Monday, January 30, 2012
Calm before figurative Super Bowl storm
By Mike Sando
INDIANAPOLIS -- Yes, it's cold here in central Indiana. But not NFL scouting combine cold.
The weather for Super Bowl week is exactly freezing at present, with moderate winds adding bite to the winter air, but I've felt a much colder chill while spending roughly two months of my life covering various combines over the years.
It's still strange being here for a Super Bowl instead of the NFL's signature predraft event. The combine will return in a few weeks, as usual.
The Monday before the Super Bowl is arrival day, even for teams getting into the host city a bit earlier. It's the day when players and coaches start to feel a gathering media storm unlike anything NFL players experience in any other setting. It's the day when they know they've arrived on sports' biggest stage.
The schedule calls for the AFC champion New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and various players, including NFC West alum Deion Branch, to appear beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The NFC champion New York Giants are on the schedule an hour later. Seeing their various names listed on the schedule -- Tom Coughlin, Victor Cruz, Mathias Kiwanuka, Eli Manning, Antrel Rolle, Chris Snee and Justin Tuck are up Monday -- recalled in my mind the Giants' 20-17 victory against the San Francisco 49ers eight days ago.
This could have been the 49ers' stage.
The Super Bowl could have been welcoming Jim Harbaugh instead of Coughlin, Vernon Davis instead of Cruz, Patrick Willis instead of Kiwanuka, Alex Smith in stead of Manning, Carlos Rogers instead of Rolle, Joe Staley instead of Snee, Justin Smith instead of Tuck. The 49ers surely would have found a spot for Frank Gore in there, too.
Watching this week from afar will presumably magnify in the 49ers' minds just how close they came.
Not that the NFL has any reason to complain. A Giants-Patriots rematch of the Super Bowl four years ago carries obvious appeal.
I'll be heading to both teams' media sessions later Monday, with a few NFC West angles in mind.
The media workroom here at the J.W. Marriott hotel was empty when I arrived early Monday. That is beginning to change, but it's still early. Momentum will begin to build late this afternoon.