An unlikely name was brought up during Thursday’s press conference with Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees.
Tonya Harding – yes, the former United States Olympic figure skater who was most famously known for her work off the ice (conspiring in a plot to attack teammate Nancy Kerrigan’s knee with a tire iron.)
Didn’t think you’d hear that name this decade, huh?
Pees is extremely familiar with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Having coached linebackers and winning a Super Bowl with the Patriots as their defensive coordinator, Pees saw Brady on an everyday basis during the season.
When Pees was asked if there was any secret to making Brady’s life more difficult during Sunday’s AFC Championship game, he replied, “Hire Tonya Harding,” as he and reporters laughed.
Of course, Pees would never wish to inflict Harding-esque harm on Brady, but he was full of jokes while trying to come up with ways to neutralize New England’s biggest threat.
“If [the Patriots] were getting off the bus, I’d spray water outside the bus and hope it freezes,” Pees joked.
Pees’ jokes show the level of respect for the type of player that Brady is.
“He’s as competitive of a person as I’ve ever been around,” he said. “He can give you this little boyish look on TV, but he is a very, very, very, competitive guy. He didn’t even like losing in practice.”
“He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback,” Pees said.
Given the stakes during Sunday’s game, Pees’ jokes help show that he and his defense are comfortable with the challenge the Patriots offense will provide on Sunday.
All week throughout the facility, the players have seemed calm and focused and Pees is showing that from a coaching standpoint by turning a simple question into a minor joke session with the local media.
If Brady does fall victim to a freak accident, Pees will certainly be questioned but it’s clear this was all in good fun. Pees also doesn’t need to call Harding as he already deals with someone who has dealt blow after blow to the Patriots superstars, including Brady.
That person is safety Bernard Pollard and players and fans in New England are all too familiar with the type of damage he can inflict on a football field.