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Fun And Football At Super Bowl Opening Night

Posted Jan 29, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – So how, um, unusual was Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday at the Xcel Energy Center? Donnie Jones punted a ham-and-cheese sandwich that long snapper Rick Lovato, a former sandwich maker before signing with the Eagles, slapped together and then snapped to Jones ...

ST. PAUL, Minn. – So how, um, unusual was Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday at the Xcel Energy Center? Donnie Jones punted a ham-and-cheese sandwich that long snapper Rick Lovato, a former sandwich maker before signing with the Eagles, slapped together and then snapped to Jones.

Comedian J.B. Smoove asked head coach Doug Pederson about creating an app for walking. Players dressed in costumes and answered questions and had themselves a ball in front of approximately 2,000 credentialed media members and another couple of thousand fans in attendance.

Every Eagles player and coach, along with Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman, spent an hour meeting the media. Fun times. Good laughs and memories to last a lifetime.

“Meeting J.B. Smoove was cool, man,” wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said after Smoove opined that, “Alshon Jeffery has one of the best names in the league. He’s gonna have a big game.” You get the idea.

“He’s my guy," Jeffery said. "That was the highlight of the night.”

“The craziest interview I did was with a group that said a name to me and I had to tell them whether it was the name of a lake in Minnesota or a SoundCloud rapper,” safety Rodney McLeod said. “It was fun. I think I got about two out of 10 right. I mean, all you can do is laugh. It’s the Super Bowl. This is great.”

Defensive end Chris Long revealed that he made a bet that he would add a portrait of linebackers coach Ken Flajole to his impressive tattoo collection if the Eagles win on Sunday.

Prior to the media time, the players, all of them, put on “appearance” jerseys and sat on a chair in a makeshift studio and introduced themselves to the NBC Sports cameras to be used during player introductions for Super Bowl LII.

As you understand, the media plays a huge part in this whole production during the week. Blocking out the distractions is such a key part of the equation, and from Monday through Thursday the reporters, all of them, have access to the players. From Friday on, the media is closed out.

And the NFL has long embraced what used to be called Media Day, but now has been turned into a television event. It was a long night; players weren't back on the team buses until 10:30 p.m.

“I’ve never had this experience, so I’m going to enjoy every bit of it,” tight end Brent Celek said. “I didn’t think it would take this long to get here, but now that I’m here I’m going to prepare myself the right way and do my job. Being here with the reporters, it’s all just a lot of fun.”

That was the general feeling for a team that has kept the same, loose personality all season. They’ve rolled with the punches this year, and they’ve taken a lot of them. Doesn’t matter. Nothing fazes the Eagles.

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“It starts at the top, with Doug,” quarterback Nick Foles said. “He’s not going to change. He’s not going to flinch. In the two years he’s been here it hasn’t been a smooth situation. But look where we are.”

Where they were on Monday night was at the center of attention in serious ways, and in wacky ways. Reporters had a lot of fun with Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s name. The local cameras wanted to know the players’ knowledge of the area. Television cameras from Mexico wanted promos in Spanish. Former figure skater Nancy Kerrigan floated around working for Inside Edition. Running back Jay Ajayi was a hit with the British media.

Nothing that happened on Monday night will impact Sunday’s game, but the players certainly drank in the show. They had their cellphones out recording the proceedings as they were introduced and the arena with many Vikings fans booed. Actually, the fans booed both teams. But these Minnesotans have a sore spot for the Eagles after the 38-7 Philadelphia win ruined party plans around here.

“This is all part of it and you have to understand it and have fun with it,” said right tackle Lane Johnson, who wore sunglasses through the entire night. “There are a whole lot of reporters here. I had heard about it, but then you see it and it hits you. Everyone is paying attention to this game. It’s the only game in the league, the last game. We’re going to go out there and play our best game.”

For the record, by the way, Smoove was undecided on who he thinks will win on Sunday, but he sounded like he might be leaning toward the Eagles.

“You know what? I’m torn. I want a good game, a good game,” Smoove said. “These guys here, the Eagles, they’re doing very smart things. As long as they play their game, they’re going to be all right.”

That’s a wrap. If Smoove is on the Eagles’ train, then it’s all going to be just fine on Sunday.

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