Super Bowl LI: Highlights from Falcons, Patriots on Opening Night

By Ron Clements 31 January 2017 242
Super Bowl LI: Highlights from Falcons, Patriots on Opening Night

While the New England Patriots are hoping to win their fifth Super Bowl under Bill Belichick, the Atlanta Falcons plan to make it tough.

The Falcons made one thing clear during Monday's Super Bowl Opening Night – they are not simply happy to be there.

While most of the Falcons players are in the Super Bowl for the first time, they have not yet celebrated their NFC championship. 

"There won't be any celebrating until after we win the Super Bowl," third-year running back Devonta Freeman said at Minute Maid Park. 

Freeman, whose agent said he deserves "elite" pay once his rookie contract is over, said he studies tapes of former NFL backs like Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson so he can be "mentioned among the greats" one day.

Like media days in the past, there were some strange things to see, like Cooper Manning doing interviews with a suit 'made' of dollar bills and actor Kel Mitchell reprising his role from the 1997 movie, 'Good Burger'.

Here are some other highlights from Super Bowl LI Opening Night:

Matt Ryan craves normalcy

"This isn't normal," Falcons quarterback Ryan said of Monday's media frenzy. "But when we get in our meeting rooms and on the practice field, it's going to be real normal for us. We'll enjoy this part of it. It's cool. You never know when you're going to get these opportunities in your life.

"We'll enjoy it, but we feel good about where we're at... Just like any other week. We're here for one reason and that's to win a game. We can all celebrate afterward."

No standup for Alex Mack

Falcons center Alex Mack is not exactly a comedian.

"I'm not funny on game day at all. I'm really boring," the four-time Pro Bowler said. "I think I'm a witty person, usually, unless I have a camera and a microphone in front of me. I like to make a couple of jokes."

Dwight Freeney not wearing his Super Bowl ring

Like Mack, who spent his first seven NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns, defensive end Dwight Freeney is in his first season with the Falcons. Freeney is in his 15th NFL season and spent his first 11 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He played in two Super Bowls with the Colts, winning the championship in 2006. But he rarely wears the championship ring from Super Bowl XLI.

"I don't wear it often. I just put it away," Freeney said. "I will worry about all that stuff when I'm done, finished playing. That Super Bowl ring, I'll wear it all day. But while I'm playing, I'm too busy trying to win another."

Mohamed Sanu just wants to talk football

Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu is a Muslim and the child of refugees from Sierra Leone. He knew he would be asked about the travel ban from Muslim countries imposed by United States president Donald Trump, but would not answer questions about it. 

"I'm here because of my football talents, not because I'm Muslim," he said. "I'm here to talk about football."

Tom Brady on playing in his seventh Super Bowl

"It never gets old," Brady said. "It hit me today at the pep really. You realise this is different and just a special experience... You have two weeks to prepare. There's nothing after this. It's the only thing going on in my life right now."

Brady wants LeBron

Brady would love to have Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James on his team.

“LeBron. Tight end. Split him out, throw it up," Brady said. "He'd come down with a lot of them."

Chris Long thankful for Super Bowl opportunity

Defensive end Chris Long spent eight losing seasons in St. Louis before joining the Patriots.

"Nobody was pulling a muscle to open the chequebook for me after the last two years," he said. "I was hurt. I was bad. Bill said, 'Are you ready to be back to the guy you were?' I felt good. We both took chances and I'm lucky to be here."

Martellus Bennett will not visit the White House

Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett said he would not take part in a team visit to the White House should the Patriots win Super Bowl LI. Bennett has been outspoken in his criticism of the president since Trump won last November's election.

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Ron Clements

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