by Rob Woollard
Agence France Presse
ATLANTA, United States (AFP) — Rival quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jared Goff declared themselves raring to go on Monday as the final countdown to the Super Bowl got under way with the traditional opening night media circus.
A day after the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams touched down in Atlanta, the teams who will battle for the biggest prize in US sport were presented to around 9,000 raucous fans packed into the city’s State Farm Arena basketball venue.
Monday’s media extravaganza marked the start of week-long festivities which will culminate with next Sunday’s Super Bowl showpiece at the futuristic Mercedes Benz Stadium.
For Brady, the now customary hoopla surrounding the opening party is nothing new.
The 41-year-old Patriots quarterback will be appearing in a record ninth Super Bowl this weekend, chasing a record-breaking sixth championship.
Unsurprisingly, Brady looked at ease on Monday as he surveyed a throng of hundreds of journalists which included the usual array of comedians, celebrities and bizarre costumes. One credentialed media member arrived dressed as a clown.
“I think the most important thing is to keep the week as normal as possible, try to limit the distractions,” Brady said when asked for the key to his Super Bowl preparations.
Brady and Rams counterpart Goff, 24, had earlier shared a friendly exchange after being introduced on stage by a moderator.
Asked what advice Brady would give to Goff as the young Rams signal caller prepared for his first Super Bowl, Brady laughed: “I’m not giving him advice.”
Goff, who would replace Brady as the second-youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl with a victory on Sunday, meanwhile underscored the generational gap between the two players.
Asked what memories he had of Brady’s first Super Bowl appearance — way back in 2002 — Goff replied: “None. I was seven, I think.”
Brady by contrast said the memories of the win, against the then St.Louis Rams, remained etched on his mind.
“The most important memory is that ball going through the uprights at the end and us winning,” he said. “So to do it 17 years later with a new bunch of guys means as much as ever.”
Goff, meanwhile, said he would attempt to make the build-up as normal as possible.
“It’s just knowing what to make important, what not to make important,” Goff said. “Try to keep your routine the same. If you normally go out to a dinner on Friday at home, go to dinner on a Friday out here.”
Goff said he didn’t believe Brady and the Patriots’ familiarity with the Super Bowl environment would give them a decisive advantage.
“Maybe it helps, but we’re certainly not seeing it that way,” Goff told AFP. “Last week we were inexperienced in playing in the NFC Championship game against the Saints, and we came through that challenge. You try to put that stuff to one side and play your game.”
Goff said the Rams had been emboldened by coming through their nail-biting 26-23 overtime win over the Saints in Louisiana, where the deafening noise had created “the most difficult environment I’d ever played in.”
“It speaks to the resiliency of this team,” Goff said.
Rams coach Sean McVay said the win over New Orleans had emphasized the coolness under pressure of his quarterback, the No.1 overall pick in the 2016 draft.
“That’s one of the things I’ve been impressed with since day one,” said McVay, who would become the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl this week at the age of just 33.
“He’s unfazed, good or bad. His ability to handle and adversity the same way, demonstrates the poise and confidence you want from your quarterback. Against New Orleans he handled it. He didn’t flinch, he didn’t blink, and he played his best when his best was required. It’s a big reason why we’re here.”
Goff, for his part, is looking forward to the biggest game of his career.
“Yeah, I’m ready,” Goff told reporters. “I think you don’t have a choice. It’ll be fun. I’m excited.”
© Agence France-Presse