NEW ORLEANS – Most Patriots fans agree that Troy Brown is one of the best stories in the league, let alone on the team. His rise from eighth-round draft pick and on again-off again status with the Patriots early in his career to setting the team record with 101 catches and a spot in the Pro Bowl makes him easy to root for.
Here's another reason to get behind him on Sunday. Remember back in 1996 when the Patriots last were here? Brown was a backup receiver and special teams player then but when it came time to assembling the roster for the Super Bowl against Green Bay, Bill Parcells chose to keep him off in favor of little-used wideout Hason Graham.
Brown had been battling an abdominal injury late in the season and Parcells felt it would limit Brown's effectiveness. Although it's impossible to say definitively, it would be tough to imagine Desmond Howard taking a kick to the house if Troy Brown was on the field.
This time, nothing will keep the Patriots most valuable player out of uniform come Sunday.
And as if he wasn't valuable enough, Brown even gave the Patriots a leg up against the Rams before the game even began. Brown took on his Rams counterpart, Isaac Bruce in the 989 Sports "Game Before the Game" challenge and defeated him in NFL GameDay 2002 for PlayStation2. The company has run the promotion each of the last six seasons and each time the winner has gone on to see his team prevail in the Super Bowl.
In case you were wondering, Green Bay running back Edgar Bennett defeated Terry Glenn, 22-6, before the Patriots lost Super Bowl XXXI.
Calling the shots
The NFL named the officials for Sunday's game and most of the seven-man crew will be working their first Super Bowl. Bernie Kukar heads the crew and will referee his second Super Bowl after handling Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami. The rest of the crew will consist of Jeff Rice (umpire), Mark Hittner (head linesman), Ron Phares (line judge), Pete Morelli (field judge), Laird Hayes (side judge) and Scott Green (back judge). Only Phares has Super Bowl experience. The alternates are Mike Carey (referee) and Ron Botchan (umpire). The officials chosen to work each Super Bowl are the top-rated individuals at their respective positions during that season.
Head or tails
The NFL also announced that former President George H.W. Bush and former Dallas Cowboys great and Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach will participate in the pregame coin toss for the Super Bowl. The NFL has had greats such as Red Grange (Super Bowl XII), George Halas (XIII), Bronko Nagurski (XVIII), Pete Rozelle (XXV) and Joe Namath (XXVIII) handle similar duties in the past since starting the tradition in 1977 when the Cowboys beat Denver in Super Bowl XXII.
While the presence of security is impossible to ignore here in New Orleans, Head Coach Bill Belichick said it pales in comparison to what he and the New York Giants went through in Tampa for Super Bowl XXV during the height of the Gulf War. "There's plenty of security around here, don't get me wrong, but in terms of feeling encumbered or tripping over them, [it was worse in Tampa]," Belichick said. "[Here] they stand back, they have everything under control and I haven't had any problems at all. In Tampa just walking outside of the hotel and seeing the snipers up on top of the hotel and at the game was much more visible and maybe made it a little more uneasy than what it seems like here."