James Ihedigbo’s ‘ZooMass’ Shout-Out May Go Worldwide and 19 Other Patriots Thoughts


February 2, 2012

James Ihedigbo's 'ZooMass' Shout-Out May Go Worldwide and 19 Other Patriots ThoughtsINDIANAPOLIS — It's almost time. The anticipation for Super Bowl XLVI has been boiling over in Indy all week from the players to the media to the fans. By kickoff, it will be a relief that this highly anticipated game is finally under way, and I'm really eager to see how it all plays out.

Let's run through the final Two-Minute Drill of the season, but fear not, it will remain a regular staple through the offseason, too.

1. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick opened the week with a funny news conference Sunday, and he's been both humorous and informative at each of his media sessions since arriving in Indianapolis. He's been better than usual this week, but I've always said, if he is asked a good question, he'll almost always give a good response. Belichick takes flak from the national perspective because he can be dry and doesn't reveal anything about injuries or the game plan, but it's impossible for anyone to criticize him this week. He's been on point in front of the greatest media presence of the year.

2. I'll be writing about former Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich this weekend, but I wanted to pass along this note now because I thought it was really amazing. Herzlich, a cancer survivor who is now with the Giants, was standing in the end zone Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium, right where he ran his 40-yard dash at the combine last year. That's when scouts saw a guy they didn't think was worth drafting. But you know what? Doctors once told him he'd never walk again, either, so I think it's about time for people to stop doubting him.

3. Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater and his father, Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, will be the 14th father-son combination to play in the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, they each did it in their fourth year in the league, and it's something they aren't taking lightly.

"It's a tremendous blessing and honor," Matthew Slater said. "I know how much playing in this game meant to my father, and I know how much not winning this game meant to my father. This whole NFL experience has been an honor because as a young man, I looked up to my father so much and I wanted to be like him. So to be able to follow in his footsteps, it meant the world to me. Now, to be able to be at the ultimate stage to follow in his footsteps, you can't really put it into words. It's a special bond and experience that him and I will share for the rest of our lives."

4. I saw a replay of Super Bowl XXXVI the other night, and I almost forgot how physical the Patriots were on defense in that game. Everyone points to the game plan to stop running back Marshall Faulk, but it was everywhere. They were just lighting Rams up all night. Speaking of which, I ran into Kurt Warner and got his thoughts on the subject. You'll want to read these.

5. Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul, a strong candidate for the league's Defensive Player of the Year Award, was confident in his front-four's ability to harass quarterback Tom Brady.

"I feel like we're the only team that really puts pressure on them," Pierre-Paul said. "We've just got to go out there and give it to them again, even at a higher notch."

6. Tight end Rob Gronkowski jokingly walked out of Thursday's media session — the final one of the week for the players — with an exaggerated limp. Even though he's gotten annoyed by the questions about his ankle, he's still able to have some fun with it.

7. The city of Indianapolis has really embraced the Super Bowl, which makes the week that much more awesome. The people have been so nice and welcoming, and the city has decorated a lot of the buildings in anticipation of the event. Plus, the proximity of everything makes it very navigable. They'll have another Super Bowl here, no doubt.

8. Maybe the line of the week: When I asked Deion Branch about Chris Canty's parade proclamation, Branch responded, "Anybody can throw a parade. I can throw a parade if I want to."

9. Last week, safety James Ihedigbo was taking suggestions for his televised starting lineup introduction for the Super Bowl, but he said Wednesday that NBC never asked him to re-film his intro. Unless that changes, the shout-out to "ZooMass" will be seen and heard worldwide.

10. By the way, the team hotels for the Patriots and Giants are about a mile from one another, but Ihedigbo said he has zero plans of trying to catch up with close friend and former UMass teammate Victor Cruz this week. Actually, by Ihedigbo's response to the inquiry, you'd think he had never even heard of Cruz.

11. I think Brady will be the difference in this game. The teams are evenly matched, but only one of them has Brady, so I'm taking the Patriots, 27-24.

12. Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has been forced to face the media this week for the first time since training camp, aside from a few one-on-one interviews he granted during the regular season. Ochocinco has faced a number of pointed questions about his poor performance on the field and his unwillingness to speak to reporters all season, and he's appeared to be mildly irritated by them. But he deserves to hear the questions. He could have answered them at any point this season and deflected them with team-first, company lines. It just comes with the territory when a well-known, highly paid player refuses to talk.

13. Ochocinco was asked directly Wednesday why he didn't speak to the media this season. He simply responded, "I don't know."

14. He did have one noteworthy analogy, though. He compared getting traded from the Bengals to the Patriots to, "It's like going from Scarlett Johansson to Charlize Theron. I mean, they both look good."

15. Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht (pronounced "Light") was one of the final two candidates for the Bears' general manager position last week, but didn't get the job. It's a good break for the Pats, even if it's a rough draw for Licht, whose day-to-day activities involve evaluating NFL players who are free agents or could become free agents. He also evaluates their progression from year to year. For instance, the Patriots were really into wide receiver Torrey Smith, who was drafted by the Ravens last year. Due to that, I'd guess Licht would evaluate Smith to see how he has progressed on a year-to-year basis and see how he stacks up to the Patriots' initial impressions of him.

16. Another one could be Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara, who told me Wednesday he visited Gillette Stadium for a pre-draft workout last year. When the Patriots were on the clock at No. 17 and Amukamara was available, I thought he was a legitimate option, but tackle Nate Solder has been a very good choice. Anyway, Amukamara didn't think the Patriots would take him with that pick because they selected cornerback Devin McCourty a year earlier, and Amukamara thought it would send a poor message to him.

"They definitely flew me out for a visit," Amukamara said about the Patriots. "I think I had a great visit, met with [cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer]. But they drafted a corner last year, so I didn't really think they'd [draft] two corners in a row. Because if they did, I think they'd be sending McCourty a message. The Patriots have a great organization. Bob Kraft is an amazing man. I'm just glad I'm here today so we get to play them."

17. One of Licht's bosses, director of player personnel Nick Caserio, had some good things to say about him Tuesday.

"He's got a great feel and a great knowledge and understanding of the league, understanding of players. He works well with our staff," Caserio said. "Jason is well-respected in the league. He's got a lot of experience. I think a lot of people that have worked with him have a lot of positive things to say. We're glad we have him. There's no question about it."

18. The players for both teams loved seeing Ciara at media day. The Giants flocked to her like crazy. Then, when I asked a number of Patriots on Wednesday about the best celebrity sighting of the week, I think all but one said Ciara. Maybe it was just a slow start to the week.

19. I ran into Devin McCourty's twin brother, Jason, on Wednesday, and I can definitely confirm that they look alike. But weirdly enough, I would definitely be able to tell the two apart.

20. I don't know what it is, but I think I've run into former Titans running back Eddie George about 100 times this week. He's everywhere. Just thought I'd share. I mean, there are plenty of more interesting celebrities and former players (no offense to him) in Indianapolis this week, but I can't turn a corner without seeing the guy. I think it's funny, but I'm also sleep deprived.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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