MINNEAPOLIS — Imagine going to New Year’s Eve festivities in Times Square and thinking you’ll be able to have a conversation with Ryan Seacrest. That’s what media availability is like during Super Bowl week.
Here, at the lovely Mall of America, thousands of media members descended upon Tuesday’s player availability to shout their curiosities at a select number of players from each team. While most of the time the results were predictable—confused, uneasy navigation from players who are far more polite than they have to be—reporters do actually learn some things now and again.
Here are five such things from Tuesday:
1. So far this week does not have the feel of a typical, uptight Super Bowl. As we noted on Monday, Bill Belichick was light and breezy at Super Bowl Opening Night, and that vibe continued on Tuesday for players on both teams. Nick Foles got choked up while talking about his daughter and dove into his potential futures as either a minister (he’s taking classes at Liberty University online) or in the food industry like his father. Tom Brady relayed a long anecdote about the first (and presumably only) time he tried chewing tobacco when he was a child (he puked it up five minutes later).
No doubt there are indicators of uptight Super Bowls. At Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco, Ron Rivera went out of his way to scare the Panthers into behaving throughout the week. He had Eugene Robinson—the Falcons player who was caught by an undercover cop soliciting the services of a prostitute 24 hours before Atlanta played in Super Bowl XXXIII—speak to the team about being responsible during their time off. But a few days later, Rivera watched his wound-up team falter to the Broncos.
Doug Pederson, while not having coached in a Super Bowl before, has been overly casual with his team in order to prevent such stiffness. For the Patriots, could there be a reason they’re letting their guard down just a bit?
2. Tom Brady’s hand is still concealed in a custom-made glove. He wore gloves on both hands to Monday’s Opening Night media session, while on Tuesday he wore it on just the hand that sustained the nebulous gash prior to the AFC championship.
But don’t worry, there are marketing opportunities here for the man who is trying to launch his diet and lifestyle brand.
“My hand? It’s getting better but it’s not quite where I want it to be. So, I’m just trying to protect it the best way I can. Obviously a very important part of my body as a quarterback so I want it to be as healthy as possible for the game on Sunday. Under Armour just made it for me, it’s a great glove. It’s got a lot of recovery in it.”
FAST FORWARD TO 2019: Every New England-area dad is sporting TB12 Under Armour recovery gloves while shoveling snow, mowing the lawn or swinging at the driving range. I realize writing about this makes me a part of the problem.
3. Pederson does not know if the Eagles are going to practice with full pads or not. His decision to have fast, aggressive full-padded practices leading up to the Vikings game was roundly praised and Pederson told reporters today that he was hoping he could lean as close to normal as possible.
“The practice schedule this week won’t change. We’ll keep it the same, keep the guys in the routine we’ve been in the last several weeks. Haven’t decided yet to go in pads, we were in pads all last week and had some really good practices. We’re going to stay fresh and keep the guys ready but I haven’t decided yet.”
4. Patriots receivers coach Chad O’Shea could very much be in line to replace Josh McDaniels as the team’s offensive coordinator unless Bill Belichick decides to go outside the farm or bump up Jerry Schuplinski. While players obviously aren’t lobbying for candidates or even formally acknowledging that their current coordinators are soon departing, Brandin Cooks seemed high on O’Shea, who helped quickly integrate him into the Patriots’ system this year.
“Ton of respect for coach O’Shea,” Cooks said. “You know, he coaches us well. He comes to work and brings it every day. He’s dedicated to the team and doing his job the best way he can to put us in the best position to succeed.”
He added: “When he was allowed to have contact with us, he got us going right away. He does a great job of explaining things and he’s a great coach.”
5. Jerry Izenberg has arrived at the Super Bowl. A former Star-Ledger colleague of mine, his presence here in Minneapolis is significant because he is one of three men to have covered every single Super Bowl. Along with Jerry Green and Dave Klein, the number of historians who have a complete panorama of the modern NFL is rapidly shrinking. The St. Paul Pioneer Press did a fun story on the trio but the true payoff for Izenberg came when he asked Belichick his trademark questions during Tuesday’s media availability. It’s no secret that Belichick has a soft spot for certain reporters, and Izenberg’s inquiry about the different emotions associated with each of Belichick’s Super Bowl appearances earned him a “great question” from the New England head coach.