ALAN FANECA, Steelers Guard
"At Tampa Bay, I had the ball at the bottom of the pile. It was away from my body, and I was trying to pull it toward me. Two guys were pulling my arms apart. A guy was digging into my ribs. Another guy was digging into my ear. The only way you'll keep the ball in that situation is if you have a teammate helping you and you can get it into your body and cradle it. Anyway, I lost the ball. There were still four people on top of me, including that ear guy. I said, 'I don't have the freaking ball anymore, stop digging in my ear.'"
BRENTSON BUCKNER, Panthers DT
"See where somebody bit me right there [points to a scar on his right wrist]. This was my second year, against Cleveland, when I was trying to scoop the ball out of a pile. I don't know who bit me, but after the game I had to get a little [tetanus] shot. That was cool, though. The worst for me is that I can get claustrophobic. You're under there, and it's like everything closes in. I get scared sometimes because your head is stuck in the dirt, and it's like you can't breathe."
January 31, 2005
IKE REESE, Eagles Linebacker
"When we played the Patriots last year [Eagles running back] Brian Westbrook fumbled a punt, and we were all down there scrambling for it. [Patriots linebacker] Mike Vrabel had my testicles in his hand, and he was squeezing them. Where the football ends up depends on who has the strongest will or the strongest hands. Guys reach inside the face mask to gouge your eyes. But the biggest thing is the grabbing of the testicles. It is crazy."
MARCO RIVERA, Packers Guard
"I've had guys go for the privates, guys try to put their elbow in my neck, guys reaching inside my helmet. It's really violent down there, trying to get that ball. It's dangerous. In my third year at Penn State, there was a fumble in the end zone. I dived for it with my arms outstretched, and five guys landed on me. Blew out my shoulder. I had to have surgery. That was the closest I've come to scoring a touchdown."
CORNELL BROWN, Ravens Linebacker
"The worst part is when the fat guys pile on top of you. All the wind is gone out of you, and you're still trying to fight. It scares you. You feel like you can't breathe, and you want everyone to get off you. I don't want people doing me wrong in there."
DAN WILKINSON, Lions Defensive Tackle
"There is no such thing as honor in there. You're talking about a possible game-winning or -losing situation. The ball generally changes hands only once. You have trouble breathing in the pile, let alone having enough room for the ball to be moving around. There's usually one thief able to take it away from somebody, and that's the end of it."
STEVE GLEASON, Saints Safety
"We were playing Tampa Bay last year, and I just about lost my manhood trying to recover a fumble on a punt. I was shocked. I had the ball in my hand, and someone was reaching from behind me--between my legs. I recovered the fumble, but when I got in the shower after the game, I literally had claw marks all over my inner thighs."
BEN LEBER, Chargers Linebacker
"I don't know if people really want to know what goes on down there: Basically anything you can't get away with on the field, you can get away with under that pile. Nobody can see you. The go-to spots are the eyes and the family jewels. If anybody grabs your family jewels, you are going to let go. In the pile you hear some screams of pain, but you don't know where it is coming from--unless it's you."
JASON FERGUSON, Jets Nosetackle
"My rookie year, me and [then teammate] linebacker Pepper Johnson were on the bottom. I heard Pepper yelling, 'Get the ball!' and I remembered something he told me: 'You've always got to grab a finger in a pile.' Well, he grabbed somebody's finger in that pile, and sure enough he came out with the ball. Just like proving an old rule."