MIDTOWN — A team of NFL greats dusted off their cleats for a high-flying football game at Bryant Park Wednesday that featured some of the sport’s most iconic players.
An all-star roster including Dan Marino, Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Michael Strahan, Ronnie Lott and Kurt Warner took to the turf for the event to promote next month’s release of the video game “Madden NFL 12.”
The flag-football match also featured a handful of athletic actors like “Law & Order” star Chris Meloni, “Friday Night Lights” stud Zach Gilford, Josh Charles of the “The Good Wife” and Willa Holland of “Gossip Girl.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was also on hand to catch the action, fresh off the league approving a new labor agreement that had threatened to delay the start of the 2011 season.
“It slowed things down a little bit, but all in all we got the season back,” said former Vikings defensive tackle and Hall of Famer John Randle, of the lockout ending this week. “Everything will get back on the right track, and we’ll continue on as normal.”
Miami Dolphins great Dan Marino, who showed off his Hall of Fame arm while connecting with targets like former Raiders receiver Tim Brown, said the lockout had different consequences team to team.
“It may affect a lot of the rookies, and I think it may affect some of the teams that are a little more inexperienced,” Marino said. “But some of the veteran teams with the good quarterbacks, they’re going have an advantage.”
When it came to how New York’s two teams would perform this season, the players gave Gang Green the advantage over Big Blue.
“[Rex Ryan] is always going to think that they’re going to win the Super Bowl, the players like that, so I give them the edge right now,” said former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, who holds nearly every major receiving record in the NFL.
Brown added that the teams’ overall fitness when they return to the practice field would dictate how they fare this season.
“It’s just a matter of, what did these guys really do in the offseason,” said the Heisman Trophy winner. “We’re going find that out very early. When you start hearing about hamstrings and groins popping, you know that somebody hasn’t been doing what they needed to be doing.”
Still, he thought the Jets’ top-ranked defense would mean the difference.
“The Jets are going to play an unorthodox, crazy style of defense to keep everybody off balance,” he said. “I think if they can keep their players injury-free, they’re going to be right there at the end.”
“Just being with him, I think he’s very focused on playing and doing a good job this year, and I think he will,” said former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who similarly counseled Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick after his release from prison.
“I think they would be a good kind of family atmosphere for him,” Dungy added. “He’s got to kind of regrow and do some things.
"You just want that support there, and I think the Giants would be one of a number of good places.”