PHOENIX — It’s not that Media Day at the Super Bowl is undignified, precisely. No, wait. It is exactly that. It is a pit of wretched humanity, clustering around football players like moths to flame. Stunt media, military media, media asking about religion, media desperately asking some silly thing or another. This year, there were Mexican puppets, and a guy in a hat wearing a barrel. It’s all relatively ridiculous.
That common thread aside, though, there were two different Media Days this year. First, there were the New England Patriots, who tried very hard to not be overly interesting. Then came the Seattle Seahawks. Take it away, defensive end Michael Bennett. Tell us about riding that police bike on the sidelines after beating Green Bay to get here, to start.
“Black people can’t steal anything from the police, bad things happen,” said Bennett. “So I didn’t steal it, I borrowed it, and that’s the story I’m sticking to.”
Michael, what about the Patriots?
“Today should be the sex cut-off day for the Patriots. It takes a lot of testosterone to beat us.”
Michael, sorry about the bright camera light there.
“I can’t see nothing. I feel like I got pulled over.”
The Seahawks have guys who will deliver clichés like champions, just as the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski, a free radical in their controlled environment. But overall, the difference is this: The Patriots recommend that players obscure the interesting. The Seahawks have the option of clichés, but they’re free to be a show, too.
“The difference is they’re two coaches on two different sides of the spectrum. One is old school, hard-nosed and Pete Carroll is a great guy, he keeps it looser,” says Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner, who was in Seattle for three seasons after leaving the CFL, and who still talks like a Seahawk. “On our way to walking into meeting rooms in Seattle you could hear music blasting, pumping, but none of that is going on in New England. It’s all business-orientated.
“(Carroll) is the ultimate player’s coach. I’ve never met any coach like him as far as the way he approaches the game. He keeps it loose around there which keeps guys loose and you’re not walking on eggshells.”
The Seahawks tell tales of pranks, of mini-basketball competitions before meetings, of goofy videos shown before they study film. They love it. Bill Belichick? That’s the definition of an eggshells guy. In meetings he is known to tell players what questions to expect the next day, and gives them answers. Some say he makes fun of players who say too much.
“Well, somebody obviously said too much if you know that,” says Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington.
“We want to be professional and classy, we want to respect our opponents, respect the game of football,” says New England receiver Matthew Slater. “Everybody when they get here they buy in, one way or the other. They buy into the Patriot way.”
Indeed. As Wes Welker told Sports Illustrated after leaving the Patriots in 2013, “When I’m answering questions from the Denver media, I’m not worried about what the Broncos’ people are going to think. I’m worried about what Belichick will think. Isn’t that crazy?” Asked about this, former Patriot Willie McGinest — who despite being an NFL Network broadcaster doesn’t like talking too much about the Patriot Way — grumbled, “Wes talks too much to the media at times.”
“People hate us because, you know, when you talk a lot of smack, people usually hate you,” said Bennett. “But when you talk a lot of smack and you back it up, they hate you even more. I think that’s what it is. People hate Sherman because he says he’s the best corner, and he plays like the best corner. So, it’s just like one of those things where people just hate us because of who we are, but we embrace it. I like it. I like when people hate us, because our stocks go up, our jerseys are higher selling. It’s pretty cool.
“Sometimes when you have people doing too much, they just forget who they are and they aren’t happy. And when you’re happy, you do a lot of things better.”
“We give them the chance to be at their best,” said Carroll. “That’s why we do celebrate their uniqueness.”
That’s why Sherman could challenge Roger Goodell for the second time in three days, while the Patriots — outside of owner Robert Kraft — have stayed silent. But freedom can run both ways. Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch opened Media Day with, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined, so y’all can sit me and ask me all the questions y’all want, I’m going to answer with the same answer. Y’all can shoot, if y’all please.”
He then answered “I’m here so I won’t get fined,” over and over until everyone lost interest. If he would only graduate to clichés nobody would care, but spiritually, Marshawn Lynch is clearly a Patriot, just as Rob Gronkowski is spiritually a Seahawk.
But there is common ground, too. Browner said that listening to Belichick break down football philosophy this week, he felt like he was listening to Carroll speak. Seahawks defensive end O’Brien Schofield said, “Our first rule is Respect The Team,” which could be a Patriots slogan. It’s two paths to the same place, and here they are. The Seahawks had fun getting here: The Patriots, probably less. Either way works, as it turns out.