SUPER BOWL WATCH: Awards, flag fire, walkthroughs

Associated Press
FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2012, file photo, Indianapolis Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians questions a call during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Indianapolis. Arians has become the first interim coach to win the top NFL award from The Associated Press, taking the 2012 Coach of the Year honors for his work with the Colts. (AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Around the Super Bowl and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the game:

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WATT ALMOST SWEEPS

Houston end J.J. Watt just missed being a unanimous pick for AP's 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The final vote tally with 50 voters:

Watt, 49. Denver linebacker Von Miller, 1.

Watt is the first Texans player to win the award.

— Barry Wilner

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INTERIM TO TOP

Bruce Arians is the first interim coach to win the top NFL award from The Associated Press.

He won 2012 Coach of the Year honors Saturday night for his work with the Indianapolis Colts. Arians now is head coach in Arizona.

Arians took charge of the Colts in late September after head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. The Colts, 2-14 the previous season, went 9-3 under Arians and made the playoffs.

Pagano coached the final game of the regular season and a wild-card playoff match.

Arians earned 36½ votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. Pagano finished second with 5½.

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KUECHLY WINS DEFENSIVE ROY

Linebacker Luke Kuechly of Carolina has won the Associated Press 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Kuechly, a first-round pick from Boston College, led the league with 164 tackles.

He earned 28 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. That easily outdistanced Seattle LB Bobby Wagner with 11.

— Barry Wilner

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RG3 OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF YEAR

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has been voted the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Griffin beat out Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. He was selected by The Associated Press in balloting by a nationwide panel of the media.

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FIRED UP

Here's one way to spend your 37th birthday: Flag burning.

That's how Mike Libber of Baltimore showed his loyalty to the Ravens during Friday night festivities on Bourbon Street in New Orleans' French Quarter.

Libber and his friends filled the long but thin balcony at the Voodoo Vibe bar, and asked bar employees to remove a San Francisco 49ers flag dangling next to a Ravens flag.

"Yeah, take that away," Libber said. "Otherwise, I'll burn it. In fact, let me burn it."

Libber eventually scrounged up $60 from his friends and bought the San Francisco flag from a bar manager.

He took it out onto Bourbon Street and began to set it on fire. It didn't quickly light up.

A crowd gathered, some 49ers fans booed. Moments later, with a small part of the flag burning, New Orleans police officers arrived and stopped the shenanigans.

— Julio Cortez — https://twitter.com/JulioCortez_AP

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WHERE'S BRANGELINA?

New Orleans is crawling with celebrities for the Super Bowl, but Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie don't appear to be among them.

The windows at the star couple's house in the French Quarter are all closed tight, and there's no sign of their omnipresent security. In fact, the only activity at the house is tourists stopping to take photos.

— Nancy Armour — https://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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7 TO HALL, INCLUDING PARCELLS

The Pro Football Hall of Fame will have seven new members.

Coach Bill Parcells, Warren Sapp, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen have all made it to the 2013 class. So have two senior selections, Curley Culp and Dave Robinson.

Five players were eliminated in the final vote: Jerome Bettis, Charles Haley, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams.

Earlier Saturday, the selection committee eliminated Tim Brown, Kevin Greene, Will Shields and former owners Edward DeBartolo Jr. and Art Modell.

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49ERS WALKTHROUGH

The next time the 49ers step onto the field at the Superdome, it'll be time for the Super Bowl.

San Francisco finished up on-field preparations on Saturday with a 15-minute walkthrough. The team has meetings Saturday night.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said the stadium lights are brighter than they were when the 49ers beat the New Orleans Saints here on Nov. 25, so getting his players adjusted to that was important.

Harbaugh invited family members and friends — 11 busloads of people — to attend the short session and come down to the field to pose for photographs.

One person hollered Harbaugh's signature chant from the stands: "Who's got it better than us?"

The rest of the group replied: "No-body!"

The coach smiled.

— Janie McCauley — https://twitter.com/JanieMcCAP

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RAVENS DONE PRACTICING

Baltimore is done practicing on the field for the Super Bowl.

Team officials, friends and family watched as the Ravens went through a short walkthrough at the Superdome on Saturday afternoon.

The 15-minute session was more of a pep rally than a workout.

Running back Ray Rice playfully tackled his mother on the sideline and guard Marshal Yanda had a video camera attached to the top of his Ravens cap.

John Harbaugh describes his team's work this week as "effective."

"We've gotten everything we've needed to get done, that's the No. 1 thing," Harbaugh said.

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GLORY, PLUS CASH

The Super Bowl isn't just about the glory — players for San Francisco and Baltimore both have decent paydays riding on the outcome.

The difference between winning and losing is $44,000, nearly $9,000 less than the median annual household income in the United States from 2007-2011, according to U.S. Census data.

Winning players get $88,000 each, losers get $44,000. That's just cash — it doesn't count the marketing clout gained by going from NFL player to Super Bowl champion.

Super Bowl paydays have gradually increased the last 30 years after doubling in 1983 to $36,000 for winners.

In the game's first 11 years, winners got $15,000 and losers got $7,500.

— Oskar Garcia — https://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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MACKIE COLD ON NY GAME

Add Anthony Mackie to the list of people cold on next year's Super Bowl at the home stadium of New York's teams.

Though the "Gangster Squad" actor now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., he's from New Orleans and thinks a city like his hometown should get the Super Bowl every year.

Mackie said Friday night at an ESPN Magazine party that he doesn't want to sit outside in 30 degree weather and watch the Super Bowl.

"I want to see the girls in their pretty dresses; I want to hang out with the players. I don't want to be outside in the cold in New Jersey," he continued, stressing that Met Life Stadium, where both the New York Giants and Jets play, is actually in East Rutherford, N.J. "You're not in New York. I have to take a bus from Manhattan all the way to Jersey?"

Though Mackie's Saints didn't make it to the Super Bowl this year, Mackie is still passionate about who he wants to win — the Baltimore Ravens.

"I will do everything to not see San Francisco win another Super Bowl," he said, hoping for a bit of karma.

— Nekesa Mumbi Moody — https://twitter.com/nekesamumbi

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LEAVING HIS MARK

If there are some dents in the Superdome roof, blame San Francisco 49ers punter Andy Lee.

Lee bonked several punts off the roof this week as the 49ers practiced for Sunday's Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens. Lee finally lowered the trajectory of his kicks to make sure he got the ball downfield.

"I'm glad he didn't hit those lights," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.

— Nancy Armour — https://twitter.com/nrarmour

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PLAYING FOOTBALL, NOT FUTBOL, IN MEXICO

The NFL wants to return to Mexico, though Commissioner Roger Goodell won't say when.

Back in 2005, Azteca Stadium in Mexico City was the site of the league's first regular-season game outside the United States. But the league hasn't been back, despite playing in Toronto and — now regularly — in London.

Goodell says the league is perfecting things in England.

"We have to make sure that whenever we do come back to Mexico, and I expect we will, that we do it successfully, with the right kind of television support, fan support and sponsor involvement," Goodell said.

"I would expect if we are successful in the UK, where we thankfully are continuing to grow, that we'll have the opportunity to get back there," Goodell said. "And the sooner, the better for me."

— Nancy Armour — https://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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YOU BET WHAT?

Novelty bets on the Super Bowl might be getting out of hand.

Regional specialties between mayors and governors used to be the only norm, but now it seems like every public figure's betting on the Super Bowl — and the wagers are getting pretty elaborate.

Here are three of the better bets:

THE BOOKWORMS: If the Ravens win, San Francisco Public Library City Librarian Luis Herrera has to recite Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" in the atrium of the city's main library while wearing a Ravens jersey. If the 49ers win, Enoch Pratt Free Library CEO Carla Hayden must declaim George Sterling's "The Cool, Grey City of Love" in the Central Library main hall wearing a 49ers jersey.

THE FUZZ: It's a duel of on-field demonstrations for San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr and Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. Suhr vows that Batts will be "Kaepernicking" — flexing and kissing his bicep in imitation of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's victory pose. Batts says Suhr will have to don Baltimore Ravens gear to perform the signature dance — the Squirrel — of linebacker Ray Lewis.

THE BREWERS: Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Md., and Anchor Steam in San Francisco have agreed that the brewery from the home state of the losing team will have to pour the other's beer for a week in their tap room. The tour guides will have to wear the winning team's jerseys.

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WHO DAT?

Wander the streets of New Orleans this week and you'd think the Saints are one of the teams playing in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Entire families are sporting Drew Brees jerseys. Women are wearing rhinestone-studded Saints T-shirts and fleur-de-lis earrings. Men are in Saints jerseys and sweatshirts.

Of course, fans in every host city show pride in their home team. But there's a special bond between the Saints and the people of New Orleans. While they're happy to welcome the Ravens and the 49ers, this city will always belong to the Saints.

—Nancy Armour — https://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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THE PISTOL, EXPLAINED

You'll hear about it from the first time 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stands behind center, and listen to it be endlessly dissected in the Super Bowl.

But just what is this pistol offense San Francisco is running?

Put simply, it's a variation of the shotgun, a formation that has been in the NFL for decades. Former Nevada coach Chris Ault invented it, and gave it the name because it reminded him of a shorter version of the shotgun.

In the pistol, the quarterback lines up 4-5 yards behind the center. Unlike the shotgun, the running backs line up behind the quarterback instead of next to him so they can be in motion when they get the ball and run north and south more easily.

The tweak that makes the pistol even more effective, though, is the read-option. This what Kaepernick runs so well, and what Baltimore has spent two weeks preparing to stop.

In the read-option, Kaepernick turns to his right and tucks the ball in the belly of his running back — all while keeping his eyes on the defense. Based on the first move the defensive end makes — either to the outside or toward the quarterback — Kaepernick will either leave the ball with the running back or pull it out and take off himself to the outside.

Defensive players say the move causes problems because it forces them to hesitate a split-second to see what Kaepernick does with the ball. Often, that is just enough time for running back Frank Gore to slash up the middle or for Kaepernick to take the ball around the right end down the field for a big gain.

— Tim Dahlberg — https://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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GET HERE EARLY

Anyone wanting a cafe au lait or a beignet from New Orleans' most famous coffee shop better be prepared to wait.

Tables were filled, and lines were stretching down the sidewalk at Cafe Du Monde by midday Saturday.

— Nancy Armour — https://twitter.com/nrarmour

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QUICKQUOTE: RAY LEWIS

There are many sides to Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

Even he admits that the guy he professes to be most of the time — deeply religious, a caring mentor, a humble leader — is not the one you see when he puts on his helmet and pads.

"I turn into a different person on the field," Lewis said. "I am a totally different person off the field. But on the field, I'm driven to do whatever it takes for my teammates. There are so many of my teammates here today who I've honored and told them that I would do anything in my power so we can feel that confetti drop together, because that is the ultimate. For me being a leader of this team, I owe that to them."

— Paul Newberry — https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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CULLIVER SENSITIVITY TRAINING

After playing in the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver is immediately starting sensitivity training.

The 24-year-old took a hit to his image this week after making anti-gay remarks to a comedian, saying he wouldn't welcome a gay player in the locker room.

Now, his public relations spokesman Theodore Palmer says Culliver will begin working with "The Trevor Project," an organization that provides crisis and suicide intervention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

Palmer says the group wants to be sure Culliver is genuine about his words.

"It's just an opportunity for him to learn about his comments and educate himself about the LGBT community, and grow," Palmer said. "It's the first step in learning about his words."

After an educational program, Culliver is expected to then pursue volunteer work related to helping gay youth.

— Janie McCauley — https://twitter.com/JanieMcCAP

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MCGRAW ROOTING FOR BLIND SIDE

Country music superstar Tim McGraw doesn't want to explicitly share who he's rooting for to win the Super Bowl. But he gave a pretty big hint.

"It would be nice to see Michael win and see that whole 'Blind Side' story come to completion," McGraw says.

He's referring to Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, whose life was the subject of the film "The Blind Side." It starred McGraw and Sandra Bullock, who won an Oscar for her role.

McGraw, whose new album, "Two Lanes of Freedom," comes out on Tuesday, was in New Orleans on Friday for a very early performance at the House of Blues broadcast live on ABC's "Good Morning America."

— John Carucci — https://twitter.com/jcarucci_ap

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EDITOR'S NOTE — "Super Bowl Watch" shows you the Super Bowl and the events surrounding the game through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across New Orleans and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.

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