Posted: 5:45 p.m.
ESPN.com's All-Decade NFL team didn't escape the scroll of Willie Anderson.
Earlier this week the worldwide leader tapped two left tackles, leaving the greatest right tackle in Bengals history again taking sides when he saw that Jonathan Ogden and Walter Jones were on the team.
"I've always said it and I'll say it again," Anderson said. "I'm not saying I'm better than them. But you put my tape on and I know I played just as well as they have. That's the way the sportswriters see it. But teams know. That's why I got a big contract and why the left ends are making as much as the right ends."
Anderson has his own backers in the media who think he is the best right tackle in this, the first decade of the 21st century. It began with him in his fifth season and ended with him retiring this spring after one year with the Ravens.
Gil Brandt of NFL.com says Anderson is the victim of the weight everyone puts on the left tackle and Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com says Anderson has clearly had the biggest impact of any right tackle over the last nine seasons.
"He was definitely considered. We just decided to go with the overall best tackles," said ESPN.com's Bill Williamson, who wrote the story. "We were also looking at Willie Roaf and Orlando Pace, two more left tackles. So you'd have to say going by position, it would probably have to be Willie on the right."
Anderson isn't altogether surprised, but he is a bit disappointed since he had hoped his career would help create equal footing for right tackles when pitted against the glamour position of left tackle.
"Just because it's the blind side. Just because they say the quarterback can see your man coming," Anderson said. "Do you think offenses said, '(Colts end) Robert Mathis isn't on the blind side so forget about him'? Julius Peppers had over half his sacks playing left end. Michael Strahan was playing over there late in his career. Do you think teams in the NFC East were hoping their best tackle was on the right side?"
Anderson points to the pass rushers he faced from 1999 to 2006, a stretch he dueled Jevon Kearse twice a year when the Titans were in the old AFC Central from '99 to '01. He says he never allowed a sack to Kease then "when Kearse was Kearse," and says 2.5 of the estimated 4.5 sacks he allowed in those seven seasons were to Steelers all-time sack leader Jason Gildon.
Anderson also went against Peter Boulware of the Ravens and Willie McGinest of the Browns, a guy that came to Cleveland as the Patriots' third all-time sacker. He says Boulware, the Ravens all-time sack leader, never got him for one.
But point already made. The guys lined up over Anderson were just as accomplished pass rushers as the guys on the other side.
"To me, that stuff about the blind side happened in the '80s and they're still writing about it," he said. "But look at the pass rushers on the other side."
Anderson, who turns 34 next month, sounds happy retired. No one would be surprised if he suddenly woke up and felt ready to play he would, but right now he sounds content.
"I never thought I'd play until I was 30 when I came into the league," said Anderson, 21 years and one month when he played his first NFL game in 1996. "I saw old vets like Darrick Brilz and Joe Walter and I said, 'No way.' But times change, the money got bigger, and I was glad for my post-playing career I was able to experience a year like last year."
When Anderson wouldn't take a pay cut last year on Cutdown Day, the Bengals released him and the Ravens picked him up within the week and he helped them to the AFC title game in Pittsburgh won by the Steelers.
"It was satisfying," he said. "People didn't think I could play every week, but I kept going and we were able to win some big games. It was good to be able to win and to be playing when everybody was watching. It was nice to be playing in January and not knowing if you were going to be inside or outside (practicing)."