When Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera was in the Super Bowl with Chicago 30 years ago, it was easy to find the parties: He’d just walk out of the team hotel and head toward the French Quarter.
Not so with Super Bowl 50 in the Bay area, where the teams are stationed about 40 miles south of the nightclubs, parties and other trappings of Super Bowl week.
That distance to possible distractions had Rivera a little nervous Tuesday, the Panthers’ only day off this week.
“Part of the thing about this that makes it hard is because we’re talking 40 miles to go north to San Francisco where everything’s happening. Whereas when we were in New Orleans it was all there so you could walk everywhere you wanted to go,” Rivera said. “I think this is a tough venue because where we are (in San Jose) and the activity’s up (in San Francisco). So I do worry about (Tuesday) night. We’ve got our fingers crossed. I hope everybody’s back on time.”
Captains, veterans set curfew
Rivera allowed captains and veterans to set the curfew for the week. They decided on midnight, when players are to check in with the two police officers and one security guard stationed on the players’ floors of their San Jose hotel.
But wide receiver Philly Brown likes to think players would get in before the early-morning hours even without the self-imposed curfew.
“We know why we’re here. We’re not here to travel to San Fran,” Brown said. “If we come down here and act like this is a vacation and lose a ballgame, then what? The season was for what, we were the conference champion? That’s cool. We went to the Super Bowl and lost. At the end of the day that won’t mean anything.
“So I think everybody has a great sense that we’re not here for vacation, we’re here to win a ball game.”
Denver coach Gary Kubiak let captains Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware set the Broncos’ curfew this week. The Broncos are staying in Santa Clara, which is about 45 minutes from San Francisco.
Learning from experience
When the Jim McMahon-led Bears faced New England in the 1985 Super Bowl, former Chicago coach Mike Ditka wanted with his famously wild and hard-living team to soak up the experience.
Rivera, a backup linebacker on that team, wants his players to do the same – to a point. Rivera said he told players about a saying from one of his friends: Be where your feet are.
Put another way, stay in the moment.
“I said, hey guys, we’re going to the Super Bowl. It’s an event. Embrace it, enjoy it,” Rivera said. “But make sure when we practice you’re where your feet are. If our feet are on the practice field let’s practice. If we’re on the game field, let’s play.
“But when we’re away from it enjoy it. Appreciate the moment. That’s been the message. And I think they’ve done a nice job. We’ll see (Wednesday).”
A cautionary tale
Rivera also had Eugene Robinson, the color analyst on Panthers’ radio broadcasts, address players before they left Charlotte. Robinson was arrested for soliciting an undercover cop for sex the night before Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami.
Robinson, an Atlanta safety, gave up an 80-yard touchdown catch in the Falcons’ loss to Denver. He warned players of the pitfalls and temptations of Super Bowl week.
“You’ve got to let grown men be grown men. We have a good, quality group of guys on this team. So nobody’s going to go out and do anything stupid,” fullback Mike Tolbert said. “But to be able to say, stay out of this place or don’t go to this place – if you’re a grown man and another grown man says that’s not a good place to be, the majority of the time nobody’s going to do it.
“We’re going to have a good time. We’re going to enjoy this process. But you’ve got to let a man learn from his own mistakes.”
Tolbert, an eight-year veteran playing in his first Super Bowl, planned to join teammates in San Francisco on Tuesday. He said he wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge and tour Alcatraz.
He had no intention of going astray.
“Everybody here knows me. I’m not a knucklehead. I’m not going to go out and do something stupid and cause so much trouble and pain for my teammates and my family,” Tolbert said. “I’m going to get a ride there. I’m going to get a ride back. And I’m going to enjoy it while I’m there, take a lot of pictures.”