Bleak week at SB45 will be saved by game

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Bleak week at SB45 will be saved by game

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

DALLAS - One team joined the NFL in 1921. Its name - Packers - was derived from a local meat-packing company that sponsored them. The other team joined the NFL in 1933. Its name - Steelers - came from the industry that was the lifeblood of the city of Pittsburgh for so many years. Both teams have basic, no-frills uniforms. The Packers are a community-owned franchise. The Steelers are owned by the Rooney family, a crew that so well represents the sensibilities of Western Pennsylvania that they may as well be community-owned as well. The Steelers led the league in rock-ribbed defense this season, allowing 232 points. The Packers were second, allowing 240. There will be, for the first time in the 45-year history of the Super Bowl, no cheerleaders on the sidelines Sunday when the Packers and Steelers get it on. It will be about football. It will be glorious. And it will be a beautiful departure from what Super Bowl week has been about so far. The runup to the planet's biggest one-day sporting event has been somewhat joyless. The threat of this being the final NFL game for a while has cast a pall on the proceedings, as owners and players wrangle over how to divide 9 billion or so in annual revenues between the 32 teams and 1,800 players. Beyond that, the locale's been a bit of a disaster. Temperatures most of the week have made it feel more like North Dakota than North Dallas and the whole region's response to several inches of snow and sheets of ice has been criminally negligent - "Wow, snow! AND ice! Hope it all melts soon!" On Friday, six people were injured when ice slid off the roof of Cowboys Stadium. A billion dollars spent on a building and nobody wondered what would happen if snow got stuck on the top?To be frank, the way good, old-fashioned American capitalism gets bastardized by a guy like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the schlock, schtick and look-at-me attitude that pervades every Super Bowl is a turnoff. But then the game finally gets here. And this one could not be any more football-based. The only distractions the two teams provided were ones that would never have occurred pre-Internet. Two injured Packers players whined on Twitter about not being included in the team Super Bowl photo (a decision later rescinded) and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sang and drank at a piano bar (video courtesy TMZ)Now it's about two of the best young coaches in the NFL. The Steelers' Mike Tomlin is trying at 38 to become the youngest coach to ever win two Super Bowls; the Packers' Mike McCarthy, a man who had 15 players land on injured reserve, guided his team to a 10-6 record and has won three road games in the playoffs to get the Pack in here. Neither man received a single one of the 50 votes for NFL Coach of the Year. Neither man cares right now. It's also about the quarterbacks - Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. Rodgers is more technically refined and fundamentally sound. He's a discreet smartass who seems eminently likable. Roethlisberger plays quarterback like a tight end, is trying hard to bury the loutish image he cultivated in his first seven seasons in the league and could win his third Super Bowl title Sunday. Your friends who come over and watch one football game all year will remember the wonderful hair of Troy Polamalu and will be enthralled by the almost-equally wonderful mane of Clay Matthews. You can also tell them they were the best two defensive players in football this year. In the end, those two and their 'dos are a kind of weird metaphor for this game. The packaging is outrageous, over-the-top and distracting. But at their core, they are brilliant football players. The game will save us all. Bart Scott, what say you?
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Goodell or Trump? Kraft fields question on who will visit Gillette next

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Goodell or Trump? Kraft fields question on who will visit Gillette next

FOXBORO -- With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in Atlanta for the NFC Championship game, his second visit to Atlanta in the last month, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was posed an interesting question during his pre-game interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Who would make it to a game at Gillette Stadium next: Goodell or Donald Trump?

The newly-elected president, of course, is a friend of the Krafts and a Patriots fan who has visited Foxboro for games on more than one occasion over the years. 

"I'm gonna let you," Kraft said, "place the over-under on that . . . We're happy. Whoever wants to come can come. Donald has done this [radio] show before . . . He was great. He's a big Patriot fan."

Here are a few more quotes of note from Kraft during his interview with The Sports Hub's Marc Bertrand and Chris Gasper . . . 

On the Colts firing general manager Ryan Grigson, who helped spark Deflategate: "Who? Yeah. You'd have to ask Jim Irsay about it. He'd be the one to ask. That game might've been Ryan's pinnacle, I don't know. Jimmy can talk about what's going on with the Colts. We're fortunately playing football today."

On Rob Gronkowski, who was a guest at Robert Kraft's home for a pre-AFC title game party Saturday: "He's doing great. He was funny. He was engaging with the crowd . . . He looks great . . . He didn't look like a guy who was hurting."

On if the Steelers called to apologize for Mike Tomlin's comments last weekend, calling the Patriots a-holes: "No, but we wouldn't have expected them. There was nothing to apologize for."

On his memories of the Kraft family's first postseason game (Sunday's is their 40th) as owners of the Patriots: "We went to Cleveland. It was Bill [Belichick]. Bill eviscerated us. It's nice to have him on our side this time."

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will go with four receivers against the Steelers as Michael Floyd has been listed as a healthy scratch for the AFC title game. 

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

The Patriots had all five of their wideouts -- Floyd, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola -- available to them for Sunday's matchup, but they're opted to use the four who are most experienced in the team's offense. 

Hogan (thigh), Mitchell (knee) and Amendola (ankle) were all listed as questionable going into the weekend, but all have been deemed physically ready to play as their team vies for a Super Bowl berth. 

Floyd had his worst game as a member of the Patriots last week in the Divisional Round against the Texans. On two routes, both slants, Floyd ran the pattern in such a way that there appeared to be some miscommunication between him and quarterback Tom Brady. One was picked off and the other was almost picked. 

Floyd admitted as much last week, saying that there are still intricacies to the Patriots offense that he needs to pick up -- including exactly how Brady wants certain routes run.

Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans last week but felt optimistic soon thereafter that he'd be good to go for the conference championship. Mitchell hasn't played since suffering a knee injury against the Jets in Week 16. 

Other Patriots inactives for Sunday include quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running back DJ Foster, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, safety Jordan Richards and corners Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones.