HOUSTON -- If you get through an interview with Ted Washington without being yelled at, it means you've avoided all of the issues that really irritate him. It means you have not asked him about his weight, his age, his personal life. It means you have not asked him to elaborate. When he says the interview is over, it's over. Do not make any attempt to revive the conversation. Ask and he will not listen.
Washington despises interviews. Yet he knew that at Super Bowl media day you have no choice -- unless you want to pay the league for violating the rules. Washington was actually gracious. OK, there were a few slipups by veteran reporters. One of them asked him about his father, a former linebacker for the Houston Oilers, and Washington snapped, "Leave my father out of this! Next!" Another asked him what other positions he dreamed of playing as a kid. He said he always wanted to be a linebacker because of the complexity of the position, and calling the defensive signals was a cool concept. "Not quarterback?' one scribe dared ask. "No!" said Washington loudly.
Washington wasn't even one of the 18 Patriots personnel to warrant an individual booth or placard. Whether that was his choosing or the Patriots' choosing, no one knows. But he was big enough, (oops! there's that reference to size again), so you couldn't miss him. He did reiterate at the beginning of the session that he could step away from this distasteful process at any moment.
Washington also did what he usually does in the Patriots locker room -- he showed his playful side, where he tries to disrupt or poke fun of teammates doing interviews.
Certainly, Washington is an enormous part of this potential Super Bowl team. He's the centerpiece of this solid 3-4 defense, a guy who demands two blockers and forces teams to run as far away from him as possible.
You could tell part of him was enjoying the give-and-take. In an honest moment he would admit it. He spoke about his idol, Richard Dent, and how much he liked watching O.J. Simpson.
One could tell he thoroughly enjoys playing in New England. "I've played a lot of years, seen it all and done it all," said Washington, who originated the Homeland Defense T-shirt and caps, and has sold more than 40,000 items. "My goal now is to get a Super Bowl ring here and then hopefully re-sign with this team. It's always tough when you get traded and you don't know about it. At the time I was upset about it because [the Bears] didn't come directly to me and let me know. They waited until after practice and I found out through my wife and all that kind of stuff.
"I don't think that's the way you do business. So it's over with, the trade is over with, and I'm here. I was one of the leaders over there. They listened and looked up to me. At the time they didn't have any veteran leaders over there."
He knew the moment he walked through the door at Gillette Stadium that this team was going to be special. He said he knew after he went down with a broken leg that the team would be all right, that he noticed "how much they held it together.
"Team unity, the way guys interact together. There's no selfishness. The biggest thing is we work together and stay together."
Washington even responded to questions he couldn't answer, such as the toughest player he's ever faced.
"I'm getting double-teamed most of the time, so I can't answer that." Asked again in a different way, Washington's ire rose again, "I can't answer it!"
Is Washington a Hall of Famer?
"I don't know," he said. "I haven't even thought about the Hall of Fame. I have no control over that. If it happens, it happens. It's something I would love to have. Personally, I don't see myself as a Hall of Famer. I don't know what you need to become a Hall of Famer."
Washington explained that it's not so much his size that makes him an effective player -- it's his technique. The big man spoke about hand work as a key.
"When I'm having little football camps for the kids, high school and college kids, I stress how important it is to get your hands on the person to stop their charge," he said. "Offensive linemen do it and defensive linemen do it. Whoever gets their hands on first pretty much wins the battle. That's a big key and it's not about how big or how strong you are. My college coach at the University of Louisville taught me about the importance of that. He stressed that every day and I didn't realize it until I started going up against some really big guys and started to get pushed around."
Washington, 35, who becomes a free agent after the Super Bowl, believes time and maturity have made him a better player in his mid-30s. Again, away from the size and strength theme, Washington said, "It's not always about being physical because the mental part is important, too."
He's well-versed on the Carolina Panthers. He's well aware of Stephen Davis, who will have a bull's-eye on his back. Washington feels "if we can stop their running attack, we have a good chance of winning." But in terms of the battle he's about to face, "Against this team, it's going to be like a car wreck on every play," he said.
Of course there was the inevitable question of why he detests the media so much. And the answer was as in-depth as any he gave all day.
"There was some stuff said early on in my career in San Francisco and in Buffalo, misquotes and they caused a little stuff between the players and the club," he said. "If you're gonna do that, I don't want any part of the media. Just keep your mouth shut because every team I played for I loved my teammates and never did anything to jeopardize my career or their career. When you get misquoted, I just want no part of it. And another thing, all reporters want to talk about is age and weight. I wouldn't be around this long if I was too heavy."
While he hadn't yet seen the town, he said he did go to Antowain Smith's barbecue Sunday night. He requested barbecued ox tail, a delicacy in these parts, and he had a good helping.
"You eat well, you sleep well and you play well," said Washington.
After a couple more questions about his hobbies, which include hunting and fishing and spending time with his five children, Washington did what he promised he would do.
"Ok, I'm not gonna talk no more," he said.