Super Bowl blog: Countdown to kickoff

A few final thoughts
4:20 PM MT
Jordin Sparks' version of the National was nice, but it had an over-produced, Disney-like feel to it.

There are a million things going on simultaneously prior to kickoff. Crews are clearing the field of speakers. The Patriots and Giants captains are lined up ready for the coin toss. Tom Petty is blasting on the stadium sound system. Fans look to be in their seats and ready -– the aisles leading up to the main concourse are open. Tom Brady is warming up on the field. Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphins is receiving the 2007 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Most of the Patriots and Giants are sitting on the benches waiting.

It is very clear in the moments before the game that crowd is overwhelmingly pro-Patriots. The Patriots jerseys outnumber the Giants jerseys all over the stadium. No excuses for the Giants fans. The Patriots must have won the coin toss, because it got really loud.

Glendale is keeping it real today. Everything I've seen and heard has been off the charts, everyone has been great. The Patriots are lining up to kick off … the flash bulps pop all over the stadium ... and Super Bowl XLII is underway.

Giants, Patriots introductions
4:17 PM MT
The Giants were introduced to Kanye West's "Stronger," the remake of the Daft Punk song. They came out as a team and got a loud ovation. But it paled in comparison to what happened next. First, the stadium scoreboards showed the Patriots, let by Brady, coming down the ramp. The crowd was loud it drowned out the stadium announcer. Then the Patriots came out onto the field as a team to Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train.

We're waiting for the National Anthem and then it's GO TIME.

We've got some photo galleries to take you through the hours that led up to game, including pregame, the pregame show and National Anthem, and Super Bowl fans.

Countdown to kickoff
3:57 PM MT
I thought the pregame festivities were hot and getting hotter until the stadium sound system played Nickelback as one of the last few songs. C'mon.

Anyway, we're minutes from kickoff. Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin are making their pregame speeches right now. Belichick is probably reciting the Giants' New York City parade route through midtown Manhattan as motivation for the Patriots.

There's a marching band taking the field. The retractable roof is closed and will stay closed for today's game, so it's going to be even more amped in here. Looks like we're almost ready to finish with the pre-Super Bowl hype and get to some football.

It's getting hot in here
3:41 PM MT
The crowd is filling in now and we're getting close -- really close -- to kickoff. The Patriots fans in the end zone went absolutely nuts when Tom Brady took the field and ran into the end zone, waving his arms to get them going. Flash bulbs are going off all over the field.

The Patriots are going through team stretching on one end of the field, while the Giants run group drills on the other.

Webster will start for Giants
3:22 PM MT
Some news from the Giants front. Corey Webster will make the start at cornerback today in place of veteran Sam Madison. Webster has started all three playoff games and came on late in the season and had the overtime interception against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Madison has battled an abdominal strain he suffered against the Patriots in Week 17.

Inactives for the Giants: QB Jared Lorenzen (3RD QB), running back Danny Ware, cornerback Geoffrey Pope, tackle Adam Koets, defensive tackle Manuel Wright, Sinorice Moss, tight end Jerome Collins and defensive tackle Russell Davis.

Patriots inactives
3:15 PM MT
The list of Patriots inactive players just landed in my hands. Inactive for the Patriots are WR Troy Brown, DL Santonio Thomas, TE Stephen Spach, OL Wesley Britt, OL Billy Yates, CB Antwain Spann, WR Chad Jackson and QB Matt Gutierrez (the third quarterback). I was wondering about Brown for today's game. Mr. Patriot will not be appearing in his fourth Super Bowl for the franchise.

Both teams were just announced to the crowd. Overwhelmingly a pro-Patriots crowd right now. Not even close.

More pregame
3:05 PM MT
Alicia Keys just finished her pregame concert. I wasn't blown away, but she looked great. She kind of had the Vanessa Williams thing going on. The thing I always wonder about with those performances, where do they find the 200 or so pre-teens to go absolutely nuts for seven minutes? And what are they feeding these kids to get them that amped up?

They've got the field cleared now, and black suits are picking up debris. Exactly what kind of debris is left over after an Alicia Keys concert I'm not quite sure.

Cruising the concourses
2:37 PM MT
So the Super Bowl prices don't seem to be out of this world. You can get your hands on a game jersey for $85. The premium beers are going for $15, while "non-premium" is $14. Not sure what that dollar of premium-ness gets you. I saw other beers for $10. One of the ushers who said he works every home game told me that the prices are around $7 during the season.

Absolutely nothing bad about being at a Super Bowl. This is my second. But probably the worst thing of all the great things (see how I'm working around this?) is being packed on elevators. From the field level to the upper concourse is four floors. As I was going over how to write that, I noticed one of the guys in the back of the elevator had "Scotland Yard" on his Super Bowl identification. WHOA.

Our roving NFL.com tailgating reporters have done their best work of the day so far -– we officially have a Gisele Bündchen sighting outside the stadium. Nice work girls. More to come.

On the benches
2:09 PM MT
One thing that doesn't quite fit in with the newness of University of Phoenix Stadium are the team benches on each sideline. We're talking red aluminum benches, the same ones you're seeing at your local park. This has to be the only thing that has not changed in the last 50 years.

PatriotsPro Bowl center Dan Koppen is sitting in front of me on the Patriots bench, taking everything in. No one seems to have noticed him so he's been relaxing with his headphones on.

More of the Giants have taken the field, and the Hefty Lefty is tossing passes to Giants receivers in the end zone. Way more hefty than lefty if you know what I mean. I see Ben Watson and Mike Vrabel for the Patriots too.

I would like to know what the players think of the playing surface. I remain convinced it's going to be a fast track for the game.

Getting warmed up
1:52 PM MT
Patriots linebacker Junior Seau was strolling on the Patriots sideline just a moment ago, wearing a grey suit and one of those beach hats he's been sporting this week, and drawing some cheers from the Patriots faithful who have gathered in the first few rows to take in the action.

The stands on the Giants side of the field are a little more sparse at this point.

Coaches and players for both teams now are making their way onto the field to get stretched out and check out the field conditions.

It's time to find some food and check out things in the concourses. I had a half a bag of chocolate M&M's for breakfast.

Checking in with Colvin
1:53 PM MT
I just had a chance to talk with Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, who has missed seven games this season (including playoffs) with a foot injury and won't be playing today. Colvin is one of the nice guys in the NFL and it has to be tough. He said he misses the camaraderie with the teammates more than he misses playing in the games, although he obviously wants to be playing today. Colvin also missed the Patriots' last trip to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville against the Philadelphia Eagles because of an injury.

Patriots arrive
1:25 PM MT
The Patriots have arrived, and are noticeably more casual and at ease than the Giants. Belichick was among the first group off of the first bus and looked gruff. Randy Moss was sporting a dark grey suit, sunglasses, and had his hair in tight braids.

Richard Seymour broke away from the rest of the team and went up the ramp toward the field. He picked up his three children from his family members in the corner of the field and is taping a tv segment with them right now at midfield. Tedy Bruschi has also grabbed his three young ones and is playing with them on the field too.

Some of the Giants special teamers are also on the field already, trying to get warmed up.

A different perspective
12:37 PM MT
I made my way down to field level, where it's more chaotic. Mostly it's just people milling about though, looking like they really don't have anywhere to be or anything to do. I'm next to the NFL Network set, which is in the corner of the endzone, best view in the house. Rich Eisen is kicked back with his feet up, clearly unfazed that it's Super Bowl Sunday.

The TV Azteca reporter that donned a wedding dress and proposed to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on media day is hustling along in a bright blue sun dress. One, I love it when people don't look for attention. Two, it's the Super Bowl, not beach-side cantina.

I saw today's broadcast team of Jack Buck and Troy Aikman in the elevator. Buck was in mayor-mode, shaking hands and slapping backs with a smile. Aikman didn't look as happy.

Again, impressed by the field condition. This field is going to play fast today.

Giants arrive
1:11 MT PM
The Giants unloaded their team busses at 1:07 p.m. and made their way into the stadium and up the long corridor to the team locker room. Suits, sunglasses and headphones –- pretty standard stuff –- and they had their game faces on already. The only exception that I could see was Eli Manning, who looked like he might have some nerves.

Despite our best efforts, security wouldn't let us take photos, so you'll have to take my word for it.

My latest report from the Super Bowl tailgate festivities is that it's a pretty even split between Patriots and Giants jerseys. I have a feeling that these reports are going to be more and more unreliable as the afternoon moves along.

Let's get it started
11:51 AM MT
Hello NFL Nation. Let me be the first to welcome you to Super Bowl XLII. We've just arrived at University of Phoenix Stadium Glendale, Ariz., a not-too-bad morning ride on the media busses from downtown Phoenix.

I'm set up here on the 35-yard line on the end of the field closest to the Patriots end zone. We're in an open-air booth at the top of the stadium, which is ideal because we'll be able to gauge the crowd reaction throughout the game. The grounds crew is currently putting the finishing touches on the field. They've got large portable fans set up on the sidelines, and crew members with hand-held blowers, drying the newly-applied paint. The field looks unbelievable -- you wouldn't really know it's grass and not turf. We were here for media day on Tuesday and I got a chance to walk on it; it's not far off from carpet.

A few morning thoughts. We didn't see too many fans on the way in, mostly suits and security. The fans I did see where in Patriots swag. ... The Super Bowl tailgate area in the parking lot had a large crowd gathered in front, I'm guessing the gates hadn't yet opened. Fans are ready to get it started. We'll be getting regular text updates from our roving reporters ... i.e., the friends and family who are here for the game while we work. The first report from outside is that bloody mary's are on the menu. We've got a solid crew -- good work. My response text was to pace themselves ... we've got four hours to kickoff.

My second visit this week to UOP Stadium leaves me more in awe than the first trip. What strikes me about this stadium is how light it is inside despite the fact it's essentially a closed stadium at this point. The transparent roof and the vertical window columns on the outside of the building pull in plenty of light. I'm told the retractable roof will most likely be closed, but it's not official. It's overcast here today and we had a little bit of light rain on the way over.

I'm headed down to the field and around the stadium to bring you more -- I'll track down our photographer to bring you some exclusive pics as well.

Almost forgot. The security measures at any Super Bowl are extremely thorough, and today is no exception. Getting in was no problem, it was fast and the security personnel were great. The highlight was when a row of bags were being checked by the bomb-sniffing German Shepard named Barka. He stuck his nose in some guy's bag and pulled out his wallet, and then tossed it on the ground so it went everywhere. I laughed out loud (do I have to use LOL?); no one else thought it was as funny as I did.

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