Super Bowl LIII officially kicked off its week of hype on the evening on Monday, January 28, 2019, with Opening Night. Held at the State Farm Center in Atlanta, Georgia, the event (formerly known as ‘Media Night’) was a typical mix of pre-game hype, amusement and yes, some news. For the New England Patriots and the Los Angels Rams, this was one last opportunity to soak in the pageantry of being a participant in the Super Bowl. With practices set to intensify on Tuesday, leading right up to the ‘big game’ on Sunday, media and fans alike had the opportunity to learn a bit more about the participants in Super Bowl LIII.
As expected, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski amused reporters with a joke regarding his favorite number (it might be ungentlemanly to elaborate further on that). Players on both teams were asked to solve Rubik’s Cubes and even read fortunes from fortune cookies. In one of the night’s most bizarre requests, Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers actually ate a cricket. Aside from the large media contingents, spanning the entirety of the globe, Patriots fans well outnumbered Rams fans in attendance. Shouts of “We Want Six! We Want Six!” as well as New England’s rallying cry, “We’re Still Here!” could be heard throughout the arena.
Here are some of the highlights from Opening Night for the New England Patriots:
Tom Brady Isn’t About to Help his Competition:
When Brady was asked if he had any advice for his Rams counterpart, Jared Goff, he said, “I’m not giving him any advice!”
Mathew Slater Always Calls ‘Heads’
When asked why he always calls heads for coin tosses, Patriots captain Matthew Slater said it’s a tribute to his dad, Jackie Slater. The elder Slater is a Pr Football Hall of Famer who spent his entire 20-year career with the Rams. Jackie would say that God is at the head of his life, and calling heads on a coin toss is a reminder that faith travels with you everywhere you go. A reporter even produced a quarter for a coin flip with Slater and, you guessed it, it landed heads up. A good omen for the Pats… (cred. USA Today)
Bill Belichick is Seeing Double, and it Can Be Problematic
Safety Devin McCourty said that he hasn’t tried to trick Belichick by switching places with his twin, cornerback Jason McCourty to confuse the Patriots head coach. He did add, however, that Belichick “doesn’t know the difference between us.” McCourty revealed that that once, during training camp this season, Devin and Jason wore the same color undershirt to practice. Belichick had difficulty distinguishing one from the other and playfully quipped if it was necessary for them to dress alike. From that point on, the McCourty brothers continued to wear the same color.
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Noble Shoes to Fill?
Patriots linebackers coach (and de-facto Defensive Coordinator) Brian Flores would not confirm any details on the Dolphins job. When asked about his plans following Super Bowl LIII, Flores advised that he is focused on the Rams, and to “focus on anything else would be a disservice to his players.”
Tom Brady is Not Going to take the Age-Bait
Earlier in the week, Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman was quoted as saying that Brady’s ‘age was catching up with him,” and that the Rams had a game plan in place to “kill ‘em” (referring to Brady and the Patriots.) When asked about Robey-Coleman’s remarks, Brady paused and replied, “Yeah, I don’t have much to add.”
Kill ‘em With Kindness?
Brady was impressed on this night by the question of an 8-year-old boy that asked Brady a question to which every NFL fan wanted to hear the answer.
The boy asked: “How do you focus despite negative fans — a.k.a. the haters?”
Brady responded: “We love ‘em. We love ‘em back. Because we don’t hate back…”
If only more people (fans and media alike) felt that way…
Gronk’s Last Stand?
In what was sure to be a hot topic of conversation, Rob Gronkowski was asked about his future plans for playing in the NFL beyond this year. NFL Network’s Michael Irvin asked Rob Gronkowski if he planned to retire after the Super Bowl. Gronkowski responded by saying:
“I don’t know. I don’t know, I’m thinking (about) how to get myself to go full-go in the game.“
Gronkowski went on to say that he will likely take a couple of weeks following the end of the season to make a decision on his playing status for 2019.
Devin’s Last Stand???
In a bit of an eye-opener, Devin McCourty seemed to indicate that retirement could be a option for him, if the Patriots are victorious on Sunday. When asked about his future prospects, McCourty stated:
“I don’t know for sure, man. I don’t know what else would top winning a Super Bowl with my brother.”
The New England Patriots will face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on February 3, 2019.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the NFL. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC