The Super Bowl is unlike any other football game not just because of its magnitude but also because of all the attention leading up to it. Never is that more obvious than on opening night, the circus-like media session which took place at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena on Monday. With hundreds of reporters from all over the world swirling around, it can get easy to get sucked into the frenzy.
The Patriots’ players, however, know that they cannot get distracted by all that surrounds the Super Bowl. “There’s a part of you that wants to enjoy this,” said Matthew Slater during the hour-long session. “You can’t let the situation become too big or the game become too big. You have to go out there and treat everything as you normally would during a regular week: try to keep your preparation the same, your recovery the same, and hopefully go out and be able to play the same on Sunday.”
One of the most experienced players on New England’s roster, Slater will appear in his fifth Super Bowl on Sunday. However, the special teams captain was quick to point out that experience will have little impact on the result of the game against the NFC-winning Los Angeles Rams. “It helps a little bit to have some kind of familiarity when you go out there and kinda know how things are going to go, but I think ultimately on game day it’s about playing well and you don’t always need experience to play well,” Slater said.
“You’re seeing it with Tom and his first Super Bowl, you’re seeing it with Malcolm Butler. They are guys that never played in it that found a way to execute in big moments,” continued Slater, one of 36 players on New England’s roster to appear in a Super Bowl before. Despite the experience the Patriots have, however, they are well aware that the past has little impact on the challenges ahead.
“Every year is different, you still gotta go with your approach and how you handle each game week,” the 30-year old said when asked if past experience can give the Patriots a certain edge over the Rams — a team with only four players having Super Bowl experience — when it comes to tackling Super Bowl frenzy. “It’s still a football game so you gotta handle it all in similar ways... it’s relatable but each year is different.”
One of the prevalent themes for the Patriots is turning the Super Bowl into a game like any other, as long snapper Joe Cardona pointed out. “You just try to make it as normal of a game, as normal of a process as possible,” he said. “Ultimately it’s still football, you gotta go out and play the game just like you would any other. Trying to keep it as normal as possible despite being in a different city all week and preparing differently.”
“You try to stay in your routine, what you’ve done all year,” added backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, who is in the third pre-Super Bowl week of his career. “Whatever you’ve been doing all year, you just try to stay on that. Obviously, you have this big circus of what’s going on and you’re staying in a hotel as opposed to your own house... but I think you just try to stay in your routine and do what you’ve done that got you here.”
Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who missed last year’s Super Bowl because of a season-ending ankle injury, echoed Hoyer’s remarks. “We prepare the same for every game: great practice execution, trying to have good technique, lots of film study. You prepare the same — I’m trying to keep the same regimen, the same routine,” the veteran said.
“You just try to stay in your routine and what you’ve been doing all year,” said fellow starting lineman Joe Thuney, who on Sunday will play in his third Super Bowl in the three seasons since turning pro. “Try to stay in the moment, stay in the process and not look too far ahead.”