Today had to be more of a single-shot blog because of a busy morning. Sorry about that, but I'll try to give you a look at what happened behind the scenes.
For me, Wednesday started out with a big trip to Steelers press conferences at the University of South Florida basketball gym, where (I'm assuming) the team was conducting an early morning training room session.
These are much, much more tame than the annual Media Day festivities that took place Tuesday. Reporters actually ask – gasp! – real questions that pertain to articles they are writing.
I took the time to work the room and find out what the Steelers thought about their brand of smash-mouth football, something Ravens fans are familiar with in Baltimore.
I got some great insight from safety Tyrone Carter and defensive tackles Chris Hoke and Casey Hampton.
I'll elaborate on what the players said later on BR.com.
Anyway, Wednesday was the first really busy day on radio row, as some of the big-name guests starting making their rounds.
I saw Floyd Mayweather, Jr. on the NFL Network stage talking with Paul Burmeister. He's promoting a future fight with Manny Pacquaio after coming out of retirement. The self-proclaimed best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is in some big-time IRS debt, as many news sources have reported that he owes $6.2 million in federal income taxes. And, he recently said that $7 million worth of jewelry was robbed from his home. Bummer.
Mayweather didn't seem to let that phase him, though. He was laughing and chatting it up like the entertainer that he is.
Mayweather wasn't the thing that interested me the most, however. His bodyguard was an absolute monster. This guy had to be 6-foot-10 and about 360 pounds. When he stood next to the diminutive Mayweather, he looked even bigger.
I was particularly struck by his size because I'm constantly around dudes like Jonathan Ogden – who is broadcasting all week with Anita Marks on WFAN – and Jared Gaither. This guy had them beat. I imagine that his hands and feet weren't as nimble as the Ravens' pair of left tackles, however.
There were some other notable names sitting down with various radio stations. Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Montana, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, some Hooters girls and a pair of Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders.
But the guy that stood out for me was former Ravens personnel man and Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage. When I saw Phil, he was chatting with Pat Kirwan on Sirius Radio. Because of the fact that he was doing radio interviews, I'm led to believe that he is in the running for one of a few front office jobs around the league and wants to keep his name out there.
One thing's for certain, he's not coming back to the Ravens after Eric DeCosta was just promoted to director of player personnel, Vince Newsome is now director of pro personnel and Joe Hortiz is the director of college scouting.
Before I sign off, I asked our 2008 intern, Denver Parler, to contribute an entry that discusses his first Super Bowl experience. He apparently was struck by Mayweather's body guard, as well. Without further ado, heeeeeeeere's Denver!
Wednesday. Hump day in the madness that is Super Bowl week.
This is my first time working a Super Bowl, and the whole experience has bowled me over so far. This truly is a spectacle of astounding proportions – and the game is still four days away.
This morning took me to the Arizona Cardinals' team hotel. Part of my job here is to track down and speak with a couple of players so that the NFL's PR staff can distribute quotes to the media.
I was on Steve Breaston and Karlos Dansby duty.
As an Arizona receiver, Breaston, a second-year player out of Michigan, is part of one of the deepest position groups on any team in the NFL. Today, he talked about how his success in the league is largely thanks to fellow wideouts Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin along with veteran quarterback Kurt Warner.
"Picking their brains and gaining knowledge from them has made me a better player," he reflected. "I was always a hard worker, but sometimes you work hard but you're not working on the right things. Being around them, you know what things you need to work on. I think that's been great for me."
A willingness to learn from teammates who have been around and know the drill. Smart guy.
Dansby, meanwhile, addressed the brutal 47-7 shellacking the Cardinals absorbed in the New England snow on Dec. 21. You remember that game. It was the one that emptied out the already-thinning Arizona bandwagon.
Dansby, a linebacker, offered his take on that experience: "That was a straight-up beating that we took up there. The thing about it, it prepared us for this run. We needed that. We needed a wake-up call, and we got it when we went to Foxborough."
In all, the Cardinals appear to be a confident bunch, though they aren't flaunting it. Arizona's media relations assistant, Nate LoCascio (a colleague of mine from my days in NFL Europe whose Amsterdam Admirals fell short against the Frankfurt Galaxy in World Bowl XIV) summed up the team's attitude to me yesterday, saying, "We're here. We may as well win the thing."
The Cardinals are certainly one team that has the offensive firepower to crack that Steelers D, and they feel like they can match Pittsburgh's physicality on both sides of the ball.
Later on, I took a quick walk through radio row, and it felt like a who's who of the NFL – past, present and future.
Joe Montana chatted with Philadelphia's WIP radio while Steelers legend Franco Harris hopped from booth to booth. Baltimore's own Jonathan Ogden made the rounds, as did Deion Sanders, new Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris, Atlanta quarterback and AP Rookie of the Year Matt Ryan and a vast array of other players I don't recognize without their helmet and jerseys on.
About that time, I also had an "I should recognize that guy" moment. From a distance, I saw a fellow that I knew I'd seen before, but couldn't for the life of me think of who he was.
I racked my brain. Couldn't grab a name. No idea. This toyed with me.
Later, I saw the guy walking in my direction. As he passed, I subtly (hopefully) stole a glance at the credential hanging from his neck.
In block letters: JARED.
It hit me. Subway Jared. Really.
Another highlight of Wednesday was seeing the largest man I have ever encountered in all my years on this earth.
Boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather came walking down the main corridor flanked by a pair of body guards, one of whom had to be nearly seven feet tall and at least 400 large ones. He was absurdly huge.
I mean, I work with pro football players for a living, and I thought this guy was gargantuan.
Someone would have to be decidedly stupid to mess with Mayweather in the first place. But tack on his behemoth body guard to the situation, and I'd say with great deal of certainty that Mayweather is a pretty safe dude walking around these halls.
Tomorrow will be a carbon copy of today – player and coach interviews, celebrities of varying magnitude wandering around, lots of hype as the game gets a day closer. We'll see what the day brings.
That about wraps up Wednesday from warm, sunny Tampa. (Sorry, I had rub it in just a little bit.) Talk with you later.