By: Bob George/
September 20, 2008

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- David Carr grew up here, and Stephen Neal went to college here.

What isn't as well known is that Joey Porter grew up here also.

Carr starred at Stockdale High School here in the affluent southwest section of Bakersfield, California. The football stadium, Mustang Field, has a huge sign under the scoreboard proclaiming Carr as the first overall choice in the NFL draft in 2002. On the other side of town is Foothill High School, where Porter (who is a native of Kansas City whereas Carr was born in Bakersfield) played for the Trojans from 1991 to 1994 before heading to Colorado State in 1995.

Many football players from here made it to the NFL, the most famous one being Frank Gifford (Bakersfield HS, '48). Carr and Porter are the most prominent current NFL players from this fair city (Neal isn't from here; he grew up in San Diego before attending CSUB as a wrestler). But Carr gets much more publicity here than Porter does; even Neal gets more stories on local news stations than Porter.

Carr is an icon here in Bakersfield thanks to his high draft status. Neal gets lots of props thanks to the success of the Patriots. Porter gets publicity, but it's more about notoriety than anything positive. Porter is known more for running his mouth and his brash persona rather than for his football talents, which in recent years has been in decline due to his age.

Porter does come back to Bakersfield now and then in the offseason to do charity work, and the Foothill HS alumni feel good about him. But outside of that circle of Foothill Trojan football fans, Porter isn't as revered as Carr is. Carr's career hasn't been as successful as Porter's, but that's more due to a horrid Houston Texans offensive line which has led to most all of his confidence being pounded out of him. Carr remains much more likeable than Porter, who after a long run with Pittsburgh finds himself mired with a lousy Miami Dolphin team which is trying to rebuild under new general manager Bill Parcells.

Porter ran his mouth again this week, and it was aimed at Matt Cassel, who will once again start at quarterback for the Patriots this Sunday at Foxborough against Porter's Dolphins. Porter said "I just know he's not a Tom Brady. So if it's not Tom Brady, it shouldn't be that hard. It'll be good to go out there and get our first victory.

"You treat him like you treat a backup," Porter continued. "How do you prepare for a backup? He don't get that many snaps, right? So you throw the kitchen sink at him. That's what we're going to do."

If Miami wasn't 1-17 since the start of the 2007 regular season, maybe the league in general and the Patriots in particular might buy what Porter is saying. Porter can say what he wants about facing a backup to Brady, but until his team can actually go out there and show that they can win games like they used to, running his mouth once again is more foolhardy than anything else.

Some may interpret this as trying to fire up his team. Porter, who has opposed the Patriots many times over the years as a member of the Steelers, should know how well the Patriots feed off of comments like these. In his weekly interview on Sports Tonight, Mike Vrabel dismissed it as Porter being Porter, saying "If Joey didn't run his mouth during the week, we'd think something is wrong."

Nice public statement by the ever-intelligent Vrabel. Privately, this is just the sort of thing the Patriots will need to avoid a trap game on Sunday. It is unfathomable to imagine the Patriots without Brady encountering a trap game, but with New England currently 12 ½-point favorites over Miami on Sunday at home, and with Miami having lost a close game to the Jets before getting blown out at Arizona last week, the Dolphins aren't the team Porter thinks they are, unless the Patriots come out Sunday with a low level of passion and enthusiasm.

The only Dolphin the Patriots should really fear is old Jet nemesis Chad Pennington, who now pitches for the Fish. Ricky Williams is a shell of his old self, all the old Miami receivers have gone elsewhere, Jason Taylor skipped town, and Zach Thomas no longer roams the middle on defense. Porter, Vonnie Holliday and Jason Ferguson are the only defenders of note, but they are a lot different without Taylor and Thomas. And Pennington is no slam dunk to finish the game; rookie Chad Henne out of Michigan is the quarterback of the future for the Dolphins and could very well come into the game if necessary. His old Wolverine left tackle, Jake Long, was the top pick in this year's draft and will protect Henne's backside in Miami like he did in Ann Arbor.

By calling out Cassel, Porter took away any chance the Patriots would come out lax and thinking about their week off next week. The Patriots came out last year against the Dolphins smoking, ringing up 48 points in Miami, then bolting to a 28-0 halftime lead in the rematch at Foxborough before going into hypersleep. You won't see the eye-popping numbers like last year. What you will see is Cassel doing much the same thing he has done in the previous two weeks, with maybe a few new wrinkles added by Josh McDaniels. Cassel will carefully manage the offense, the defense will take care of Pennington, and the Patriots should make Porter look like a total fool.

Porter hasn't had much success in his career against New England at all. The Patriots are 6-1 against Porter in his career, including the postseason. The only win Porter enjoyed over New England was the 34-20 win on Halloween in 2004 which broke the 21-game (including postseason) win streak for the Patriots, a loss they later avenged in the AFC title game that year at Heinz Field. In that Halloween game, many of the Patriots took exception to Porter and his taunting during and after the game. The Patriots used that memory of Porter as one of their main motivational weapons in their 41-27 win in January to send them to Super Bowl XXXIX.

It's simple. Carr is likeable, Porter isn't. Porter may be one of the best NFL linebackers of his day, but he has never won a Vince and his mouth serves more as a detriment than it does an asset. Here in Bakersfield, where high school football is religion to most folks (along with Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and all that music with a twang in it), it's more about Carr than it is about Porter. And it's more about Neal than it is about Porter too.

Speaking of country, Blue Collar Comedy Tour star Bill Engvall has a nice little song called I Shoulda Shut Up. Engvall should fly down to Miami and sing it to Porter sometime. With a few bodyguards in tow, of course.

Meanwhile, Cassel and the Patriots will make like Larry The Cable Guy and simply "Git 'er done!" That's still one great Patriot team right thar.