This week before the Super Bowl is the week that teams get all their work done, not just on the field but also off. Preparing the offensive and defensive game plans, and implementing them in practice, studying tape on your opponent, and taking care of your bumps and bruises, as everyone has them at this time of the year. Patriots QB Tom Brady was shown in New York last night with a protective boot on his right foot, so no one is immune from injury in this….the most violent sport of all.
Playing in a Super Bowl is a monumental task. Teams have to get their travel plans intact, when they will leave, where they will practice and when, get their uniforms, equipment and everything else involved in playing a football game shipped to Arizona.
The team effort shows up on the field on Sunday's, but there is so much that goes into the final product that fans don't see, which is why football is considered the ultimate team sport. On top of all this activity, teams have to work in some practice, as next week it becomes nearly impossible to get anything done.
So this week, as a player, get yourself as healthy as you can, get plenty of rest, and take care of your obligations, tickets request, getting your families a place to stay, and letting them know you probably won't see much of them until after the Big Game. All of these duties have to be taken care of, because next week, all you want to do is worry about your responsibilities as a player, so you have the best shot to win the biggest game of your life.
Most NFL players families understand this, and know how to stay out of your way, and let you be the professional that you are, but believe me, it's a lot of work to get all of this nailed down in just a few days, especially deciding who is going to get your allocated Super Bowl tickets (we got four tickets per player back in the day).
Once this week comes to a close, the reality sets in as you and your teammates travel to Arizona to prepare for the biggest spectacle in the world -- The Super Bowl.
I remember our flight to Detroit. (despite all of us dreading the cold, we were so excited about playing in our first Super Bowl) and when you hit the ground, it becomes real. The press is everywhere, especially these days, and the attention does not go away until the game is over. We played the Bengals in Super Bowl 16 and flipped a coin to see who would practice in the morning and who got the afternoon. As we both practiced at the Silverdome. Nowadays, they have separate facilities so this is not an issue. But back then, if you were done with practice at noon, that was way too much free time for athletes, who could get in a lot of trouble with idle hands. Fortunately for us, we were stuck in -10 degrees temperatures, and with not much to do, we just stayed in our rooms and rested, instead of taking tours of Motown or a Cadillac plant.
Once teams arrive, they are obligated to do press conferences the first three or four days of the week and then they are shut down on Friday. These are a major pain in the you know what, with press from all walks of life, not just sports. So you usually get some of the dumbest questions you've ever heard, but by weeks end, it breaks up the monotony of it all, and you just roll with it. And by all means, don't give the press anything to talk about, like late night adventures that got you or your teammates in trouble.
Curfew tightens up as the week goes on, even though these are grown men, it's easy to get distracted. With all of these obligations, it becomes hard to get any work done on the field, and this is why you do it the week before. To tell you the truth, practice becomes a godsend this week, as it gets you away from the media, your family, and all of the other distractions that are unavoidable during Super Bowl week.
The week does go by fast, and Friday night is the night to get your sleep. As much as possible, because most of us had trouble sleeping the night before any game, much less the biggest game of your life, the Super Bowl. This is where the Patriots will have a bit of an advantage, as most of their roster has played in a Super Bowl, and know how to take care of themselves during the craziest week of their professional careers. By the time Saturdays final walk through comes around, you are so nervous you can't see straight.
I remember visualizing making the game winning touchdown catch, just like you do as a kid growing up, and it almost came true, but Joe Montana decided to throw it to fullback Earl Cooper instead, and my Super Bowl moment dissapeared. You try and relax as players, but it just seems impossible, so you just try and harness that energy, so your not exhausted in pre game.
I don't remember getting much sleep the night before the game, couple of hours at the most, and decided to take the late bus to the Silverdome (you had a choice of the late or early bus) so I wouldn't sit at the stadium getting even more nervous. Bad choice. Vice President George Bush's motorcade got in front of our bus, so we, like everyone else had to pull over so his motorcade could get through. When that happened, we lost our police escort, and were trapped in pre game traffic. Well all athletes have a pre game ritual in getting dressed, when your taped, how you put on your uniform, and the entire second bus was now out of that routine and getting plenty nervous.
This was back when there were no cell phones, so we couldn't call anyone so we could get to the stadium. Panic was setting in, so Coach Walsh, who could sense our nervousness, stood up using our two equipment managers names said "Don't worry, Chico just threw a touchdown to Cosmo, we're leading 7-0". Well there was some nervous laughter, and we were so close, we were all asking, why can't we just walk. Something called frostbite prevented that. We finaly arrived and of course now didn't have time to be nervous, as we all had to get taped and dressed in 15 minutes, so maybe it helped us, as none of this team had ever been to a Super Bowl.
But for both teams, the tension is so thick the night before and pre game, I think that's why so many Super Bowls don't get off to good starts, it takes a quarter for everyone to settle down. So the Patriots have a bit of an advantage as they prepare for Super Bowl 42, being there before, while the Giants will be in unknown territory as they prepare for the biggest game of their lives. Remember, the Giants had the Patriots beat in week 17, the final game of the regular season but let them off the hook, so we may have a Super Bowl for the ages, but then again, we've heard that before. Either way, the journey begins today at practice for both teams, as we look for our Super Bowl 42 champions.
Mike Shumann-SUPER BOWL 16 CHAMPION