Whether it was simply part of the DNA of both teams, the subdued nature of the event being so close to the death of Kobe Bryant, or the level of respect on both sides, Monday’s Super Bowl LIV Opening Night in Miami had a muted feel.
Bryant loomed large over the event — held at Marlins Park — from the moment of silence before things got started to the comments from the coaches and the players.
The biggest local angle when it came to the Niners? Jimmy Garoppolo said he got a text from former teammate Tom Brady in the days after the NFC title game.
“He shot me a text. Just ‘good luck’ and everything like that. Just ‘Go handle business.’ It wasn’t too complicated or anything. ‘Just go win,’ ” Garoppolo said.
He was asked about the opportunity to watch Brady perform in multiple Super Bowls with the Patriots, and how that might impact him on Sunday.
“Just his calm demeanor — how he went about it like it was just another game,” Garoppolo said of Brady, echoing a point he made last week. “Making big plays in big moments. That’s what it’s all about.”
Garoppolo was also asked where Brady should play next season if he left the Patriots.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t really put too much thought into it. We’ve been wrapped up in all this stuff. But it’ll be pretty interesting when that all happens.”
Garoppolo’s journey to the Super Bowl included a serious knee injury he sustained in a September 2018 game against the Chiefs, one that left him on the shelf for the remainder of that season. He talked about the injury and the long road back Monday evening.
“You always have it in the back of your mind. I was just thinking about it the other day. It’s pretty crazy,” Garoppolo said. “About a year ago, I was learning to run again, so it’s just how things change in a year, what could happen. This year’s been a whirlwind. Been a great time, though. I’ve had a great time with this team.”
One intriguing Patriots-related note came when Niners coach Kyle Shanahan was asked what he learned when it came to his experience as the offensive coordinator with the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Shanahan has been criticized for the offensive game plan Atlanta employed when it was holding a 28-3 lead on New England.
Shanahan was asked how long it took for him to get over that loss.
“A few days,” he replied.
Niners wide receivers coach Wes Welker played with Brady from 2007-12, and was asked if he was interested in where the quarterback would play next season.
On the other side, the Kansas City players recalled plenty of positive memories when it came to Bryant.
“I wasn’t lucky enough to get to meet Kobe,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “But the impact that he made in my life, it was huge. The way he was able to go about every single day, when I was a kid, and the work ethic and the intensity that he had to be great every single day.
“Even to this day, I still watch videos on YouTube the day before games and just listen to him talk and how he puts everything in perspective of being great on and off the field with his kids, and his business ventures and then, obviously, his play. It’s a tragic thing. Prayers to his family, but he made a huge impact in my life, for sure.”
“He was just an unbelievable person,” said Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce. “You can’t say enough about who he was and his impact.”
“Kobe was the first person I’ve idolized,” added Kansas City defensive end Frank Clark, who grew up in Southern California. “The only person I’ve ever idolized.”
The most obvious story line developing with the Chiefs is the chance to win a Super Bowl for coach Andy Reid, who has 221 wins — the most of any coach without a ring.
“I think Coach Reid deserves one. He’s one of the top coaches in this league. He’s [one of] the top coaches I’ve ever had and I think himself in general and this organization deserve a ring,” said Kansas City wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
The bizarre characters and offbeat “interview” styles were still a part of the evening, including one media member who was dressed as a young Andy Reid in his old Punt, Pass & Kick uniform.
Follow Christopher Price @cpriceglobe.