JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY – An icy wind made its way through the Meadowlands, cut across the Hudson River and into frigid Manhattan. Looks like Mother Nature is taking seriously the NFL’s slogan for the upcoming Super Bowl: Best Served Cold.
One week before kickoff, on the day the Broncos and Seahawks arrived in the frozen Big Apple, Sunday brought a bit of a thaw. Temperatures actually rose above zero.
Not that the guys who will take the field at MetLife Stadium have any complaints or concerns. They’d play this one on the New Jersey tundra or in Death Valley.
“My team is excited,” Peyton Manning said after the Broncos’ flight landed in New Jersey. “We worked hard to earn this opportunity. We couldn’t be more excited.
“We were excited getting on that plane and excited getting off that plane.”
What the Broncos and Seahawks must understand is that the upcoming week is unlike anything else they experienced during the season. Or during any season.
More media, for sure. A glaring spotlight on everything. Spending a week away from home. Practicing in another team’s facility: the Seahawks at the Giants’ complex across the parking lots from MetLife Stadium, the Broncos at the Jets’ place in Florham Park, about 30 minutes from the Meadowlands.
“I mean obviously it’s the biggest game that we’ve ever played in,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said. “It’s one of the games that we’ve been dreaming about playing in it since we were 6 years old on little league fields. The distraction of the hype that surrounds it, it’s definitely real.
“But, that distraction is something that we have to try and eliminate. It’s going to be difficult. But in order for us to execute as well as we want to, we have to eliminate that distraction.”
Not one Seahawks player has been this far, giving Denver something of an edge in experience. The Broncos have four: receiver Wes Welker, tight end Jacob Tamme, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and some quarterback named Peyton.
Manning, of course, is the only current Bronco to have won a ring, with Indianapolis in 2007. He also lost the Super Bowl in 2010 with the Colts.
“The Super Bowl is a big deal,” he said. “I know how hard it is to get here. I know the sacrifice the team made.”
That they will sacrifice the comfort of playing in a dome, or in a warm climate, in this Super Bowl doesn’t seem to be fazing them a bit. Instead, the Broncos want to embrace the cold, the winds, the snow — and everything else that comes along this week in the first Super Bowl ever played outdoors in a cold-weather city.
“We’d love to play in 70-degree (Fahrenheit) weather,” said Denver 15-year veteran cornerback Champ Bailey, who has reached his first title game. “But if you tell me it’s 20 degrees and I am playing in the Super Bowl, I’m going to take it.”
Welker, who lost both of his trips to the Super Bowl with the Patriots before joining the Broncos this season as a free agent, fully understands the issues that can arise this week. He and Manning, in particular, have counseled teammates on those pitfalls.
“It’s knowing what to expect, trying to get rid of all the nonsense that goes with the Super Bowl,” Welker said.
Still, with snow on the ground, frost in the air, and plenty of forecasts for what might be ahead next Sunday, the only truly accurate forecast might have been delivered by Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas.
“I don’t care where we play,” he said. “I know when we play, all the feelings and the stuff I need to get ready and prepare. It’ll be there.”