MetLife Stadium's biggest challenge met last weekend
The biggest challenge at the New Jersey Meadowlands last weekend probably didn't belong to the Giants and Jets.
Instead, it was the folks charged with getting MetLife Stadium ready for a Saturday night Dolphins-Jets game and an early afternoon Lions-Giants contest the next day who had to step up the most.
Throw in a snowstorm on Saturday morning ...
''Our team worked tirelessly over the weekend to prepare the stadium for back-to-back NFL games,'' said Ron VanDeVeen, MetLife Stadium president and CEO. ''Many of our staff members arrived very early Saturday morning for the snow removal process and did not head back home to their families until Sunday evening.''
Usually, 40 full-time and part-time stadium operations and union trade team members are involved in a changeover. For this one, 73 worked overnight.
The stadium's facility operations team is tasked with transitioning the building from green for the Jets to blue for the Giants, often in less than 24 hours. The transition of the entire facility from one home team to the next generally takes one week to complete because the Giants and Jets rarely are home on the same weekend.
There are more than 1,200 elements in and around the stadium that must be manually switched out, as well as over 7,000 virtual branding elements such as televisions and video boards. That includes each team's Ring of Honor and hundreds of banners.
Not to mention switching over club spaces, visiting team areas and press conference rooms.
As for the cleanup after the Jets lost to Miami, typically 200 staffers handle that. MetLife doubled the personnel last weekend.
Because of the snowstorm, snow removal workers began arriving at 4 a.m. Saturday and didn't depart until 6 p.m. Sunday, well after the Giants beat the Lions. A total of 400 shovelers put in 3,600 man-hours.
To most fans, the only noticeable difference to a normal game was the lack of team names in the end zones, a wise decision given the weather.
''We pride ourselves on our work ethic and although it was an incredibly long weekend, our team enjoyed the challenge,'' VanDeVeen said. ''I'm appreciative of the hard work and dedication shown by our staff to put on two NFL games in 24 hours.''
BREES-LESS PRO BOWL: Drew Brees doesn't sound bothered by the fact that, despite leading the NFL with 4,559 yards and 34 touchdown passes, he was not voted into the Pro Bowl this week.
The 16-year NFL veteran, who has been to nine previous Pro Bowls, said the Saints' 6-8 record probably has something to do with the entire team being shut out of having any player voted into pro football's all-star exhibition.
''It's really not something that I'm too concerned about,'' said Brees, who turns 38 next month. ''Listen, it's a great honor when you are chosen, but a lot of times it comes along with winning. We obviously didn't win enough games, and I put that on myself. When I look at my career and the time I have left, that's really all I want to do.''
Brees' teammates didn't take the news as well.
''It's very unfortunate; you've got the NFL passing yards leader, NFL touchdown leader over there,'' running back Mark Ingram said, his gaze locked on Brees' locker. ''So I don't know what you base a Pro Bowl off of, but I think the league leaders in pass yards and pass TDs should be the first one picked.''
Ingram also was annoyed that Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who leads the NFL in tackles for losses with 16 to go with 22 QB hits, five passes defended and a forced fumble, also wasn't voted in.
''I don't know if they have a stat for awarded sacks where a quarterback is running away from you and someone else gets a sack, but I know he probably has five or six of those - pass deflections, forced fumbles,'' Ingram began. ''Hurries, no runs coming to your side of the field because you're setting the edge, leads the NFL in tackles for loss. I don't know what else you ask for.''
Brees and Jordan still could wind up in the Pro Bowl as alternates if other players opt out because of injuries or a deep playoff run.
SAY IT WITH ME: Marcus Mariota has won a Heisman Trophy and now is an alternate to the Pro Bowl in just his second NFL season. That doesn't mean everyone can pronounce the Tennessee Titans quarterback's name correctly.
The easiest way to remember how to say Mariota's last name is to think Super Mario.
Mariota said his parents have gotten used to hearing the family name mispronounced over the years from the time he was in elementary school, and he knows when TV announcers mess up after every game he plays, setting off Titans fans on social media upset over the perceived lack of respect or preparation.
''Friends back home always kind of will shoot me texts or they'll show me a video of somebody mispronouncing it,'' Mariota said. ''It's just kind of how it is. Unfortunately, we've gotten used to it over the years, but we don't hold any grudge or anything like that against people.''
Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell botched the pronunciation when announcing Mariota as the No. 2 pick overall in the 2015 draft. Goodell went with ''Mario-toe.''
''I don't know how he got that one,'' Mariota said. ''There's no `e' at the end of it.''
Mariota had the same issue in college at Oregon, which he said his brother, Matt, is going through right now. But, the Hawaii native is too polite to correct someone in person.
''I've heard so many different variations of it that I just kind of brush it off,'' Mariota said.
AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner and Teresa M. Walker, and Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed.
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