NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A noisy marching band, costumed characters and a 9-year-old reporter were among hundreds of journalists and football fans that filled a Newark, New Jersey, arena on Tuesday for the media scrum that marks the kick-off of Super Bowl week.
Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks players and coaches fielded questions from how they would handle the frigid temperatures to what Winter Olympics sport they would play if they weren’t in the NFL. For Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett it would be curling, he said.
Fans wanting to get near the elite athletes paid $28.50 to sit above the arena floor to watch the event unfold.
“This is the closest I’ll get to the players, because I‘m not going to the game,” said Michael Kenney, 38, a police officer who lives in Brick, New Jersey, sporting an orange Broncos jersey. “I‘m hoping to get some autographs.”
Costumed superheroes and historical characters mingled with international media and NFL cheerleaders, as the Rutgers University band played “Eye of the Tiger.”
Broncos head coach John Fox said he was confident they would get through the day and then re-focus on preparing for the game.
“Most of these guys have been exposed to working with the media,” Fox said. “Maybe not quite in this volume, but these guys all follow the game, they have watched many media days and Super Bowls and I think it’s a neat experience.”
Among those firing off questions at Fox was a boy who had been chosen NFL Play 60 Super Kid in an online contest. He thrust a microphone at the coach and asked how quickly he should run the game ball out onto the field on Sunday night.
“As fast as you need to go to be safe,” Fox said. “We don’t want you getting hurt or doing a face plant. Be under control, but be efficient.”
The boy, Thomas Brown of Virginia Beach, said he was happy to get a chance to talk to the coach but had no plans to become a reporter when he grows up. Asked what he wanted to be, he replied: “A player, probably.”
Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate turned the tables on the media, filming the TV crews packed around him with a small camera clipped to the brim of his cap. He said he planned to make a film for his fans.
“I want to edit it out and make a really good video, to say thank you for all the support that you have given us,” Tate said. “This is special, this is something that a lot of people have dreamed about.”
Seattle center Max Unger, whose luxuriant beard has become the subject of a lot of fan attention this season called the atmosphere “madness.”
Despite the attention his facial hair has commanded, he added that - “win, lose or tie” - he is planning to shave next week.
Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said he was eager to get back to practice sessions and studying the style of the Seahawks, who were due to face the crowd later on Tuesday.
“One thing you can’t do is let your mind stray away from what you’re here for,” Bailey said. “We’re here to win a game.”
Lineman Orlando Franklin admitted that the size of the crowd was “kind of a shock,” and voiced the same eagerness to get back to preparing for Sunday’s game.
“In a couple minutes we’ll be done with this and can get back to football,” he said.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson