On a football news day dominated by the future of Johnny Manziel, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers stayed relatively under the radar in San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Clara.
This was an off day for practice, but 10 players and each team's head coach met with the media before lunch to fill up all sorts of notebooks. We learned about Club Shiznit, the Broncosdenied having a Super Bowl XLVIII hangover, Left Shark made an appearance, and Cam Newton revealed the true meaning of football.
On Wednesday, both teams meet with the media yet again before returning to the practice field. Here's what we learned Tuesday in the meantime:
- Tuesday marks the two-year anniversary of Denver being led to slaughter in Super Bowl XLVIII. We asked several Broncos players whether the weight of that 43-8 loss to the Seahawks still has any bearing on how the team will prepare for Super Bowl 50.
"Nobody has mentioned that game," wideout Demaryius Thomas told Around the NFL, echoing every Broncos player and coach we spoke with. To a man, they comprehensively dismissed the idea of a psychological hangover from two Super Bowls ago.
We buy it. NFL teams are trained to look forward and this is an entirely new coaching staff with plenty of new players. Thomas told us they aren't even aware of who the underdog is on Sunday. Bottom line: This is a very confident group.
- Speaking of Thomas, he won Tuesday's media gathering with his untethered joy over having his mother in the Bay Area for Super Bowl 50. The story has been well-documented, but Thomas spoke honestly about having her witness the biggest game of his career, saying: "I never thought she'd be coming and see me play in the Super Bowl. ... It's a dream come true."
- "I've been on a lot of teams and this is definitely a family-oriented team," said wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who gushed over playing with Thomas and Peyton Manning.
Speaking of Peyton, he's been swamped by media all week. Good luck getting a word in, but it's been just as interesting to hear Manning's teammates rally around what could be the final game of his stellar career. Sanders talked about sitting behind Manning during meetings and badgering him constantly with questions about what he sees on film, saying: "I'm just a sponge"
"It would mean everything," Sanders said of sending Manning out with a win. "That's my brother. I think it would mean a lot for everybody that's here and everybody on my team. It'd be unique to allow him -- if he decides to hang it up -- to go out with a ring. That's everybody's dream, to retire, to say, this is my last year and you go out with a ring. I mean, the football gods really do love you ... based on his career, they really do love Peyton."
- Coach Gary Kubiak spoke eloquently about adjusting his responsibilities as a head coach following a "mini-stroke" in 2013 during his last season with the Texans. The upshot is that he's learned to dish out more responsibility, saying: "I know exactly why it happened, because ... I know what I was doing and what I put myself through and trying to do too much and kind of ran myself into the ground a little bit, so I've tried to do things different. I still love the work, so I'm going to be up early in the morning working the hours, but I also try to go about it a little different way, not to try to take on everything myself and understand that I have good people with me and I think it's helped me."
- Man, these two teams are far away from our home base in San Francisco. We spent roughly three hours on the bus Tuesday, but it's been a blast getting to know this Denver club a little better. The Around The NFL gang teases me for falling for any team I cover, but part of that comes from seeing how dedicated and focused these coaches and players are this week. It's a well-run operation from John Elway to Kubiak on down.
-- Marc Sessler
- The Panthers are the loosest Super Bowl team I've seen in years. From Cam Newton's intentional swagger to the Panthers' alcohol- and female-free hotel night club, Carolina rolled into the Super Bowl with a nothing-to-lose attitude. They are, at their core, a team that is quick to enjoy themselves but even quicker to pounce on an opponent who suggests that they are not doing their jobs. Outside of the 2013 Seahawks, we have not seen personality like this at the title game since the 2000 Ravens.
- Shaq Thompson is out to prove something. The rookie linebacker played fewer than 400 snaps this year and has been reminded of it constantly. But the Panthers have big plans in the future for their 2015 first-round pick and they might showcase some of that on Sunday. There is a breakout player in every Super Bowl, and Thompson has spent the week hearing about the heroics of Thomas Davis and Thompson's own failed baseball career. This is an insanely motivated man on a mission.
- Ron Rivera is pulling all the right strings. The coach convinced Eugene Robinson to speak to the team about nightlife mistakes at the Super Bowl and literally has an entire locker room convinced that they shouldn't leave their hotel in San Jose. As we mentioned before, the Panthers are a tight-knit group, so staying home won't bother them, and Rivera won't have the same worries that Gary Kubiak will on Wednesday when he's asked where his players were last night.
-- Conor Orr