Super Bowl 45: A running Dallas diary


Super Bowl 45: A running Dallas diary

By TomE. Curran
SUNDAY 9:30 PMI don't floss often. Not that I don't want to. I love thatjust-flossed feeling. Blowing air throughthe formerly plaque-filled spaces between my teeth. Mmmmm. Tidy. I just never get to it. I'm a late-to-bed kind of guy and by the time I get upstairs,I'm groggy from having fallen asleep downstairs in my big, brown comfy chair. And I never have time in the morning because I suffer from CLD (Chronic Lateness Disorder). But this week, I plan to floss hell out of my teeth.See, trapped in a hotel room on the 23rd floor of theSheraton Dallas ("1,840 rooms -- the biggest Sheraton in the world," boastedCory, who checked me in),I'll havethe opportunity to take care of all hygiene with abandon. Why am I telling you this? Because you know the storylines forSuper Bowl 45.Packers. Steelers. Storied franchises. Franchise quarterbacks. Both have yellowin their color schemes. And we'll get to all that. Butwhat happens when you cover a Super Bowl? What's the week like? What do you doooo? I find people are just as intrigued -- ifnot more -- by that.
Sothis week, I'm going to give you the skinny on what goes on. Every day. Most of the minutes. How itall goes down. I'll do my stories on the team arrivalsMonday, do my TVhits for SportsNet Central near the stadium every afternoon, work on a variety of story ideas I fleshed out on the plane, update the blog with as much Patriots-related info as I can. But I'll also keep you up on my hygiene. And so much more. My flight this morning was at 11 a.m. US Airways through Washington and into Dallas at 3:45 Central time. (I know I will screw up the time between Eastern and Central this week. Inevitable. I just hope it's showing up an hour early rather than an hour late.) My nephew Chris drove me in, picked me up at 8:15 a.m. and had me dropped off by 9. Two eggs, sausage, homefries at Sbarro in Terminal B, post-breakfast nap and on the plane at 10:30 sitting in first class (I fly a lot, so I get bumped sometimes). Read the end of a Jack Reacher novel ("61 Hours" . . . I like his books) and . . . napped again. During my little layover in Washington, I drafted a budget of stories for the week for my boss, the estimable Art Martone. There are big picture stories (Rodgers, Roethlisberger and our insistence on lists, lists, and lists, the 18-game season, how teams combat Twitter info flow) and Pats-related stories.It's an aggressive list.We'll see how many Icross off by week's end. On the Washington-to-Dallas flight,we'd barely gotten airborne when the 6-foot-2 woman in front of me reclined. With verve. That erased the chance of me getting my laptop out and working on . . . anything. So I napped. When I woke up, I could feel in my throat I'd been snoring. The lady next to me confirmed that, yes, I'd been snoring. Awesome. By the time we landed, I'd learned that the woman next to me, Angela, was representing a PR firm doing work for Visa on a video game that helps kids get the basics of financial management down. She was doing a seminar Monday with Matt Forte and Lance Briggs of the Bears and Tashard Choice and Felix Jones of the Cowboys. I said I'd try to get to it, but I think the Steelers' arrival over in Fort Worth is going to keep me from getting to both. She'll never find me. After getting to Dallas, I scuttled to my rented Altima and drove the 25 minutes to the city. I've never been to Dallas. Whenever I covered Cowboys games, I stayed in Irving near the stadium. So far, all I've seen is the highway, an off-ramp and the street leading to my hotel. This is my eighth Super Bowl and I usually arrive on Sunday when the volunteers, service staff and everyone elseare giddy to assist folks after months of planning for our arrival. Four guys made a moveto hold the front door of the Sheraton when I approached it. By next Monday, they'll be kicking us in the ass to get us out. Eventually I got into my room. The front desk guy wrote the wrong room number on my room key slip so I spent two minutes trying to get into the room next to mine before going 23 floors down to find out I was actually one room over. But, hey, I'm at the Super Bowl. What's a minor inconvenience? I got the lay of the hotel, found the fitness center, the taverns, checked out the media room and then went down to have some wings in the bar and watch the start of the Pro Bowl. Even for a Pro Bowl, the game was light-hitting.I sat down at the bar next to former Patriots backup quarterback Jim Miller, who now works for SIRIUS. We talked a little about the hasty end to the Patriots' season, the 18-game schedule and what he thinks will happen with the lockout (he thinks it's coming). Monday starts quietly. I'll spend the early morning going over my plan for the week with my boss and trolling the media center for nuggets, tidbits and blog fodder.I'm on with Jim Rome around noon. The Steelers get to town at 1:30; the Packers at 3:30. There is access to the head coaches and a few select players at the Omni in Fort Worth.I'll get in the Altima after the Jim Rome hit to get to that, then go over to the Arlington Convention Center near the stadium for TV at 4 p.m. It's amazing how different this event is when the team you directly cover isn't in it. Had the Patriots made it, CSNNE may have had more than 30 people here on the TV and digital sides to cover it -- a crew that would dwarf the numbers of anyone else in our area. Now? It's just me. Me and my floss.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Patriots LB Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

Patriots LB Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

FOXBORO -- When a new player arrives to the Patriots, there's a familiar refrain that's recited from behind the podium at Gillette Stadium: "Football is important to him."

Whether the subject is a rookie or an established veteran, those five words can serve as Bill Belichick's stamp of approval. It means the player cares. It means the player is willing to put in time.

Belichick hasn't gone on the record on any of the members of this year's class of undrafted free agents just yet, but linebacker Brooks Ellis seems to fall into that category of players to whom football is important.

If it wasn't, he would probably be putting all of his energy into getting accepted into medical school right now.  

Ellis was a two-year captain at Arkansas and one of 12 finalists for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the "Academic Heisman." He maintained a 3.82 grade point average as a pre-professional exercise science major with a minor in biology, he was the first two-time Academic All-American in program history, and he was the SEC's Scholar-Athlete of the year for 2016.

All that is to say, Ellis had options upon graduation.

Football won out. He agreed to a deal with the Patriots soon after the draft, and he's spent the better part of the last month trying to learn defensive terminology and special-teams techniques. 

But eventually Ellis hopes to be an orthopedic surgeon, and later this summer he'll submit his applications to medical schools in order to kick-start that process for whenever it's time to pursue his next plan full-throttle.

"I'm putting my all into this right now," Ellis said, wearing Patriots gear while standing on the Gillette Stadium turf last week. "But when I get some spare time, I'm finishing applications, and then when I get back in July I'm sending those in.

"If I get accepted somewhere, I'm going to tell them I need to defer until I know for sure what the football situation is going to be. So I'm all in on football, and just in case, I'm going to have that ready to go when I get out of it."

If all goes well for Ellis this spring and summer, it could be a while before he's taking the Hippocratic Oath. The Patriots have a long history of giving worthy undrafted players a shot at the 53-man roster, and Ellis plays one of the few positions on New England's loaded roster that might have room for a newcomer or two.

On paper, he certainly looks like their type.

The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder was his team's leading tackler for two seasons. He played all three linebacker positions in Arkansas' defense -- strong-side, middle and weak-side -- and he started 31 consecutive games to finish his career. Ellis also has extensive special teams experience, and he recorded one of the quickest three-cone drills among linebackers at this year's NFL Scouting Combine.

That he learned under Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema can't hurt his chances, either.

Bielema began his coaching career at Iowa under former Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz, and Belichick has dipped into Bielema's programs at Wisconsin and Arkansas several times over the course of the last few seasons. Running back James White, defensive end Trey Flowers and former tight end AJ Derby all played for Bielema, and Ellis joins fellow Arkansas rookies Deatrich Wise (fourth-round pick) and Cody Hollister (undrafted) on this year's squad.  

"He came in, started about halfway through his true freshman year -- we weren't a really good football team, we were 3-9 -- threw him in the middle of it, didn't bat an eye, and he got better every game," Bielema said of Ellis on Quick Slants the Podcast. "Sophomore year, [he] really began to mature, develop. He's another guy that the potential -- because we never redshirted him -- to grow in this year is going to be huge . . .

"He's just truly very, very intelligent, compassionate. And the value that he brings is he could be an unbelievable role player. I'm not saying he's going to be a four-time All-Pro or anything like that, but he'll be reliable, dependable, in every phase of the game."

Robb Smith, Arkansas defensive coordinator from 2014-16, believes Ellis landed in the perfect spot. Prior to his time at Arkansas, he worked under Greg Schiano at Rutgers, where he coached Patriots safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, former Patriots corner Logan Ryan, Patriots linebacker Jonathan Freeny and safeties coach Steve Belichick.

"He's one of those guys that's not only going to know his job, but what the other 10 guys around him are supposed to do," Smith said of Ellis. "He'll be able to be a leader from that standpoint in terms of helping guys with the system and the scheme. He's very good instinctively . . ."

"This guy's going to be replacing my knee someday. I'm serious. He's going to be an orthopedic surgeon that's outstanding. I know that's what his goals are. But hopefully he gets to play a lot of football between now and then."

There's one more Patriots link connecting Ellis to New England. His agent, Neil Cornrich, has counted Belichick as a client and also represents Bielema, Ferentz, Flowers, Derby, undrafted Patriots rookies Cole Croston and LeShun Daniels (both of whom played under Ferentz at Iowa) and Patriots running back Rex Burkhead. 

It may come as no surprise then that when Ellis signed with the Patriots, no one knew. He didn't announce it on Twitter, as is the norm for undrafted players when they come to an agreement with a team. And the news wasn't leaked. Instead, he waited for the team to announce it, which his new employers probably appreciated.

Ellis, who according to the Boston Globe received the fifth-most guaranteed money of the 19 undrafted rookies the Patriots signed, said he received some simplie advice from Cornrich before making his way to New England.

"He just said that you'll fit in well there," Ellis said. "You're the type of guy they like, and you're the type of guy that succeeds in that organization. Don't do anything special. Just go out there and work like you do every day, and it'll turn out for the best."

Even if it doesn't, Ellis will have medical school. But he acknowledges there's some unpredictability with that path, just as there is being an undrafted player in the NFL. He still has to be accepted. His application, including personal statements, interviews and MCAT results -- "It was horrible, I don't want to take that ever again," Ellis said -- still has to be deemed up-to-snuff.  

Whenever Ellis starts, it will be the beginning of almost a decade of training between schooling and residency. It will be a challenge, he knows, and it's one that he looks forward to. But he's hoping it can wait because football is important to him. 

"It just makes you work harder," he said of his uncertain future. "It makes you really focus on right now, and make sure that you're doing all you can in this area because even the next area might not be there.

"That's what I've done. I'm just working as hard as I can on this, and if that doesn't work out, then I've got the next thing, and I'm going to work as hard as I can in that area."

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”