Jan. 27, 2004
Media Day. Thousands of media members descend upon Reliant Stadium for a free-for-all on players and coaches. It's more relaxed than the normal locker room or podium interviews just because of the sheer size of the event.
When I say thousands of media members, it is no exaggeration. Just about every newspaper, TV and radio outlet in America is there along with members of the world press. The questions range from hard-core football talk to Justin from Nickelodean Gas asking Rick Lyle how to spell "Belichick."
Since every player will be available at their respective team hotels on Wednesday and Thursday, there's really no need for Media Day as far as the media is concerned. From the league perspective, it makes for a great image on the nightly news and shows what a mammoth event the Super Bowl truly is so I guess the tradition continues.
I noticed that Ted Washington was holding court and decided to listen in. Ted doesn't talk to the media unless he absolutely has to so I figured I'd take the opportunity. It's not that he's a curmudgeon or otherwise not a nice guy, he's just really private and also explained that when he came into the league with the 49ers, he had a bad experience. Seems someone from the media misquoted him and it caused problems for him with his teammates. Since then, he's not exactly jumping at the chance to be interviewed.
"The Patriots got what they wanted when they signed me," said Washington.
I asked him if he got what he wanted.
"Not yet. I'm going to get that on Sunday."
One of the phenomenons of Media Day is the player-turned-analyst-turned-interviewee. Guys like Mike Golic are now members of the media who in turn get interviewed by the media. Anybody's fair game.
On that note, I spotted Tom Jackson sitting in the stands of Reliant. Yes, that Tom Jackson. I didn't ask him if he thinks the Patriots still hate their coach but I did ask him if since that infamous statement any of the Patriots have contacted him to give him a hard time, even if in a friendly way. He claimed that, no, he hasn't spoken to anyone about it.
Jackson then went into his impressions of the team and how amazed he is at how quickly they put the release of Lawyer Milloy behind them. "It was like he was never on the team," he said. "One thing people forget about when I said that was what I said immediately afterwards. I said that it will be up to the players to put it behind them and get back to focusing on football." Obviously, they did and Jackson is quick to give the entire team his praise for being able to do so.
Jackson was a great linebacker for the Broncos and we discussed the current Patriots defense. "I love they way they communicate," he said. "Guys like Rodney Harrison and Ty Law are talking on the field. You don't see that type of communication as much these days."
As I began to ask, "In your Orange Crush days..." he cut me off since he knew where I was going.
"This is Joe Collier's defense," said Jackson. Collier was the defensive coordinator for the Broncos back when Jackson played. "It's the same. It's what we ran. Bill Belichick worked under Joe and learned a lot from him. I look at what the Patriots do and I know it. Even the players match right up. I think the Patriots defensive line might be a little more athletic than ours was but other than that we were the same."
We talked a little about the game itself. "I'm really going to enjoy watching this game," said Jackson. "There are no two teams that exemplify what team really is more than the Panthers and Patriots."
Patriots fans will forever remember Jackson for his comments after Week 1 but there's no denying his knowledge of the game. Still, his ill-advised assessment is now part of the lore of the Patriots 2003 season.
On a sad note, I learned of the death of someone who's been part of my travel routine for the past nine years. Every year the Patriots play the Bills in Buffalo, I make it a point to eat at my favorite restaurant, Billy Ogden's. Sadly, its owner and chef, Andy DiVincenza passed away over the weekend, completely unexpectedly. Here's to one great guy and a helluva cook. No one was more full of life than he.