BOSTON (CBS) — For an undrafted linebacker out of The University of South Dakota, Matt Chatham carved out a rather memorable career.
He made the tackle on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVIII against Carolina, and he made the final tackle to secure that championship for New England. (He also famously decked a streaker after halftime.) He made the first tackle in Gillette Stadium history. He won three Super Bowls. He played for both the Patriots and Jets. And Roger Goodell owes him $34,000.
All this and more was discussed on the latest episode of The Hurley Edition, which returns from a midsummer break just in time for the Patriots’ preseason to begin.
Chatham, who works as a sideline reporter on the Patriots preseason telecasts, joined Hurley to talk about his life in the NFL. From getting cut by the Rams in his first year, to fighting through injuries when trying to make an impression with the Patriots, Chatham recalled the challenges of being an undrafted player trying to make it in the league.
He also shared a story from his second NFL season in 2001, when he committed a personal foul on special teams and found himself in the crosshairs of Bill Belichick’s ire.
“You can imagine, special teams player that just has a minor role on defense at that time, two flags in a game that we lose in ugly fashion,” Chatham said, noting that the plane was filled with dozens of members of the organization, including family members and staff members. With all of those people in the locker room, Belichick addressed the team: “The defense stunk, the offense stunk, and Matt F—— Chatham.”
As Chatham recalls: “I was like … uh-oh.”
Chatham said his position coaches — Rob Ryan at linebacker and Brad Seely on special teams — had to fight to keep Chatham from getting cut right after that game. Eventually, Chatham settled into a regular role, and his relationship with Belichick has developed quite a bit over the years.
“I have more respect for just about anyone walking the face of the earth now — maybe family members — for Coach Belichick,” Chatham said. “He was hard on me, and I could feel the burn on the back of my neck at times where he was not pleased with me.
Another interesting aspect of Chatham’s career came in 2006, when he left New England to join the Jets. Chatham was a member of the Jets when Eric Mangini ordered Patriots cameras off the sideline, thus launching the unforgettable episode that came to be known as “Spygate.” Chatham said the issue arose more from the Jets just ordering the man with camera off the field than it was an effort to “catch” the Patriots in a scandal.
“I think at the time what initially happened, it was more just, ‘Hey, get him off of here, just get him off of here so that’s not pointing directly at us,’” Chatham said. “But the fire got out of control because of the little tussle in the breezeway at the north end of the stadium.”
With Hurley and Chatham both being loud voices during the DeflateGate drama, the conversation couldn’t end without a brief discussion of one Mr. Roger Goodell, who became the NFL’s commissioner toward the latter part of Chatham’s playing career. Hurley asked Chatham if there were any signs of what was to come when Goodell took over.
“I think the first thing I noticed was the arrogance, the whole sheriff comes to townthe SI cover, and all of that,” Chatham said. “Just being a really dishonest human being, other stories from other players, interactions they had had with him. Something that I had happen to me personally … Roger Goodell owes me about $34,000. … I have a $34,000 bill in an area that I won’t speak of today in an area that is directly attributed to a lie that he told on television that I was directed by the league office to listen to, to go ahead and do something.”
Chatham, a loud voice in the media now for several years, explained what his goals and approach are as an analyst — which is a role he took on only after earning a business MBA from Babson.
“I [decided] I’m going to do this, but I am not going to speak in cliches, I am not here to make friends with people I don’t respect, and I’m going to respect the hell out of the ones that I do respect. And that’s been the cool part, getting to know the media market here,” Chatham said. “There’s a bunch of really great pros, and there’s other people whose takes make me puke. So I’m just not going to acknowledge them or pay any attention to them or share any air with them. So that’s really sort of been my MO from the start.”
With his wealth of football experience, it’s not difficult for Chatham to find some inaccuracies being spread on a regular basis by football media.
“You have all this perspective that, grace of God I was able to do something that some kid from South Dakota probably shouldn’t have been able to do, it was a really cool experience that I had and I felt extremely grateful to get it. But it is frustrating as a current player and a former player when you hear extremely long segments or columns or whatever that completely misrepresent everything that’s actually going on, or a game-graded thing the next morning in the paper or on the radio or something, where they’re grading film and it’s just asinine,” Chatham said. “This stuff would be high comedy if they flipped on the screen or read the column while the film was playing in front of Dante Scarnecchia or Coach [Belichick] or something. So I thought, hey, there’s an in for me. I can just say what’s really going on. And there’s an extreme appetite from people out there who want to know what’s really going on.”
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