• Today we learned that Ndamukong Suh does not consider Tom Brady to be a bear, why Stephen Gostkowski watches videos of his kicks before games, some weird Patriots’ technology and more.
By Conor Orr
January 31, 2019

ATLANTA — Mike Holmgren and Joe Theismann wrapped each other in a quick hug just inside the media center on Thursday. Around the corner, Tiki Barber was doing a radio show, Kyler Murray was live on television, Jamal Adams was being shuffled from performance to performance and Brian Urlacher was hopping from one radio station to the next.

In essence: The madness has arrived. The game is actually happening, and now the entire football world is here to see it.

Radio Row is the one piece of Super Bowl week that the Rams and Patriots don’t really see, as they’re sequestered in the hotel room or shuffled between their scheduled media appearances and practices. But that doesn’t mean they don’t sense something gargantuan is about to happen, as you’ll hear from Ndamukong Suh in today’s what we learned. He’s ready for the moment…

1. The game-changer we might not be talking about

Ndamukong Suh was asked about—and talked a little bit about—animals on Thursday. The context: He was asked about his history of agitating quarterbacks, and how he’s fairly well known as someone who relishes the ability to get into someone’s head. A reporter asked Suh if, in regards to Brady, he was worried about “poking the bear.” His response was worth remembering…

“I have no fear of poking the bear,” Suh said. “I wouldn’t consider him a bear; I wouldn’t look at him as a bear, but I’m going after him as much as I can. My goal is to irritate him, be in his face at all opportunities. When he has the football, or if it’s a running back, take him down.”

I asked Suh if, like some other notorious feather-rufflers of his time, if his process is largely psychological—if he does research. He smiled.

“As a famous friend of mine would say—I’ll quote him: ‘Watch the National Geographic [channel], Animal Planet, and that’ll actually give you some good ideas as to how to be a good defensive player.”

I think of Suh, who told players this week that his time with the Dolphins taught him that the Patriots were certainly beatable, the way I think about Dwight Freeney in Super Bowl LI. A big name, perhaps past his athletic prime, but with enough juice and institutional knowledge to completely upend a game plan if he’s on. In previous big games, good defenses have targeted the interior of New England’s offensive line as a mechanism to get to Brady faster. Should Donald gobble up two blockers, as expected, Suh could be a fascinating person to watch in the first half.

ROSENBERG: Ndamukong Suh Remains One of a Kind on the Biggest Stage of His Career

2. As we know, these things tend to come down to big kicks

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski said he’s a naturally laid-back person so, outside of a little nervous energy (“which is good, because it means you care,” he said) he’s perfected his pre-game routine to keep him in a comfort zone. He likened it to warming up as a pitcher, which has diminishing returns if you warm up too much.

One interesting wrinkle? The night before the game, he watches a personal highlight reel. Not, it seems, to stoke his own vanity, but because the kicks represented something technically sound to him.

“You always try and visualize the kicks going through the uprights, and the night before the game and maybe the day of the game,” he said. “I’ll watch a little highlight clip of some good kicks I’ve had that I felt really good about to see the ball going through, but nothing major.”

BREER: Five Belichick Protégés Explain His Two Decades of Patriots Success

3. Something that the Patriots casually dropped on their last day of media availability

They have sleep tanks that can simulate four hours of sleep in 45 minutes. How do you beat New England? Apparently, all it takes is space-age technology.

4. A strange part of this week

Rob Ryan has been around as a media member, following in his twin brothers’ footsteps. The two-time Super Bowl champion, hair flowing, clothed in volume-all-the-way-up blazers, actually got hired as Washington’s linebackers coach earlier in the week. He may just make history as the first active position coach to also have full access as a media member to two NFL teams.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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