SUPER BOWL NOTEBOOK: PARTIES, PLAYERS AND RUMORS

Al Thompson
Dan Aykroyd gets down at Media Party in New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS: The Super Bowl is known for its great parties leading up to the Big Game and 2013 was no different. Tuesday night it was the Media Party. Over 60 restaurants from around New Orleans set up exhibits with samples of their cuisine for the hundreds of media types who attended the event at the Mardi Gras World on the bank of the Mississippi River in the heart of New Orleans.

The food was as diverse as it was amazing. There were six stages featuring live music and DJs. One of the highlights of the evening was when comedian and actor Dan Aykroyd hopped on stage and performed a song with “Big Sam’s Funky Nation.” Aykroyd was in town promoting his new line of vodka.

***

One of Thursday’s marquee parties was the “Jaws New Orleans Cigar Party,” the 4th annual event on Bourbon Street that
featured premium cigars from the industry’s top brands, single-malt scotch and plenty of football celebrities that included Bill Cowher, Mike Ditka, Mike Golic, Curt Menefee, Jerrold Colton, Mike Quick, Mike Tirico and Harold Carmichael.

The sponsored event was a fund raiser for Jaws Youth Playbook and the United Way for the Greater New Orleans Area.

The food and atmosphere (if you get past all the cigar smoke) was outstanding. Judging from the turnout, Jaworski’s
efforts made scores of underprivileged kids’ lives a lot better.  

***

San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone talked about making sure he is having a good time at the Super Bowl and not taking the massive amount of media so seriously. “Absolutely,” Boone said. “I think people in general and in life take life way too seriously. I think the more fun you have with life, the more fun it will be and the more you’ll just enjoy it.”

Are there people here, media and players who take sports too seriously?  

“They do,” Boone said. “I definitely don’t. But this is fun. I’m taking it all in, soaking it in. You never know how many
times you’re going to get to the Super Bowl. Look at Justin (Smith, DT), playing 12 years and we’ve been here once. You never know how many times you’re going to come so you might as well enjoy it while you are here. Not everybody gets to be Tom Brady.”

***

49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith was asked if the Smiths – Justin, Alex and Aldon – on the 49ers’ roster all decided to just have “Smith” on their jerseys rather than the first letter of their first names listed to differentiate each guy. Justin was caught a little off guard with the question.

I didn’t even know whether that was a fact or not…I think we three guys have very distinct body types,” Justin Smith said with a laugh. “We’re pretty easy to tell apart.”

Alex Smith, true to his quarterback brainy-ness was all over the jersey name thing and the NFL. “It used to be mandatory in the NFL,” Alex Smith said of the first-name letter on all player jerseys when there are common last names. “Now you have a choice. We chose to just go with Smith. Alden and I would have a hard time with that. They’d have to go to the third letter!”

***

Joe Flacco isn’t the only Ravens player who transferred to the University of Delaware after a stint with a Division one program didn’t work out.Ravens rookie center Gino Gradkowski was unhappy with his status and playing time after two seasons at West Virginia and made the decision to transfer to the Blue Hens. Gradkowski said the NFL was not on his mind, he just wanted to play.

“When I decided to transfer it was just because I wanted to play football,” said Gradkowski, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area. “I didn’t want to sit out a year and if I have gone to another D-1A school I would have had to sit out. So I looked at some of the top FCS programs like Villanova, Delaware and JMU. I wanted to go to a place that played good football and competes every year so it worked that I went to Delaware.”

Did Flacco’s success at Delaware influence his decision?

“Not really,” the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder said. “But it was good to see him succeed. It didn’t hurt. I knew that that conference (CAA) produces great players and I knew I would be going into a good place to play football. I wasn’t really worried about the  NFL; I just wanted to go play football.”

***

Quarterback Alex Smith could end up having the last laugh after Sunday. Alex was having a career season when in game 10 he suffered a concussion. In comes backup Colin Kaepernick, who excels to the point where coach Jim Harbaugh decides to stick with Kaepernick and the 49ers end up in the Super Bowl.

Alex though is now the top story in the stove top talk that has already started around the league. The Eagles, Kansas City and New York Jets are just a few of the teams that could be hot to land him. Rumors are all over the country that the 49ers are trying to trade him and that Alex will request his release as soon as the season ends. The first overall pick in the 2005 draft would not budge in his refusal to discuss the matter.

Has he at least thought about the possibilities?

“Not at all,” Alex said. “I’ve heard all the speculation of the teams…this and that…I can do that next week.”

You don’t think about it at all?

“I just don’t,” the 6-4, 217 pounder said. “Honestly. We’re in meetings all day, we’re practicing, I’m not sitting around thinking about this stuff. We’re preparing to play a game, to win a game. I’m not thinking about it.”

Right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Feb 13 - NFL, Ravens - Al Thompson - No Comments

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