PHOENIX -- Actual football was practiced Wednesday. Sure, there were another 75 minutes of media availability for both teams and stories of Tom Brady's sniffles. But the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots returned to the field, which means a game can't be too far away.
The lack of on-field stories this year is ultimately a good thing. Earl Thomas (shoulder) and Richard Sherman (elbow) are both practicing fully and will be ready for the Super Bowl. The entire Patriots team is healthy. These were the best two teams in the regular season and the postseason. They are fully stocked and the footballs will be properly inflated Sunday. No excuses.
With the big game less than a week away, Around The NFL's Dan Hanzus brings you the best of Super Bowl week in Arizona. **READ**
Brady reportedly looked sharp at practice, according to the pool report from the Pro Football Writer's Association.
"He took all the snaps," Bill Belichick confirmed.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, had their usual "Competition Wednesday." Sherman made a leaping interception in practice, proving his elbow injury shouldn't be a serious issue.
"Terrific work," coach Pete Carroll said. "Terrific day. The energy was there, and guys got good work in."
Every coach lauds his team's work during Super Bowl week. And the next negative thing Carroll says will be the first. But the return to the field for both teams is great to see. Four more days to go.
Here's what else we learned Wednesday:
- The Patriots are notoriously vague about the health of their players, but the secret is out: Tom Brady has a cold. "I've had it for four or five days," he said. "My kids got sick and my wife is pretty sick right now. I brought it unfortunately to Phoenix but I'll be fine. I'll be good. I'll be 100 percent. I'm not worried about it at all." Neither are we.
- There's plenty of truth to the theory that New England turns the competition's trash into treasure. The latest case? Brandon LaFell, the former Panthers wideout who dialed up a career-high 953 yards off 74 grabs as New England's No. 2 receiver. "They give you the opportunity to succeed up here," LaFell told Around The NFL on Wednesday. "Not saying the other teams don't, but they gave me the opportunity to catch more balls and play different positions in the offense. They put me on special teams here, so they just gave me a better opportunity." You can read more about Bill Belichick's penchant for reclamation projects here.
- Conor Orr correctly described Rob Gronkowski as "your perennially hungover best friend from college," but the hard-partying tight end also offered up a moment of self-reflection, telling reporters that he wants to be taken seriously. It's a fair request for a ridiculously talented player who has worked his way back from a string of major knee injuries. Still, let's not confuse Gronk with some sort of forest monk. Asked why his extracurricular activities draw so much attention, he simply replied: "Uhh, 'cause I'm a baller?"
- Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon was a tad salty, refusing to answer any of my deflation-related questions with anything more than: "We're just focused on getting this second media day out of the way and getting out there to practice." After getting this response three straight times, I gave up, saying to him: "I feel like these are lines they've told you to say." Cannon gave me a blank stare -- and the same response again. I can't blame him for not wanting to talk about the Super Bowl's biggest subplot, but his robotic crankiness was memorable.
- Good stuff from play-caller Josh McDaniels, who insisted the Patriots deceived nobody by using four linemen against the Ravens. "We were very open, I believe, with the officials and all that before the game and telling them," McDaniels said. "You know, they always ask you if you have anything that's unique or different or whatever. I think everybody was -- I wasn't at the meeting -- but, I'm sure it was communicated to them."
- The deflated-balls saga doesn't seem to have much of a grip over this team. Especially in talking to assistant coaches, the Patriots come across as ultra-focused and hungry. That said, we know they can't wait to get past tomorrow's final media session.
-- Marc Sessler
- Marshawn Lynch managed to dodge a fine for avoiding an obsessed national media, but might get docked by the NFL for wearing a "Beast Mode" hat during his availability. Lynch adjusted his trademark phrase from "I'm here so I won't get fined" to "You know why I'm here."
- Coach Pete Carroll reiterated his early-week emphasis on the organization's philosophy of embracing Lynch as a unique individual. Praising Lynch as "an incredible team member," Carroll made it clear that he will not intervene to coerce the reticent star into more expansive soundbites.
- The Falcons are getting a great front man for their organization in Dan Quinn, who has been Around The NFL's favorite Super Bowl figure for the second consecutive year. A natural with the media, Quinn leaves the impression of a true teacher who patiently explains strategy to players, fellow coaches and even reporters. He has a rare combination of candidness, congeniality and resolve.
- The Seahawks were split on the root cause of their current eight-game winning streak that turned the season around. Bobby Wagner attributed the turnaround to getting himself, Byron Maxwell and Kam Chancellor back healthy at the same time. While Quinn, Cliff Avril and Malcolm Smith agreed that returning a trio of valuable players to the starting lineup was a major factor, they all cited recapturing a "Love Our Brothers" closeness as the key.
-- Chris Wesseling
Everything else ...
» The NBC Sunday Night Football bus is at the Media Center. The bus has logged over 40,000 miles traveling to every NBC game this season. Two NBC employees gave me a tour of the bus, where I got a look at Russell Wilson's pre-game "Pump-Up Playlist." Two things: 1) Russell Wilson is such the guy to have something he calls a "Pump-Up Playlist" and 2) I can't believe Macklemore & Ryan Lewis -- this generation's Hall & Oates but without cool hair and mustaches -- snuck in.
» Kudos to the great Dameshek, who didn't let the obvious disgust of over-serious players and media drones stop him from asking the questions that mattered at Media Day. Example: "Who's more handsome: Garoppolo or Brady?"
» It's hard enough for Jets fans that they had to live through the Tim Tebow era, a disaster that helped trigger a long period of dysfunction for the franchise. To add insult to injury, any Jets fans who have traveled to Arizona (I haven't met one yet) have to resurrect Tebowmania for this NFL Experience photo opp. Why God?
» On Tuesday night, the Super Bowl XLIX Media Party. It included one of the most insane party attractions I have ever seen. Pray for these people ...
-- Dan Hanzus
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