Liz: Welcome to the show, Ross. How are you?
Ross: Liz, I’m fantastic. I’m excited to finally be on your show.
Liz: Oh well, thank you so much for joining. In looking at your playing career, you got to play at teams such as the Redskins, Browns, Cowboys, Bills, and Patriots. How would you say that each team differed in terms of style and culture?
Ross: A good question, and by the way, most of the time I was leaving those teams involuntarily, I was getting released or traded or whatever. But there is a pretty big difference between each team that I played for, which by the way is one of the reasons why I am so impressed with Andy Reed or any coach for that matter that has success at multiple stops, that really, really impresses me because I know how hard it is to establish that culture and to be able to win at a high level with an entirely new and different set of players. It’s really impressive. It really is the coach typically who sets the tone and the culture for the organization, but sometimes it’s so embedded in the organization that it’s hard for the coach to shake that. I talked about with the Dallas Cowboys and it was almost as if, you know, they were still living off the 90s when they had won those Superbowls.
When I was with the Redskins, Marty Schottenheimer set an unbelievable standard in terms of the type of people that he was going to have in his organization. And then conversely, when Steve Spurrier came in, there was just not nearly the same level of discipline and accountability. With the New England Patriots, I was very surprised because, you know, I thought everybody would be so happy when I was there because they were going for their third straight Superbowl at the time but it was really primarily negative reinforcement, which obviously works very well for them and they’ve had tremendous success with it but it’s not for everybody. I didn’t mind it. I kind of grew up with high school coaches like that, but it was unique, that’s for sure.
Liz: Yeah. Sounds so. Now you got to play with Jason Peters when you’re both at the Bills together. What was it like seeing him play early in his career and do you see him going to the Hall of Fame?
Ross: Well, I’d be shocked if he didn’t go to the Hall of Fame, first of all. Second of all, it was unbelievable. I mean, when I was there, I could still remember, Liz, I can still remember him getting cut and he was cut before even the final cuts and he was on practice squad as a 320-pound tight end. And at one point, they moved them up to the active roster and they had him on special teams and he was on the punt team, he was on the kickoff team. In fact, against the Bangles, he blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown, playing for the Buffalo Bills back in 2004, which was incredible. I also remember the day they moved them the offensive line and they had him come down with the offensive lineman for the first time and try out more than one pass protection and nobody was able to beat him. It was the darndest thing I’d ever seen. Nobody was able to beat him. It was crazy, crazy impressive. I mean, I’ve been doing this since sixth grade and he had been doing it for six minutes and he was better than me.
Liz: Wow. Now, I understand you suffered a neck injury during your 2007 season, which ultimately meant you had to retire. How difficult was it to make that decision and how did it impact your mental wellness at the time?
Ross: Well, it wasn’t difficult at all because I don’t know if very many teams would have wanted me, anymore, anyway. I was kind of like used goods at that point and I asked the doctor what he thought and he said, well, I think you’re 28 and you went to Princeton and you should get a real job now. Because I had bruised my spinal cord and he said, once your spinal cord has been affected or compromised in some way, it’s just not real good after that. So he gave me a couple of potential surgeries if I wanted to try to keep playing. But the reality is I don’t think really any other team would have wanted me at that point, especially after I’d already had a back surgery as well. So on some level, I felt some relief that my career was over.
And then I had a doctor telling me that I should be done. Like I said, I was almost relieved that I was done. The flip side though is I’d always looked at myself as a football player. I took a lot of pride in being a football player and so I had a little bit of an identity crisis and I tried to alleviate that by really diving into my diet and my nutrition and trying to lose the weight right away. And I was able to do that. I went from, you know, 315 pounds when I got hurt to like 248 pounds in like four months.
Liz: That’s crazy.
Ross: Yeah. They say you need to do it right away or you don’t do it all. I had a lot of frustration and anxiety about football being over, so that’s kinda how I played it out.
Liz: Wow. And do you think we’ll see more players coding a day after like seven or eight seasons? A bit like Luke Keekley?
Ross: I do. And I think that they should. I just think, you know, you don’t look at it this way, Liz, when you’re playing because you’re in your twenties and yeah, you feel like you’re invincible. But I’m 40 now, I have two little girls. They’re the two coolest things in the whole world and so you just realize that there is more to football. There are things that are more important. And you know, Luke Keekley has made $63 million from football and that’s just on the field. So I look at that and think, you know, he is set for life financially. And so, at that point, why would he do more damage to his body? Why would he do more damage to his brain?
Whatever that ends up being for him. We all know that repeated hits to the head over time are not good. And so, I don’t know why these guys would keep doing that stuff once they’ve accomplished everything else other than to win the Superbowl. But that’s just such a, you know, the odds of winning the Superbowl are very, very small. So to continue to take that risk for a very small possibility that you’ll be able to, you know, actually win the trophy at the end is not worth it in my mind.
Liz: Yeah. I can understand that. And as a former player, what is one thing about offensive line play that the casual fan should know?
Ross: I think that they should know how technically advanced the guys at the professional level are and that it’s so much more than just being big and strong and fast. I think that’s what everybody thinks it’s all about. But at that level, it’s really about your brain and how quickly you anticipate things, how quickly you see things. It’s about your football intelligence and it’s also about how good of a craftsman you are. Just like a plumber or a carpenter or an electrician, you know, there are some guys that are more skilled than others and as a result, they’re going to be better at their craft. Well, being an offensive lineman or defensive lineman for that matter really isn’t any different. It’s about honing your craft. It’s one reason why I’m so impressed by Nick Bosa from the 49ers because he looks like a guy that’s been playing professional football for 10 years, except he’s just a rookie and it’s really, really impressive.
Liz: Now the game here in the UK, it’s ever-growing. We sell out stadiums every time that the teams come over to play. How do you feel about seeing games being played in the UK and internationally and do you see a franchise ever moving to the UK?
Ross: I love the UK listeners, I love the UK fans. I’ve been over multiple times to London for NFL games and to broadcast them and their passion is incredible. I think that they should keep putting more and more games over there. They do such a great job of selling it out and I also think at some point, they probably do deserve a franchise. I know there are concerns about travel. There were concerns about how willing guys would be to play over there. I can tell you from my experience, I’d be, my wife and I would have loved to have played in London for a few years. It would have been an incredible experience for the two of us and for our kids if we had them at the time. And I think that there’s more NFL players that would feel that way than you realize. Not only that, I mean there’s only 32 franchises, so these guys would play anywhere to make sure they’re on one of those 32 teams.
Liz: Yeah, yeah, definitely. And before we end, I think I’ve lost track of just how many podcasts you have. So remind me, and of course, with the benefit of any new listeners, tell me and them, all about your different shows.
Ross: Yeah, I got a bunch of UK listeners, which is great, but I’d love to get more. So I’ve got the Ross Tucker Football Podcast, which is every day if you want to get the insight into the NFL from a former player. Then I have a Fantasy podcast with Joe Dolan, The Fantasy Feast, and I have a very successful sports-betting podcast called The Even Money Podcast. I’m actually up 24 units for the season on that podcast. And if you’re into the draft, you can check out the College Rap Podcast, but they’re all available. You can check them all out at rosstucker.com but then they’re also available anywhere where any podcasts are found just like this one. And I gotta get you on, Liz. I got to get you on mine too.
Liz: I’d be more than happy to do that. Amazing, Ross, it’s been great to have you on a show. Thanks again for joining.
Ross: Absolutely, Liz. My pleasure. Anytime you want me, I’m happy to come on. Keep up the great work with everything you’re doing for NFLGirlUK.
Liz: Oh, thank you so much.