The Oakland Tribune

Newberry will never ease up
January 08, 2003
On field and at mike, 49ers center exudes confidence

SANTA CLARA -- If Jeremy Newberry steps on toes, it's either because he's a pass-blocker for the San Francisco 49ers or he's outspoken.

Newberry predicted the 49ers would beat the, well, backsides of the New York Giants. And he was right, although the Niners needed to make up a 24-point deficit to prevail 39-38 in Sunday's playoff classic.

Now the 49ers, who need two more wins to reach the Super Bowl, travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers on Sunday. Newberry, 26, will anchor the 49ers' line as a two-time Pro Bowl center.

Newberry is being more cautious with his comments this week. But the former Cal star from Antioch discussed his opinionated nature and his views on holding, retaliating, nasty Oakland Raiders fans, and whether tough men do cry in a conversation with Dave Newhouse of ANG Newspapers.

Q. Are you sometimes too direct with your opinions?

A. I'll say I speak my mind. If something needs to be said, I'll say it. I'm not trying to sugar-coat a lot of things to make it politically correct.

Q. Joe Namath was outspoken. Terrell Owens is outspoken. Warren Sapp is outrageously outspoken. Is that OK if you can back it up?

A. If you truly believe in your heart it's OK, that's different than if you're trying to stir something up. Sapp's a great player. He says what he says, and he backs it up on a regular basis.

Q. Would you go so far as predicting the 49ers can win the Super Bowl?

A. I look at the schedule every year and say there's no one we can't beat. Sometimes you don't get all the breaks and bounces. But if we get some breaks in these next couple of games, the Super Bowl's definitely a realistic goal for us.

Q. How will Sunday's comeback help the 49ers against Tampa?

A. We've always had confidence, but we got some momentum going.

Q. What, potentially, could decide this game's outcome?

A. Taking care of the football. That's part of the reason we got down early (Sunday), the turnovers. That's a huge part of every game, turnovers and penalties. If you can eliminate them, you've got a chance in every game.

Q. You have a natural, Dick Butkus-like toughness in your manner. Where did that originate?

A. From my father more than anybody else. He's been a tough guy his entire life. Even when I had a broken arm as a kid, he'd say, "Get your butt back out there. You gotta play with pain. You gotta push through it."

Q. Which great NFL centers, if any, have you studied to make yourself better?

A. I look at people here before me. Chris Dalman was one of the smartest centers in the league. Jesse Sapolu was a great center. But what makes you a great player is passion for the game, loving to compete. And you have to have some pride about yourself, saying you're not going to let the man across from you beat you.

Q. What are your strengths as a center?

A. I get my teammates on the right page every time with my (line) calls. Second of all, I don't know if there's a center in the league who's more powerful than I am. Moving people off the ball, I can do that with the best of them. And I usually don't get beat by a pass rush.

Q. This is your fifth NFL season. Are you a budding Hall of Famer?

A. That's something that will take care of itself. I just take the same approach every game: "Don't let your man make a play."

Q. Do you have to be nastier, smarter or tougher to play center than guard?

A. You have to be smarter more than anything else. This organization relies on the center to make all the line calls, all the protection calls, all the blocking-scheme calls. Other organizations depend on the quarterback. But making those calls is easy for me because this game comes easy to me.

Q. What would make you mad enough to retaliate?

A. It's hard to say. It might be as little as somebody "jacking" you in the face with their hands after a play, or it might take as much as somebody spitting on you. If that happened, you might have to take me off in cuffs.

Q. When the Giants' Shaun Williams ripped off your helmet and swung at you, which got him ejected, what went through your mind?

A. I had to think about my team first. I had the other kid (Will Allen) lying on the ground with his helmet off. I could have stepped on his face with my cleats, but I wouldn't have played for this team next week if I did that.

Q. How do you get even when an official isn't looking?

A. That's time and place. If someone takes a shot at you ... they have lulls in their game where they ain't paying attention. There's people in this league that I dislike. I'm not going to call out any names. I won't take a dirty or illegal shot, but I'll light them up.

Q. How angry were you when your father received a concussion at the Nov. 3 49ers-Raiders game in Oakland?

A. That's a coward. My dad's almost 50 years old, and he hit my dad in the back of the head. But the majority of those fans, I would say 95 percent, are decent people. I know a lot of them from the community. It's the other 5 percent that are cowards.

Q. Are Raiders fans much different from 49ers fans?

A. The difference is those couple hundred Raiders fans who take away from the game. The game is about fans. Without those fans, we wouldn't get paid those high salaries. But it's unfortunate a fan from another team can't go to that (Oakland) stadium and root their team on without getting hit in the head with bottles, getting stuff thrown at them, and stabbed on occasion.

Q. With your blue-collar Antioch background, and your nasty temperament, wouldn't you look better in black than red?

A. People tell me that all the time. But I think this is a tough team. We have as much or more toughness as the team across the Bay.

Q. Hall of Famer John Hannah refused to hold. Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw often held. What's your preference?

A. You're allowed to hold in the league, to grip. But when they're pulling away from you, you can't yank them or pull them down. I'll get a good grip on someone and try to pancake his (rear) every time. The reason a lot of people hold is that they're not gifted with their feet.

Q. If there were an NFL cage match, two on two, whom would you choose as your partner?

A. I'd take my boy (49ers' Pro Bowl guard) Ron Stone. He's a big, powerful cat. Tough guy. Or (teammate) Derrick Deese is a nasty cat, too.

Q. Which two NFL'ers would you like to face?

A. It don't matter. Line'em up.

Q. Would you prefer people seeing you as a ruffian?

A. I'd like them to see me for what I do off the field. I do a lot for my community, kids in my community. I live in Discovery Bay and do a lot of stuff that's unnoticed and don't get written about.

Q. As a tough guy, do you ever cry?

A. Definitely. My family is dear to me, and I've cried numerous times when I've lost relatives.

Q. Does anything or anybody scare you?

A. I'm not terrified of anything.

Q. If you weren't a football player, you'd be ... what?

A. Probably a police officer. I have some buddies that are cops, and I enjoy going along on rides. My dad was with the Antioch police for 10 years. That life intrigues me. It's like a football game. You never know what you're going to get into. The prospect of getting injured or killed is exciting to me.

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