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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Media day frenzy

The rookie reporters who were complaining about the opening day interviews of Super Bowl week got their first taste of what this is really like Tuesday at media day at Ford Field.

With more than 3,000 credentialed media here this week, obviously not everyone here is covering this from a sports angle.

As we were herded through the media gate - with a security scan at the end - we headed into Ford Field en masse. The players were already set up down on the field, some in booths, other just milling about.

And then the games began. Television jerks from around this country and the world push and shove trying to get their cameras in front of the players in order to ask -seemingly - the dumbest questions they can come up with. These guys must sit around and think of this stuff all year, saving it for this day.

I wanted to talk with Steelers quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple about how he felt Ben Roethlisberger would handle game day - some quarterbacks have thrown up or had trouble breathing in the huddle - yet Chris Berman and Chris Mortensen from ESPN had him cornered for most of the event, even though they weren't recording anything. Nothing worse than that.

As I waited to talk to Max Starks, TV crews from Denmark and Great Britain forced their way in and asked him to flex his biceps. Yep, that's must-see TV there.

As I was leaving, I saw Chris Hoke walking out and he came over to say hello. I asked him what the dumbest question or thing he saw in there was and no sooner had he replied that he hadn't really seen or heard anything, when a TV station from Mexico came up.

I can only assume it was some kind of TV show for kids or something because the questioner was a hand puppet dressed to look like Troy Polamalu. Again, that's good TV.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Long and winding road

Photo by AP

Talk about a long day!

My day began at 6:30 a.m. Monday in Washington and is still going strong now here at 9:30 p.m. in Pontiac.

I arrived at the airport this morning and watched the players hand out their No. 6 Notre Dame jerseys. Maybe it was too early in the morning for me, but it took me a while to figure out why they were wearing them.

Once we landed here in Detroit, the drive from the airport to our hotel in Pontiac actually took longer than our flight from Pittsburgh. No joke. We landed at 10 a.m. I checked into the hotel at 11:30.

Then, it was on to the NFL's media center in downtown Detroit. I got together with a couple of other writers and we got a car to take us down to the city, about 30 miles away. Our bill was $70, but it beat the $150 two other guys paid for a taxi cab. Ouch.

The media center is where it's all happening. After getting credentialed, we went for lunch. As I was sitting at my table eating, I looked up to see former Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly chatting with some people over my friend's shoulder. Chuck's aged a little since his days on the Pistons' bench, but as a fan of the team, I recognized him immediately even if not everyone else did.

The big news for the Pittsburgh media people today was Mark Madden's heart attack Sunday. It was definitely making the rounds, especially for a harried Tim Benz, who had to go on the air to replace Madden.

The interview sessions in the afternoon were ridiculous. Head coach Bill Cowher addressed the mass of media first for about 20 minutes before six players were led into a ballroom with a station set up for each of them.

The biggest draw, of course, was Jerome Bettis, who actually drew a larger crowd than Cowher did for his session. Some of the guys who haven't been through this before commented on the ridiculousness of it all, but they haven't seen anything yet. Wait until media day Tuesday at Ford Field.

I finally made it back to my hotel at 7 p.m. - car fare $79 - and came to the realization that after 12 hours of work, I hadn't written a word yet. Talk about depressing.

Oh well, this is the Super Bowl, after all.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Kimo's birthday

Kimo von Oelhoffen wasn't in the locker room when I got in there Saturday, so I approached Aaron Smith, his best friend on the team.
"Hey, you guys got anything special planned for Kimo's birthday Monday?" I asked.
"It's Kimo's birthday?" he replied.
Smith didn't know, but as he explained, players don't often talk about such things, especially once they get on the wrong side of 30, which von Oelhoffen is - he'll be 35 Monday.
"Maybe we'll get him a 40th birthday cake," said Smith, his wheels now spinning. "Or maybe a walker. That'd be pretty funny."
The best birthday present is a trip to the Super Bowl, which is how von Oelhoffen will celebrate his 35th birthday. Sure beats cake and ice cream.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hampton in the Pro Bowl

It was good to see Casey Hampton get to the Pro Bowl when New England's Richard Seymour pulled out because of injury.
Hampton doesn't put up big stats, but he's the lynchpin to the Steelers' 3-4 defense.
Plus, while Seymour is an outstanding player, he missed half the season with injuries this year.

Super Bowl blog

OK folks, here's your chance to get the inside scoop on what's really going on at the Super Bowl. I'll be there all week long giving you the stories about the game and any little funny incidents thats happen that just won't make it into the daily newspaper.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What Palmer's injury means

Sorry I haven't updated the blog for a while, but with the Steelers in the playoffs, there hasn't been much time, especially since they've been on the road every game.

There have been a couple of huge injuries that will affect fantasy football next season.

The first one, I witnessed in person in Cincinnati when Carson Palmer went down on his first throw of the game with torn knee ligaments.

Palmer's injury, by most accounts is very serious. The team is saying he'll be back before the regular season begins, but don't believe that. The Bengals are saying that because backup Jon Kitna is an unrestricted free agent and can demand a larger contract knowing that Palmer won't be ready to start the season.

It's more likely that Palmer will miss at least the first four or five games of next season. I'll keep you updated on this situation.

Carolina running back DeShaun Foster was the other big injury, as he suffered a broken ankle in a win at Chicago.

Foster has been injury-prone during his career, but he'll have six months to rehab this injury.

Stephen Davis is likely done in Carolina, but they won't go into next season with just Foster and Nick Goings as their top running backs. Keep an eye on who they draft or sign. But Foster should be ready to go at the start of next season.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Keeper tight ends

OK. You've got Antonio Gates in your keeper league, but you also have two stud running backs, say Edge James and Clinton Portis.
Who do you keep?
It's a no-brainer actually. You have to keep Gates because he's so much better than the rest of the tight ends out there, including Tony Gonzalez and Jeremy Shockey.
Would I keep Gonzalez or Shockey over a stud running back? That's where it gets a little more difficult.
Gonzalez had a bunch of catches again this season, but didn't score many touchdowns. Shockey, meanwhile, has been somewhat injury-prone during his career.
But there are certainly more good running backs available - and plenty of more help coming in this year's draft – than there are stud tight ends.
If you can be happy with Heath Miller at tight end, go ahead and keep the running backs. But if you want the best, you're going to have to protect Gates, Gonzalez and Shockey.