Furious Titans left out in cold
Posted: Wednesday January 26, 2000 10:02 PM
The Tennessee Titans didn't feel the heat at this morning's news conference and according to CNNSI.com's John Donovan, they are furious with the NFL about it.
The daily event, mandatory for all players and coaches, was held outdoors, in a tent in the parking lot of the Grand Hyatt, the hotel where the Titans are staying.
Donovan noted that the tent was freezing cold (thanks to 28-degree weather), and that you could actually see the breath of players as they spoke. Titans officials expressed outrage over the NFL's lack of preparedness -- as the tents were inadequately heated -- and feared for their players, who might have been caught unprepared. One offensive lineman came to the event wearing nothing more than a T-shirt.
Donovan reports that one Titans official was overheard threatening to withhold players from future news conferences unless the venue was moved indoors.
The NFL has promised more heaters for Thursday's news conference, scheduled for 8:15 a.m.
In the bag
Az-zahir Hakim was standing firm Wednesday on his "guarantee" at Media Day that the Rams would win, Donovan reports. Hakim explains that he was answering a reporter's question if he would go out on a limb and guarantee victory. Hakim says he replied, "Sure." The second-year wide receiver from San Diego State seemed non-plussed about the boast, saying he believes in his teammates. He also alleges the Rams coaching staff is fine with the statement, because they expect that kind of talk from him.
According to CNNSI.com's Damon Fontenot, Hakim also had to withstand a barrage of questions concerning how he manages to get along on a team with such Christian beliefs. Hakim, a Muslim, was eventually perplexed and speechless on the issue.
Staying focused Eddie George wasn't wasting any time in getting ready for the Super Bowl. While most of the Titans and Rams were out and about around Atlanta on Tuesday, George was one of a handful of Titans who headed over to the weight room at Georgia Tech, where the team is working out this week. The security was tight, but CNNSI.com's spies noted that George seemed all business, focused entirely on getting ready for Sunday's game.
Some Rams linemen who figured they wouldn't be getting much attention came to the morning media event prepared. They were spotted playing cards, Fontenot reports.
MVP=PC John Elway, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky -- in town to plug their new Internet venture -- all know what it takes to win championships. But when it comes to picking a champion, it's a different story.
Jordan: You know, I have friends on both [teams] so I hope it's a good Super Bowl. I don't know, flip a coin. I think whoever scores first wins.
Elway: I'll go, I'll break this. I'm an AFC guy. Go Tennessee.
Gretzky just smiled and shook his head.
Jordan: Washington Capitals?
Gretzky: I'm not getting involved.
By George, he's got it
George has learned his lessons well.
A true student of the game, George has great respect for those who played before him and has showed willingness to learn from them. Jeff Legwold, of The Tennessean recounts such a case earlier this season.
"Following the death of Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton late this season, George went to Jeff Fisher, a former teammate of Payton's with the Bears, to ask about Payton's approach to the game and his work in practice.
That discussion was another part of a watershed year for George. While his 1,304 rushing yards was not his best season, the four 100-yard games over the team's last seven -- including the three playoff games -- have been the difference.
Especially since all seven of those games have been Titans victories."
Playing his best in his team's biggest games - just like Walter Payton used to.
It was an inevitable topic for Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair -- questions about being black and being the starting quarterback in the Super Bowl. But he faced down the thorniest subject of media day by putting it in historical and proper perspective.
In The Tennessean, McNair answered the media day queries of those who just had to know.
"To be the second quarterback from the Southwestern Athletic Conference to play in the Super Bowl is a great, emotional experience for me," he said.
"I'm trying to do the same thing he did in the Super Bowl -- win the MVP award," McNair said, referring to former Grambling quarterback Doug Williams' performance for the Washington Redskins 12 years ago.
McNair's teammate, offensive tackle Brad Hopkins wasn't as diplomatic. Tired of the double standard McNair has had to face -- remember the quarterback controversy with Neil O'Donnell earlier in the season -- Hopkins railed on the subject.
"Steve will never be judged fairly when compared to other quarterbacks," said Hopkins. "People can pretend it's not the case, but there's never a level playing field. The Steve McNair saga proves that."
McNair has put this tired -- what should be dead -- issue to rest and is looking at the bigger picture.
"We as people have to realize this is something we all dream about -- white or black," McNair said. "We all dream of playing in the Super Bowl."
While so much has been made about the heart-warming, rags-to-riches story of St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner and how he got to where he is, there is the what-might-have-been saga of Trent Green.
Green was St. Louis' slated starter, until a season-ending injury on Aug. 28, became a window-of-opportunity-opener for Warner.
"Kurt's just had an unbelievable run," Green told Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Not to diminish anything he's done, but I feel with the way I was playing in the preseason, that we would have been able to accomplish a lot of the same things. Now, do I throw 41 touchdowns? I don't know. Maybe I throw less. Maybe I throw more. There's no way to tell.
"It would have been interesting to see how things unfolded, but I can't really get too caught up in that because I'd just drive myself crazy," Green said. "So I'm just trying to focus on getting healthy and concentrate on next season."
Exactly where Green will be playing next season appears to be getting murkier by the week. Team president John Shaw stated a couple of months ago that the team planned to keep both Green and Warner for one more season.
"You'd like to think you're not going to lose your job to injury, but these are definitely circumstances that aren't normal.
All that glitters...
All you have to do is ask anyone who has one. "It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that ring."
Paul Kuharsky of The Tennessean went jewelry shopping yesterday and got the following comments from Super Bowl and conference champions, who lead with their ring finger:
"The ring is the single most important thing in sports. It's the best of all the world championship rings. It's the one I think is the most gaudy, I guess for lack of a better word. You play for the ring. Money comes and goes, the fame comes and goes, but the ring is that reminder of the group of men you that you sacrificed and played with."
-- Joe Theismann, who quarterbacked the Washington Redskins to the Super Bowl XVII title
"For every guy who's been here, it's been the most important event of their football playing career. Forget about being MVP, forget about being in the Pro Bowl. Those things are nice consolation prizes if you don't get a Super Bowl ring."
-- Lynn Swann, who won four rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers
"I'm very proud to say that I've got four AFC Championship rings. They're not world championship rings, but I'll still be proud to show them to my children and my grandchildren."
-- Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly
Reality set in again for St. Louis linebacker Leonard Little. Instead of having the time of his life, Little had to relive what he told the was "the lowest point of my life." He was forced to recount a drunk-driving accident from Oct. 15, 1998 that took the life of a 47-year-old woman.
"It's very hard" to face the interrogation, said Little, who nervously tugged at his Rams baseball cap, occasionally pulling it down over his face, throughout the Q&A session. "This happened a year and a half ago. I just keep getting the same questions all the time."
Little emphasized, however, that he neither expects nor desires any sympathy. That, he said, should go to the Gutweiler family. What Little does have is the love and support of his teammates.
"Leonard's family," said linebacker London Fletcher, his closest friend on the team. "He was family before his unfortunate situation, and he's going to be family always. Leonard's a stellar person, a religious person, and he's had to battle this. We all love Leonard, and we're glad to have him with us."
But that still doesn't change the hard reality. "I don't care what I go through the rest of my life, I'm still going to think about the situation anyway," he said. "On-the-field accolades are good, but a ring doesn't change this tragedy."
The cold shoulder
According to Jim Auchmutey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the most common question of foreign (as in out-of-state) journalists was "what happened to the 'hot' in Hotlanta?
Grumbling is something that comes naturally to media people, and there was a fair share of it Tuesday at photo and interview day, the NFL's annual cattle call for Super Bowl players and reporters. For one thing, the arctic air that had the pansies out front shriveling like crepe paper caught some of our visitors by surprise. They're used to the temperate mercies of Florida or Southern California this time of year.
"I thought Atlanta was in the South," groused Lou Richter, a German broadcaster with SAT-1, who arrived with his own mascot, a life-sized, walking football. (Anything for publicity.)
"We thought it was going to be like Miami," said Jose Roberto Espinosa, a play-by-play man with TV Azteca in Mexico City. "We got off the plane yesterday, and it was snowing."
The Mexicans hurried to Lenox Square to buy sweaters and coats.
There was a bright side, however. "You have good shopping here," Espinosa added, diplomatically, holding onto his new leather jacket like Linus clutching his blanket.
Espinosa will need his new jacket for the next few days as the forecast calls for temps in the 30s before reaching a balmy 48 on Sunday.
Win one for the "Gupper"?
Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his nickname from his playing days with the Bears: "Guppy."
The coach explained that Bob Fisher was a tight end his rookie season. Since Bob Fisher was 6-foot-5, and 250 pounds, and Jeff Fisher was 5-11 and 185 pounds, Bob was called "Fish."
"So I was called 'Small fish,' and that later became 'Guppy,'" the Titans coach said. "Then he deadpanned, 'I'm happy to see it's just resurfaced here after 15 years.'
Say why it ain't so, Joe
Joe Theismann, one of the former players turned broadcasters who seem to be multiplying at photo and interview day, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that current players have become too vanilla.
"Because guys are making so much money they're scared to death to say the wrong thing to lose all that money, wouldn't you?" Theismann said. "Plus, I don't think a lot of guys want to take the pressure on their shoulders. No guy wants to come out and say we're going to beat this team, because in truth, it's not an individual sport."
Players were more open when asked to pick their favorite song, name a Backstreet Boy or their favorite cartoon character or for permission to sniff their underarms (from a Comedy Central reporter).
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