Puppets, dancing leprechauns and hundreds of reporters searching for soundbites. Welcome to Super Bowl opening night.
Monday's event in the SAP Center in San Jose was the inaugural Super Bowl opening night, a prime-time version of the traditional Tuesday media day. It was also the first time players and coaches from the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers officially addressed the media since arriving in the San Francisco area.
Fans were allowed to attend, and Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reported thousands bought tickets at $27.50 each.
Football almost always takes a backseat during Super Bowl media day, and Monday's opening night was no different. Tom Pelissero of USA Today realized more than just human journalists were at the event:
Kyle Meinke of MLive.com shared an interesting image:
Melissa Jacobs of Sports Illustrated caught another character:
It wasn't just superheroes, puppets and the occasional football journalist in attendance. Joe Fann of 49ers.com noticed Miss Universe was in San Jose for the event:
Denver also had an unofficial mascot looking for attention, per Bleacher Report:
The Broncos were first on the stage for interviews, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was dressed for success. Phil Milani of DenverBroncos.com captured an image, and Phillips responded accordingly:
John Breech of CBS Sports passed along an image of the Broncos taking the stage:
More than a few reporters were there to see Peyton Manning, per Darren Rovell of ESPN.com:
Manning did manage to offer at least one meaningful answer in the scrum, per the NFL:
Manning jokingly said the Panthers may have to use a spy against him in the Super Bowl after he notched a 12-yard run against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, per Ben Baskin of Sports Illustrated. The signal-caller also said he believes his counterpart, Cam Newton, is on his way to individual recognition, per NFL on ESPN: "No doubt in my mind he'll be the MVP."
The Broncos quarterback also addressed the NFL's investigation into his link with HGH, per Troy Renck of the Denver Post: "I know what they will find: a big fat nothing. I know rules and respect rules."
Manning's receivers also took the podium, and it is safe to say Demaryius Thomas won't be sticking around to watch the halftime show Sunday, per Jane McManus of ESPN.com:
Manning's other top receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, weighed in on the matchup, per NFL Network:
On the defensive side, cornerback Aqib Talib responded to rumors that Calvin Johnson may retire, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Talib said the Detroit Lions wide receiver "is the toughest cover in the league," per Meinke.
Talib also fielded a question about the local surroundings and said he would "holla at one of the female guards for a couple years, have her get a little key or something and walk right out the building" to escape Alcatraz, per Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.
However, Talib turned heads for more reasons than his analysis of Johnson and Alcatraz, as Mike Sando of ESPN.com shared:
Talib wasn't the only one with flashy jewelry in the Broncos secondary, per Sando:
As the Panthers began their session, Rovell explained why it was so crowded:
Including people like this inflates those totals, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post:
Bette Marston of Sports Illustrated passed along an image of the Panthers taking the stage:
Cornerback Josh Norman captured attention with his outfit, as Julie Stewart-Binks of Fox Sports shared:
Norman's fellow defender Luke Kuechly revealed he's afraid of heights, per Mindi Bach of CSN Bay Area, but it was Newton who almost tumbled on the stage, as Bleacher Report captured:
Newton also made headlines with his pants as the Panthers arrived in California, and he responded to wardrobe questions, per Sports Illustrated: "The black-and-gold attire that I had in my closet was extremely limited." SB Nation NFL provided another glimpse at the pants:
Newton made sure to let Panthers fans know they have plenty to look forward to, per Around the NFL: "I plan to do a lot more dancing in my career, and I plan to do some more dancing Sunday if I have reason to dance."
In between the fashion discussion came meaningful insight from linebacker Thomas Davis, who broke his forearm in the NFC Championship Game, per Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer: "Without a doubt, I will be playing Super Bowl Sunday."
Davis and the Panthers have a strong defense, but Denver also boasts a formidable group. Kuechly addressed the opposition, per the NFL:
While there were serious answers from some Panthers, there were also some interesting interviewers, as Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com shared:
Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer found another:
A young reporter stole the show, though, per the NFL:
Newton seemed to enjoy his interaction with the young interviewer, but he left some wondering after this response to a question about his place in the sports hierarchy, per Lindsey Adler of BuzzFeed News:
Despite the circus atmosphere Monday, the teams will now become more serious as they turn their attention toward the game.
"We believe in ourselves, we believe in our coaching and in our preparation," Newton said, per NFL on ESPN.
With Newton's talent leading the way, that may be all it takes to win the Lombardi Trophy.
Now that the antics and interviews of Super Bowl opening night are in the rearview mirror, it is time for the football world to turn its attention toward the game.
There are plenty of storylines to follow, including the battle between one of the all-time greats in Manning and the likely MVP of the league in Newton. Manning is no longer the dominant force he once was, but all it will take to win is one last throwback performance. As for Newton, if he plays like he did all season, with 45 total touchdowns, Carolina will likely win the title.
Perhaps the most important matchup is the one between the Panthers offense and the stifling Denver defense.
Carolina scored a combined 80 points in its two postseason victories against the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, but the Broncos were first in the league in total defense and fourth in scoring defense this season. Denver stopped Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game, but containing the dual-threat Newton could prove even more difficult.
Monday may have been a relaxing evening for Broncos defenders, but watching tape of Newton in preparation for Sunday's contest won't be.