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On facing Patrick Mahomes, Antonio Pierce said the quiet part out loud

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There’s usually a difference between the things players and coaches will say among themselves and the things they will say publicly. In his recent appearance on Maxx Crosby’s podcast, new Raiders coach Antonio Pierce swung a sledgehammer at that wall.

Specifically, Pierce said the quiet part out loud regarding the inherently violent realities of football. In the post-#Bountygate NFL, however, certain things aren’t supposed to be uttered into a microphone.

Pierce talked openly about playing Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes the same way the Pistons used to play Michael Jordan, with relentless and gratuitous physicality. Pierce also said this: “We gotta knock off the head of the snake. Fifteen.”

That’s a risky comment from Pierce, or from any NFL player or coach. Back in 2004, five years before Congress forced the NFL to have an epiphany about head trauma, then-Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren said this about then-Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, in the days preceding a Cleveland-Pittsburgh game: “One rule they used to tell me: Kill the head and the body’s dead.”

The NFL saw the comment and issued a warning to the Browns.

We notified the team, including Gerard Warren, that if a player commits a flagrant foul after making such a statement, it may be a decisive factor supporting the suspension of the player, depending on the entire set of circumstances,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told ESPN.com at the time.

In 2012, after the NFL singled out the Saints for a cultural problem that permeated the sport, we all became aware of the cartoonish locker-room rants of Gregg Williams. One of his sayings was, drum roll please, “Kill the head, the body will die.”

We’re not trying to get Pierce in trouble with this. I like the guy. He deserves the job he has. But he needs to be careful about what he says, especially about a player like Patrick Mahomes. Trust me, I know what the backlash can be from suggesting, for example, that defensive players shouldn’t let themselves become paralyzed by fear of an unwarranted 15-yard penalty for hitting a quarterback who becomes a running back the way running backs get hit all the time.

Pierce didn’t specifically say “kill the head.” He said, “We gotta knock off the head of the snake. Fifteen.” Given that Mahomes is currently the most popular player in the NFL who isn’t dating Taylor Swift, that’s probably enough to get the NFL’s attention, either now or as the first of two 2024 Raiders-Chiefs games draws closer to kicking off.

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