Andre Rison's new career as a pro football forecaster wasn't a big hit with the Rams, who took issue Monday with the Atlanta wide receiver's prediction of a victory over them.
Frustrated after Atlanta's 31-28 overtime loss at Detroit Sunday, Rison asked reporters: "Who do we play this Sunday?"
The Rams, he was told.
"The Rams?" Rison said. "I'm going to guarantee a win. You can print it in USA Today, as far as you can print it. You can print it all the way to L.A."
Rison's comments made national TV highlight shows, local papers and became instant bulletin-board material for the Rams, who are feeling pretty good about themselves after a 14-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
So what did free safety Anthony Newman, the Rams' defensive captain and spokesman, think of Rison's call?
Gentlemen, start your tape recorders.
"It's very disrespectful," Newman said. "That's not what being a professional football player is all about. That's a bunch of high school b.s.
"He forgets that we still have to play a game. We're going to have a lot of fun out there, believe me. We're not going to say anything. We're not going to stoop down to his level. We're going to do something physically to show what we're all about.
"When you talk like that before a game you put a lot of pressure on yourself. You forget there are 11 other guys out there. It's going to be one against 11 out there, almost."
Imagine that, Rison talking trash and getting under the Rams' skin.
It was only 10 months ago that Ram cornerback Robert Bailey was swinging a folding chair around the Georgia Dome locker room while screaming, "Don't blame the loss on me . . . " The reason? Rison had beaten him for two touchdown catches in a 30-24 Falcon victory.
A subdued Bailey shook his head Monday when asked about Rison's comments.
"I think it's irrelevant to this game," Bailey said. "(Arizona Coach) Buddy Ryan made all those statements about us, and you see what happened to him. Rison's a talker and he's known for it."
Before the Lions' game, Rison told Detroit writers he wasn't getting any respect and was an "underground receiver" compared to the "commercial receivers like (San Francisco's) Jerry Rice and (Green Bay's) Sterling Sharpe." Rison backed up his comments Sunday by catching 14 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions.
History also supports Rison's prediction. The Falcons have won six of the last seven meetings, and the Rams haven't won in Atlanta since the 1989 season-opener.
The Rams haven't won their first two games of the season since '89, but they have a chance to do so if they can shut down a Falcon offense that generated 389 yards Sunday.
The Rams' defense, healthy for the first time in nearly a year, held Arizona to 230 yards total offense. Defensive end Robert Young had two of the Rams' five sacks. Safeties Keith Lyle and Marquez Pope each had an interception, and cornerback Todd Lyght returned a fumble 74 yards for a touchdown.
"Our whole defense played very well, to come in and shut them down like they did," Ram Coach Chuck Knox said. "When you list your defensive objectives for the year, the first is points allowed and the second is turnovers. We held them to 12 points and got three turnovers, so that's extremely important."
Knox was particularly pleased with the defensive line, which had lost tackles Sean Gilbert and Gerald Robinson to ankle injuries late in the exhibition season and defensive end Fred Stokes (knee) in training camp.
"We were concerned about our defensive line during the week," Knox said. "We got (linebacker) Henry Rolling ready to be a rushing end and we didn't know if Stokes would be ready to play. Robert played well and we had some good pressures back there."
The Ram pass rush will be tested again Sunday against Atlanta's run-and-shoot offense and new quarterback Jeff George. George has a streak of 239 consecutive completions without an interception, third on the league's all-time list, and has a new favorite target in Rison.
"It's the same old run-and-shoot," Bailey said. "Andre's still their main guy and you have to shut him down to win."
The Rams probably will pull middle linebacker Shane Conlan in favor of an extra defensive back against the run-and-shoot, which they have done in the past.
Bailey is a strong candidate to start as the extra defensive back--and he promises that he learned his lesson against Rison last year in Atlanta.
"I know I have to play better in big games," he said. "I've definitely matured a lot since last year.