ABOARD THE CORNUCOPIA MAJESTY — I’ll admit it, I’ve always wanted to do a maritime dateline.
Just never thought it would be atop a story about the Denver Broncos heading into Super Bowl XLVIII.
But with the Broncos staying at the Jersey City (N.J.) Hyatt on the Hudson River, they’re using a swanky ship moored nearby for their media obligations.
It rocked with the waves but stayed afloat. We may be thankful it wasn’t tested by the considerable displacement of Broncos defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton.
Only coach John Fox, quarterback Peyton Manning and a few other team captains were on hand for the first quick news conference after landing.
The main topic of the day was healing. Fox was quizzed about his heart surgery this past fall, and Manning had to revisit his recovery from serious neck surgery that threatened his career two years ago.
But first, a diversion.
Behind these Broncos, across the river, Manhattan was postcard perfect in the low, late afternoon sun.
In the “golden hour” that photographers love, the new One World Trade Center towered above the city like a giant, icy stalagmite — a stunning triumph of architecture, resilience and symbolism.
Some of us in the Seattle media remember the trip to New York for the Mariners’ playoff series against the Yankees in October 2001, when that spot was occupied by jack-strawed debris that, even six weeks post-9/11, was still smoldering.
Media have lamented having the Super Bowl at an outdoor stadium in a cold-weather site. The tunnel commutes and the “polar vortex” possibilities could make this a disaster yet. But there’s still something special about bringing the Super Bowl here.
It certainly is important to Fox, who was defensive coordinator for the New York Giants during their Super Bowl XXXV loss to the Baltimore Ravens after the 2000 season.
So when asked his concerns about possible weather issues, Fox reminded: “I spent five years with the Giants, so I understand the weather.”
One of the media members asked Fox — in delicate terms — what was going through his mind “when you were about to have your chest cut open.”
Fox, who seems to deal with chronic laryngitis, actually had been walking around with a congenital problem with his aorta. During the bye week, while on a golf course, Fox started feeling as if he was “suffocating.” It was misreported as a heart attack, he said.
After surgery, he was given a recovery time of four to five weeks, “pretty much like an injury of a player,” he said. (Fox, out, aorta).
Manning later was asked if he had tapped into the mind of his brother, Giants quarterback Eli, on how to combat the Seattle defense.
“Eli told me he couldn’t help me much with Seattle,” Manning deadpanned. “That wasn’t one of the Giants’ better days.”
The Seahawks intercepted Eli five times when they met at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. — the site of Super Bowl XLVIII — in mid-December. The Seahawks likely hope Eli will advise his older brother.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was a popular topic.
Fox said he got to know Wilson when he was the coach of the Carolina Panthers and Wilson quarterbacked North Carolina State: “He’s a tremendous young man ... what he’s achieved doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Fox brought Wilson in for a pre-draft visit with the Broncos in 2012. Manning recalled that as his first meeting with Wilson, who was introduced to him when he was in the film room going over video.
But Wilson revealed last week that he once met Manning when he was 15 and a camper at the Manning Passing Academy.
Linebacker Wesley Woodyard voiced a fairly common take on facing the elusive Wilson.
“You gotta make him a pocket passer,” Woodyard said. “You can’t let him run around and make plays. They have great skilled guys, and you have to make sure he’s not running around getting the ball to them.”
The marquee matchup of Sunday’s game pits Manning against the vaunted Seahawks defense, specifically the star-laden secondary.
Having spent the previous week studying video evidence, Manning testified that “they are as good as advertised. Probably one of the more impressive things is how well they play together as a unit. That’s a big part of their success, and (they) combine that with a lot of talent.”
In short, the few Broncos available Sunday evening were on point, brief and very respectful of the Seahawks. Nothing inflammatory. Nothing noteworthy.
They surely had been warned, that aboard a ship on the Hudson River, it’s not smart to make waves.