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Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Player Conduct Under Microscope at Super Bowl

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 28, 2015

B/R

PHOENIX —

1. Don't be that guy

What a player doesn't want to be is this guy

The night before Super Bowl XXIII, Stanley Wilson would make history. And not the good kind. He went on a cocaine binge and missed the game. It would go down as one of the most infamous moments in Super Bowl history.

What a player doesn't want to be is this guy.

Eugene Robinson, the night before Super Bowl XXXIII, was arrested for soliciting a prostitute.

I remember speaking to Falcons players the next day, and privately, hours after the game, they were still stunned. The Falcons were blown out, and players talked about how the controversy basically caused them to sleepwalk through the game.

Barret Robbins had a different set of problems, but his disappearance the night before Super Bowl XXXVII, though tragic and sad, would also lead to him becoming—like Wilson and Robinson—a cautionary tale.

PAUL SAKUMA/Associated Press

If there was ever a time for players to be cautious, this is it. Be cautious. Chill. Order room service. There is a lot of precedent for players to stay in their room and watch a movie.

I was told by a Seahawks player this week via text that he was going to do what he did last Super Bowl, which was stay close to the hotel. His big plan for partying, the player said, was going out for dinner a few times with friends who flew into town for the game. "Business trip for me," he said, "not a party trip. Won't see me on the police blotter."

NFL security, as it does every Super Bowl, has briefed both teams on the dangers of Super Bowl week. What both league and security officials do is warn players they are targets. Of thieves. Of scammers. Of cops, as Robinson found out.

There have been other insane Super Bowl stories. The Los Angeles Times remembered when Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson, in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, was questioned about an association with a gambler.

There was Ray Lewis and deer antlers. There was a Spygate story. There were others.

Deflategate has been the story of Super Bowl XLIX, but an arrest or other mishap could bump even one of the biggest stories in history from its perch.

Players all week will be warned about the troubles. Most will listen. Hopefully all will.

2. Righting the ship

Matt York/Associated Press

One of the best quotes about how the Seahawks went from 6-4 and squabbling to the Super Bowl came from Cliff Avril: 

"We've gone through our ups and downs. I think again the big thing with our team is we're a close-knit family. We've had our issues, and I think once we sorted those issues out—just like any family, friend, you get into a fight, whatever the case may be, y'all get tighter after that, and I think that's what happened with us.

"We all basically essentially put our prides aside, egos aside and started playing for each other, and I think the way we've been playing it shows. Just having fun and celebrating—sometimes it's not all about the stats. It's all about doing your job and knowing the guy behind you is going to be there doing his job as well, and I think that's what happened."

3. "He was kind of like a loner"

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Another quote from the very quotable Seahawks. This one is from Doug Baldwin, on when he first met quarterback Russell Wilson at the scouting combine:

"I was watching him at the combine, and I remember saying that he was just a different guy. He was kind of like a loner, but he was also very interactive. I would just say that he stood out. It was different to see him and the way he was leading at the combine. When I got to see him in person and watch him practice in the rookie minicamp you could tell he was a cat that was going to go out there and give everything he had to [this] profession. Obviously he is still doing it and he is doing it at a very high level."

4. Most quotable team in Super Bowl history

PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 27:  Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks eats Skittles as he addresses the media at Super Bowl XLIX Media Day Fueled by Gatorade inside U.S. Airways Center on January 27, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Marshawn Lynch aside, this team might be the most quotable we've ever seen in the Super Bowl besides maybe the 1985 Bears and maybe the 1992-93 Cowboys. The Seahawks have talkers up and down the roster. I really liked this one from K.J. Wright, on the difficulties of playing Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back Super Bowls:

"I mean, that's what you come to the NFL for, to play the best of the best. I grew up watching those guys and you don't want to go out there and play a mediocre quarterback. You want to play the best they have to offer so you can look back 20 years from now and tell your kids, 'Hey, I beat the Tom Bradys, the Peyton Mannings'. That's real special. I'm glad that we are playing those guys and not somebody else."

5. Last Seahawks quote...I promise

Doug Benc/Associated Press

Whether it's a Seahawks player saying Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is just an "aiight" player or what linebacker Bobby Wagner said on Monday—more on that in a moment—the Seahawks are refusing to give ground to Gronkowski, even in interviews.

Wagner made it clear he believes Gronkowski is a good player, but when asked what kind of problem the player presents, Wagner's response was, well, here it is: "I wouldn't call him a problem."

Well, um, OK.

Wagner continued, but look at how he speaks of Gronkowski. No ground given. This is a different strategy from the way players on other teams talk about him. Before they play the Patriots, they basically bow to Gronkowski. The Seahawks choose not to. That is part of their impressive mentality.

"He's definitely a great player," Wagner said. "They move him all around the field. They have him on the outside, they have him on the inside. They do a lot of good things with him and he does a great job of catching the ball. Sometimes he's double-teamed and catches the ball, but I definitely feel like we have the athletes that match up with him and the athletes to definitely hold him. I'm looking forward to the matchup."

When asked if Gronkowski's physicality was unparalleled in football, Wagner explained, "For a tight end, yes, but we are a very physical team."

6. Stay quiet about Deflategate

Some teams have told their players, directly, not to comment on the Patriots saga. Not a word. Nothing. Most players are obliging, but some aren't. Obviously Richard Sherman never got that memo or ignored it.

7. One last Deflategate thought

The strong stance Robert Kraft took in a Monday press conference was brilliant, if not strategic.

He continued what has been a unified message and clear Patriots tactic: Go on the attack, tell people they're wrong.

But Jay Glazer's story shows where Deflategate is probably headed. It's what happened at USC during its deflated-balls scandal. The ball boy did it. We might be going in that direction now.

Kurt Warner has long been measured but critical of the Patriots, who beat him in the Super Bowl during the Spygate controversy. He said the following on NFL Network, and he's right:

I hope for our league, I hope for Bill Belichick, Mr. Kraft, Tom Brady that there was no wrongdoing. I hope that they prove that there was nothing here and we can move on. We know after some of the issues years ago, there [are] doubts there. And if we add something else to the mix, it's just going to leave more doubts about the big picture of everything, from our league to this team to those guys' legacies.

8. Ryan Leaf chimes in

Ryan Leaf on Deflategate? Ryan Leaf on Deflategate

Ryan D Leaf @RyanDLeaf

It's troubling that the NFL can find the video of a locker room attendant in a week and never see the Rice elevator video ever!

9. Patriots resolve

This from the Patriots' Matt Slater was good on the team's mindset now:

"This is a tough group. We've been through a lot this season. I think the season started out a bit rocky for us. Things definitely didn't go our way, but I feel like as a unit, as a family, we've really just pulled together and believed in one another and played for one another. There has been a lot of outside noise that's followed this team all year long, as it seems like it does every year, but we just try to focus on what's going on within our locker room—the coaches, the players, and what's going on in our organization. That's plenty of motivation, plenty of drive for us to just focus on what's going on inside.

"I understand that we faced some interesting circumstances as we come into this game, but that's not going to take away from our focus and our preparation this week because we know we have a great opportunity. We're playing against a great team, and our focus needs to be on that opposed to all the other stuff going on."

10. Powerful Super Bowl ad

One of the best you will ever see.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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