Hello from the Super Bowl run-up at sunny, 75-degree Phoenix. The Seahawks arrived just after 2 p.m. at a corporate-jet terminal of Sky Harbor Airport then got a police escort for the 10-minute ride to their Arizona Grand Hotel near South Mountain. On the corner of Baseline Road and the sweeping resort's entrance lane, maybe 100 or so Seahawks fans in the video above greeted the NFC champions with cheers of "SEA! HAWKS!"
The news of the 35 minutes or so that Michael Bennett, Russell Wilson, Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Jermaine Kearse and Richard Sherman spoke from raised tables around the curtain from where coach Pete Carroll also spoke came from ... you guessed it, Sherman.
The All-Pro cornerback/one-man newsmaker got asked about the "perception" the Patriots have always played "close to the line" on NFL rules and now with their deflated balls have crossed over that line. Most Seahawks have steered way clear of deflated balls for the last week; Thomas today went so far to say he doesn't watch television or read the papers so he has no idea what's being going on in New England.
Not Sherman. The question was like lobbing an underhanded softball into a power hitter's wheelhouse.
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"There past is what their past is," Sherman said. "I think the perception is the reality. I mean, it is what it is. Their resume speaks for itself.
"Will they be punished? Probably not. You know, not as long as Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell are still taking pictures at their respective homes. He was just at Kraft's house last week before the AFC championship.
"You talk about conflict of interest.
"As long as that happens, it won't affect them, at all."
You can see on the video below, from the 1:30-1:45 mark, the East Coast writers immediately to the right of Sherman failing to contain their glee at the Seahawks' cornerback writing their -- and lot of others' -- stories for them tonight.
The session started with a golf cart full of Seahawks players puttering across the sprawling hotel property headed to a big tent for the first media availability for Super Bowl 49.
"Watch out! I've got Russell Wilson comin through!" the driver shouted.
The driver: Bennett
One of the first questions of Super Bowl week was "How was the flight?" with the Seahawks' official airline partner. The Seahawks' glib defensive end got that query from Dave Mahler of Seattle KJR radio -- and then he showed why I think he will be the national star of this week in Arizona.
"A little bumpy," Bennett said. "You know Delta."
I'm sure that will thrill the team's official airline partner.
Bennett was again wearing the favorite of his long-time friend and mentor, Mark Alexander, who died of cancer last week back in their hometown of Houston. Bennett had tears in his eyes immediately following the NFC championship game last week while thinking of Alexander.
Asked about any disappointment over not playing in the Pro Bowl for which he was selected for the second consecutive year, Sherman said: "The only thing I am disappointed in is that they won't give us our gifts, which is kinda dumb. The NFL is the only league that punishes the players that actually make the all-star game by not giving them the gifts. It's supposed to be watches and some other stuff, but we don't get to get them so I couldn't tell you now."
And if he had ever heard of the issues the Patriots of having to explain right now: "No, I've never thought of inflated footballs. As a kid, you always kept a pump on you. ... Didn't even know about the rule or anything like that."
New England is due to arrive here late tomorrow afternoon.
Sherman, Doug Baldwin, Bennett, Thomas and Brandon Mebane (out for the season following a torn hamstring) are among the Seahawks attending tonight's Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, just west of Phoenix. That, of course, is where the Super Bowl will kickoff one week from today.
Other first-day goodies from the Seahawks' arrival:
--The Seahawks were wowed by the tens of thousands of fans who lined the streets of the City of SeaTac by 9:30 on a January Sunday morning to send the team off to the Super Bowl.
"Oh, it was an amazing turnout," Carroll said. "The 12s, as usual, they weren't just good. They were GREAT. They were hanging off the overpasses."
It was a college-like, carnival atmosphere. And Carroll said it was better than any send-off he ever had while leading USC.
Bennett loved it, too.
"It was like instead of having the game in the stadium it was in the street today," he said. "It was over 60,000 people, maybe even more, all over the place. Kids were throwing Skittles at the bus. They had all kind of stuff going on."
--The ultra-intense Thomas, asked if he will be limited in the Super Bowl by the left shoulder he separated during the NFC title game yet played through: "When I come alive, nothing's limited."
--Kearse has made it big time. One of the six Seahawks on a podium upon arriving for the Super Bowl. Being a cover boy last week after his catch in overtime won the NFC title.
"My mom cleaned out the Albertson's (in their hometown of Lakewood)" of its Sports Illustrateds last week, Kearse said.
--After KJR's Mahler asked Bennett about the sixth consecutive question to begin the defensive end's session, Bennett said while looking at the rest of the three-deep mass of reporters: "I think you are not letting anyone get any other questions, and they are getting mad."
--Bennett on teammate Marshawn Lynch: "I don't get why it's such a big deal if he doesn't want to talk. I mean, he does have his First Amendment rights."
--Bennett, on teammate Chris Matthews getting fined $11,050 last week because the league deemed the wide receiver made an "obscene gesture" after Lynch's go-ahead touchdown late in the NFC title game; when it appeared on the television video and to the Seahawks that Matthews was extending his hand at his waist to shake Lynch's hand:
"Yeah, I know, they just made that up, man," Bennett said. "It's funny because in the NFL, you'll see guys say something to the ref and he won't get fined or something but another guy says it and he'll get fined. It's all about who they like and who they don't want to fine, to me, I think.
"I told him he was guilty by association. Sometimes that happens -- especially when you're black."
--Carroll talked about the familiarity the Seahawks have coming here every season to play NFC West-rival Arizona and playing just last month in the same stadium in which they'll play Sunday.
Bennett, though, had one huge caveat.
"It's different," he said. "Playing the Cardinals, which, they don't have a quarterback. Playing New England, they have a great quarterback."
I'm telling ya', the guy's quality entertainment, every time out.
--Here's a lot of what Sherman said:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Super Bowl XLIX – Sunday, January 25, 2015
QUOTES FROM SEATTLE SEAHAWKS MEDIA SESSION
CORNERBACK RICHARD SHERMAN
(on the team’s fan support this morning leaving Seattle) “It was great. It’s outstanding. Our fans are always phenomenal.”
(on this week’s distractions) “Our team is a very focused team. We’re not an easily distracted team. We know what we’re here for, so it should be a good week for us.”
(on his elbow) “It’s getting better. I had a good week of practice so it should be good.”
(on if he was able to stretch his elbow out) “I’ve been able to move it a lot better than I did earlier.”
(on New England tight end Rob Gronkowski) “I think he’s a good player. Obviously he does well in their offense.”
(on Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane’s comments on Gronkowski) “(Lane is) entitled to his own opinion, but I think (Gronkowski) is pretty great.”
(on what Seattle can learn from the experience of playing New England in 2012) “They’re still running the same plays. There are some tricks here and there, but they run the same offense. You can take a few things. They were a lot younger then. I think they’re more polished.”
(on the differences he can see in himself since 2012) “I have three more All-Pros.”
(on the historical significance of attempting to repeat a Super Bowl win) “I don’t think much of the historical significance of that. We’re just out here trying to win a ball game. Our focus is on that. Our focus is on playing good football. The rest of it will fall in place.”
(on how he felt regarding the recent controversy in New England) “It was indifferent. It doesn’t really affect us at all. It wasn’t like we cared either way, honestly. It didn’t really affect us either way.”
(on not having the intense media coverage that they normally would due to the New England controversy) “It’s all the same. No matter what. Pressure is something that is created by the media. I don’t they feel much pressure, and neither do we, about the situation. There’s no imminent threat of anything happening. There’s no pressure there. Probably a little annoying about being asked the same questions over and over, but that’s not something that anybody isn’t used to.”
(on if the recent controversy has made New England into a ‘villian’) “No. I think they’re still looked at the same way they are always looked at. It’s not like one little thing. I think their fans are still saying, ‘Let’s move on.’ That’s nothing, just like everybody else. That’s not made them the villains. I guess the league comes out and hands out punishments and confirm wrongdoings. Then, I think you have a little bit of that.”
(on how his game measures up against New England cornerback Darrelle Revis) “I don’t measure my game to anybody’s. I don’t have a great answer to that question. I think my game measures up pretty well to myself.”
(on his relationship with former teammate and current New England cornerback Brandon Browner) “We have conversations. He’s still a great friend of mine. We wish him nothing but the best.”
(on Seattle’s wide receivers) “Our receivers are outstanding. They’re outstanding. They do a great job of doing what they’re asked to do. The majority of that time it’s blocking. When the game is on the line and it’s happened on a few occasions throughout these playoffs and playoffs last year – they step up to the challenge. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse make big plays for us. Our tight ends – Luke Wilson, Tony Moeaki, Cooper Helfet – have made big-time plays for us. I think they are good as we need them to be. If they were in a pass-happy offense, their numbers would swell just like everybody else’s. But they’re not in a pass-happy offense. They’re in an offense with Marshawn Lynch as a focal point and Russell Wilson and our running game. They do a great job with what they’re asked to do.”
(on facing New England quarterback Tom Brady) “We just faced Aaron (Rodgers). We face great quarterback every year. We faced Peyton (Manning) last year. You have a great feel and respect for what they’ve been doing in this game and their longevity.”
(on New England’s receivers and how Seattle matches up against them) “I think we match up fine. I think they’re similar to our receivers in that they’re underrated, they don’t get a lot of the spotlight. But they do a great job. Julian Edelman has had a fantastic year. They do great with what they’re always asked to do. They’re not always asked to have huge games and to have a huge effect on the game, but they work hard, they run their routes precisely and when they’re asked to make big plays, they make them.”
(on how well cornerback Byron Maxwell has played since being thrown in late last season) “Maxwell has been phenomenal for the past two years that he’s been allowed to play. He stepped in and we had a seamless transition. He made big play after big play whether it was an interception or tipped balls, or the play in the Super Bowl where he had a big-time punch out (fumble) on Demaryius (Thomas). I think every year he just finds a new way to develop his game and take it to a new level. I think he’s a tremendous asset to the defense.”
(on where the edge continues to come from in regard to Russell Wilson and the rest of the team) “Well, the motivation for a lot of us is a chip on our shoulder. Obviously, he was drafted in the third round, it’s repeated. But no matter how much you get paid, no matter how many career goals, how many accolades you get you never forget that disrespect that you had to deal with. He was a third rounder, thought he should have been a first rounder and peoples’ slights on him were physical traits that he couldn’t do anything about. It wasn’t his ability on the football field, it was he’s too short. Obviously, he’s tall enough to make the Super Bowl twice, you know? There’s 6-5 quarterbacks that are at home right now. I think that’s the biggest motivation for a lot of our players, the slights.”
- SB XLIX -