I came into Tuesday’s media availability and events even more tired than I expected to be after a wild Opening Night on Monday. Let me set the stage.
After I signed off on Monday’s update for Turf Show Times, I went to get my car from the garage the NFL recommended for parking for Opening Night, only to find that it closed at 10 p.m. ET — right around the time the event ended, and long before I wrapped up my work. I walked all around the area for about an hour trying to find a way in to no avail. I ended up taking an Uber home, and since I live about 45 minutes away, it’s going to cost SB Nation about a billion dollars (OK, not quite that much).
I Ubered back into town for Rams’ media availability on Tuesday morning, only to find out that the NFL had erroneously given us the Rams’ hotel address instead of the address of the hotel where they were actually holding the event. I booked it across a very busy street as quickly as possible, and thank goodness we got there just in time.
All of that to say: Super Bowl week is wild, and it’s a ton to keep organized. You’ve got two different teams doing all kinds of things concurrently all over the city, not to mention the official league events, and the fan experience, and Radio Row, and all of the things the city of Atlanta is doing to showcase Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the press events that brands are doing on a near-constant basis.
The league is trying to manage communicating every detail and change of detail with thousands of people at a time. That’s just one more wrinkle on what is already an exhausting week, and although I’m very tired after last night’s parking garage fiasco (and then accidentally being locked out of my house for 30 minutes because my garage door opener was in my dang car), I’m trying to be patient today.
Patience is an asset in any team media availability situation, but especially this one. I’ve been credentialed with the Falcons for several years, so in general this isn’t new to me. I was on site with the Falcons for the bye week before Super Bowl LI, when dozens of national media folks descended upon Flowery Branch, Ga. In a locker room where I typically had to work around 12 to 15 folks to get a question in for Julio Jones, all of a sudden we had people stacked 10 wide and seven deep around his locker.
I expected this to be crazy. It has wildly exceeded those expectations.
Sean McVay was up first for media availability, and I couldn’t even get a photo because I was crammed all the way in the back of the room trying to avoid getting stepped on by people moving TV equipment around. It’s the first time I’ve been present for a McVay presser, and he impressed me with his intelligence and his mentality about football. I won’t subject you to all of my tweets, though I am sharing updates there daily about this experience. You can find me at @jeannathomas if you’re interested.
Here are some highlights:
On Goff, McVay says the NFC Championship is the best indication of his mental toughness. Says he had been unfazed by adversity throughout his career. “I haven’t really felt like any moment is too big for him.”— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) January 29, 2019
McVay points out two specific plays from Goff that got the Rams into field goal range in the NFCCG that demonstrate that mental toughness and even keel in a hostile and loud environment. “He just handled it like a vet.”— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) January 29, 2019
McVay is downright effusive about Brandin Cooks, says he has been instrumental in the team being here. “I can promise you this — we’re not trading him.”— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) January 29, 2019
McVay was at a podium in a meeting room in a hotel and conference center. The player availability on Tuesday featured C.J. Anderson, Michael Brockers, Brandin Cooks, Aaron Donald, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, Andrew Whitworth, and Robert Woods.
I’d love to be able to talk to all of those guys, but this is what we were up against.
At the player availability and this is a circus pic.twitter.com/ECBM8RnsDg— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) January 29, 2019
I decided to give C.J. Anderson a shot. Surely with Gurley there, people wouldn’t be swarming Anderson, right?
This is what you’d have to deal with to ask CJ Anderson a question pic.twitter.com/f8TupIr7Df— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) January 29, 2019
An aside: I had to walk past Rob Ryan to get to this spot, which was unexpected. There are thousands of surreal and unforgettable moments scattered throughout this experience each day, like walking around and minding your own business and almost physically running into John Clayton.
Anyway, if you’re worried that I don’t have anything interesting to share because player availability was such a madhouse, never fear. The guy I wanted to talk to was definitely Aaron Donald.
You want to talk to Aaron Donald? Lol good luck pic.twitter.com/kpjOYrMQcp— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) January 29, 2019
Don’t worry, though. I’m a pro.
Ya girl’s a seasoned scrum veteran and got to ask Aaron Donald about working with Wade Phillips pic.twitter.com/JjM5HBpvqT— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) January 29, 2019
Here’s what Donald — one of today’s NFL greats — had to say about my favorite coach in the National Football League not named Dan Quinn.
“He’s just a great coach, and a great mind that’s coached a lot of greats,” Donald said. “So you know what he’s talking about, he’s saying that he’s done it. You listen when he says it and you just learn, and then you know he’s going to put you in a great position to have success.
“That’s the best thing about playing with a coach like that. He lets his players play.”
Donald also seems like a legitimately good sport and nice guy. I was standing directly behind the guy who initiated this game with Donald, and it was really entertaining.
This reporter from Denmark just challenged Aaron Donald to a hand slapping game. #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/i3ttte9e6g— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) January 29, 2019
The impromptu game stemmed from a question about Donald’s speed and quickness, which he said he doesn’t really focus on separately from his overall preparation. He’s just been blessed with remarkable speed and quickness. Aside from being a good sport and a nice dude, Donald must also be pretty dang humble, because that’s an understatement.
Also, someone knocked Donald’s name plate off of his podium and I picked it up and put it back because I’m a good citizen, and he said “Thank you.” All the more reason to root for Aaron Donald, good-natured and well-mannered wrecker of offenses.
The rest of my day has been spent in the media workroom swearing about the bad wifi connection and worse coffee and trying to get some writing and work done. This evening, I’ll head over to an event where Todd Gurley will take on Rob Gronkowski in Madden. We’ve got a late media party, so this story will file too early to include those details.
I’ll check in tomorrow to answer your questions and to give you the scoop on Gronk vs Gurley and a fresh update on everything that goes down on Wednesday.