As usual, Su­per Bowl is tak­ing on cir­cus feel

Off-field shenani­gans are de­tract­ing from big week

SundayXtra - - FOOTBALL - By Barry Wilner

PHOENIX — A his­toric Su­per Bowl is be­fore us.

Next Sun­day, Seat­tle goes for a sec­ond straight ti­tle, seek­ing to be the first team to re­peat since the Pa­tri­ots a decade ago. A vic­tory, par­tic­u­larly a con­vinc­ing one, would stamp the Sea­hawks as one of the great teams of the Su­per Bowl era.

Mean­while, New Eng­land’s coach and quar­ter­back chase a record-ty­ing fourth Su­per Bowl ring.

Yet, as has been the cus­tom this sea­son, ma­jor dis­trac­tions have taken fo­cus away from the field.

As much as Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Pete Car­roll and Richard Sher­man might want the spot­light to shine only on the game it­self — and the po­ten­tial achieve­ments at hand — much of the buildup to the kick­off will be about any­thing but.

From the New Eng­land un­der-in­flated balls saga to in­juries for All-Pro de­fen­sive backs Sher­man and Earl Thomas to Mar­shawn Lynch be­ing fined yet again for his code of si­lence with the me­dia, the 49th Su­per Bowl has taken on a cir­cus at­mos­phere.

Which seems fit­ting given all that has gone wrong for the NFL off the field — even as pro foot­ball re­mains as popular as ever.

Just find­ing any com­ments about the matchup of the dy­namic de­fence from Seat­tle and the po­tent of­fence from New Eng­land has been a chore. Ev­ery­thing else, it seems, has been in play.

In­deed, here’s how Sea­hawks All-Pro cor­ner­back Sher­man, re­call­ing last year, de­scribes the up­com­ing week:

“To us, it was just another week in the sea­son, ob­vi­ously. You’re with th­ese guys 180 or 190 of the 365 days, so you get to spend a spe­cial week with them. You get to know their fam­i­lies a lit­tle bet­ter, be­cause it’s not just them there, but it’s their fam­i­lies, their sons and daugh­ters.

“A lot of times you don’t get to meet them dur­ing th­ese weeks, we’re al­ways at work from eight to six and ev­ery­one goes home. You get one day dur­ing train­ing camp to meet peo­ple’s fam­ily, but that’s about it. So you have a good time get­ting to know peo­ple more.” No­tice, no men­tion of foot­ball. Sher­man does in­sist the left el­bow he hurt in the NFC ti­tle game will be no fac­tor.

“If I had to slap my brother, I’d be able to do it,” he said jok­ingly.

Not much light-hearted stuff com­ing from New Eng­land. Not much foot­ball talk, ei­ther.

Belichick, who can equal Chuck Noll’s four Su­per Bowl rings as a head coach, is grilled about the air pres­sure in a foot­ball, not about the pass pres­sure Seat­tle can bring on Brady.

Brady, in turn, gets cross-ex­am­ined about the weight of the foot­balls, not about the weight of try­ing to reach Joe Mon­tana/ Terry Bradshaw ter­ri­tory with a fourth Su­per Bowl tri­umph.

“Ob­vi­ously I’d much rather be up here talk­ing about the Sea­hawks and pre­par­ing for the Su­per Bowl, which we’ve been try­ing to do for the last few days,” he said.

As for Lynch, while it’s cer­tain the Pa­tri­ots are schem­ing how to slow down Beast Mode, the league is try­ing to fig­ure out what to do with him on me­dia day and beyond. Lynch was fined $20,000 Thurs­day for an ob­scene ges­ture in the NFC cham­pi­onship win over Green Bay.

In Novem­ber, he was nailed for $50,000 for not ad­her­ing to the league me­dia pol­icy. Another $50,000 from 2013 that was with­held with the ex­pec­ta­tion he would co- op­er­ate in the fu­ture also was col­lected be­cause, well, Lynch didn’t speak up when re­quired to.

Some folks in the NFL of­fices must be won­der­ing what else could hap­pen to shift the fo­cus from Pa­tri­ots- Sea­hawks.

RICK SCUTERI / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Seat­tle Sea­hawks run­ning back Mar­shawn Lynch is the silent type.

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