NFL AM: Media Day Become Opening Night


NFL introduces Opening Night:

Every year the NFL gathers the team’s representing each conference in the Super Bowl for what has been known as Media Day. For a league that’s pretty tightly wrapped all season long, this event has always been one of the stranger events on the NFL calendar. From people in costume, to Miss Universe, to wedding proposals, Media Day always had a very different feel from most NFL events.

Now Media Day has become, “Super Bowl Opening Night,” moving the event to primetime and Monday night. As it did years ago with the draft, the NFL wanted to catapult one of its most covered events further into the national spotlight by moving it into primetime instead of holding the event during the day while most Americans are at work.

For the Denver Broncos, the top story was undoubtedly the future of quarterback Peyton Manning, who reportedly had told friends that Sunday’s big game would be his last. Manning was asked if he’d retire after the game by everyone from a small child to Marshall Faulk, but insisted he just wasn’t sure if he was ready to hang it up at season’s end.

“One thing I think I’ve done well this season, this team has done well this season, is stay in the moment, focus on the task at hand, take it one week at a time,” Manning said. “There’s about 10 other clichés you could use right there, but it truly has served me well in the unique season that has occurred this year with the injuries — and it’s just been different for me.

“Not looking too far ahead, not looking too far back has really helped me. I am excited about this week and looking forward to playing in this game. And I’m going to focus on that and deal with all of the other stuff after this.”

On the other side of the spectrum the story is once again about the quarterback position, but instead of the story being about the end of a great career, it’s about Cam Newton coming into his own as one of the best, if not the best player in the game. While he’s concerned about beating Newton’s Panthers on Sunday, Manning took time to talk about why he believes Cam should be the 2015 MVP.

“He’s just had this incredible year. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to be the MVP on Saturday night,” Manning said of the season Newton has put together. “What he’s done in the short time being an NFL quarterback, he’s been awesome. He’s been awesome. That’s the best word I can think of.

“He’s been a great passer, he’s been a great runner, he’s been a great leader. You don’t go 17-1 as a starting quarterback without being awesome. And that’s what he’s been this year without a doubt.”

When told of Manning’s comments, the Panthers quarterback didn’t try to back away from the praise.

“Anything the Sheriff says, you can probably ink it in gold,” Newton said about Manning’s assertion that he’d win MVP.

The Super Bowl seems to get bigger every year, and this move is just another attempt to dominate as much of your television viewing as possible, to which many of us frothing-at-the-mouth football fans typically only respond to with, “thank you.” In the end, it’s a pretty minor move to put this event on Monday night, but something tells me the teams are going to love getting this thing out of the way earlier than usual.

Broncos playing up underdog role:

One of the story lines to the Super Bowl 50 lead up is there are some who believe the Broncos will get smacked around in similar fashion to the way they were beat by the Seattle Seahawks two years ago, 43-8.

Some believe the Panthers, who have been as dominant in the playoffs as they were during the regular season, are going to have their way with Denver.  The main reason is that the Broncos offense has struggled, despite finding a way to do enough to get them through the AFC. For at least a couple of Broncos’ players, they find the lack of belief in their team a little surprising.

“We beat the champs twice,” Broncos’ cornerback Chris Harris said about beating the New England Patriots during the regular season and in the playoffs. “Nobody cared, I guess. I do feel like we deserve more credit.”

While every man might not have mentioned it, Harris likely spoke for many of his Denver teammates about the fact that many have written them off. While the Broncos boast a great defense of their own, linebacker Brandon Marshall can’t help but notice the that Carolina and their defense seem to be getting a lot more attention heading into the week.

“That’s who they are talking about,” Marshall said. “We just gotta keep showing every Sunday and they’ll be talking about us, too.”

While the Broncos’ linebacker may feel slighted by the coverage of the two teams heading in, he isn’t blind, and understands the credit that players like Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly are getting.

“I personally think Luke Kuechly is the best linebacker in the league,” Marshall admitted.

Members of the Broncos defense may feel like they deserve more credit, but they’ll have plenty of opportunity to get it on Sunday. If the Broncos are going to walk away with the Lombardi Trophy Sunday night, they’re going to have to slow down a Carolina team that has put up over 30 points in eight of their last nine games.

Former Giants and Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck announces retirement:

He isn’t a future hall of fame football player.

His name isn’t one of the first that will come to your head when discussing the greatest pass rushers of all time.

However, Justin Tuck who announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday, had an impact that will always be remembered in New York where he played nine of his 11 NFL seasons.

A third-round pick of the Giants in 2005, Tuck became one of the best defensive ends against the run while also being one of the best pass rushers and leaders in the game. Tuck’s play and presence earned the respect of players around the NFL, and his former teammate, Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan said Tuck should have been the MVP of Super Bowl XLII.

“The MVP of Super Bowl XLII was Justin Tuck. Not to take anything away from Eli but what Tuck did was absolutely amazing,” Strahan told Mike Garafolo.

Whether or not he was the MVP of Super Bowl XLII, Tuck was always one of the best players on every team he was on, and he’ll always be remembered as a guy who came to play every Sunday, even when it seemed like he was dragging himself around the field. Hurt or not, the Giants and Raiders end always came to work, and always preformed.

Despite the fact Tuck feels he could still be productive, he’s ready to move into the next phase of his life.

“After months of praying and careful consideration, I have decided to retire from the game of football. I’ve had 11 great years and honestly I leave with very few regrets,” Tuck wrote on Facebook.

“I’m thankful to my family and close friends for their unwavering support. My beautiful wife and kids have dedicated their lives to being my closest support system and I’m eternally grateful.”

Tuck’s announcement was emotional and thoughtful, and left no one out. Just as his play was on the field, Tuck’s goodbye was as complete and well rounded.

“I want to thank the New York Giants and the Oakland Raiders for giving me a place I could call home all of these years. The Mara, Tisch, and Davis families, I’m forever in your debt. To my coaches: thanks for having me ready at every stage – the Super Bowls, Pro Bowls, you name it – thank you for teaching me about professionalism, preparation, and the pursuit of perfection. To my teammates: thank you for always going to battle with me each and every gameday, but more importantly, thanks for being my brothers for life.

“And lastly, the FANS. What an incredible environment you’ve created for me over the years to call a workplace. You all have been so supportive of me and my family, and without you I would have no game to play. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

“This isn’t a good-bye, my family and I will continue our charitable work with Tuck’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy and we look forward to continuing to give back to communities that have given so much to us. God Bless.”

If Manning decides Sunday is his final game and Calvin Johnson walks away as he believes he wants to, the NFL will certainly be seeing an exodus of some of its greatest and classiest players of the last couple of decades this offseason.

About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.