INDIANAPOLIS – In the grand picture of trash talking, Philip Rivers can best be described as a serial offender and PG-rated.
And shoot, that’s the daggum truth.
He’s been yappin’ at an All-Pro rate since those days his backyard when the only ears within reach belonged his neighborhood buddies.
“I’ve always played it that way,’’ Rivers said this week on a Zoom conference call. “So there is an element of that you can’t get rid of and it’s an element of that where I’m really at my best.
“Had anything not been ever caught on video, I wouldn’t had even give it two thoughts worth because after the game – it’s a good game – ‘Man, that was fun.’ Then you move on to the next one.
“It’s definitely not something that I think about very often.’’
But in today’s NFL – today’s world, for that matter – there’s video of everything. That includes Philip Rivers yappin’ during the Indianapolis Colts’ win Sunday over the Bears at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
One clip caught him exchanging pleasantries – that’s what we’ll call it – with Bears linebacker Roquan Smith.
It was fourth-and-1 at the Chicago 30 in the fourth quarter. The offense was lined up and Rivers was barking out a hard count, trying to pull the Bears offside.
When the Bears defense stood its ground, Rivers backed away from center Ryan Kelly and pointed to Smith.
Hey, 28 turned the corner on you!
Rivers then turned to the umpire and signaled a timeout.
He turned the corner on you!
Smith tried to argue the point, but Rivers had made his point. Even though 28 – rookie Jonathan Taylor – had turned the right corner for a 16-yard gain with Smith and Danny Trevathan given late pursuit a few plays earlier, he decided to twist the verbal knife just a bit.
“Hey, it’s fun,’’ Rivers said after the game. “I love to compete, so there was some interaction with Roquan. He’s a heck of a player. He and Trevathan, those two guys are good linebackers.
“There was some good back and forth and that made it feel a little bit more like a backyard pickup game. It just happens to be at the highest level and a 4 o’clock national time slot, but it felt that way. It felt like you got your buddies and said, ‘we’re going to play someone across town.’’’
In other words, it was just another day at the office for Rivers.
Depending upon the score of the game and which sideline you’re on, Rivers’ shtick either is entertaining or irritating. Whatever the situation, it seems to be incessant
Coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni first experienced Rivers’ act while in San Diego.
“We love and appreciate Philip’s competitiveness and fire,’’ Reich said. “It’s good for our team and I think it’s good for the game.
“Philip is also professional enough to know how to draw the line on it. There is a line that needs to be drawn at times. I think he’s come up close to that line a few times in his career, but I think he does a good job of staying on the right side of the line.’’
Added Sirianni: “He knows when ‘Hey, I’m almost over the line’ and knows how to pull it back. That wasn’t my first rodeo with him right there watching him and Roquan go at it a little bit. That’s just who Philip is. That’s his unique personality and I don’t believe he crossed the line and I haven’t seen him cross the line even though at some points we might think he is close.’’
Rivers also does a good job of keeping the banter clean. That’s a byproduct of being raised in that type of family environment and playing for a coach – Steve, his father – who would have it no other way.
So as Rivers engages on the field, it doesn’t require editing when the video is replayed.
“His is a little more clean than maybe Zach Pascal is at times or Jordan Wilkins is at times,’’ Sirianni said with a smile. “It’s just him being him.’’
Wilkins admitted his smack talk on the field often is saltier than Rivers’.
“The adrenalin gets to me and I just love playing and competing,’’ he said. “Honestly, I just play and when somebody starts talking to me, that’s when I get a little woken up and start chatting a little bit.
“When you see it from your quarterback out there, it kind of fires everybody up. Especially Phil, he does it a little differently, not cussing and things like that.’’
Can Wilkins imagine trash talking without adding a few cuss words?
“Without cursing? That’s really not my motto,’’ he said with a laugh. “I’ll drop a couple of bad words out there. I could (not cuss) if I had to, but we’re out there saying whatever comes to my mind.’’
Reich’s been around football as a coach and player for more than four decades. He was a standout quarterback at Maryland and a valued backup with four franchises during a 14-year NFL career.
“I’m not much of a trash talker,’’ he said. “Nobody would ever expect that I’ve done my share here and there a little bit. As I’ve gotten a little bit older, it’s less and less a part of my vocabulary . . . let’s just put it that way.
“That’s for the guys out there playing, doing their thing, expressing themselves the way they do. We all embrace that and it can be a fun part of the game.’’
On those occasions Reich gave in to the trash-talking urge, there was a reason.
“The handful of times I can remember,’’ he said, “mine was not so much out of fun, but out of sheer anger. I think Philip does it for fun, and that’s maybe where it’s different.’’
Still waiting on T.Y.
Four games into the season, and we’re still waiting for T.Y. Hilton to play like, well, like T.Y. Hilton.
The four-time Pro Bowl wideout has 13 receptions for 162 yards and no touchdowns. He ranks third in team history with 33 100-yard games – Marvin Harrison has 59 and Reggie Wayne 43 – but hasn’t hit triple digits in 17 consecutive games, including the playoffs. That’s easily the longest dry spell of his nine-year career.
“I don’t even keep stats about that,’’ Hilton said. “Just go out there and play. If my team needs me to play . . . needs me to go over 100 yards, needs me to go over 200 yards, have 20-30 yards, whatever it takes for us to win, I’m able to do that.’’
Part of the issue with Hilton has been fewer opportunities. Rivers ranks 22nd in the league with 121 attempts. He’s targeted Hilton a team-high 22 times.
“I can only control what I can control, and when the ball come my way, I’ll be ready,’’ he said. “Whenever my team needs a play, I’m always there to make a play.
“I’m out there playing, man. I ain’t got no problem what’s going on. We’re winning. We’re all having fun. Team guy, man.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.