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For players, buildup to Super Bowl is about much more than football

Like all NFL players, I had the opportunity during my time in the league to purchase two Super Bowl tickets at face value every year. Because many people who knew me were aware of this, I would get inundated with a number of purchase requests every January. It ended up being a real issue every year as I decided who to give them to or sell them to (never above face value, of course!).

It got me to thinking about how difficult it must be for the players who are actually playing in the Super Bowl to deal with all of the various ticket, hotel, and media requests they must receive from family, friends and that guy they went to high school with but haven't spoken to in eight years. Then, of course, there are all of the parties and appearance requests down in the actual Super Bowl city during the week leading up to the game. It's a lot.

There are a ton of logistics involved and both the players' and teams' ability to effectively and efficiently handle all of those inquiries goes a long way in determining how prepared they are for the big game. That many Colts have already been through it, and in Miami in particular, could be a real advantage.

Since I wasn't fortunate enough to play in a Super Bowl and don't really know what it is like, I asked a few players and ex-players to take me through what these two weeks are like in terms of dealing with all of the distractions.

The first of the two-week Super Bowl experience takes place in each team's own city. The first order of business is, well, taking care of business. That means the team outlines with the players the exact itinerary for the next two weeks as well as all of their policies concerning hotel and ticket requests for friends and families. That is a huge first task.

"For the first couple of days it seems like all I did was handle all of that stuff," said former Giants tight end Howard Cross, who played in Super Bowls XXV and XXXV. "It seemed like everybody who knew me even remotely called."

Depending on the team and the year, players have the opportunity to purchase at face value between 8-20 tickets. That means some very hard decisions have to be made. Even when I was only in the divisional round with the New England Patriots in 2006, I was already thinking ahead in my mind about who would and would not make my cut. I knew I would have to have some sort of hard and fast rule so as to not hurt anyone's feelings. Evidently, some of the players have different methods for making those decisions.

"The first time I went I was single, so I gave them to whoever I wanted. The second time I was married, so my wife gave them to everyone she wanted," Cross said, chuckling.

The teams are usually very accommodating when it comes to the other details involved once the player figures out who is coming. Former NFL QB Jim Miller, who was with the Patriots in Super Bowl XXIX and the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX, said that typically all of the lodging and flight arrangements are handled by the teams. They usually rent out an entire hotel and charter an extra flight for the players' families. The goal being, of course, to remove as many distractions as possible from the players.

But what about on the field in terms of getting ready to play? Some of the players I spoke to told me the first week was mainly about their own team and focusing on what they needed to improve while the second week was primarily about the opposition. They didn't install the entire game plan and focus on their Super Bowl opponent during the first week because they didn't want the message to get stale.

This year's Colts feel differently. Rookie head coach Jim Caldwell has already been on record as saying they are going to prepare this week as if they are playing this Sunday. That means it will be a normal week and the entire game plan will be installed. This allows the players to get a good grasp of what they need to do to win in an environment in which they are comfortable. The added benefit, of course, is it allows the players the freedom to have more fun and freedom once they actually get to the Super city.

"I think we put about 80 percent of the game plan in the first week," said Miller, " but they saved the other 20 percent for the second week to keep us on our toes and have something new to think about and work on."

That abundance of free time leads to the question of how much fun the players actually have during Super Bowl week. There was always talk in Western New York when I played for the Bills that one of the downfalls of those teams that went to four straight Super Bowls is they were a fun-loving bunch who enjoyed their experience a little too much. So much so that it affected them on Super Sunday. There also have been a number of famous examples over the years of Super Bowl transgressions, from the Falcons' Eugene Robinson to the Raiders' Barrett Robbins.

Most of the players that I talked to said most of the heavy partying is done early in the week, with Monday night being the prime evening because the only obligation on Tuesday is media day and there is no practice or physical activity to worry about. From Wednesday on both the teams and the league try their darnedest to make the game week as normal as possible for the players.

The teams that have already installed their entire game plan usually go through lighter workouts and just reinforce the things they worked on and talked about the prior week. Those coaches who prefer to treat the game week like a regular week go through their normal routine of long days on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a brisk run-through on Friday.

Once Saturday arrives there are still more decisions that need to be made. Some teams move to a different hotel. Miller said that the Steelers in 1996 moved to a secluded hotel that nobody knew about the night before the game. The Patriots in 2005, however, stayed at the same hotel they had been the entire week. Whether or not any of these pre-game preparations ultimately mean anything come game day is up for debate. The fact that each team handles these minute details differently is evidence that, at a minimum, they think it does.

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