NFL seasons begins and ends amid controversy

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Arizona braces for onslaught of Seahawks fans.

No American sporting event’s anticipation level touches that of the on Feb. 1, and nothing showcases that more than the frenzy that is Super Bowl media day. Perhaps already annoyed by the attention to his left elbow ahead of the Super Bowl, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman used a quip to answer one reporter’s question about that joint’s range of motion. Having made it out of their respective conferences and into the big game, the biggest test of the season is coming up for the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. This season, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians repeatedly cajoled his players to ensure that no other team would be using their facility or dressing in their locker room for the championship game.

Seattle’s other All-Pro defensive back, safety Earl Thomas, is dealing with a bum shoulder and not only missed practices but also avoided the media, which is one way to avoid the question that so often becomes a big part of the buildup to the big game: How hurt are you? But Tuesday presents a different type of challenge for players who will be peppered with all sorts of questions—from serious inquiries about the game to random hypotheticals,and everything in between. That’s one explanation for the concert-volume music — rap, rock, everyone has a say in the variety — that slams the Seattle Seahawks’ indoor practice field every weekday.

What used to be a simple opportunity for select media members to interview players before the game has snowballed into a central part of any Super Bowl. Which means that the locally-despised Seahawks and their fans will be descending on the Phoenix area, hoping to become the first team in a decade to win back-to-back Lombardi Trophies. He’s been practicing and called the elbow “a little sore, but not too bad.” While the NFL’s investigation of the underinflated footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC championship game has been getting a ton of attention, there will be room for other topics.

Not only will thousands of credentialed media be in attendance, but fans also have the opportunity to purchase tickets and sit in the stadium, per The music continues booming as they slowly trot off the field. “He’s a player’s coach, and he’s always open to our opinion, that’s what I like about him,” said Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane. “He might not take it, or accept it. Over the years, key injuries to key players — including a couple of guys still with the Patriots — have been breathlessly charted in the days before kickoff. But it wouldn’t be premature to suggest that the talking points at this year’s media event will be among the most interesting—not to mention awkward—in history. The Seahawks had the “Fail Mary” win over the Packers earlier that season, which was Russell Wilson’s rookie year, and the Patriots win solidified their ascent.

That’s led by the increasingly sticky ball-deflating scandal to hit the Patriots, who have had to address the issue more than once in their week of preparation before Super Bowl week. Three years ago, the thrilled-to-be-hosting-the-game citizens of Indianapolis endured a visit from one of the Colts’ interdivisional rivals, and ultimately got to witness the kid brother of their beloved quarterback take down the Patriots. As rivalries go, however, this one is closer to the Rams playing in New Orleans in Super Bowl XXXVI, when the Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf to cap the final season in which the Saints and Rams played twice per year as members of the NFC West. But the 2012 Patriots game is known for a tweet more than anything that happened during the 60 minutes of action. “I think people somehow get a skewed view of Tom Brady that he’s just a clean cut, does everything right, never says a bad word to anyone,” Sherman said this week. “We know him to be otherwise. The defense is strength No. 1 for Seattle, but its group received some setbacks in the NFC Championship Game when Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas III both went down.

THE GAME: He had only two catches for 26 yards in New England’s 21-17 loss to the New York Giants; a desperation heave on the final play fell just out of a lunging Gronkowski’s reach. In that moment of him being himself he said some things and we returned the favor.” We know now that you don’t trash talk Sherman, or the Seahawks for that matter. But Brady got them going. “He was pretty much saying we were nobodies and that we should come up to him after they win,” Sherman said. “We should take that pretty well. ‘Cool, can I get your autograph too?'” The Seahawks won.

The matchup on that side of the field alone will be worth watching for, but how Seattle’s own offensive attack fares against New England could prove to be even more crucial. Carroll, an out-of-the-box kind of leader who once brought in comedian Will Ferrell to address his USC team, has hosted NBA types including Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and former Sonics stars Detlef Schrempf and Shawn Kemp.

And then Sherman, in his second season and still just establishing himself as a top cornerback, tweeted out a photo of him returning the trash talk to Brady after the win, and the words “U Mad Bro?” were added to the picture. EMMITT SMITH, COWBOYS, 1994: The league’s career leading rusher separated his right shoulder in the last game of the regular season; he wound up having offseason surgery. After the NFC title game, Smith was asked about his shoulder, and he joked that Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson “said it’s healed, so I guess it’s healed.” THE GAME: Smith was voted MVP. After he showed up for interviews the next day with that ankle taped, folks starting discussion whether someone such as Mike Wilson would be able to fill in capably.

Few knew about rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, but Carroll understood that his young star was ready. “I remember going into his office before that game saying let me go, I’m ready to go,” Wilson said last week. “He completely agreed. DON MAYNARD, JETS, 1969: Maynard — like Smith and Rice, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame — injured his hamstring in the AFL championship game. Sure enough we went for it.” Rocky Seto, a former USC linebacker, was a holdover from Paul Hackett’s Trojans staff when he picked up Carroll at the LAX Marriott in 2001, and drove the new USC coach to his introductory press conference. Considering the heights he has reached since then — last year’s Super Bowl, the 2003 and 2004 national championships at USC — that year in the wilderness molded Carroll. He was worried about third chances. “It was a crucial year for me,” said Carroll. “I realized that I couldn’t retire — that I don’t understand retirement.

Witness the pipeline that delivers Lynch’s fine payments to the league office. “He understands the needs of the people he’s with,” said Seto. “He adjusts accordingly. Maybe it ends up not the right fit and he has to make a decision, but his whole thing is making everyone as good as they can be as long as they’re here.” Carroll’s sense of humor also has to breathe.

He gave a mock wince at all of the microphones and recorders piled on top. “He’s definitely unique,” said defensive end Cliff Avril. “I don’t know how old he is — 60-something years old, but I don’t think I’ve seen him have a bad day yet in two years. I appreciate it as a veteran, just knowing how it is on the other side.” “I remember watching him in high school when he was at USC, and I thought: Man, I would love to play for that guy,” said Lane, who grew up in Louisiana. “But they didn’t recruit me coming out of high school.

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