Perhaps the distraction that started it all. On the Tuesday before the Chiefs faced the Vikings, NBC released a report connecting a known gambler with Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson. At a late-night press conference Dawson admitted he had a cursory relationship with the man but denied any wrongdoing. Years later Dawson would say the controversy didn't provide him any added motivation, but he was the MVP of the Chiefs' 23--7 victory.
The '85 Bears delighted in creating off-field headlines, and they were in rare form on their trip to New Orleans. Upon arriving in the Big Easy, QB Jim McMahon publicly excoriated the team's front office for failing to bring an acupuncturist on the team plane to aid his recovery from a gluteal injury. Then, at a practice, McMahon showed off his injury by mooning a news helicopter. Of course, the following Sunday it was the Patriots' butts that were sore.
On the afternoon before the Super Bowl, Bengals running back Stanley Wilson told teammates he was going to his hotel room to get his playbook. He was found later that day, recumbent in his bathtub after a cocaine binge. It was a sad relapse for a once promising player and resulted in his being cut from the roster. Cincy coach Sam Wyche later said Wilson's absence was a key factor in the loss to the 49ers.
"This is going to be bigger than the actual game," Magic Johnson said in an interview after his bodyguard allegedly punched Bills linebacker Darryl Talley a week before the game. Talley was out with teammates at a Sunset Boulevard nightclub when the altercation took place. Talley wasn't finished absorbing punishment: Buffalo lost to the Cowboys 52--17, the third of four consecutive Super Bowl losses for the Bills.
For Brett Favre 1996 was a year of extremes: He was named league MVP that season but also underwent treatment for a prescription-drug addiction. So it was more than a little newsworthy when the Packers' QB was reportedly spotted, beer in hand, on Bourbon Street the night before the game. It didn't affect his play. He had three total touchdowns in a win over the Patriots.
The day before the game, Falcons safety Eugene Robinson was presented with an award for his "high moral character." A few hours later he was charged with soliciting oral sex from an undercover police officer in downtown Miami. One anonymous teammate said, "Guys had been going there all week. It's just that Eugene was the only one who got caught." Fans were less forgiving when Atlanta lost to Denver.
San Diego is only 16 miles from the Mexican border, something that may not have been forefront in Raiders players' minds as they were preparing to face the Buccaneers. But then starting center Barret Robbins disappeared two days before the game, allegedly while on a alcohol-fueled bender in Tijuana. As a result he was suspended for the game; he was reportedly in a hospital while his teammates were being dismantled by Tampa Bay.
Two days before the Patriots met the Giants, former New England video assistant Matt Walsh claimed he had damning information about the months-old Spygate scandal—but he refused to disclose what he knew. Also, Senator Arlen Specter said Roger Goodell would be called to testify on why he destroyed the Patriots' tapes. In the end, David Tyree's helmet was the greater concern for Bill Belichick.
On the Tuesday before the game, TMZ caught Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger out with teammates at a piano bar in Fort Worth. The site released footage of Big Ben struggling to croon "Piano Man" and reported that players pounded rum and Diet Cokes. Roethlisberger laughed it off. Less funny: His two INTs that prevented the Steelers from winning a third ring in six seasons.
The national media will be reminded this week: Marshawn Lynch doesn't like talking to reporters. This was a problem last year when the Seahawks' running back threatened to skip Media Day. After much hand-wringing Lynch showed up, and while hiding behind a dais that some teammates sat on, he delivered one of his many witticisms: That was when we all learned that Beast Mode is "just 'bout that action, boss."