NFC South: Brian Cearns

I just sent in my final ballot for the Pro Football Writers of America annual awards and it’s fair to say there were a number of NFC South votes on there.

The ballot had been narrowed down to five finalists for each award. I had made an NFC South nomination in each of the five categories and I do have to admit I’m a little disappointed that former Tampa Tribune sports editor Tom McEwen was not a finalist for the McCann Award and former Carolina fullback Brad Hoover didn’t make the final cut for the Good Guy Award. I had nominated both and felt very strongly about those nominations.

Anyway, we’ll move on to the people who are finalists for each of the awards. Tampa Bay running back Cadillac Williams, who has overcome two major knee injuries, is a finalist for the Halas Award, which is given to the person who overcomes the most adversity.

Atlanta’s top-notch public relations staff of Reggie Roberts, Frank Kleha, Matt Conti and Brian Cearns is a finalist for the Rozelle Award, for the league’s most helpful PR staff, for the second straight year.

Longtime New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney is a finalist for the McCann Award, which goes to a writer for long-term contributions to the business. That helped me absorb the McEwen blow. Finney is to New Orleans what McEwen is to Tampa Bay -- a sports face of the area. McEwen gave me my first job in the business, so I’m admittedly partial. But I’ve gotten to know Finney through the years and he’s a fine gentleman and a very worthy candidate.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is a finalist for the Good Guy Award, which goes to the player who does the most to help the media do its job. No argument against Brees. One other thing on Brees I should share with you: A lot of times, the media might paint a guy to be better than he is just because he can throw a football -- or run fast or whatever. But Brees is one of those guys who is every bit as good of a person as you'd imagine.

There is no NFC South tie to the five finalists for the Horrigan Award, which goes to a person who is not a player or public relations worker, who does the most to help the media do its job. I made a nomination for a certain NFC South executive. He didn’t make the cut, so I won’t name him. He’d be embarrassed (and turn red) anyway because he doesn’t like attention.
MIAMI -- Already, there’s an NFC South flavor to the Super Bowl and we’re not even talking about the New Orleans Saints yet.

One thing I’ve tried to do this week is give you a bit of a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how things work at the biggest show in sports. The Saints may be the only NFC South team playing in this game, but the other three franchises have people working the game.

Just a few minutes ago, I had the opportunity to run into Charlie Dayton, the dean of NFC South public relations directors, and several branches of his version of the Bill Walsh coaching tree. Dayton, who has been with the Carolina Panthers since before they played their first time, spent a little time catching up with me and Ted Crews, who, as best anyone can figure, is the only P.R. director to endure two 1-15 seasons.

Crews joined the St. Louis Rams as the main man last season after spending his career with the Panthers and Falcons. Crews said the Rams’ season wasn’t nearly as miserable as the 1-15 season the Panthers endured under George Seifert in 2001. In that season, there was no hope for Carolina fans and a coaching legend fell apart. At least the Rams are young and have room to grow.

Also in the media room is DeeDee Mills, who has worked for the Panthers since the start. She, Dayton and Crews will be helping the media throughout the day and night. The Atlanta Falcons also have Brian Cearns here and I’ve seen an intern from the Buccaneers helping out.

There’s another behind-the-scenes NFL connection to this game: That’s Carolina’s Brandon Beane, who basically handles all travel and logistical issues for the Panthers. Beane was brought in by the league to help out with logistics throughout the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl.

Some other NFC South dignitaries I've run into throughout the week include Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer, current ESPN broadcaster and former Carolina and Tampa Bay receiver Keyshawn Johnson and current ESPN broadcaster and former Tampa Bay quarterback Trent Dilfer. Atlanta coach and Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff also have been making the rounds.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Just had a very adventurous ride from Miami up to Fort Lauderdale and over to Davie. We’re having some heavy rain in South Florida and I don’t think the speedometer got above 30 mph on the ride.

Anyway, I have set up in the media room at the Miami Dolphins facility. The Saints haven’t arrived yet, but they should soon and will get some work in the indoor bubble this afternoon before meeting with the media. A league official said the Saints currently are dressing at the University of Miami and will be getting on buses to come up here in a few minutes.

This practice and media session originally was scheduled for the University of Miami, but the rain has forced the Saints to move indoors. League officials and veteran Dolphins PR guru Harvey Greene are scrambling right now to get set up for the news conferences. It’s a tough situation, but Greene is one of the best in the business and he and his staff (which, today, includes Brian Cearns of the Atlanta Falcons) are working frantically with the league to get things set up.

The interview sessions initially were scheduled for 3:45 p.m. I’ve been told they’ll be pushed back somewhat, but not sure how long. As of right now, coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees, running back Reggie Bush, guard Jahri Evans, safety Darren Sharper, defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma are scheduled to be available to the media today.