PHILADELPHIA -- As the door to ABC-TV's booth at Veterans Stadium swung open early this morning, Dan Dierdorf looked up, smiled and said, "Is Andre Waters coming up after me?"
Dierdorf wasn't joking during the fourth quarter of the Philadelphia Eagles-Minnesota Vikings "Monday Night Football" telecast.
After Waters, the Eagles' veteran safety, honed in on the knees of Vikings quarterback Rich Gannon as Gannon headed out of bounds, Dierdorf called Waters "the cheap-shot artist of the National Football League. This is a guy that's got a terrible reputation around the league [for] going after people with the intention of hurting them."
In the first quarter, when Waters had hurled himself at Gannon's knees, Dierdorf restrained himself. But after Waters tried it again, Dierdorf couldn't contain his disgust.
"I tried not to go crazy about it [the first time]," Dierdorf said later. "But then the second one flipped my switch."
During the telecast, Dierdorf said, "I like everything about the way he plays the game with the exception of him trying to intentionally hurt people."
Football players often find ways of retaliating against opponents they consider cheap-shot specialists. But Dierdorf, an outstanding offensive tackle with the St. Louis Cardinals, pointed out that the position Waters plays makes it difficult to obtain justice.
Then, referring to former Cardinals linemate Conrad Dobler, known as "the dirtiest man in pro football," Dierdorf laughed and said, "Dobler would have found him [Waters]."
Dierdorf did admit that Waters's head-hunter style can be effective. After Vikings receiver Hassan Jones failed to catch a Gannon pass over the middle in the final minutes, Dierdorf said, "Hassan Jones stopped looking for the ball and started looking for Andre Waters."
Before the season, Dierdorf and colleagues Al Michaels and Frank Gifford expected the Eagles-Vikings matchup to pair two of the NFL's best teams. Instead, both teams wobbled into the game desperate for a victory to keep them in the playoff chase.
During the mistake-filled first half of the long night's journey into day, the ABC broadcasters properly condemned both teams.
Late in the second quarter, following the 10th penalty assessed against the Eagles, Gifford said, "The Eagles played nothing but sloppy football in the first half. That's mental errors."
With only a few seconds remaining in the half, after the Eagles blundered into two more penalties, Dierdorf panned both teams, saying, "That's it guys. Go to the locker room."
Dierdorf, Michaels and Gifford were critical of several calls by the officials. When Calvin Williams' first-quarter touchdown catch was allowed for the Eagles, even though replays showed his left foot was out of bounds, Michaels said, "That's a horrible call by the replay booth."
When a Herschel Walker fumble deep in Minnesota territory in the second quarter was returned to the Vikings, Gifford said, "That clearly was a fumble."
Walker's puzzling night (he also fumbled a third-quarter kickoff that the Eagles recovered) was a topic the ABC trio tackled objectively.
With Walker watching forlornly from the sideline in the fourth quarter, Dierdorf said, "He hasn't done much of anything. He's mishandled the ball. He's been more of a detriment than anything else."
Afterward, Dierdorf again expressed astonishment over how Walker fell down after running into teammate Adam Schreiber returning the kickoff following Roger Ruzek's 19-yard field goal that put the Eagles ahead, 32-24.
"With the loss tonight [dropping the Vikings to 1-5], and the way Herschel Walker played, where does he fit into their plans?" Dierdorf asked.