Kansas City waited 50 years to get back to a Super Bowl. And then the Chiefs had to wait a few extra minutes once they got to Miami.
It took workers at Miami International Airport about three attempts to get one of the rolling staircases that the Chiefs would use to deplane properly lined up with the front door of their chartered jet. The delay was brief, and coach Andy Reid and the rest of the Chiefs’ delegation made their way into the hangar for the short walk to waiting buses.
A handful of local politicians and officials were at the airport to greet the teams, as loud hip-hop music blared through the maintenance hangar that was being used for the arrivals.
No players or coaches spoke to reporters inside the hangar. The first media session for the Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers — who arrived a couple hours after the Chiefs did on Sunday — is Monday night, when the NFL has Super Bowl Opening Night at Marlins Park.
Super Bowl LIV is Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Even as football enters its biggest week, basketball was on the teams’ minds.
The teams both paid tribute Sunday on social media to Kobe Bryant, whose shocking death in a helicopter crash reverberated around the world.
“A legend gone too soon,” the 49ers wrote.
Added Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark, on Twitter: “I’m devastated, RIP to my idol, Bean, 8, 24, the Goat, the Black Mamba. Wow.” And Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland called it a “sad day in America.”
A handful of volunteers greeted players, coaches and staff as they made their way down the stairs. Everyone was handed a floral baseball cap, and many players held their phones out to shoot video of the moment they arrived at the Super Bowl.
A few of the 49ers danced once they deplaned, in time with the music coming from a nearby DJ. Even the flight attendants on the Chiefs’ flight were celebrating the moment— they gathered at the top of the stairs for a group photo once their passengers deplaned, and then a few of them pulled out their phones for some pictures of players.
AFC wins Pro Bowl
The NFL tested a couple of proposed rule changes during the Pro Bowl in Orlando, where the AFC team beat the NFC squad, 38-33, in the league’s annual all-star game.
The rules covering pre-snap penalties on eligible receivers were slightly tweaked for the game. More dramatically — and probably more interesting for fans watching — the scoring team was given the choice of allowing the opponent to take possession at its 25-yard line or keep the ball and go for the equivalent of a fourth-and-15 play at its own 25.
The idea was to try out an alternative to onside kicks, which have become increasingly difficult to pull off as the NFL has changed rules to promote player safety.
After a wacky second half, that rule came into play when the NFC scored late to draw within 5 points but failed on a 2-point conversion. Kirk Cousins and the NFC attempted the fourth-and-15 play. He was intercepted. The AFC then ran out the clock.
The NFC’s top highlight was Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox rumbling 61 yards for a score. Minnesota’s Harrison Smith intercepted a pass at the 3-yard line and returned it to the 39 before lateraling to Cox, who took it the rest of the while.
No one tried to tackle the 310-pound Cox. Denver receiver Courtland Sutton slapped at the ball for the final 20 yards.
“I’m glad nobody did try to stop me,” Cox said. “It was fun. I was looking for somebody to pitch the ball to, though. Guarantee I was. Get this thing out of my hands.”
Likely NFL MVP Lamar Jackson of the Ravens threw for two touchdowns and 185 yards for the AFC, earning offensive MVP honors, while Deshaun Watson and Ryan Tannehill also threw touchdown passes. Ravens tight end Mark Andrews led all receivers with nine catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell was the defensive MVP.
The winners earned $70,000 each. The losers got $35,000 apiece.
Tributes to Bryant
The Pro Bowl turned into a tribute for Bryant.
Green Bay’s Za’Darius Smith, Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett, and Detroit’s Darius Slay got together following a second-quarter sack and faked fadeaway jumpers in an homage to Bryant. Smith and several NFC teammates did it again following a fumble early in the third.
Green Bay receiver Davante Adams pointed to the sky and flashed the No. 24 on his fingers as an ode to Bryant’s jersey after a touchdown catch in the third.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson led a prayer with teammates before the game in the locker room.
NFLPA plans session
NFL Players Association leaders have scheduled an important meeting Thursday morning with the board of player representatives to discuss the status of collective bargaining talks and get the board’s input on how to proceed, acccording to a report on NFL.com.
It’s a significant step after months of formal and informal bargaining sessions between the union and the NFL, which continues to push for the option to expand the regular season to 17 games as part of the next TV deals as a condition for increasing players’ share of revenue and other issues.
The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in 2021, and both sides want to avoid a work stoppage.
The chances for striking a deal hinge in large part on how players respond to the idea of 17 regular-season games. Some players — including 49ers receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who played 17 regular-season games this year because of a midseason trade — have already spoken out strongly against it.
So the NFL must make it worth their while, financially and otherwise, or else players opposed could band together and try to block it.