Ticket requests a hassle for Super Bowl players


Players on the 49ers and Ravens are finding out one of the down sides of playing in the Super Bowl this week: Your friends and relatives assume you have free tickets to give them.

In reality, players in the Super Bowl get two free tickets and the opportunity to buy a limited number of tickets at face value, which ranges from $850 to $1,250. Some players are spending tens of thousands of dollars to bring large contingents of friends and family to the game — and even then they’re finding that relatives are asking for more.

“It’s been very difficult, to be honest with you,” Ravens cornerback Corey Graham said. “Everybody in your phone book is calling you and asking you if they can get tickets to the Super Bowl. Everybody assumes they’re free. It’s a tough situation. I just tried to put it all off on my wife and let her handle all that, all the hard work. I just try to prepare and get ready for the game which is the most important thing. You come out here, and it’s a great thing, but we’re here for one reason and that’s the most important thing is to play the game and have a good game and hope we win the game.”

Said Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, “Everybody was thinking they could come to the Super Bowl and wanted me to pay for everything. That was the craziest. They were asking for food, new clothes, and everything. It was all from family. I’ve got 15 people coming. When I told them how much a ticket was they understood. I think they were just thinking the tickets were free. We only get two free.”

Players on both the 49ers and the Ravens have said this week that the most important thing was getting all ticket requests taken care of last week, so that they could focus on actually preparing to play in the game this week. When you’re playing in the Super Bowl, you don’t want to spend your time worrying about all your relatives who want to go to the Super Bowl.

Ravens’ Dannell Ellerbe playing through the worst pain he’s ever felt

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Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe says his injured ankle is the most painful injury he has ever experienced. But he played through it in the AFC Champioinship Game, and there’s no way he’s missing the Super Bowl.

“Yes, I’m playing if I played last week,” Ellerbe said at Super Bowl Media Day. “That was the most pain I’ve played in in my entire career. I’m definitely playing in this game. I feel a lot better and it’s the Super Bowl, so I’m not sitting out. I got a cortisone shot. I’m going to stop telling people I got an epidural because that’s what pregnant people get. Never again. I don’t want to go through that again. I hate needles.”

But Ellerbe reiterated that there’s no chance he’ll sit out on Sunday.

“Oh yeah, I’m definitely playing. If I could handle it last week, I can handle it this week,” Ellerbe said.

Despite the ankle injury, Ellerbe has played very well in the playoffs, with 23 total tackles, two pass deflections and an interception. Ellerbe becomes an unrestricted free agent in March, and by playing well through pain, Ellerbe is making himself a lot of money.

Absence of failed drug tests doesn’t exonerate Ray Lewis from IGF-1 use


The obvious response to the allegation that Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis used a deer-antler extract containing the banned substance IGF-1 is that Ray Lewis has never failed a drug test.

“Every test I’ve ever took in the NFL?  There’s never been a question if I’ve even thought about using anything,” Lewis proclaimed Tuesday.

The team said the same thing.  “Ray has been randomly tested for banned substances and has never failed a test.  He has never been notified of a failed test,” declared the Ravens.

But here’s the thing.  The NFL tells PFT that IGF-1 can be detected only through blood testing.  And there’s currently no blood testing for IGF-1.

So passing a drug test has nothing to do with the question of whether someone was or is using IGF-1.  It’s no different than a player responding to allegations of HGH use by declaring that he’s never failed a drug test, since there still is no testing in place for HGH.

Thus, absent an admission from Lewis or other conclusive evidence of IGF-1 use, there’s no way this thing will ever go anywhere.

Michael Oher is tired of “The Blind Side”


Ravens tackle Michael Oher is probably the NFL’s most famous lineman: If you go to a Super Bowl party on Sunday, there’s a good chance that there will be someone there who doesn’t really follow football, but knows who Oher is. That’s because Oher’s life story was told in the bestselling book and hit movie The Blind Side.

But Oher could do without all the publicity that Hollywood gave him.

“I’m tired of the movie. I’m here to play football,” Oher said when asked about it at Super Bowl Media Day.

Oher wasn’t thrilled with his portrayal in the movie, particularly scenes depicting him not knowing what he was doing at his first football practice. But Oher does say that the movie accurately portrayed the love he has for his adoptive family.

“I’ve got them coming to the game,” Oher said. “They’re still my family.”

So that part of the movie is real. The part about Oher needing Sandra Bullock to show him how to block is Hollywood.

Pollard would prefer his son didn’t play, but wouldn’t stop him


Maybe Ravens safety Bernard Pollard is hoping he’s prophetic.

After saying earlier this week that he wasn’t sure the NFL would even exist in 30 years, he said Tuesday he’d prefer his his son to not play football.

At the same time, one of the league’s hardest hitters knows that’s only his call for so long.

“My whole stance right now, this is my outlet, I would let him play the game,” Pollard said. “ For us as fathers and mothers, we want our kids to have better than what we had, so that comes down to us setting up things later on in life and kind of prepping them as they grow. If he’s going to want to play, then I would let him play. I don’t want him to, but I would let him play, so he’s starting to see that he can kick the ball and everything else. It’s just hard; my son’s 4 years old. He’s seeing now, he wants to throw the ball around, he wants to be tackled, he wants to do all those things, so I see that. I see it in him.

“That’s one of the things that’s kind of hard to watch, and we talk about it all the time, but you know, it sucks because, I don’t ever want to see my son [get hurt], and I know concussions happen, but just to see him go through it, the daily grind and the aches and the pains of the body and young injuries, I don’t want to see my son go through that.”

At the same time, Pollard doesn’t exactly play the way that would set an example for his son.

But he said the physical pain also comes with a gain, as the benefits of the sport go beyond the more comfortable environment the money can provide.

“Well, I think it’s one of those things where it teaches you discipline, it teaches you responsibility, because you’re not, it’s no longer about you. It’s about high school, college, however many guys are on the team, and it’s about all of them,” Pollard said. “You have to think about them before you want to make certain decisions, coaches that you come across in pee wee, metro, middle school, high school, college, you know it’s just about those relationships, and for me, it’s about me, you know, that I have to be more responsible. I have to be disciplined as a man, as a father and as a husband, you know, and I think so many people, the game of football, you get a small window to play this game.

“Life is so much bigger than this, and we as players and coaches and media, we make this game harder than what it is. It’s still a game. It really is. It’s still a game, you know. We are men, and life is so much greater than this.”

But his greater responsibility is to his family, and though Pollard has been steadfast about his own play, his hesitance to subject his flesh and blood to it is telling.

S.W.A.T.S. owner wants to go exclusive with one NFL team

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Deer antler extract became an unlikely player in Super Bowl week on Tuesday with a Sports Illustrated article alleging Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis contacted a company that sells it called S.W.A.T.S. about the product after tearing his triceps this season.

The extract contains IGF-1, which is on the NFL’s list of banned substances, and Lewis denied using the extract at Media Day on Tuesday. Mitch Ross, one of the owners of the company, was a guest on Bull & Fox on 92.3 in Cleveland Tuesday and reiterated much of what he said in the SI piece. He’s known Lewis for many years, first meeting him through current Bengals assistant Hue Jackson, and gave him the products asking only that Lewis credit S.W.A.T.S. with helping him when he made his return. Ross said he didn’t know why Lewis didn’t do that on Tuesday, although he does admit to using products from the company in the SI article.

After giving a lengthy explanation of what IGF-1 does and why he believes his company has been unfairly targeted by the NFL. Ross, who is pitching a lot more than just the deer antler extract, also said that he wants to market his products — presumably the ones that haven’t been banned by the league — to one team exclusively to prove that they provide an edge by keeping players healthier than the opposition.

It seems like an unlikely proposition, although Ross’s purported client list show that missing the league’s stamp of approval isn’t hurting the company all that much.

Moss admits he doesn’t like his role, but not divisive about it


We mentioned earlier today that 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss declared himself the best wideout in the history of the game.

You’ll likely see much more about him in the coming days, in many outlets, because he was so open and forthcoming and illuminating about many topics during his appearance at Media Day.

When Moss is on, he’s extremely interesting, he just chooses not to be on often.

But among the gems today was a candid admission that he didn’t particularly care for the way the 49ers used him this year.

In the past, it could have been a Keyshawn-level “Just Give Me the Damn Ball” routine, but Moss said it so matter-of-factly it was easy to miss.

“I don’t like my role; I don’t,” he said. “I like to be out there playing football. One thing that I’ve always had to really understand was being a decoy. It was put to me, Coach Dennis Green just said, ‘Even though the football is not in your hand, you’re still out there dictating how the defense is playing the offense.’ It took me awhile to really understand where he was coming from. Later on and now in my career, I understand that my presence out on the field, I don’t always have to touch the ball to be able to help the offense score touchdowns.

“Like I said, I don’t really like that, but it’s something that I’m used to. I have to grow to understand and grow to like it. I’ve always been a team player. I’ve never been about self. Anything that is going to push our team to victory and hopefully win a Super Bowl, I’m willing to do.”

No, that was Moss, who hasn’t always been accused to giving freely of himself for the greater good.

But 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Moss had been nothing but professional.

“He’s been great,” Roman said. “I think he’s a great team player, and a mentor for all the guys, really.”

His love of competition has never been in doubt. Moss joked about past arguments, even fights, he’s had with coaches and players. But his role with the 49ers, as much as he might not like it, remains a valuable one, as Roman insisted Moss could still “get behind a defense in a hurry.”

“When I hear people talk about how talented I am and how easy I make it look, I can honestly tell you people that it’s very hard work,” Moss said. “I work out five times a week. I put the work in and for me to be able to go out there and have results it something I am proud of. It’s not always the individual results that I’m proud of. For me to be able to talk to a Michael Crabtree or talk to a Frank Gore or Percy Harvin and for them to go out there and have a good game that week, that’s something I can be proud of. That’s just me giving back to the NFL.

“I’ve always said, I don’t like what the NFL does for me because I’m very blessed. My family is blessed. I’ve always been the type of person to know what I can do to make the League better. At this point in my career, if I’m able to be vocal, to share a little knowledge and also to go out there and play, if that’s what it takes to win a championship, then I’m willing to do that. I’ve always been that way.”

Maybe so, but he hasn’t been quite the way he was Tuesday too often, or the perception of his career would likely be very different.

Kaepernick’s college coach: “He could’ve been a great free safety”

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49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is one of the biggest stars of this year’s Super Bowl, but he didn’t always look headed for that. Kaepernick’s college coach at Nevada, Chris Ault, contemplated moving Kaepernick to defense.

“I thought to myself, ‘If he can’t play quarterback, he looks like he’s a good enough athlete that he could play free safety or wide receiver,” Ault told FOX Sports Radio, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. “At that time, Kap was maybe 6-foot-4, about 183 pounds. Built like a fork.

“He could’ve been a great free safety, without question. And you know, his freshman redshirt year, he was okay. There was nothing that told us he was a special athlete. He threw sidearm a little bit. He’s a great pitcher and he had that little pitching motion from the sidearm. We had to try to push that thing up.

“So he was just a really good athlete. But boy, would he have been a heck of a free safety.”

Good thing Ault never tried.

Joe Staley: I cried my eyes out when Brian Kelly moved me to the line

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San Francisco left tackle Joe Staley is glad to be a starting offensive lineman in the Super Bowl. But he was devastated when he first became an offensive lineman in college.

Staley said at Super Bowl Media Day that after playing wide receiver in high school and beginning his college career at Central Michigan as a tight end, he figured he’d be a skill position player forever. Then a new coach, Brian Kelly, came along and informed Staley that he was being moved to the offensive line. Staley didn’t take it well.

“I started out as a skinny 200 pound wide receiver coming out of high school,” Staley said. “I was a sprinter and all of that stuff. I was really fast. I ran a 21 in the 200. Then I got fat. I went to college. Brian Kelly came in my sophomore year. Played tight end my freshman year in college. Brian Kelly came in and said ‘We do not use tight ends in our offense but we want to keep you on the field in some way. We are going to move you to tackle.’ I cried my eyes out. I am not afraid to admit it. Almost transferred but then stayed, gained weight, busted my butt and got drafted.”

It worked out for Staley, who ended up being a first-round pick of the 49ers. And Kelly, who is now the head coach at Notre Dame, has shown that he knows what he’s doing. But when Kelly first moved Staley, that wasn’t a move that Staley appreciated.

Ray Lewis denies using banned substance

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Hours after Sports Illustrated reported that Ray Lewis has been given deer antler extract, which contains a substance banned by the NFL as a performance-enhancer, Lewis insisted that that’s not the case.

Lewis said at Super Bowl Media Day that he never took deer antler extract and that the Sports Illustrated report is “stupidity.” Lewis also said he has been tested many times during his NFL career and has never tested positive.

“Every test I’ve ever took in the NFL? There’s never been a question if I’ve even thought about using anything,” Lewis said.

But Sports Illustrated reports that a company called Sports With Alternatives to Steroids, or SWATS, did give Lewis the deer antler extract, which contains the banned substance IGF-1. According to Sports Illustrated, many athletes are using the substance, even though it’s banned in all major sports. A high-profile story like this may lead the NFL to look into the use of supplements containing IGF-1, but any league action would take months, and Lewis’s last game is just five days away.

Flacco apologizes for “retarded” comment

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Joe Flacco knew he made a mistake as soon as he said it Monday night, so he apologized for it Tuesday.

In reference to a question about cold-weather Super Bowls, Flacco called it a “retarded” idea, then admitted immediately he shouldn’t have used the word, following it with “stupid.”

Tuesday, he said he wished he could have reeled it back in.

Obviously, it was a bad choice of words. I wish I hadn’t said it,” Flacco said, via Mike Garafolo of USA Today. “I have a great relationship with Special Olympics back in Baltimore and have had one for many years. I didn’t mean to offend anybody, but I definitely apologize for it.”

It’s good that Flacco immediately recognized his mistake, and went right back to being his “dull” self. And hopefully more people, not just football players, will learn that the two words he used Monday aren’t interchangeable.

Ray Lewis: No one at Media Day is qualified to ask about murder case

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Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis had to know heading into Super Bowl Media Day that he would be asked about pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with a 2000 incident in which two men were stabbed to death and Lewis was initially charged with murder. But Lewis says that question is not appropriate for Super Bowl Media Day.

Asked about the case today, Lewis said he wouldn’t get into the details and he doesn’t think the assembled members of the media should be asking about it.

“Nobody here is really qualified to ask those questions,” Lewis said. “I just truly feel that this is God’s time, and whatever his time is, you know, let it be his will. Don’t try to please everybody with your words, try to make everybody’s story sound right. At this time, I would rather direct my questions in other places. Because I live with that every day. You maybe can take a break from it. I don’t. I live with it every day of my life and I would rather not talk about it today.”

That’s about what everyone expected Lewis to say: Lewis has typically refused to get into specifics about the case while invoking his religion to demonstrate that he’s a changed man. And that’s what Lewis is continuing to do during the last week of his NFL career.

Alex Smith on wanting release: Don’t know where that’s from

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On Sunday, Mike Florio of PFT reported that 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was expected to seek his release from the 49ers rather than moving to a new team via a trade.

Smith was asked about that report during Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday and said that he didn’t have any idea where that came from. He didn’t say it was an inaccurate assessment of his desired path to a new team, however, and wanting the chance to pick your own landing spot has to be at least somewhat appealing. Smith said that he’s only thinking about the Super Bowl, but his answers made it clear that he’s not totally unprepared for what’s coming up in the offseason.

“I still feel I have my best football ahead of me,” Smith said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.”In that sense, I feel like I’ve gotten better and better. I feel like I’m capable of playing at a high level. So, yeah, I’m excited for my next opportunity, wherever that comes.”

Smith drew the most attention of any backup quarterback not on the Jets roster on Tuesday and he handled it as well as he’s handled everything since getting benched for Colin Kaepernick. He can’t hide that he wants to be a starter, though, and his $8.5 million salary for 2013 all but guarantees he’ll get that chance somewhere other than San Francisco.

Larry Allen gave Patrick Willis his “welcome to the NFL” moment

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Patrick Willis’s rookie season in San Francisco was also the final season for offensive lineman Larry Allen, a mountain of a man who’s a finalist this year for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Willis said at Super Bowl Media Day today that taking on Allen at practice was the moment he realized how different the NFL would be from playing college football.

Willis described a 49ers training camp practice in which he thought he’d be able to run right past Allen and make a tackle. Instead, Allen drilled him and sent him flying across the field.

“I saw Larry Allen and I was like, ‘I’m going to put a move on him and go get the ballcarrier. That’s what I did in college,'” Willis said. “I’ll never forget: He pushed me and I swear, I was like I started on one side of the field and ended up on the other side of the field.”

Willis said that the 49ers’ coaches got on his case about that one, and that part of the humiliation of getting chewed out was that the coaches just barked out his uniform number and his school, as if they weren’t going to bother to learn his name until he showed he belonged.

“The worst part was hearing my coach say, ’52, Mississippi, what are you doing?'” Willis recalled. “I was like, ‘You see how big this dude is?'”

In time, Willis learned how to take on those big dudes and become an All-Pro linebacker. But in his first training camp, Willis was just the rookie who got thrown across the field by a future Hall of Famer.

Randy Moss thinks he’s the best receiver of all time

49ers wide receiver Randy Moss doesn’t talk to the media much these days, but the occasions when he does are usually good for something more than the usual bland platitudes we hear from many of his fellow professional athletes.

With Super Bowl Media Day upon us, Moss couldn’t avoid reporters on Tuesday. He didn’t disappoint, especially when it came time for him to answer a question about his place in football history.

“I do think I’m the greatest receiver ever to play this game,” Moss said.

There are plenty of guys who would likely argue their case against Moss and the one with the best argument of all didn’t wait long to fire back. Adam Schefter of ESPN was with Jerry Rice when word of Moss’ thoughts filtered back to the guy who is commonly referred to as the best receiver in history and passed along Rice’s thoughts.

“Put my numbers up against his numbers,” Rice said.

We side with Rice on this one thanks in part to the longevity and consistency he had in addition to his many physical gifts. Having said that, there haven’t been many football players able to take over games by themselves the way that Moss did when he was at his best. Any list of the best wideouts in history has to have Moss near the top to be taken seriously.

[Photo credit:  Florio’s wife.]