, way more about football than I do. He knows how the game works and everything. So whatever he has to say, I just listen to him. I listen to what I got to do out there to get better, and every single time he’s told me something it’s been true. So I trust in him 100 percent. I’m just going to do what he tells me.”

On potential rivalry with Baltimore: “I would definitely say so. Every single year I’ve been here, we’ve played them, and it always feels like it’s a big game. And everyone hypes it up—it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be competitive, and it’s going to be a big game.”