Hall of Famer Deacon Jones gives team an inspirational speech.
By ROGER MILLS
Published June 18, 2004
TAMPA - When Deacon Jones talks, everyone listens.
If not, he might knock you upside your head.
Considered one of the most dominating defensive linemen ever to play the game, the charismatic Hall of Famer, 65, rolled into One Buc Place on Thursday as a surprise guest and left an impression that likely will last awhile.
A longtime friend of general manager Bruce Allen, Jones captivated the team with a gripping lecture on the pain and suffering of the game and an in-your-face reminder that the only way to play is to do it with unbridled passion, and an edge.
A big edge.
"Hate kept me motivated," Jones said. "I hated the danged quarterback. All quarterbacks, I don't give a darn who they were. I hated Roman Gabriel and he was on my team. ... That's what I did for a living, pressure the quarterback.
"All my energy, positively and negatively, went into this one spot. I hated the man. I was a hired assassin. The league paid me to hurt people and that's how you have to look at it. ... And I'll tell you to your face."
Wrapping up their last day of organized team workouts, the players had no idea that Jones, who played 14 seasons, was going to drop by. They gathered for a team meeting and were presented with Jones.
"Football is a passion for him," defensive end Simeon Rice said. "There's so much love of the game in his voice. He loves his past. When you see him you get such a vibe of the energy that he played with and it's still a lot today. When you see the joy of a 13-year-old kid in an older man's voice, it's a joy to be around."
Jones, who played for the Rams (1961-71), Chargers (1972-73) and Redskins (1974) and now lives in Anaheim Hills, Calif., left a particular mark on defensive linemen.
"You've got to have that kind of passion to do what we do up front, knowing how painful it is," defensive line coach Rod Marinelli said of the eight-time Pro Bowl player. "It's hard to get to the quarterback, day in and day out. It's a brutal position to play and he was the best ever."
Rice explained why Jones chooses the word "hate."
"For those who read into it, it kind of sets a negative tone to it," Rice said. "But when you're playing a game that you have a passion for, everything is extreme. From love to hate. Those extremes are proper. You have to love what you do and if anything opposes what you do, and you have no love for it, you'll have a natural hate for it.
"It's all in the realm of sports, in the realm of passion. If you have love, you're going to have hate. ... Players (today) don't have the hate because they don't have the love."
Defensive tackle Anthony McFarland said wisdom imparted from a Hall of Famer should have a lasting effect on the team.
"They always say success leaves clues and he dropped a lot of clues today," McFarland said. "He definitely was able to turn the game around from a defensive-line stand point. Any time you can learn something, from what he's saying and go back on tape and watch what he did (it's great). It meant a little more because I'm reading his book now, so it gave me a chance to understand some of the things he's talking about."
Jones on the rules protecting the quarterback: "It's a sissy game. ... They have taken all the pain out of hitting quarterbacks, all the thrill out of it. They took the head out of the position. You can't hit the head anymore. And they preserve the right to protect the quarterback, because, I guess, they spend more money on (him). (It doesn't) make me like him any better."
On having to hate your opponent: "You've got to hate the enemy. I don't know how you look at it any other way. The game is blocking and tackling, it's hitting, it's contact. I don't know how you can look at it as a nice guy.
"When I see guys huddling up after the game to pray, that's what scares me about this game. I'm a Baptist, but I'm a quarterback killer and I ain't praying. I'll give you 30 seconds to ask your Lord and master to keep me from killing your (butt). But circling and holding hands and praying? I don't believe in that. I'm here for one thing, to search the enemy out and destroy him."
- Times staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report.