Around the League

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What we learned from the 'NFL Honors' red carpet

NEW YORK -- Around The League spent the opening act of "NFL Honors" camped along the bustling red carpet at Radio City Music Hall.

My ugliest moment came early: With the poise of a seventh-grader, I mistakenly ground the heel of my shoe into Lauren Tannehill's elegant white purse, which was parked along the wall as photographers captured the blonde and her signal-caller husband, Ryan.

Things improved from there as we spoke with a boatload of NFL luminaries. Here's what we learned:

  1. I asked Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson what he thought about Rex Ryan's back-from-the-dead coaching performance this season. "I love the guy to death," Sheldon told me. "He's a player's coach. I'm glad he's back. I'm glad I'm in the same system again for the second year."

Richardson, later announced as the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, said Ryan was "honest" from the start about his shaky job status, telling the team -- no matter his future -- that "we signed up for 16 games and we gonna give them 16 games. He told us, 'We don't work for anybody. We work for each other. Don't let anybody outside these walls tear us down.'"

  1. Possible good news for the Seattle Seahawks: I asked Colts pass rusher Robert Mathis about his team's ability to get at Peyton Manning and disrupt the Broncos quarterback in Indy's regular-season win over Denver. "I would give our DBs a lot of credit. You have to be physical with their receivers, try to get them off track and disrupt their timing. And they gave us that extra second we needed to get to the quarterback."
  1. I also asked Mathis if the Colts under Andrew Luck have a Super Bowl berth in their future. "I think so," he said. "I really do feel like we are one of the teams to be reckoned with. We have a lot of missing pieces back, we have our quarterback with another year of experience and I definitely think we have the tools to get it done."
  1. Bears defensive back Charles Tillman acknowledged that Chicago's defense let the team down this season. "Offensively, they carried the team," Tillman said. "We just didn't make the plays we needed to. We just couldn't stop the run and we fell short."
  1. Can Jay Cutler guide the Bears to a Super Bowl? "With coach (Marc) Trestman leading him, coaching him, teaching him, growing him, yeah," said Tillman. "I think he could be that guy."
  1. Jamaal Charles thinks Kansas City's offense is far from one-dimensional. "I think we found our way," the running back said. "We were just learning the system, our first year in the system, and we started getting comfortable by Week 10, 11, and we started putting points on the board. We know the philosophy and we know the system now and I know we'll have great success in it."
  1. Charles also told me he feels "great" about Alex Smith under center: "I think he can lead our team, man. He's been in the playoffs the last four, five years in the league, so I'm excited. I know he can win games."
  1. After calling himself the most handsome player in the league, Bengals running back Giovani Bernard told me the locker room has full confidence in Andy Dalton. "That's my quarterback," he said. "I'm never gonna trash talk my guy, bash my guy, but he's definitely helped us a lot. A lot of people put a lot of pressure on him, and he continues to prove people wrong."
  1. I asked Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown if Cleveland is a sure bet to draft a quarterback: "Yes, I think we're gonna draft a quarterback. I don't think that that's even a question."
  1. Ron Rivera, who won AP Coach of the Year, told me that his place on the hot seat at the start of the year "never worried" him. "There are certain things that I can and can't control," the Panthers coach said. "The one thing I felt I could control was to play better football."
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