CHICAGO — The NFL has warned players to cut out the trash talk, specifically when it threatens other players.
"Ray Anderson reminded players that comments of a physically threatening nature are always taken into account in evaluating discipline for any illegal physical contact on the field," league spokesman Greg Aiello said Saturday.
NFL executive vice president of football operations Anderson is the league's chief disciplinarian. He told teams, including all eight remaining in the playoffs, to basically watch it.
Since October, the NFL has ratcheted up its enforcement of hits to defenseless players with a series of fines – and the threat of suspension. No suspensions have been handed out, but the recent rash of trash talk before playoff games prompted Anderson to further emphasize the need to respect the game and opponents.
Earlier this week, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie described Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with a derogatory term. New York is at New England on Sunday in the final divisional round game this weekend.
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs wore a T-shirt with a Raven on it extending a middle finger. Suggs said he was "representing" Baltimore as it headed to Saturday's playoff game at Pittsburgh.
In the second meeting of the regular season between the AFC North rivals, the Ravens broke Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's nose – accidentally – on a hit by nose tackle Haloti Ngata.
"I was glad we broke his nose," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said with a wry grin this week, "and I was very impressed he played through it. Obviously, you can throw very effectively with a broken nose. He proved that."
Although Harbaugh was kidding, the comment did rankle some people in Pittsburgh, and perhaps elsewhere around the league.
Jets coach Rex Ryan mentioned this week that players need to dislike their opponents at this time of year.
"You shouldn't like who you are going up against right now," he said. "This is the playoffs. I can tell you our whole team respects Brady and the Patriots. But hey, we don't like any of them right now. You shouldn't. (Former Jets running back) Danny Woodhead is a great kid, but I can't stand Danny Woodhead right now.
"I think that's just part of it, and trust me, the feeling is mutual."