Legendary stadium groundskeeper George Toma explains slippery Super Bowl LVII field | Kansas City Star
Don’t cross “The Sodfather.”
George Toma, the long-time groundskeeper who has overseen or advised the field preparation for all 57 Super Bowls, identified reasons why the turf for last month’s game at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, was slippery.
Players from both teams — the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 — complained about the turf after the game. Several Eagles players switched cleats during the game to get a better grip.
Toma told ESPN that the field was mismanaged by Ed Mangan, the NFL’s field director. The field was watered and rolled into the stadium four days before the game.
“So what he does, he waters the hell out of and puts it right into the stadium and that’s it,” Toma said. “Never sees sunlight against. He can’t do that.”
What should happen, Toma said, is the field should have been watered the morning of the game and kept outside to dry before being rolled back in.
Also, a tarp covered the field during rehearsals for the pregame, halftime and postgame shows, creating an odor. “It smelled bad,” Toma said.
Could Marcus Mariota be the Chiefs’ next great backup QB? | Chiefs Wire
To discount the need for a competent backup in the Mahomes era of Chiefs football is to deny the team’s history, despite the obvious security they have in their starter. Henne decided to retire after Kansas City’s Super Bowl win in February, leaving a void that 2022 third-stringer Shane Buechele seems poised to fill in 2023.
If the worst came to pass, though, and Mahomes were to be sidelined with injury for an extended period, Buechele’s inexperience could doom the Chiefs’ season. Even if the MVP starter were slated to return late in the season, any extended losing could cause problems for a team with perennial Super Bowl aspirations. With this in mind, it may make sense for Kansas City to explore the option of adding a seasoned veteran to at least compete with the 25-year-old Buechele for the backup role, even if only to make the third-year signal caller prove that he has what it takes to lead the team in a pinch.
Enter Marcus Mariota, the Heisman-winning former Tennessee Titan and Atlanta Falcon who dealt the Chiefs one of the most improbable playoff losses in franchise history in a game where he completed a touchdown pass to himself back in 2018. Freshly jettisoned from Atlanta’s roster after starting for the Falcons all season, Mariota may fit the bill for what Kansas City is looking for in a backup quarterback, even if only temporarily while the team feels out Buechele’s viability in the second-string role.
Chiefs’ Travis Kelce is hosting ‘SNL.’ Here’s how KC’s Heidi Gardner made it happen | Kansas City Star
Seeing how “loud and fearless and funny Travis was at the parade in 2020, I was just kind of like, ‘OK, he’s good,’” Gardner told The Star this week.
She met him virtually a few months after his rebel “party” yell. She did a skit for the ESPY Awards, via Zoom because of the pandemic, with Kelce, Mahomes, and three funny guys with Kansas City ties — Big Slick fundraiser co-hosts Rob Riggle, Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner. (Gardner is a newly minted Big Slick host.)
And once again, she was struck by how funny and quick Kelce was; Mahomes, too.
So when the new season of “SNL” started that fall, the long-time Chiefs fan went back to work with an idea.
Hey, I know every couple of years we have an athlete host, I just want to say Travis Kelce would be great.
“And I think they were like, of course you’d say that, you’re a huge Kansas City fan,” she said. “I don’t know seriously they were taking me at the time.
“But then I also feel like Travis has had lots of appearances since then on lots of things, same with Patrick in the State Farm commercials.
“These guys are obviously, they’re athletes for one, but they have charming, hilarious personalities, too. So I think their work just started speaking for itself.”
Super Bowl champion Willie Gay Jr. returned to Mississippi on Wednesday | Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Gay stopped by West Oktibbeha County Elementary School on Wednesday. In the school’s gymnasium, he sat in bleachers with students as they listened to a reading of Dr. Seuss’ famous work.
“It’s always a special time whenever I can come back home and give back to the kids,” Gay said.
He was originally slated to be a special guest for Tuesday’s Black History Month program, but flight delays forced a postponement.
Following Wednesday’s reading, Gay fielded questions from students. He was asked about his favorites subjects in school, whether he’d played for teams besides the Chiefs and played any other sports growing up.
Though he attended elementary school in Starkville, stopping by West Oktibbeha County Elementary was special to Gay as his mom works there. He noted that growing up featured punishments, but he reminded students that respecting teachers and parents went a long way.
Gay, who recorded eight tackles in the Super Bowl, is part of a strong group from the Magnolia State currently in the NFL – including 12 players who were on rosters or practices squads for the Eagles and Chiefs.
“Mississippi does have a lot of talented people,” Gay said. “Some make it and some don’t, unfortunately. But that’s why we come back and try to talk to kids and try to be that positive impact on their lives so when they see us they know that it is possible. … Whatever you set your mind to, you can do it. That’s the message we want to send.”
Super Bowl LVII might be Rice DE Ikenna Enechukwu’s last time rooting for the Chiefs | Chiefs Wire
“I love it, man,” said Enechukwu. “Ever since I started playing football, I was just always a big Chiefs fan, like I was like waiting to see them win. Like I was so excited the first time they won (the Super Bowl). The second time they won, I’m still excited. And there’s always gonna be, like, anybody that grows up in Kansas City, likes the Chiefs. There’s always gonna be something different because there were times (when) they weren’t doing good. And now they brought a lot of attention to the city, but a lot of good publicity.”
Watching the Super Bowl LVII victory over the Eagles, Enechukwu had a startling revelation about his future as a fan of the Chiefs.
“I might not even play for the Chiefs,” said Enechukwu. “And I was watching the game, I was like, ‘Man, this might be my last time rooting for the Chiefs. I’m the one that might have to chase down Patrick Mahomes, and then I might not be a big fan of him anymore.’”
As a fifth-year senior at Rice, Enechukwu finished with 19 tackles, eight assists, and 17 stops. When rushing the passer, he had 29 total pressures, which included three sacks on the season.
Enechukwu confirmed that he did have a meeting with Kansas City’s decision-makers at the combine, so there is a chance the hometown product will only need to chase Patrick Mahomes in practice after the NFL Draft in April.
Around the NFL
Jalen Carter, top NFL draft prospect, charged with racing in fatal crash | ESPN
Former Georgia star Jalen Carter, one of the top prospects in next month’s NFL draft, has been charged with reckless driving and racing in connection with a crash that killed a teammate and a recruiting staff member.
The Athens-Clarke County (Georgia) Police Department issued an arrest warrant, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, that alleges Carter was racing his 2021 Jeep Trackhawk against the 2021 Ford Expedition driven by the recruiting staffer, 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy, which led to the Jan. 15 wreck.
The announcement came hours after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Carter was present at the scene of the crash and later provided shifting accounts of the wreck to police.
Devin Willock, who was an offensive lineman for the Bulldogs, and LeCroy were killed in what police initially reported as a single-vehicle accident.
Carter was booked for reckless driving and racing on highways/streets at 11:33 p.m. ET Wednesday night and released at 11:49 p.m. after posting a $4,000 bond, according to online records.
Reckless driving and racing are both misdemeanors in Georgia.
Carter had been slated to speak to reporters on Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis as part of a previously scheduled media availability, but a league spokesperson later told reporters that Carter would not be speaking because he and five other players were still conducting physicals.
In a statement posted to social media on Wednesday afternoon, Carter said he intended to return to Athens to “answer the misdemeanor charges against me and to make certain that the complete and accurate truth is presented.”
Carter also said in his statement that he expects to be “fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”
Colts GM Chris Ballard on potentially trading for No. 1 pick: ‘There’s got to be a guy worthy of it’ | NFL.com
On Wednesday, Ballard tried his best to pour some cold water on the trade-up possibility.
“I know everybody … has just automatically stamped that you’ve got to move up to No. 1 to get it right,” Ballard said at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. “I don’t know if I agree with that. I don’t. But that’s gonna be the narrative.”
It’s the narrative because the Colts need a quarterback, and they’re almost as well-positioned as any QB-needy team to land one in Round 1 this April. Indianapolis selects fourth overall, and it has been a popular mock-draft maneuver to project a trade from that spot to No. 1 overall, which is held by the Chicago Bears.
With the Bears seemingly backing QB Justin Fields as their starter, Chicago might be open for business. The Colts might be itching to land their next franchise QB — they haven’t had one since Andrew Luck — but Ballard suggested that there might not be the caliber of passer in this draft class needed to execute a costly trade.
“To move up,” Ballard said, “there’s got to be a guy worthy of it.”
Ravens GM Eric DeCosta on Lamar Jackson negotiations: Both sides understand urgency of situation | NFL.com
“Lamar and I are talking,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said on Wednesday from the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. “We met recently. It’s an ongoing discussion. Both (sides) understand the urgency of the situation.
“It’s been a good dialogue, a good discussion. I’m optimistic as I’ve continued to be optimistic, and we’ll see where it goes.”
In January, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters there was a “200 percent” chance Jackson stays in Baltimore, and on Wednesday, he reiterated his belief that a deal can be reached.
“He’s my quarterback, he’s my guy,” Harbaugh said of Jackson. “I love him and as a coach, I’m looking forward to seeing it get done. But it’s not easy, you know? It’s never easy, it’s the business part of it, but I’m really hopeful and excited, fervently hopeful and can’t wait for it to get done.”
The Ravens have not yet decided whether to place the franchise tag — exclusive or nonexclusive — on Jackson, DeCosta said. But time is running out on that decision with the March 7 deadline to use the tag (nonexclusive for QBs priced at $32.416 million) looming in less than a week. The deadline to reach a long-term deal with franchise-tagged players is July 17.
Joe Montana’s ‘The Drive’ jersey sells for record $1.212 million | ESPN
The jersey worn by Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana in not one, but two Super Bowl victories by the San Francisco 49ers has sold for $1.212 million with buyer’s premium, obliterating the record paid for a football jersey at auction.
The jersey was brokered through collectibles marketplace Goldin. The previous record was the $480,000 paid for a 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tom Brady jersey in January 2022 — also brokered by Goldin.
Montana first wore the now record-breaking jersey in Super Bowl XIX, in which the Niners defeated the Miami Dolphins 38-16, and then four years later in Super Bowl XXIII, in which Montana engineered a game-winning 92-yard drive — famously known as “The Drive” — to lead the Niners past the Cincinnati Bengals 20-16.
The morning of the latter Super Bowl, Montana’s wife, Jennifer, pulled the jersey from a scrapbook and packed it in Joe’s stadium bag with a note: “Maybe you want to wear it again.” So he did.
Montana’s jersey from Super Bowl XXIV — still the widest margin of victory in Super Bowl history at 55-10 in favor of the 49ers over the Denver Broncos — also sold for $720,000 just after midnight into Thursday.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Brett Veach reviews his offseason strategy — and why it works so well
“We’re looking for good football players and we’re also looking for a room fit, a cultural fit, and how they fit with our coaching staff,” Veach responded when asked what the team considers before drafting a player. “There are so many things that we take into consideration. Every year, when you have these drafts and you see whether it be a mock draft or guys listed on the board, I think people tend to forget that there’s a lot of dialogue. It’s not like, ‘Chiefs like smaller receivers.’
“We like good football players, but do they pass the medicals? Do they pass the interviews with our coaches, with our offensive coordinator, with our receiver coach, with our head coach? Is the chemistry there? Do they feel like it’ll be a good blend in our locker room with our current receiving group? So, there are a lot of things that factor into it.”
When it comes to free agency, the Chiefs will have several tough roster decisions to make as they attempt to get under the salary cap. Fortunately, for Kansas City, Veach is confident that the team will be fine due to the continuity they have as an organization. This means everyone from management down to the coaching staff is on the same page regarding what the team needs and which players can fit those needs as they navigate through a challenging free agency process.
“You have to just have a plan, stick to it and knock it out of the park,” Veach explained. “And if the plan doesn’t work, you have to move on quickly. And I just think the level of communication that we have with our coaching staff — because you do obviously have to hit on the draft and when you have the rapport that we have with my staff and our coaching staff, I think it just helps in that process.
A tweet to make you think
Back to it ⏰ pic.twitter.com/1jl5bGcKop— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) March 2, 2023
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