Oher's story still resonating with Ravens; more Media Day Snaps
NEW ORLEANS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from Tuesday's Super Bowl Media Day at the Superdome, always the most inane day on the league's annual calendar...
• He's at the Super Bowl, but I suppose it's still a little difficult to be Michael Oher these days. I mean, you've got a book and a movie named The Blind Side based on your story, but you're not playing the blind side any more. That's a bit irksome perhaps. The Ravens offensive tackle switched from left tackle to right tackle at the beginning of the playoffs, with veteran Bryant McKinnie taking over on the left side. And from all indications, it's been a great move for Baltimore, solidifying things up front in a way the Ravens have been seeking all season.
Oher fielded a lot of questions about The Blind Side on Tuesday, and he had fun with most of them. He's always considered the 2009 Sandra Bullock-starring movie to be something of a mixed blessing in his life, and he echoed those sentiments again to the media hordes on this day.
"I didn't like the football part of it, because I've always known how to play football since I was a kid,'' Oher said, taking aim at how the movie's script showed his character to be a football novice. "And the personality was way off. I also look a little bit better. That was a problem, too.''
Oher was kidding around some, but he said he's now comfortable enough with the movie that when Ravens head coach John Harbaugh recently asked him if it was okay to show a clip from the film to the team, he quickly consented.
"They (his teammates) joke about it, jokes here and there,'' Oher said. "It's all fun. I like it. (Harbaugh) asked me if could he show it. I said it was all right. I knew they were going to enjoy it and have fun with it. It's crazy because when it first came out, nobody said one word about it. I don't know if they didn't know what I was going to say or think. But now these last couple of years they actually joke around and kid around about it a lot.''
I asked Oher if he gets royalties every time someone on the Ravens watches the movie, and he quickly fired back: "I don't get a dime. I don't get a dime.''
Oher said he doesn't care if he plays at left tackle or right tackle, as long as he's playing. He struggled at times this season, giving up 10 sacks -- tied for third-worst in the league according to Pro Football Focus -- but he and the rest of the Ravens offensive line have been a finely tuned machine in the postseason.
"I'm not in the movies, man. I play football,'' Oher said. "I work hard on the field. That's why I don't like talking about (the movie), because it kind of takes away from my hard work on the field. I kind of feel a little bit under-appreciated, but as long as my team and the guys in the locker room know what I bring to the table, it's all good.''
• In the history of the Super Bowl, has anyone, anywhere traveled a stranger road to this game than Juan Castillo, the fired Eagles defensive coordinator who was added to Baltimore's coaching staff last week as a consultant, with the title of running game coordinator in store for the 2013 season? I found the well-respected and mild-mannered Castillo standing off to one side and talking to no one during the Ravens' portion of media day, which seemed about right given the reality of his just-got-here situation.
Wearing an unfamiliar white Ravens coaching polo shirt, Castillo had a sheepish smile and looked a little like a guy who won a mail-in contest and got to attend the Super Bowl. He was part of the scene, but not really. Hired after Baltimore's AFC title game win at New England, Castillo has gone from being unfairly scapegoated and run out of Philadelphia in mid-October, to the NFL's grandest stage as February looms.
"I'm just very fortunate and very happy that I got an opportunity,'' said Castillo, fired by then-Eagles head coach Andy Reid in Week 6, after spending 15 seasons in Philadelphia. "I'm at the Super Bowl. But I'm just here to help. I came in and just am doing whatever I can. I broke down some tape, tried to make cut-ups of all the blitzes from the whole season. I just came in to do grunt work. I'm not coming in here saying this is the way we did it in Philadelphia. Because who am I? I'm nobody. They're in the Super Bowl. So they're doing okay for themselves.''
Castillo said Reid offered him the offensive line/assistant head coaching job in Kansas City, and that he had multiple other offers to consider. But he opted to go to work for Baltimore's John Harbaugh, who he worked with as an Eagles assistant from 1998-2007.
Castillo talks as if he'll be a full-fledged member of the Ravens coaching staff on Monday, the day after the Super Bowl, but I asked him if he'll get a ring if Baltimore wins, or if he gets to sit in on the team picture that was scheduled to be taken on the floor of the Superdome on Tuesday.
"I don't know. That's a good question,'' he said. "I just think it's a great compliment that John asked me to work for him, and I think he knows the way I'm going to pay him back is starting Monday. I'm going to show him how grateful I am.''
• I've covered him long enough to know that when Randy Moss gets talking and gets on a roll, you just stand back and let it all be. And Moss was on a roll Tuesday in his hour-long couch session with reporters. Here are some of the highlights:
-- On being largely a decoy in the 49ers offense this year: "I don't like my role. I don't. I like to be out there playing football. One thing that I've always had to really understand was being a decoy. It was put to me, Coach Dennis Green just said, 'Even though the football is not in your hands, you're still out there dictating how the defense is playing the offense.' It took me a while to really understand where he was coming from.
"Later on and now in my career, I understand that my presence out on the field, I don't always have to touch the ball to be able to help the offense score touchdowns. Like I said, I don't really like that, but it's something that I'm used to.''
-- On if he's ever had an imaginary girlfriend (Which was clearly the best question I heard all day): "No. If I did, I never told anybody about it.''
-- On what would happen if somebody tried to hoax him: "Speaking of the linebacker from Notre Dame, I feel for the young guy. We all do some things in our life that we wish we could have back or we regret. I've been a fan of his since he came on the scene playing football and being catfished, I guess. He's not the only one. Big ups to him and I hope he keeps his head up.''
-- On if he has watched the replay of the 2007 Patriots Super Bowl loss to the Giants: "I would probably love to watch it. I really (would). There's just something about '07, being undefeated going into a Super Bowl and losing it like that. I'll never forget that moment, because it's not fun when you're sweating and you have confetti dropping down and sticking to your face, knowing that you're not on the winning side of the confetti.''
The winning side of the confetti. Being catfished. You have to love that. Sometimes I think no one in the world talks like Randy Moss.
• 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws a football so hard that he dislocated one of Randy Moss's fingers with a pass last offseason. And he's not afraid to crank it up, probably owing to his days as an all-state pitcher in California. A 43rd-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2009, Kaepernick said he once hit 94 mph on the speed gun in high school.
He was asked about his pitching mentality by a reporter on Tuesday, and he wisely retorted that it depended on how the batter took their stance in the box. Crowding the plate and leaning in was the reply.
"Then the first one's coming at your chin,'' Kaepernick said, with a mischieveous grin. "But I'm a football player now.''
• I surmised the always loquacious Terrell Suggs would be a happy participant on Media Day, and he didn't disappoint. Suggs was at his best when rallying to quarterback Joe Flacco's defense. The Super Bowl, Suggs said, has given him the stage to call out the Flacco doubters.
"The only one surprised is all y'all,'' Suggs said, meaning the media. "You've all seen me arguing with (ESPN's) Skip Bayless. A shout out to Skip, my frenemy. I've been telling him my quarterback is a top-five quarterback, if not the top.''
Suggs marvels at Flacco's steady-as-she-goes demeanor, saying he can't even get his quarterback riled up with his best mid-game rant.
"He's Joe Cool,'' Suggs said. "He's playing in the AFC championship and no matter how the game was going his emotions never changed. He threw a touchdown, and (Suggs does a polite little pump of his right arm). I say, 'We're going to the Super Bowl,' and he's like 'Yeah, bud, yeah dude.' I'm like, 'Dude, can get I rise out of you?' He's just too cool. Look at him over there (on the next riser). Look at this kid. Let's see if in two questions his emotions ever change. Look at that. Nothing. The guy's stone.''
• Nobody has more pressure on them this week than 49ers kicker David Akers, who led the NFL in field goal misses this season with 14, including one potentially costly 38-yard failure in the NFC title game victory at Atlanta. Akers had a throng around him at all times on Tuesday, and he quickly figured out it wasn't because of his winning personality.
"How many times are you going to see the media surrounding a kicker, besides (Adam) Vinatieri?'' Akers replied, when I asked him if his rocky season put him even more in the spotlight this week than a kicker already is in the Super Bowl. "It's been one of those seasons. If I had an answer for you, I would have changed it and the outcome would have been a lot different by now. It's been a rollercoaster year.''
But what if Akers has the chance Sunday night to wipe away all the frustration of the 2012 season and clinch it for the 49ers with a last-second pressurized game-winner? Secretly, that must be his dream, right? For it to all come down on his shoulders, and he makes the kick that earns San Francisco its first Super Bowl ring in 18 years.
"Oh, I want a blowout,'' Akers said. "Are you kidding me? Who doesn't want to be on the sideline having the time of your life? To me, it's just more important to have the ring and the team victory.''
• Talk about your out-house to penthouse experiences in the NFL. Niners receiver-return man Chad Hall spent parts of the past two seasons and all of the 2012 preseason with the Eagles, and now he's on a Super Bowl team. Hall signed with the 49ers in late November, after Kyle Williams tore his ACL and was lost for the season, and he bounced on and off the practice squad until being activated in time to play in the NFC title game win at Atlanta.
"It's unbelievable I'm here,'' Hall told me, looking every bit the 5-foot-8, 187 pounder he is. "When I heard the 49ers wanted me, I was like, 'Man, they're hot, they're winning, let's go.' But I didn't think this. I didn't let my mind wander this far. This is unreal.''
Hall has pretty much seen both sides of the NFL experience this season. The Eagles were headed for a train wreck. The 49ers were headed for glory. He wasn't good enough to play in Philly, and now he's a win away from a ring.
"This couldn't have turned out better for me personally,'' Hall said. "But that's the NFL. Some people win, some people lose. You just hope you're on the right side of that.''