By Peter Schwartz
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Thursday was another eventful day here in Dallas and not all of it had to do with Super Bowl XLV. In addition to another day of practice for the Packers and Steelers, there were plenty of things going on inside and outside of the media center.
First, let’s check in on the two teams that will battle on Sunday for the Vince Lombardi Trophy…
At Steelers practice, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King was the pool reporter and said that the Steelers worked mainly on nickel and red-zone offensive and defensive situations during their workout at the Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility at TCU.
For the second straight day, center Maurkice Pouncey did not practice because of a high ankle sprain.
“It’s getting to be the witching hour for Maurkice,’’ Tomlin told King after practice. “He’s going to have to show us something very soon.’’
Also, Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith was limited in practice for a second straight day because of a torn triceps.
King also reported that Thursday was a big day for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger…
Roethlisberger, preparing to play his third Super Bowl in his seventh NFL season, showed Tomlin something throughout practice—that he’s ready to play. “I thought he had a good day,’’ Tomlin said. “I thought it was a good day of preparation overall.’’
Spreading the ball around well to all his receivers, Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Heath Miller and rookie Emmanuel Sanders for touchdowns on the 80-yard indoor practice field. Roethlisberger was sharp on other series Thursday as well.
“I’m glad we were sharp, but I’m not sure it really means anything for the game,’’ Tomlin said. “I’ve seen us practice great on Thursday and play poorly on Sunday, and then I’ve seen us practice not worth anything Thursday and then come out and play great.’’
Now, let’s see what happened at Packers practice…
Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter was the pool reporter and detailed some injury news about Packers wide receiver Donald Driver.
Driver sat out team drills after tweaking a quadriceps injury the previous day. Coach Mike McCarthy said the move was precautionary.
“He’s fine,” McCarthy said Thursday at the conclusion of the 1-hour, 45-minute, no-pads workout at Highland Park High School’s indoor facility. “He wants to practice and all that, but I’m not taking any chances with him. I’ll probably hold him out tomorrow, as well.”
Driver was placed on the inactive list Nov. 7 against Dallas and missed significant stretches in two other games because of a quadriceps injury. The 12th-year veteran still finished second on the team with 51 catches and was fourth with 565 yards.
Also, linebacker Erik Walden did not take part in team drills after giving his sprained ankle a try in practice on Wednesday. Trotter spoke with McCarthy about his status.
“He was very sore, which is why we limited him today,” McCarthy said. “It’s up the air with him right now. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. Even if he feels a lot better, he’ll be limited. I’m going to hold him back and give him every chance to be ready for the game.”
Walden sustained the injury in the third quarter of the Jan. 23 NFC Championship Game at Chicago and did not return. Frank Zombo continued to work with the first team in his absence.
The Packers focused on red-zone work, blitz periods, and punt return and kickoff coverage Thursday. Things got chippy during the blitz period when offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith, working with the scout team, and linebacker Rob Francois got into a pushing and grabbing match. Teammates stepped in and separated them, and there were no further incidents.
Now, let’s get onto other business starting with the weather here in Dallas. It continues to be cold and there is still some ice on the roads. Plus, a good amount of snow fell on Thursday night into Friday and its going to be interesting to see how officials, who are never really prepared for this, handle the situation with lots of Steelers and Packers fans trying to make their way here for the game.
The NFL announced that Walt Anderson will be the referee for Super Bowl XLV. The other members of the seven man crew are umpire Chad Brown, head linesman Kent Payne, line judge John Hussey, field judge Doug Rosenbaum, side judge Mike Weatherford, and back judge Scott Helverson.
Collectively, the crew has 77 years of NFL officiating experience and a combined 53 games of playoff assignments.
Thursday also meant another day to talk about the NFL’s labor situation. Union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and President Kevin Mawae held a press conference and reiterated a few things.
*The players want to play but they are preparing for the owners to institute a lockout when the current CBA expires on March 4th.
*The union says that the NFL wants them to give back $1 billion a year over 7 years which is not acceptable.
*Mawae said that he represents all of the players including those who don’t like what’s going on such as Jets free agent cornerback Antonio Cromartie (more on the Jets later).
*Smith told reporters that anything that puts the players at risk such as concussions and long term illness is not in the union’s best interests. That was his response to a question about the league’s proposal of an 18 game regular season.
*Cardinals kicker and player rep Jay Feely said that the players are united.
Before the NFLPA briefing, I attended a couple of other Super Bowl related events…
Head and Shoulders has a promotion called “Super Bowl XLV Mane Match-Up” where fans can vote for who has the greatest Super Bowl hairstyle of the past.
As part of that, they offered members of the media a free haircut which I badly needed so I took them up on it.
Then it was off to a press conference to promote Sunday’s halftime show featuring “The Black Eyed Peas”. I asked Fergie about set list but she wouldn’t divulge what songs that they will perform. If I had to guess, “I Gotta Feeling” and “Let’s Get It Started” are two very strong possibilities.
Also attending that press conference was Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis who is at the Super Bowl for the “Ochocinco News Network”. After the event was over, I caught up with the Jets Pro Bowler…
Revis also told other reporters that he wants the Jets to bring back Antonio Cromartie. Quarterback Mark Sanchez met with members of the media and announced that he will not need surgery on his sore throwing shoulder.
On tap for Friday is a press conference with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. It’s the last time that they will speak to reporters before Super Bowl XLV.
After that, Commissioner Roger Goodell will hold his annual Super Bowl press conference.
I wonder what he’s going to talk about?
It’s prediction time! I’m going with the Steelers to win 27-23.
That’s all for now. Check back over the weekend for more as we’ll also find out the Pro Football Hall Of Fame class for 2011. Good luck to former Jets running back Curtis Martin!
Who will win Super Bowl XLV? Will the Jets bring back Cromartie? Weigh in on all the big topics below…