Super Bowl Opening Night 2017: Best Moments and Twitter Reaction from Media Day

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2017

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 30:  Paul Worrilow #55 and Jonathan Babineaux #95 of the Atlanta Falcons stand on stage during Super Bowl 51 Opening Night at Minute Maid Park on January 30, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Super Bowl week commenced Monday night in Houston as members of the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots spoke to the media at Minute Maid Park.

It's the second year the NFL has held a Super Bowl Opening Night event in lieu of the traditional media days from seasons past. Fans could purchase tickets, with field-level seats carrying a $30 price tag, according to the Houston Chronicle's David Barron.

In addition to the various NFL stars in attendance, fans were treated to a variety of entertaining sights throughout the night.

Fake Tom Brady, who appeared at Patriots tailgates during Brady's four-game suspension at the start of the year, played a game of catch with four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

#FakeBrady plays catch with @Simone_Biles at #SBOpeningNight 🏈 https://t.co/wdGHhsw1U4

With Opening Night in his home park, Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers used the occasion to snap a photo with Biles:

Lance McCullers Jr. @LMcCullers43

🎖🤘🏼 https://t.co/LSHbJepRza

Cooper Manning, working for Fox Sports 1, was among the contenders for best-dressed attendee. The Denver Post's Nicki Jhabvala shared a photo of his unique outfit:

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Nicki Jhabvala @NickiJhabvala

Cooper Manning and his money suit say hello, Denver. https://t.co/qlVsb7pJGX

With the NFL relaxing the standards required to obtain media credentials for Opening Night, players received questions from some unlikely sources. According to ESPN.com's Arash Markazi, Kel Mitchell provided on-scene reporting for Nickelodeon while in character as Ed from the movie Good Burger:

Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi

Kel Mitchell is reprising his role as Ed from Good Burger at Super Bowl Opening Night for Nickelodeon. https://t.co/ZKxkBjSH70

NESN.com's Doug Kyed ran into PFT Commenter, who joked Brady may go to extreme lengths to ensure the Patriots win their fifth Super Bowl:

Doug Kyed @DougKyed

Talked to @PFTCommenter. He said Brady will cheat in SB51 by kicking the ball at the snap, wearing extra big shoes. "Every length counts."

NFL on ESPN stumbled onto this odd scene:


🤔 https://t.co/VlGBpREQyD

Reporters may not want to emulate Jimmy Kimmel Live's Guillermo Rodriguez, who substituted a microphone with a turkey leg. ESPN's Josina Anderson shared Guillermo's interaction with Falcons center Alex Mack:

ig: josinaanderson @JosinaAnderson

Guillermo asking Alex Mack questions with a turkey leg. #Falcons https://t.co/lBXSg1ssuo

While the mood remained light, the focus inevitably shifted to the Super Bowl itself.

Perhaps wanting to gain an early psychological edge, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn rebuffed Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's attempted hug, via CBSSports.com's Will Brinson:

Will Brinson @WillBrinson

Belichick wanted the bro hug and DQ was having none of it https://t.co/z5JWN6rdQd

Brady got emotional when asked about his father, via Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald:

Steve Buckley @BuckinBoston

Emotional answer from Tom Brady when asked if his dad speaks for him. Must watch. #Patriots https://t.co/CtUkI0enx2

No coach was in higher demand than Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. He interviewed for the San Francisco 49ers' head coaching vacancy over the weekend, and CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco reported Shanahan had a hand in the 49ers' decision to hire John Lynch as their general manager.

CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported Shanahan avoided directly answering whether he's leaving the Falcons but added that "it's clear he's going to SF."

Shanahan did, however, offer an endorsement of Lynch, per USA Today's Tom Pelissero: "I really believe in people, and if anyone knows John Lynch, that's a guy you should believe in."

The Super Bowl is a new experience for many Falcons players, including starting quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan said he sought advice from both Manning brothers in preparation for Sunday's game, according to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure.

Peyton Manning provided pointers on the buildup to the Super Bowl, while Eli Manning helped with how to approach the Patriots in Super Bowl LI.

"I've gotten to know Eli throughout the years, and he's a great guy," Ryan said of his conversation with the New York Giants passer, per Newsday's Tom Rock. "His advice was: 'You guys know yourselves, and you know what you do.' At the end of the day, I think that's probably the best advice you can get, to trust what we do and trust our process, who we are and how we do things."

Ryan crossed paths with Brady on the Opening Night stage, and they hugged, which the NFL shared on Twitter:


Your #SB51 QBs! #RiseUp #Patriots #SBOpeningNight https://t.co/B5UEyB8xU6

The two spoke highly of each other, according to FoxSports.com's Cameron DaSilva. Ryan said he has learned from the example Brady's set in New England, while Brady said he's admired Ryan's ability going back to his days with the Boston College Eagles.

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, which has impacted the world of sports. The NBA announced Saturday it had sought clarification from the State Department regarding players from one of the seven countries listed in the order.

Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is the only player of Muslim faith on the Falcons or Patriots, according to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. He was born in New Jersey after his mother moved to the United States from Sierra Leone.

Sanu said he didn't want to speak about Trump's legislation, per Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt: "Very tough situation. It's really hard for me to talk about that right now. I'm not here to talk about my religious beliefs. I'm here to focus on football."

Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett said he'd engage in his own form of protest toward the Trump administration should the Patriots win the Super Bowl. Bennett told reporters he'd decline the traditional invitation afforded to the Super Bowl champions, according to CSNNE.com's DJ Bean.

Super Bowl festivities will continue in Houston throughout the week leading up to Sunday's game, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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