Once known simply as Super Bowl media day, the NFL rebranded the annual media frenzy leading up to the big game as “Opening Night.”
But some things haven’t changed — like Tom Brady and the New England Patriots being there.
For the second straight season and the third time in four years, the Pats took center stage — alongside their Super Bowl LII opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles — at Opening Night on Monday at Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis.
“This could never get old,” Brady told former teammate Willie McGinest of the NFL Network at his podium. “… It’s a big event, so it’s very cool to be here.”
In typical Patriot fashion, Brady didn’t take the gloves off with the media — literally and figuratively.
Brady wore a pair of black gloves, intended to hide the highly-publicized right hand injury he suffered at practice leading up to the AFC Championship Game from the public.
McGinest tried to get Brady to unveil the injured hand, challenging him to a thumb war — but Brady only offered his left hand and laughed.
–It was a homecoming of sorts for Brady, whose mother grew up on a farm in Browerville, Minn. — a place where the West Coast native spent time as a kid.
“I grew up in California, a California kid, but I’ll tell you I’m half Minnesotan, too,” Brady said. “… I didn’t think about it at all until a couple weeks ago. I said, ‘Mom, do you realize if we win where the Super Bowl is?’ She was like, ‘Of course I do!‘”
Brady wasn’t sure if he would get a chance to visit the farm.
–Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is about to compete in his first Super Bowl.
Pretty amazing considering that Foles recently considered retirement.
Foles will be facing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time with five Super Bowl titles.
“He’s a guy I looked up to,” Foles said of Brady. “I’m excited to get to compete on the biggest stage there is.”
Foles took over late in the season when MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his ACL against the Los Angeles Rams. Foles stepped in and led the Eagles to a road win and eventually a 13-3 record, No. 1 seed in the NFC and two playoff wins over the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings.
Like Jeff Hostetler in Super Bowl XXVI and Brady himself in Super Bowl XXXVI, Foles will have a chance to etch his name in NFL history as a backup winning the Lombardi Trophy. To accomplish the feat, he’ll have to defeat Brady and the Patriots.
It’s no easy task.
“First off they have great players,” Foles said. “They scheme well. They understand what we do on film. I can’t wait to compete with them on Super Bowl Sunday.”
Foles shook Brady’s hand in front of the Lombardi Trophy. On Sunday night, they’ll be battling for the coveted trophy.
–Bill Belichick has never been considered on the cutting edge of fashion, unless you count cutting the sleeves off his trademark hoodies.
But the Patriots coach piqued the internet’s interest when he was pictured getting off the plane in Minneapolis wearing, of all things, a fedora.
“That was my dad’s hat, so I thought I’d just toss that one on today,” Belichick said, adding that “Minnesota’s a good place to have a hat.”
Asked if longtime girlfriend Linda Holliday played a role in that wardrobe decision, a smiling Belichick said, “Yeah, she might have had a little bit to do with it.”
–It’s a match seemingly made in heaven — Rob Gronkowski and media day.
But the jovial Patriots tight end was nowhere to be found during the festivities as he continues to recover from a concussion that knocked him out of the AFC title game.
That’s too bad, because Gronk’s presence is enjoyed by more than just reporters.
“He definitely has a joyfulness to him and he brings that to the team, and it’s just a great attribute of his,” Brady said Saturday.
Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, he of the miraculous game-winning end zone interception in Super Bowl XLIX, also skipped out on Opening Night with an illness.
–Fletcher Cox surprised reporters in Philadelphia last week when he boldly stated that he has never watched a Super Bowl on television.
In an interview with Deion Sanders at Media Day, Cox reiterated his stance.
“I’m just an old country boy from Mississippi,” Cox said. “I like hunting. I like fishing. Football … I love football. The outdoors – that’s what drives me.”
Cox has 10 tackles and one sack in two postseason victories. More than that, the $100 million defensive tackle has been a team leader while the Eagles have been considered underdogs since Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL.
“That’s been our story all year,” Cox said. “The defense, we’ve won when everybody counted us out. … We proved we could be the better team week in and week out.”
The daunting task now is slowing Tom Brady.
“You’ve got to play 60 minutes against the guy,” Cox said.
–Not surprisingly, controversy made its way to Brady’s podium on Monday night.
Making his regular weekly appearance with WEEI sports radio in Boston earlier in the day, Brady took issue with host Alex Reimer previously calling his 5-year-old daughter an “annoying little pissant” after her brief cameo in Brady’s docu-series “Tom vs. Time.”
“I understand that criticism is part of sports, but I certainly don’t think that my children or any other children deserve to be in that, so that’s how I felt,” said Brady, who abruptly ended the interview and threatened to end his longstanding relationship with the station.
Asked if Reimer should be fired, Brady said he hopes the host won’t be terminated.
“We are disappointed and embarrassed by Alex Reimer’s on-air comments made last Thursday evening,” Mark Hannon, senior VP/market manager at WEEI said in a statement. “His remarks were utterly indefensible, and mean-spirited commentary directed in any way at children is wholly inappropriate. Mr. Reimer remains suspended indefinitely from all WEEI platforms.
“We deeply regret what happened and offer our sincerest apologies to Tom Brady, his daughter and his family, as well as the New England Patriots organization. Mr. Brady has been a long time contributor to WEEI throughout his Patriots career, and he has treated us with the utmost professionalism and respect throughout the partnership. We have communicated our course of action to the Patriots and Tom Brady, and they are in support of our disciplinary response.”
— Gethin Coolbaugh and Andy Jasner, Field Level Media