By Jim Trotter, SI.com
TAMPA -- While people are trying to focus on the matchup, one of the many things you can count on at Super Bowl week is a contract controversy. Last year it was the Patriots' Asante Samuel. The year before that, it was the Bears' Lance Briggs. This year, it's the Cardinals' Anquan Boldin. But like many stories coming out of Super Bowl week, the contract buzz tends to twist and turn and lose a little connection with reality.
But just to be clear, Boldin has handled the money issue in an exemplary manner. He mentioned it a while ago and has not brought it up on the Cards' run to the Super Bowl. Of course you're hearing a lot about it, but that's not Boldin's fault at all.
As for his teammate Larry Fitzgerald, there is also a misconception about his approach to this story. Fitzgerald is willing to re-structure his contract. That doesn't mean he's interested in taking a pay cut at an amount that might be necessary to please Boldin's camp. Arizona would have to cut millions from Fitzgerald's deal to free up the money needed to appease Boldin.
The other big contract-related saga in Tampa has been about LaDainian Tomlinson, who is in town this week. The story is out there that the Chargers want LT to restructure his contract. One potential hold-up on restructuring a deal could be incentives. Tomlinson's people are likely to want the 29-year-old running back would be rewarded if he has a big season in 2009. We'll see if the Chargers are thinking the same way.
Now that we have some of that out the way, maybe we can all start focusing on football.
Check SI.com's Super Blog regularly for more dispatches from Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
TAMPA -- You can have your Larry Fitzgerald and his acrobatics. Keep your Anquan Boldin and his sideline tantrums. For my money, the best receiver on the field this Sunday will be Hines Ward.
Ward, who returned to practice Thursday after dealing with sprained MCL in his right knee, will be ready to go on gameday and that makes him in the odds-on favorite to win another Super Bowl MVP in my sportsbook, at least.
Am I saying that Ward is a better pure receiver that Fitzgerald or Boldin? No. If this was a mid-September game, Ward might be the third- or fourth-best wideout on the field; but on Super Bowl Sunday, I'll take Ward and it's not even close.
I know what you're thinking: Ward is injured and hasn't had a 100-yard game since the second-to-last game of the season, compiling only 195 yards in his last three games before the Super Bowl.
Well, four years ago, Ward was injured (shoulder) and hadn't had a 100-yard game since the second-to-last game of the season ... and only had 177 yards in his last four games before the Super Bowl. That didn't matter, as he went on to win Super Bowl XL MVP with a 123-yard, one-TD performance against the Seahawks.
- 04:43 PM ET 01.29
By Don Banks, SI.com
TAMPA -- Just took in the Bruce Springsteen Super Bowl halftime show press conference, and while The Boss doesn't score too highly on his football knowledge -- and he warned us of that right off the bat -- I give him plenty of points for his honesty when it comes to the reasons behind his celebrated first-ever Super Bowl appearance.
"Really, why we said yes this year was because, we have a new album coming out!'' Springsteen said, laughing at his own punch line. "C'mon. There's a new record in the stores. It just happened to come out this past week. So we have our mercenary reasons of course. Besides our deep love of football.''
For me, that was the pitch-perfect answer to the why-not-after-all-these-years question that was bound to come from someone in the mass of media that attended the 20-minute afternoon Q&A. Even though I'm quite sure that last little dig at the NFL must have made the league office suits in attendance cringe. Springsteen said his only real experience with the game came "playing in my backyard around the summer of 1958.''
Springsteen can be called a lot of things, but thankfully a fake or a poser is not among them. It's not as if doing the Super Bowl halftime show needed to be checked off on his life's to-do list. He said he has turned down all the chances he has had to play the Super Bowl in the past because "it didn't quite feel right.'' He described it as a "novelty moment'' of sorts, and wasn't sure he wanted to play "in the middle of a football game,'' or "where the cheerleaders usually go.''
- 01:38 PM ET 01.29
TAMPA -- I'm on my way to my second day of acting as pool reporter for the Steelers' practice session at the University of South Florida. It's a fun gig, watching practice in the middle of all the non-football activities here in Tampa. I just wish I didn't need a helicopter to get there (more on that in a moment).
Let me explain what the Pro Football Writers of America pool reporter does. The PFWA assigns one of its members to each team to cover the four practices during the week. The Steelers and Cardinals are following their normal practice schedule on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and then have a shorter walk-through practice on Saturday morning.
The Steelers are at the University of South Florida football practice facility a few miles north of town. Arizona, being the NFC team in an NFC town, got lucky in a sense. The Cards are at the new Buccaneers' practice facility and office complex near the airport. The difference between the two, in essence, is that the Steelers are using a Marriott Courtyard while the Cardinals have the Four Seasons at their disposal.
But I got the sense at practice yesterday that Mike Tomlin almost prefers it this way. He will accept no whining about the Cardinals having a better facility to work out in than his team, and his attitude is the correct one. You're in the Super Bowl. Can you actually complain about anything? "We're not finicky," Tomlin told me.
My esteemed colleagues have already tackled Kurt Warner's Hall of Fame credentials (my vote: yes), so let's move on to the rest of the Super Bowl XLIII field. What other participants do you think have a shot at Canton one day? Who has already locked it down?
How about Warner's main targets, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin? Fitzy has already established records for receiving yards and first downs in a single postseason and he's on the brink of setting the mark for touchdowns and catches. Let's imagine he plays for 13 years -- an average career for a receiver; far shorter than Jerry Rice's but longer than, say, Michael Irvin's -- and that his stats stay relatively consistent, tapering off slightly towards the end. He'd finish with roughly 1,108 receptions, good enough for second all-time behind Rice. Same situation for his receiving yards (15,535). And his touchdowns, about 120, would be sixth all-time, eight behind Marvin Harrison, who seems a Hall shoo-in. So, yeah, if Fitzgerald keeps it up, he seems a lock, right?
What about Boldin, who was the fastest receiver ever to reach 400 catches? A good first step would be to get the hell out of Arizona, Q. His stats, if they keep up, make a good case for him. But how many receiving duos (save for Pittsburgh's John Stallworth and Lynn Swann) have made the Hall? With so many talented guys at the position this decade, he could find himself boxed out by another No. 1 receiver. And how will his hybrid receiver-running back position play into all of this?
What about the Steelers' Hines Ward, the face of the team's receiving corps for the last decade and already a Super Bowl MVP? Only four other receivers -- Lynn Swann, Fred Biletnikoff, Jerry Rice and Deion Branch -- have ever been named Super Bowl MVP before. And by 2010 three of the four will be in the Hall. Sorry, Deion. Ain't happening.