Cam Newton and Peyton Manning squash their storylines at media night
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- For the first time, the NFL moved its media day festivities to the evening and turned it into more of a curtain-raiser. Here are five takeaways from the NFL's first Super Bowl Opening Night.
To those media critics with a #hottake calling the event a dud . . .
What were you expecting?
Long before this became a prime-time television show, Super Bowl media day was the epitome of cattle-call journalism and sycophants from outlets big and small collecting innocuous video and sound bites. The tradition of costumed "reporters" interviewing players has gone on for so long that I've watched Pick Boy become Pick Man.
Members of the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers knew better than to say anything that could become controversial or a distraction for their respective teams. That is especially true for two players who could have tipped the needle: Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. Manning didn't announce he was retiring after Super Bowl 50 and Newton backpedaled from earlier comments about race being a factor in why some fans dislike him.
The lack of a bombshell made it that much easier for celebrity reporter Miss Universe to steal the spotlight again.
The pageantry of this media night was the WWE-style entrances both teams made from an upper-tier platform while standing in front of the TitanTron, err, video board at the SAP Center. Maybe someone from the NFL was inspired by the Brock Lesnar image outside the arena touting WWE's Saturday night card in San Jose.
The only difference is that Vince McMahon would have found a way to truly take Super Bowl media night over the top.
Josh Norman plays the role of Richard Sherman
The most eccentric player was Carolina cornerback Josh Norman, whose profile continues to rise after a breakout 2015 season. Norman didn't shy from saying what was on his mind and seemed to genuinely enjoy the event. Unlike Newton, Norman also was willing to wear the Panthers Lucha Libre wrestling mask given to him by a reporter from a Spanish television outlet.
I just wish Norman would have ducked under his riser and switched masks with someone who looks like "Super Porky" Brazo de Plata to see if anyone noticed the difference. He even got into it with Deion Sanders about Odell Beckham.
Demaryius Thomas's personal motivation
On a more serious note, the story of Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and his mom isn't one of "happily ever after."
Thanks to a pardon from President Obama, Katina Smith was able to see her son play football for the first time since she began serving what became a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. But while her attendance at Denver's second-round playoff win over Pittsburgh was a special moment for her, the experience was so overwhelming that Smith considered declining an invitation to Super Bowl 50 until convinced otherwise by her son.
"The main thing I've mostly been thinking about is just having her out," said Thomas, who was raised by other family members during his mom's incarceration. "There's going to be so many people and she's not used to it. I'm sure if anybody notices her they're probably going to try to bother her or say something to her. Hopefully nobody asks her too many questions or wants to do too much stuff. That's the main thing."
Ryan Clady's rotten luck
You can't blame Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady for feeling snakebitten. Clady has now been on injured reserve in two of the past three seasons, specifically the two when Denver reached the Super Bowl.
"It was hard, especially the first month or so," said Clady, who tore his patella tendon last June during an offseason practice. "You just try to get used to the fact you're not playing and focus on the rehab."
Clady's future with the Broncos has come into question because of his injury history and lofty contract. Cutting him would clear $8.9 million in salary-cap room, which could be appealing to the Broncos if it allows the team to sign pending free agents like Von Miller, Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson to new deals.
Clady did say he would be potentially willing to restructure his contract if asked, especially because he believes the Broncos are run better than some other teams around the league.
"I've had a lot of teammates who have left so I've heard a little bit around the league," said Clady, 29. "I would like to stay here. I'm comfortable here."
Bruce DeHaven's battle with cancer
From a player's past to uncomfortable topics, everything is fair game for Super Bowl media coverage. That includes Panthers special teams coach Bruce DeHaven's battle with prostate cancer.
DeHaven continues to try and downplay the subject since being diagnosed last year.
"I don't really want to talk about it much and a lot of that is because my kids just don't need to hear me talk about all of this," DeHaven said. "Toby is a freshman in college and Annie is a sophomore in high school. They don't need to hear their dad talking about being sick. They see me and I look good so that's what they need to see."
According to a profile on Kathy DeHaven at playerwives.com, DeHaven was given "a fairly short window to live" when initially diagnosed. DeHaven has worked throughout the season while continuing to receive medical treatment.
"He's not going to dwell on cancer," ex-NFL head coach and close friend Steve Mariucci told the San Jose Mercury News. "He's a committed guy and he's focused."
And an inspiration to boot.