Jeff Fisher has a voice, too, and he used it to defend himself, his defensive coordinator and his team against the fury that was unleashed upon them following the hit that concussed Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday.
The Rams coach took his strongest lash at Rodney Harrison, the NBC analyst and former Chargers and Patriots All-Pro safety. As for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s criticism, Fisher’s comments weren’t as biting, but they were wrapped in condescension and intentionally directed downward from the 57-year-old with 21 years as a head coach to the 59-year-old coach in his second season in that job.
“A good a lesson to be learned from this is control your emotions immediately after the game and go back and look at the tape before you jump to conclusions,” Fisher said. “Now, clearly it’s been said. Clearly, Mike’s and my handshake was very short [after the game]. He didn’t say a word.
“I went out to congratulate him. I was going to ask him how his quarterback was and congratulate him on the win and he was gone. I understand that, but you also need to control your emotions after a game and go look at the tape and then adjust accordingly.”
Not necessarily. The Vikings are 6-2 because they have good players with grit. The good is God-given and hand-picked. The grit is Zimmer’s identity beginning to poke through the soil.
Much like his team right now, there is no polish on Zimmer. And that’s becoming an effective unifying tool, with Zimmer referring to the Vikings as the guys in “the low-rent district.”
Sunday, Zimmer was refreshingly unfiltered in an over-filtered league. He didn’t like cornerback Lamarcus Joyner’s hit and said so. In his opinion, had this been a street game, the participants would have brawled. So he said so. Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has a history with these kinds of hits, having been suspended for a year after creating the infamous “Bountygate” scandal. So Zimmer pointed out the 800-pound albatross in the room.
Did Joyner intentionally lower his shoulder and forearm into Bridgewater’s head when he could have pulled up and respected Bridgewater’s surrendering slide? Only Joyner knows, although many have been quick to answer for him. On NBC’s “Football Night in America” on Sunday, Harrison called it a “dirty hit” before adding, “I wasn’t surprised because it happened to me in 2006,” when Harrison was with the Patriots and Bobby Wade was with Fisher’s Tennessee Titans.
Harrison went on to detail a hit from Wade, a receiver who later played for the Vikings.
“He chopped my knees and tore my knee up,” Harrison said. “I’m lying on the ground, and I look at Jeff Fisher and he’s smiling and laughing. So this is typical of Jeff Fisher-type teams.”
Fisher responded by unloading his full verbal arsenal on Harrison.
“This is coming from a guy that had 18 unnecessary-roughness penalties, seven personal fouls, four roughing-the-passer penalties, a total of 77 penalties in his career,” Fisher said. “And he was voted three times the dirtiest player in the National Football League and was suspended for a hit, a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jerry Rice, in 2002. OK? This is where these comments are coming from.”
Fisher then defended his reputation as a member of the league’s Competition Committee.
“Our main focus is player safety,” Fisher said. “So, for Rodney to come out and say that I did something like that is absolutely absurd.”
Fisher also defended Joyner.
“Lamarcus plays hard every down and he plays reckless,” Fisher said. “Unfortunately, there was contact to the head of Teddy and he was penalized for it. I can’t fault him for his choice. Lamarcus made a decision to go hit the quarterback prior to Teddy initiating the slide. That’s what happens. … It was penalized on the field. What more can you ask for?”
Fisher, the 21-year veteran head coach, has a right to defend himself. Just like Zimmer, the 24-game head coach, had the right to come unhinged at the sight of his quarterback lying unconscious on the field with a yellow flag at his feet and the Bountygate maestro standing on the other sideline.