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How trash talk gives NFL players a competitive advantage

If your opponent’s too busy thinking of a comeback, he’s probably not remembering his assignment.

On Dec. 3, 1995, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were losing to their NFC Central companions, the Minnesota Vikings. (Hey, remember when the Bucs played in the same division as the Vikings?) Quarterback Trent Dilfer was sick and tired of two things: One, getting hit repeatedly by Minnesota’s defense and two, hearing that same defense’s trash talk. So Dilfer did something unexpected.

He attacked John Randle and got thrown out of the game.

Trash talk, as Randle, Jalen Ramsey, Darnell Dockett, and Troy Brown explain, is a tactical tool. If your opponent is angry about something you said, he’s more likely to be distracted from what he’s supposed to be doing on the football field. And that means he’s more likely to make a mistake that you can exploit to your advantage.

Of course, that’s unless they’re the kind of player, like Tom Brady, who thrives on trash talk. Then you’re better off just letting your play do the talking.