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The 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas will feature the Pittsburgh Steelers turning themselves into the latest Super Bowl winners by beating the Green Bay Packers. That is, if you believe the predictions of Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow and former Auburn QB Cam Newton. Those two, along with Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Cassel, were on a panel for ESPN called "Brunch With A Legend".
The panel was about life as a quarterback in the NFL and was conducted in Ft. Worth, Texas as part of a series of local "Brunch With A Legend" events ESPN is running across the country.
Newton didn't give a score but did predict a Steelers win talking about QB Ben Roethlisberger's ability to avoid the rush. Newton, an athletic quarterback himself, knows something about avoiding the rush. Tebow actually gave a score with his prediction -- 27-24 in favor of the Steelers. Coincidentally, that's the exact same score prediction, and winner, that I picked.
Cassel wouldn't pick a winner instead saying his prediction is "whoever wins". That's one way to avoid being wrong.
Tebow talked about a welcome to the NFL moment for him. They were playing the Steelers in their third preseason game and he was starting to get some playing time. He took one snap, rolled out and had S Troy Polamalu racing him down. Tebow says he remembers that moment very well.
The weather at the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas has been a hotly debated topic of conversation. Those that are in Dallas, like myself, have spent much of the time complaining about the city's lack of an adequate response to the snow we saw earlier in the week. Those that aren't in Dallas have probably been complaining about the people complaining about the weather in Dallas.
The good news is that I awoke this morning, walked out of my hotel, and found the weather to be...perfect. A light jacket is required but, beyond that, the roads are clear and the temperatures are nice. Looking at the weather on Friday, forecasters were predicting Sunday morning to have some snow showers. That won't be the case.
The bad news? The snow appears it's still coming. There are expected to be light snow showers throughout the afternoon and evening:
The roof on the Jerry Dome will be closed so the actual game won't be affected. And it doesn't appear those that are flying in on Sunday morning will see any of their flights affected. Hopefully (from a selfish perspective), the snow won't be sticking until later in the night.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2011 is in. Here's the full list: Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe. And there are two senior inductees: Chris Hanburger and Les Richter.
These are all of course incredibly deserving players. Notable players missing out include three receivers Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed.
The most interesting candidate, in my view, is Ed Sabol, founder of NFL Films. He's going in as a contributor and not a player so those are always hotly debated people. With what NFL Films is today, and the history its preserved, Sabol's impact on the game has been incredible.
NFL Network's Rich Eisen had the same thought I did when the newest class was announced.
Deion and Shannon Sharpe going in in the same year. Who's going to get a word in edge-wise?
There are some disappointed folks here in the crowd at the broadcast of the event. Sitting one row ahead of me are several people in Andre Reed jerseys and they gave a cheer when Reed made the first cut. Unfortunately for those Reed fans, he didn't make the final list.
Congrats to the class of 2011 Pro Football Hall of Famers.
The photo above comes from my seat at the live NFL Network broadcast of the Hall of Fame announcement at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas, Texas.
We started the day with 15 modern era finalists for the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame and on the live NFL Network broadcast they announced the first round of cuts.
Here's who made the first cut from 15 to 10: Dermontti Dawson, Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Andre Reed, Willie Roaf, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe.
This is not the final list as that list will be cut down to the final five.
That means the following players were eliminated on the first cut: Charles Haley, Tim Brown, Chris Doleman, Jerome Bettis and Cris Carter.
The most interesting note of that group, to me, is that Reed came out ahead of Brown and Carter among the receivers. Receiver is the third least represented position in the Hall of Fame.
The 2011 NFL Hall of Fame announcement is under an hour away. We're sitting here at the event as we speak type waiting for it all to start. The candidates include: Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Demontti Dawson, Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, Charles Haley, Chris Hanburger*, Cortez Kennedy, Andre Reed, Les Richter*, Ed Sabol and Shannon Sharpe. (*Senior candidate)
The selection process conducted by the 44 voters took seven and a half hours on Saturday morning. One of those voters, Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, detailed some of the interesting debates.
The longest discussion came on Ed Sabol, founder of NFL Films. This was to be expected because Sabol's a contributor, and not a player. It's hard to keep him out with the impact NFL Films has had on the league, if you ask me. The second longest debate centered around CB Deion Sanders, which is a surprise considering many consider him the biggest lock in this year's class. The third longest debate, according to Grossi, was WR Andre Reed, which is very interesting. There are two other receivers -- Tim Brown and Cris Carter -- so we'll see how that shakes out. It's hard to see more than one get in.
Here's the scene at at the Sheraton Hotel where the announcement is taking place:
The 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame announcement is coming on Saturday evening so it's fitting that the week leading up to the announcement we've already seen a few Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Making their way to Dallas for Super Bowl week was Joe Montana and Jim Kelly.
Though they're both Hall of Famers, Montana and Kelly have obviously had opposite careers when it comes to the big game.
Montana, who was hanging out at FOX Sports Radio in the photo below, played in four Super Bowls and won them all. He was part of the San Francisco 49ers dynasty (and the last Kansas City Chiefs team to win a playoff game).
Jim Kelly, who was also making the rounds at Radio Row this week, also played in four Super Bowls. Unfortunately for him (and the Buffalo Bills), he didn't win any of them. Still, going to four consecutive Super Bowls is awfully impressive.
And on Sunday Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger could win his third Super Bowl. Three Super Bowl victories and it'd be difficult to leave him out of the Hall of Fame. What's amazing, though, is that Roethlisberger isn't close to being done. This Steelers team is built very well and I wouldn't be surprised to see them contend for a couple more Super Bowls before it's all said and done.
So is this a Hall of Fame quarterback?
By now you've probably heard the story that's circulating regarding New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez and his alleged flirtation with a 17-year old girl. Sanchez, 24, has or had some sort of relationship with a 17-year old girl, according to a report from Deadspin.
About an hour before I read that report, I saw this guy making the rounds at 2011 Super Bowl week:
(I apologize for the poor quality of the photo but I was nearly trampled by about a dozen women trying to get a closer look at Sanchez. I had no chance against those women.)
Sanchez certainly didn't act like anything was wrong while he was milling around Radio Row shaking hands
and kissing babies. Of course, he hasn't done anything necessarily wrong either. Or broken any laws, or league or team policies.
Sanchez had a big crowd of fans following him -- but he had nothing on The Situation.
The weather in Dallas has been a big topic of conversation throughout 2011 Super Bowl week because of the many problems it's caused. I barely got into Dallas on Monday because of that weather and awoke on Tuesday mornin to find the streets coated in ice. The ice stayed there for a couple of days and, on Thursday, it started to melt away....only to see it return the following day with a couple more inches of snow.
This was the sight on Friday morning right outside the media center:
(Seriously, if they would have just kept this particular street outside the media center clear, we would have seen a lot less complaining from the media folks that stay in the hotel attached to the media center.)
It's going to hit 41 degrees on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, and you can already see some of that ice melting. The roads are starting to clear as of Saturday morning.
But how long will it last? Apparently, not long. Here's the weather forecast for Sunday:
We talked to one family that arrived in Dallas on Saturday morning. Their flight had been delayed and they were considering packing up the car and making the drive from Pittsburgh. That's about a 20-hour drive so you can know Steelers fans are dedicated. Plus, they had already spent a whopping $7,200 on Super Bowl tickets for the family.
St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo made an appearance at the Dallas media center for the 2011 Super Bowl. He talked a little bit about the two quarterbacks in this game -- Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers -- as well as the Rams return to relevance.
In 2009, the Rams were 1-15 which gave them the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL draft. That pick of course went to QB Sam Bradford, who picked up the AP rookie of the year award. Bradford also made the rounds at Super Bowl week on Radio Row.
Spagnuolo noted that while the Rams went 7-9 and that's a big improvement, it's still a losing record. He says they're going in the right direction and obviously hope to be here soon.
Spagnuolo should know a thing or two about a Super Bowl. He was part of the New York Giants Super Bowl winning team when they toppled the New England Patriots. He's looking for another ring but as head coach this time.
The 2011 Super Bowl is only days away and the NFL is taking the Lombardi Trophy on a tour before the Pittsburgh Steelers or Green Bay Packers take it home with them. Here's what all the hoopla this week is all about:
The trophy will be presented following the conclusion of the game on Sunday night. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked a curious question on that trophy presentation. Apparently, according to a reporter's question at Goodell's annual press conference on Friday, Steelers fans are just as interested in seeing Goodell hand the trophy to QB Ben Roethlisberger and LB James Harrison at the trophy presentation as they are in the game itself.
The reporter said some fans want to throw it back in Goodell's face after he suspended Roethlisberger and fined Harrison earlier this year. Goodell took the high road and said he represents 32 teams and he doesn't have favorites so he would be happy to present it to either team.
Here on Radio Row at 2011 Super Bowl week there are all kinds of celebrities. I just walked past Adam Sandler getting interviewed by Arli$$, Jessica Simpson was here earlier and celebrity/athlete Mark Sanchez made an appearance.
Those folks draw big crowds of people whether it's fans, media or their personal entourage. One of the biggest crowds, however, goes to Mike Sorrentino.
What, you don't know who that is? How about Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino from Jersey Shore?
Indeed, at the biggest sports media event of the year, one of the biggest crowds goes to the dude from Jersey Shore. He also has arguably the biggest entourage here.
It's pretty amazing how much has changed at Super Bowl week from 2010 to 2011. This year, press conferences start with an announcement that tweeting is or isn't allowed and The Situation draws some of the biggest crowds.
Sorry we don't have a better photo. The police officers surrounding him wouldn't let me get any closer.
2011 Super Bowl week has been highlighted by the weather conditions surrounding Dallas. My arrival on Monday was delayed significant because of the snowstorms hitting Dallas but things started to brighten up over the next couple of days as the snow began to melt.
On Friday, we were greeted with this in the morning:
Another snowfall on top of the ice that was starting to melt. The weather, to this point, has just been a nuisance. Now, though, it's become dangerous. According to the Dallas Morning News, seven people were injured -- one of them critically -- after the melting snow and ice on top of Cowboys Stadium slid off the roof and onto the plazas surrounding the stadium.
The weather, and Dallas' response to it, has obviously been a popular topic of conversation. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a Friday press conference that Dallas has done a good job reacting to the weather considering the circumstances. The reaction in Dallas, in my opinion, hasn't been very good. Days after the first snowstorm this week ice was still all over the streets and it's hard to tell if they've even been treated (although we've been told they have).
At a minimum, keep the street right outside the media center clean so we're not complaining about it.
The 2010 Super Bowl was the arrival of OCNN -- Ochocinco News Network. That's of course a nod at Chad Ochocinco of the Cincinnati Bengals. He had a crew of NFL players with him, wearing OCNN shirts, and acting like reporters at the various press events.
Last year the questions were always goofy. This year, though, I've noticed OCNN is a little more serious. They're asking legitimate questions instead of just trying to be funny.
That's why I wasn't too surprised to see Chad Ochocinco stand up and ask a question at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's press conference on Friday.
Ochocinco prefaced his question by noting that Goodell represents 32 owners and that he represents over 1,900 NFL players. He asked Goodell to give him a real answer on when a new CBA would get done. "That's only going to happen if there are intensive negotiations between both sides," Goodell responded.
Ochocinco obviously didn't like the answer, which was too politically correct for his tastes. He wrote on his Twitter account shortly after Goodell's answer: "When you can answer a question without really answering what was asked takes superb skill and poise,there's got to be n art to it."
Among the many topics discussed at the press conference from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith at 2011 Super Bowl was the franchise tag.
The NFL has told teams it can start using the franchise tag starting on February 10 and continuing through February 24, which is standard operating procedure under a normal year. This, however, is not a normal year with the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring on March 4.
Smith told reporters at his Thursday press conference that the NFL can do what it wants with the franchise tag but they feel it's meaningless. "Our position is you can franchise anyone you want by whatever date you want. But if there is no CBA, the franchise tag would be meaningless."
The differences come from language in the CBA and this was highlighted during the press conference. A reporter asked Smith on what grounds does the NFLPA feel they can challenge the use of the franchise tag considering "it appears [the NFL is] afforded that luxury in the CBA?" Smith shot back: "Actually it's not. It appears they're not so let's get that clear."
The NFL interprets that as the franchise tag being available because the CBA doesn't expire until March 4 therefore applying the franchise tag is acceptable before then. Smith, though, apparently argues that the words "during the term of this agreement" indicates the franchise tag, which would be applied to players for the 2011 season, doesn't matter because there is no agreement next year.
Most league observers feel the franchise tag will be in the next CBA so, from my view, this argument is a bit of a moot point. A deal will get done (eventually) and it will (more than likely) include the franchise tag.
It's no surprise but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith can't agree on much of anything and that includes an 18-game schedule. Because we're at the epicenter of the football world for Super Bowl week, both parties conducted press conferences in a State of the League type of address.
The topic of an 18-game season brought about plenty of disagreement.
The CBA currently allows the NFL to move to an 18-game schedule without the approval of the players, which Goodell pointed out at his Friday press conference. The NFL has said that they wouldn't make this move without the approval of the players even though they don't need it. "If we can't do it right, we won't do it," Goodell said on Friday. Goodell did sound like a man who wants this to get done and is planning on it getting done.
Smith, though, took the opposite approach. "Any change in a season that increases the risk of injury, increases the risk of concussion, increases the risk of a long-term consequence from playing football, has the potential to shorten careers and jeopardize the 3.4-[year] average players have right now without a guaranteed contract. Anything that does that is something that's not in the best interest of the players of the National Football League."
A recent Associated Press poll showed only about a quarter of fans are interested in an 18-game schedule but Goodell pointed to the preseason as the root of the problem. He says fans have routinely complained about the preseason format and emphasized that they would be replacing meaningless preseason games for meaningful regular season games.
The NFL wants to grow the pie for everyone. Goodell said hanging on the status quo is unacceptable under any circumstances. He noted that there hadn't been any new stadiums since 2006 (the Cowboys stadium and Chiefs renovations were already on their way) so there is a need to grow the game.
From my view, I think fans are complaining more about the price of preseason tickets. Personally, I haven't found many fans interested in an 18-game schedule but the NFL views this as an important piece in their efforts to grow the game.
The Super Bowl halftime show this year will feature the Black Eyed Peas and the group met with the media on Wednesday in Dallas talking about...wardrobe malfunctions. Indeed, anytime you mention a Super Bowl halftime show you have to mention Janet Jackson's, um, slip-up.
Fergie said on Wednesday that there won't be another wardrobe malfunction coming. "We're very particular about our wardrobe so there won't be any wardrobe malfunctions," she said.
The questions during the media event were odd, to say the least. Fergie was asked: At what point in the day do you feel hottest? She didn't quite understand the question at first -- it is a weird question -- but responded with, "At the time when I'm working up a sweat."
Yeah, things got a little provocative. The media in the music business is a little different than the media in the sports business.
Will.I.Am also announced that he will be tweeting during the show. Yep, tweeting. I'm not sure how, logistically, this will get done but follow his Twitter account during the show here.
Is Troy Polamalu the greatest safety ever?
That was the question he was asked on Wednesday when the Pittsburgh Steelers met with the media before the 2011 Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers.
Polamalu was asked about comments from his defensive backs coach, Ray Horton, who suggested he was the greatest safety every to play the game.
"I definitely don't agree with it, but I respect Coach Horton's opinions. He's been around the game a lot and he's won a Super Bowl as a coach and as a player. He's had so much to do with the success that we've had as a secondary - my own, personally, as well as the guy on the other side of the ball who's coaching the safeties for the Green Bay Packers [Darren Perry]. He was here my rookie and second year and had so much to do with helping me understand the game."
My first reaction would be say, 'Are you kidding? Of course he's not the greatest ever.' That's my reaction to most of these "greatest ever" questions when we're talking about active players.
But looking at Polamalu's career...the beginning of that argument is definitely there, especially if he takes home his third Super Bowl. There aren't many players in the game today or, frankly, in history that have the kind of impact he does. The Steelers are one of the best defenses of this generation and they simply are not the same unit without Polamalu.
Greatest ever? Maybe not yet but the seeds have been planted.
It's Super Bowl week which means more postseason awards.
The New England Patriots have the coach of the year in Bill Belichick and the offensive player of the year in QB Tom Brady. You can add another award to the list -- offensive line. Presented by Prilosec OTC, the Patriots were awarded the Madden Most Valuable Protectors award, which honors the top offensive line of the year, per Hall of Famer John Madden.
The Patriots have the unique honor of taking home the heaviest award this year. Seriously -- the trophy is 102 pounds. Patriots offensive lineman Dan Koppen joked he would need everyone in the room to help carry him out.
Accepting the award for the Patriots was Koppen, Dan Connolly and Mark LeVoir. The presenters were Madden and Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz.
Koppen was asked if winning this award meant that their quarterback, Brady, would give them an even bigger gift now that the season is done. Laughing, Koppen said, "He already takes care of us so we'll leave it at that." With a new contract worth over $70 million, Brady can probably handle giving them a nice gift.
The other finalists included the Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and New Orleans Saints.
We're down here in Dallas for the 2011 Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers but there's still plenty of Dallas Cowboys talk considering the game is taking place at the Jerry Dome. There are a lot of local reporters around here so at some point you know you're going to hear a question regarding the Steelers or Packers that relates to the Cowboys.
One strange one on Wednesday was Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin being asked about the Cowboys as 'America's Team' vs. the Steelers as 'Steeler Nation'.
"That's irrelevant to us. Dallas is ‘America's Team,' and we have Steeler Nation. We like Steeler Nation. So be it."
Tomlin can be a character at some of these press conferences but usually he's serious and occasionally short with you on questions. On Tuesday he was asked what he was doing this week -- specifically, if he planned on "hitting any clubs" while he's here. Tomlin gave that intimidating stare for a split second and turned his attention elsewhere without answering the question.
So don't ask Tomlin about America's team and don't ask him about going to the clubs. I think I can remember that for the rest of the week.
As a blogger at the 2011 Super Bowl, we're traveling around to various events this week whether it's meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers or Green Bay Packers, attending a press conference or any of the other approximately four million events they have going on here this week.
Honestly, though, you could hang out on Radio Row all week and have just as good of a time. There are all kinds of athletes, media personalities and even Hollywood actors walking around to make it worth your while. We tend to stick to the sports side of things but on Wednesday I had my first interaction with Hollywood...sort of.
To preface this, I'm frequently told I look like Russell Crowe. Yes, I know that's a weird thing to say but I get that a couple times a month. Here's my picture and here's one of Crowe. Apparently there's enough of a resemblance for folks to say I look like him.
And that includes folks like Jay Mohr. You know, the guy who played Bob Sugar in Jerry Maguire?
So I'm walking through Radio Row down here in Dallas to get something to drink. I had seen Mohr was on Radio Row doing some appearances and he was talking to someone as I was turning the corner to grab a drink. I overheard him say, "No, I'm sorry, I can't do it," while speaking to someone.
He turns around, sees me, looks back to his buddy and says loudly, "But Russell Crowe can!"
And everyone laughs. I assume they were laughing with me and not at me (....right?). I said I get that all the time, he pats me on the shoulder and heads off to the NFL Network set.
Only at the Super Bowl would I hear Bob Sugar say I look like Russell Crowe.
The schedule surrounding the 2011 Super Bowl can be a little wacky at times. Sometimes you're leaving at 6:30 a.m. to hear some of the players talk and other times you're up until 1:00 a.m. at a Super Bowl party. In other words, don't expect to get a lot of sleep with the amount of stuff going on during the week.
Here's what Thursday's schedule is looking like:
-Both the Packers and Steelers will meet with the media this morning. By this point, the questions are a little more geared to football with a lot of the strange questions getting asked at Tuesday's Media Day. The players have now been asked the same questions probably 50 times so the answers become a little more stale. But for you football junkies, there's still a lot of interesting stuff being talked about.
-At 12:15 p.m. the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award will be presented to one of five finalists -- Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and New York Giants. The members of the winning offensive line are expected to be there which means if there are any members of those offensive lines in Dallas that's a dead giveaway as to the winner. I can't say that I've seen any of those offensive linemen here (yet).
-At 1:15 p.m., the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year will be announced. The five finalists are St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford, Cleveland Browns S Joe Haden, New England Patriots CB Devin McCourty, Detroit Lions DT Ndamukong Suh and Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Williams. I can tell you for certain that Bradford and Suh are in Dallas so they may be the front-runners at this point. Those two players are also believed to be the front-runners for the AP rookie of the year award, which will be announced on Friday.
-At 2:15 p.m., there will be a press conference with the 2011 Super Bowl halftime performance -- Black Eyed Peas. I was born with zero musical abilities so there probably won't be much insight coming from me on that front.
-At 3:15 p.m., perhaps the press conference of the week is coming. That's when NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith will speak. This is a significant event because of the lockout that's believed to be coming. Last year at this press conference, Smith famously said the chances of a lockout were at a 14 on a scale of 1-10.
-By the evening, we'll be checking out the Madden Bowl. This is where we'll see NFL players going against each other in Madden. Players scheduled to attend include Saints QB Drew Brees, Eagles QB Michael Vick and Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco.
The Green Bay Packers will be looking for their sixth consecutive victory on Sunday when they meet the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 Super Bowl. That hot streak is bringing a bit of hope to the rest of the NFL. Courtesy of Subway, we had a few minutes with Ndamukong Suh on Wednesday and he noted the Packers late season winning streak brings a little hope to everyone.
They had some dropoffs here and there which is expected because this is the NFL and everybody's good and anyone can win at any point in time. It's just a matter of pushing for the long haul because you never know what can happen. You could get on a hot streak. a hot streak at the right time like they did, and get into the Super Bowl.
The Packers winning streak was preceded by a two-game losing streak -- including a loss to Suh's Lions -- so they nearly found themselves out of the playoffs. The Packers faced a must-win in the final game of the season and yet a month later they find themselves in the Super Bowl.
That the Lions can turn around next year and win the division is the reason we love the NFL so much. There have been 10 different NFC Super Bowl representatives in the last 10 years so it's not crazy to think a team like the Lions can turn it around.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones conducted a press conference on Tuesday from Dallas, site of the 2011 Super Bowl, and touched on a number of topics. One of those topics was Deion Sanders, the great cornerback turned NFL Network analyst.
Jones talked about the process he went through signing Sanders in the 1995 season. Yeah, it happened 15 years ago but it seems people are always interested in these two (even if they hate Jerry).
Jones says entering free agency that season, he targeted Sanders because he felt he was the best available player. However, it's not the easiest thing in the world to acquire -- and sign to a long-term contract -- the most expensive defensive player in football. Jones says he didn't take the decision lightly, either.
Before signing Sanders, he gathered the entire team and discussed the possibility of signing him. He actually went through every detail of Sanders' contract on a chalk board that was in the locker room and explained how much he would be paid.
After he did that, he asked his team for a vote on whether the Cowboys should go after Sanders. He says it was nearly unanimous to sign him.
Sanders' name is still popular in Dallas this week because he's up for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's a finalist and the new enshrinees will be announced on Saturday night on NFL Network.
When he isn't saying the NFL doesn't give a you-know-what about concussions or denying a visit to a strip club, Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward does talk a little bit about football. On Wednesday he met with reporters and and talked about one of the most underrated aspects of the 2011 Super Bowl matchup against the Green Bay Packers -- how the Pittsburgh receivers react to Ben Roethlisberger's scrambling.
It's not something you think about but it should be. Roethlisberger often scrambles and his receivers actually have routes and instructions on what to do if he scrambles. The Steelers ability to stay on the same page even if a play is breaking down is a significant part of their success. Ward explains the concept:
"You've got to run your route full-speed. Sometimes with Ben, either he'll break the protection down, or we don't protect it right and he escapes right to his left, but we all have to be on the same page. I remember earlier in the season, Emmanuel and I were in the same spot, and we can't do that. We have to pick how we're going to break our routes off and make sure we have receivers on three different levels."
In fact, this happened on what is, to date, the biggest play of the Steelers season. Facing a critical third down against the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game, Roethlisberger scrambled from the pocket and started running right looking for a receiver. Ward continues:
"He rolls right, I was the primary target, and then the next thing you know, here comes Antonio Brown getting into his vision, and Ben saw him out of the corner of his eye and he went down and made a huge third-down conversion that sealed the game."
Ward says he takes on a leadership role so a large part of the success when Roethlisberger scrambles can be credited to him.
This will be a major part of the 2011 Super Bowl. Everyone talks about how much Roethlisberger scrambles but no one seems to talk about how his receivers are able to get open.
Super Bowl week brings plenty of press conferences announcing end of the season awards. On Wednesday, FedEx awarded their Ground Player of the Year to Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles. They also handed out their Air Player of the Year award, which went to Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers obviously has some more important business going on right now so he accepted the award via video conference saying he was honored to receive the award.
Accepting the award for him in person was former Packers great Bart Starr.
Starr said he's met Rodgers on a number of occasions and he's the real deal -- "a real genuine person", he said. Starr says he's still a season ticket holder but doesn't have much of a formal role in the organization right now.
Phil Simms, who presented the award, suggested Rodgers performance against the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round of the playoffs was the best postseason game he's ever seen. Rodgers completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Simms should know something about playing well in big games considering he completed 22-of-25 passes in his Super Bowl appearance.
Here's a shot of the award Rodgers is bringing home:
Check out SB Nation's Acme Packing Company for more on Rodgers' award.
One of the cool things about Super Bowl week is all the various awards they're handing out throughout the week. Wednesday's award session was the FedEx Ground Player of the Year. Your winner: Jamaal Charles.
The Kansas City Chiefs RB was announced on Wednesday as the FedEx Ground Player of the Year ahead of other nominees Houston Texans RB Arian Foster and Atlanta Falcons RB Michael Turner.
Charles was joined on stage by Foster for the press conference and was quick to point out his success this year as well. Charles' major feat this year was averaging over 6.3 yards per carry. The only other back to do that (minimum 200 carries)? Jim Brown.
Charles, who attended the University of Texas, said he was being compared to Earl Campbell in his Texas days and now Jim Brown in the NFL. "It's amazing," he said.
Former QB Phil Simms presented the award and said the film lies on Charles -- he's actually faster.
As someone who watched every snap Charles played this year, I can tell you he deserved this award. He was simply incredible at times this season as he split carries throughout the season with RB Thomas Jones.
For you fantasy football fans, Charles isn't sure how the carry distribution will work out next year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers are in Dallas for the 2011 Super Bowl and the topic of conversation has been, for the most part, about the game. The Ben Roethlisberger redemption story isn't much of a story since he's not saying much on the topic and there aren't any other significant story lines developing.
Except Brett Favre. Of course his name has to be involved anytime a major media contingent is involved. Packers GM Ted Thompson spoke to reporters during Tuesday's Media Day and was asked about none other than Brett Favre.
"Brett is a very important part of the Packers' history and he will be embraced by the Green Bay Packers. The other part is that we've moved on from him"
"We've moved on from that a long time ago. There's a lot of difficulties you go through in this job and that was one of them."
No doubt, Favre is going to be a story line this week. He was replaced by QB Aaron Rodgers who is now leading the Packers to the Super Bowl. It's clear, though, that the Packers don't want to talk about any Favre-related topics. The company line this week: "We've moved on."
Early on Wednesday morning, I dragged myself out of bed near my Dallas hotel and made my way up to Ft. Worth where ESPN has taken over Sundance Square. I spent part of my day up there milling around the ESPN Radio compound they have set up and meeting a few athletes.
The green room at ESPN Radio is a pretty cool place to be. A pair of the Gronkwoski brothers were hanging out. Larry Fitzgerald passed through as did Maurice Jones-Drew and Ndamukong Suh.
The first person of note we met was Lions DT Ndamukong Suh. We'll have a more detailed look at him but he's an interesting person to speak with. He plays like an enraged madman on Sundays but he's actually soft-spoken and very polite. As with most of these athletes down here, he was being shuffled from interview to interview but took a few minutes to talk about Super Bowl week, the Lions and his first year in the NFL. Asked about the rookie of the year award being issued on Friday, he of course gave credit to his teammates.
Another person we spoke with was Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald and I can confirm that he's the real deal. You hear that some athletes are legitimately nice guys and it ends up not being true. It's true with Larry Fitzgerald. He said he was jazzed about the offseason and doing all the preparation that comes during this time. Fitzgerald was hosting a chat on ESPN.com at the time I was there.
We also dipped into Colin Cowherd's show for a minute. The set-up is not as grand as you think it may be. It's a room with two long tables -- him and a producer -- and two laptops. That's it.
As with everyone else, the weather has affected ESPN's setup in Ft. Worth. While I was there, they were busy transforming a green room into the Mike & Mike show because of the snowy conditions. Considering I felt like I nearly froze walking one block, I can imagine hosting a four-hour show outdoors isn't the easiest thing in the world.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will meet in the 2011 Super Bowl which means it's another opportunity for LB James Harrison to express his displeasure with the way the league is handling big hits in the NFL. Harrison has been fined over $100,000 for illegal hits this year.
Harrison sat at a podium with a microphone and a Steelers hat on the table answering questions for an hour. If you've ever seen him speak in person, then you know how intimidating he can be. Sometimes he's short with his answers and his stare made me, frankly, a little scared.
Harrison touched on a number of subjects but the most entertaining of course was his take on those fineable hits he's seen this year. Here's a sampling of a few things he had to say:
See how popular the game is with a ton of flags.
The league is doing whatever they can to make the most money.
They don't really care about protecting the defense.
You can see how the interview went. At one point, he was even mocking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding illegal hits. Harrison isn't afraid to speak his mind about illegal (or in his mind, legal) hits in the NFL and there's no larger stage for that than Super Bowl Media Day.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stood at the podium on Tuesday, proud to see his stadium at the epicenter of the sports world this week. Super Bowl XLV week is here and Jones, whose Cowboys Stadium is hosting the game, conducted a press conference on Tuesday addressing a number of issues.
Jones said his goal was to be the first team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium but, after the first six or seven Cowboys games this year, he realized that wouldn't be happening. Instead, it's the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers meeting on Sunday.
Jones noted that Cowboys Stadium doesn't have a naming sponsor yet but he enjoys seeing all the media coverage this week mentioning his stadium. And that stadium, by the way, is pretty incredible. We took in Media Day at the stadium and it's a sight to be seen.
Jones said when he was building the stadium he had the future in mind and that future included Super Bowls. On the retractable roof, which helps put them in line for a Super Bowl, he said, "It needed to be as closed as it can be while feeling like you're outside." He said it was important to make the folks on TV feel like they want to be in that game atmosphere.
Also on the stadium, he made some interesting comments relating to the current labor situation. Jones said he started building the stadium and the economy started to go down the tank. Most people, he said, would begin to cut costs. He actually ramped things up at that point, he says, because he was confident a new labor deal would be struck and it would encourage building stadiums like his.
Even though his team isn't playing, Jones talked briefly about the success of the Steelers and Packers this year.
On the Steelers, Jones lauded their ability to stay the course throughout the years. "They take what they're dealt, draft them and play them, " he said.
On the Packers, he said, "I like the way they played with players they weren't planning on playing with injuries." That's of course a nod to the ridiculous number of injuries the Packers suffered throughout the season.
Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews is in Dallas to play in Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The week started off incredibly well for Matthews as reports surfaced on Monday night that he had won the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
The only problem? He didn't win. Those reports were wrong.
The real winner was Pittsburgh Steelers S Troy Polamalu, who promptly said others, like Matthews, deserved the award more. Matthews was asked about the strange situation even poking fun at the media for getting the story wrong.
"I was more upset with the texts saying I won and then the ones saying I didn't win," Matthews said.
He was cool about the entire situation saying he was only annoyed to receive so many text messages when he won -- and then again when he didn't win.
This is a good problem to have, though. Matthews is in just his third year in the league so he can expect to be in the running for more awards like this.
The Green Bay Packers made a very smart move in the 2009 NFL draft taking LB Clay Matthews, who turned into one of the best defensive players in the NFL. If they hadn't selected him with the 26th pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers may have.
"I did have some talks with Tomlin and the Steelers coaching staff [before the draft]," Matthews said on Tuesday.
He was speaking to reporters at the 2011 Super Bowl Media Day and said the Steelers expressed some interest. Pittsburgh held the 32nd overall pick in that draft and selected DT Evander Hood.
But imagine a lineup that included James Harrison, James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley and Clay Matthews. Throughout Super Bowl week both Steelers and Packers offensive players have talked about the matchup problems the opposing defenses create.
Luckily for Green Bay, they -- and not the Steelers -- drafted their matchup nightmare in 2009.
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers was a popular man at the 2011 Super Bowl Media Day because one of the keys to the game is how his defense does against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Capers also has ties to Dick LeBeau and the Steelers -- he worked in Pittsburgh from 1992-94 -- so he's got an interesting story this week.
Capers discussed a number of things but one popped out at me -- he would consider head coaching opportunities if it was the right place at the right time. Capers has been a head coach on two previous occasions in Carolina and Houston.
Capers also made another important point: "If you've been in the business long enough you know that when you have good people you're going to lose them."
This happens with Super Bowl teams and their coordinators. If you're coaching on a Super Bowl team, you're probably doing something right. And the enhanced media attention this week raises their profile slightly so that the next time the coaching hiring cycle comes around their name will be in the mix.
The Packers have one of the best defenses in the NFL and Capers is given credit for that so expect to hear his name pop up now and again regarding coaching jobs in the future.
Welcome to Super Bowl 2011 Media Day. We're inside the shiny Jerry Dome in Dallas, TX writing this as hundreds of media members are walking around the field talking to players on the Green Bay Packers. As we noted, Media Day is known just as much for the odd, unusual or even wacky personalities that come through there.
This year was no different as we saw a few costumes (and Ines Sainz's outfit apparently isn't a costume) as well as our friend, stick guy, from last year.
First, here's the set up at Media Day. It's hard to see but that's Atari Bigby being interviewed by a woman who was teaching him to speak Spanish. And yes she's in a workout outfit. Why? One of Media Day's mysteries.
The photo below is, um, Batman. In this photo, he's interviewing Packers offensive lineman Daryn Colledge. And by "interviewing" I mean he was awarding Colledge the Best Facial Hair award. Just wait 'til Brett Keisel hears about this.
And this is Ines Sainz and Chad Ochocinco, err, Johnson. This picture is a great description of Media Day: crazy and random. I don't have a shot of her entire dress but you can use your imagine. She was often seen with reporters interviewing her instead of her interviewing the athletes. Ochocinco surprised me a little as he was asking legitimate questions to some of the players. Perhaps OCNN is taking a turn for the serious? I doubt it but we'll see.
Topping this picture off is the head of ESPN's Ed Werder in the background between them.
And then there's the cheeseheads (and Marshall Faulk chillin' in the background). One news station was passing these out to all the players they were interviewing. One Packers player ran over shortly after this picture was taken and instructed his teammate to take the cheesehead off (and the teammate complied).
All in all another "normal" Media Day.
Players and coaches from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will convene in Dallas on Tuesday for the extravaganza that is Super Bowl media day. The NFL's popularity is reaching such a ridiculously high level that something as simple as Super Bowl media day calls for live TV coverage and thousands of reporters from around the world in one building.
In one big room, players from both teams (one team at a time) will be lined up in booths so that the media can ask them questions. This is a media contingent from all over the world, which means you can expect some wacky questions. Many of these reporters won't ever see these players again so they'll ask some ridiculous question, or come dressed up in a funky outfit.
Sort of like this guy at media day last year:
This picture sums up media day well. The wacky reporter turns into the story and there's no explanation for why he's doing what he's doing. We'll see if anyone can top, um, stick guy, this year.
The big time players -- Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews etc. -- will have their own podium with dozens of reporters hanging around them. Other lesser-known players will walk around with few media types talking to them. If you're a player, and you want to know your place in the NFL, how much attention you get at media day is a good test.
The Packers will go at 10:00 a.m. (CT) and the Steelers will be up at 12:00 p.m. (CT). Each team will be available for about an hour.
Greetings from the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, Texas. When I say I'm happy to be in Dallas, you should believe me. That's because getting from Kansas City (where I came from) to Dallas isn't the easiest thing in the world.
I was scheduled to leave Kansas City around 5:00 p.m. on Monday evening before an incoming snowstorm delayed travelers. The Kansas City airport started to cancel flights as I sat there wondering if I would be able to make it to Dallas.
Eventually, the plane was de-iced, the runway was cleared and we took off around 8:00 p.m. But now that I'm in Dallas, we're done with the snow, right?
The snow has followed me to Dallas. As of this moment, there's snow on the ground outside. It's not much -- less than an inch -- but it's not the sight you want to see after leaving a snowstorm.
We'll see how Dallas handles the snow as thousands and thousands of visitors begin to descend up on the city.
Making the trip south will be myself, who will be covering Super Bowl week from a national angle on SBNation.com, Brandon from Acme Packing Company, who will be on all things Packers, and Michael from Behind The Steel Curtain, who will be your go-to Steelers source. If our experience last year tells us anything, it's that you'll want to check out those sites. You can't go to the Super Bowl and not have entertaining coverage.
Things really kick off on Tuesday's Media Day, which gets bigger and bigger every year. Basically, there is a big room, and each team parades their players out allowing the media time to talk to them at various stations. This is when you'll see some wacky media members coming in dressed up or other attention-seeking folks. The players that are unknown outside of Green Bay and Pittsburgh will roam around without many people talking to them while Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger will command a crowd over 100.
Other big events during the week include the NFLPA annual press conference, which means a little more with the (possible) lockout coming, and the 2011 Hall of Fame announcements on Saturday.
It all culminates on Feb. 6 when the game is aired on FOX. The exact timing of kickoff is currently scheduled for 6:29 p.m. (ET). While we're down in Dallas, we'll have an entire crew holding it down for SBNation.com so if you're looking for something to pass the time at work, our 2011 Super Bowl coverage would be it.