Super Bowl XLVII: How to handle the week before the big game

One year ago, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz had just stepped off the plane in Indianapolis, arriving in town for his first Super Bowl, when his quarterback approached him about the night ahead.

Eli Manning had already made plans to take the Giants' offense to St. Elmo Steak House, displaying an impressive degree of planning that made Cruz recognize that, yes, Manning had done this whole Super Bowl thing before.

But for those, like Cruz last year, who haven't, the week can quickly morph into a dream-like blur if you're not careful. So to get you ready for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, let's start with Super Bowl 101.

"You may never get back to the Super Bowl in your entire career," Cruz said last week. "So you want to make sure you soak up every single moment."

Over the last two Pro Bowls, has spoken to a dozen players who have "been there, done that," in order to help get this year's crop of players on track.

So if you know what's good for you, Colin Kaepernick, you'll listen up. It's time for some Frequently Asked Questions:

» I've been feeling a little strange since the conference championship game. Is this normal?

"After you win the conference championship game, you'll be riding on a cloud for the next two weeks. I'd wake up in the morning and I'd pinch myself. I'd think, 'Wow, I'm playing in the Super Bowl.' That whole two-week span -- that was special." -- Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (Super Bowl XLIII)

"When you win the conference championship, you have a full week to get over the feeling of winning that game. There's a lot of anticipation built up -- before you even get to the week of the Super Bowl. After all that time away from playing a game, it seems like it takes you away from what you're actually there to do." -- Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson (Super Bowl XLV, XXXVII)

» I'm not used to having two weeks to prepare for one game. How do I make the best use of my time?

"Our plan for the game was already mostly in place before we even left Green Bay for the Super Bowl. We had our preparations set. We got the bulk of our work down before we got to town." -- Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji (Super Bowl XLV)

"We made sure to keep the meetings the same, too. We got all of our work down before we got to Dallas so we didn't get caught up in the media distractions. We understood the magnitude of the game, and we just wanted to be playing our best ball. You want to keep a little bit of normalcy, so we took a few days off, and then you get right back at it. You study your opponent and put in the majority of your game plan. You rehearse it and you feel good about it. So whenever you get to the city, you can just polish things up so you're clicking on all cylinders." -- Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (Super Bowl XLV)

» Why do so many players carry camcorders when they get off the plane after arriving? I mean, aren't there enough TV cameras to handle that part?

"We take a camcorder just so you can record it because it's such a blur. You get off the plane, and there's media everywhere. When we got to Dallas, there were helicopters hovering, people everywhere. It's just ridiculous. You've got to try to take it all in -- but don't let it get too big. People get overwhelmed and they get too nervous, and they forget to treat it like a regular game." -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (Super Bowl XLV, XLIII, XL)

"Getting off the plane was exciting. All of the people waiting to see us, and all of the guys are so excited. That's when it really hits you, and you never want to forget that moment. I remember it being a big deal for Flozell Adams, a guy who'd been in the league for a long time and never really even won a playoff game. That was our excitement for the offensive line. You're at the pinnacle. You've arrived." -- Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (Super Bowl XLV)

» I've checked into my hotel. I'm comfortable. But I'm hungry. When is dinner?

"Our first night in town, Eli took the wide receivers, running backs and offensive line out to eat. We went to St. Elmo's. Had that spicy shrimp cocktail. We just chopped it up. We were enjoying our time -- it was more than just a dinner. It was a great conversation amongst people who had reached our goal together." -- Cruz (Super Bowl XLVI)

"We had curfews every night, so getting out on the town wasn't even an option. Coach (Ken Whisenhunt) didn't want us to be distracted with stuff like that. We got there Monday night and media day was Tuesday. Monday night was the only night you don't have a curfew, but if you've been to the Super Bowl, you know nothing is going on Monday night anyway. ... So you get some dinner, and you shut it down." -- Fitzgerald

» Do I really have to answer all of these stupid questions at Media Day?

"There are so many different people from all over the world. I talked to a couple of people from China, Japan, Australia, England, all over Europe. Listening to some of their questions, they were pretty basic. But to them, it was probably a great thing. The atmosphere is just really unique." -- Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (Super Bowl XLI)

"You've got "Entertainment Tonight" asking you about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. I heard how crazy media day can be, but once I was a part of it, I realized for myself how crazy that is." -- Raji

» Will this week ever start to feel normal?

"I think as an athlete, you're so used to having things a certain way. In the regular season, meetings start at 8 a.m. You break for 30 minutes to have breakfast. The NFL season is like Groundhog Day. You have a routine. I eat a bagel, some fruit and a smoothie every day. That's my routine. But the Super Bowl breaks that up. You're in a hotel. You're in ballrooms for meetings. You have fans all around the place. It breaks up the routine, so that's a challenge." -- Fitzgerald

"By Wednesday, when you get to that first practice, you're so ready to get back to football that you can't really contain yourself. Now, you're back to doing what you do. You've done so many things that to you aren't football that you can't wait to get back to the game. For us, I think our Wednesday practice in Dallas was our best practice all season. After all of the media on the first two days, it refocused us on what we were trying to do." -- Woodson

» My family keeps calling. They flew all this way, and they want to see me. Will I ever get to see them?

"Being able to enjoy the experience with my family and friends who flew or drove to Miami was probably my favorite part of the week. I had about 25 people there. After practice, whenever we had down time, I tried to find time to hang out with them in the hotel lobby. Very simple. But very special." -- New Orleans Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod (Super Bowl XLIV)

» Is it normal to eventually be tired of the hype and the media and all of the outside factors involved in the Super Bowl?

"Around Thursday or Friday of the week, you just want to play the game. You're sick of the questions. Sick of the media. Sick of the hype. You just want to go out there and put it all on the line." -- Matthews

» It's finally Saturday. I'm pumped. And nervous. And emotional. Is this normal?

"The most memorable moment was probably the night before. Getting ready, having that team meeting. We got fitted for rings before we actually won the game. That was a mental advantage, I think. You can visualize it. You want it. You realize that either way, it's the last game of the season. You want to have your best performance. You're sitting around with all of these people that you've traveled this distance with. It was special." -- Raji

» What are those hours leading up to the game going to feel like?

"That Sunday is a long day leading up to kickoff. You're just going over, in your head, different things you've seen on film, different things you've done in practice to prepare for that game. Once you get to that stadium, and you see all of the people, and the anthem is sung, you're thinking, 'Finally.' You're just out there trying to make plays, so when the end of the game comes around, you're on the right side of the score, which we were able to do (in Super Bowl XLV). That's the ultimate feeling." -- Woodson

"I would say that time in the locker room before kickoff is really special. It's much longer than usual because the pregame is such a different experience. You look around that locker room, and it's all Super Bowl signs. You see those patches on the jerseys. That's when it hit me, when I realized I was playing on a larger stage. You realize you're 60 minutes away from living the ultimate dream of being a Super Bowl champion. That's when it really hit me. Then, right before kickoff, the hair on your arms is standing up. You know you're about to go. You see all those flashes, and those fighter jets fly over. Man. It's just all so cool." -- Fitzgerald

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You've heard all about the Harbaughs. What about the Super Bowl stories that don't make headlines? Adam Schein has nine. **More ...**

» When I step on the field for the first play, what should I expect?

"There's nothing like it. Every player that touches the field during that season plays for that moment, for that game." -- Woodson

» Good news: We won! Now what?

"The best part was the after-party. Being with all of them, hanging out with my coaches from college and high school, who all made the trip, it was such a special experience. All of the hard work that you've put in all year, all of your career, has just paid off. Being in a Super Bowl is a dream come true, and the fact that our team did it with such great guys, it was just awesome." -- Bushrod

» How do I cure this hangover?

"Tylenol. Water. And a good, long nap." -- Anonymous

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @JeffDarlington.

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