Super Bowl LVI – Sixteen Super Bowl players and coaches share stories of Super Bowl anxiety

As he prepares for the Super Bowl in February 2014 Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby WagnerPeyton Manning and the facing of him was not something he stressed about. Denver Broncos‘ record-setting offense.

Wagner's anxiety was evident at the first kickoff.

Wagner stated that “I was more nervous about the moment all the flashes occur,” to ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson. It was strange. It was weird. The kickoff is the best part of the game. You can only imagine being there and experiencing all the moments. I had been paying too much attention to it, and then I snapped back.

Wagner, who recorded 10 tackles in the Seahawks' victory in Super Bowl XLVIII, was a formidable force once the flashes faded. Although smartphones have rendered the flashes of cameras obsolete, intense pregame jitters are still a regular feature at Super Bowl XLVIII.

All players and coaches have fond memories of dealing nerves before the Super Bowl. It is the most important sporting event in the world. The Super Bowl is broadcast in over 170 countries and is seen by an average 100 million people.

Anxiety can be very severe for some. The Philadelphia EaglesBrandon BrooksAnd Lane Johnson raised awareness about anxietyYou can share their stories. They shared their stories because it became so intense, they had to miss games. Vomiting became a routine part of their pregame routine. Brooks retired from the sport in January.

Others may feel anxious, which can be a sign they are about to take part in something significant.

Coping mechanisms can be anything from creating a distraction to simply waiting for that first hit. Andre Rison was an actor for the Green Bay PackersSuper Bowl XXXI was a great way to calm your nerves.

Rison shared his nervousness with ESPN reporter Eric Woodyard, “I was nervous so I called Deion Bernies and we spoke hours before kickoff.” “He had played in one. The rest was history.

Brett Favre passed Rison a 54-yard touchdown pass, which helped the Packers win a 35-21 victory over the Browns. New England Patriots.

Rison explained that Rison also did a lot on his body to get my mind off of the big game.

Although stories of Super Bowl anxiety are varied, they all share a common theme: It's not like any other game.

— ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley

Editor's Note: Some responses were edited to be more concise and clear.

Doug Baldwin: “Who's against you?”

Some analysts believed that Seattle's receivers were nothing special without Percy Harvin leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII. Cris Carter called them “appetizers,” which led to a back and forth with Doug Baldwin, in which Carter shared this memorable line: “Google me man.” Check to see if you're in the Hall of Fame.

Baldwin answered questions after the Seahawks win, and a hat that commemorated their Super Bowl victory was next to him. He was asked by a reporter for a headline to the story his team had just written. Baldwin replied, “Google that.”

“It was always about finding motivation outside the normal to overcome anxiety feelings. My attitude was “Who's against you?” Who wants to talk s—about my capabilities, the capabilities of the receiver room and our common goals? To combat anxiety, I'm looking for them to give me something tangible to keep my eyes on and something to fight for. Cris Carter was one of the men who sat in the room with several others discussing the Super Bowl's receivers.

“I am trying to find some slight so it addresses that anxiety, so it doesn't really need to be dealt with.”

Super Bowl LVI – Sixteen Super Bowl players and coaches share stories of Super Bowl anxiety

Doug Baldwin

“But the truth is, everyone deals with anxiety differently. It was evident that I felt it before the game. You have two weeks to prepare. However, my strategy was: How can I find an additional motivator to get past the anxiety? I'm looking for something that will address my anxiety and make it less overwhelming. It worked for me in the past, although I'm not sure if it's healthy. [competitive] arena.”

— Henderson

Carl Banks: Damn! I'm in Super Bowl'

Banks is a champion linebacker and the two-time champion with the New York GiantsWho played in Super Bowls XXI & XXV?

“Any participant who didn't imagine a week of playing a particular type of game or playing certain plays is lying.” So I dreamed of just making plays and I studied a lot. But there was anxiety. [you feel]It's amazing how big the moment is when you step onto the playing field. But by the end of the anthem, it's just football.

“You suddenly realize you are in the Super Bowl. The player introductions are followed by that entire thing, then the national anthem starts. It hits you right at the end. You're like, ‘Damn! I'm in Super Bowl, and now we go. It's then football, however.


Lance Briggs: “This is the most important moment in our lives.”

Briggs led a Bears defense-driven team to Super Bowl XLI. Chicago lost in the end to Peyton Manning. Indianapolis Colts 29-17.

“I was nervouser in the playoffs before the Super Bowl. It was worse than the build-up to the big event.

“The locker room is the only thing that I can remember. It was incredible to me. It had our name tag and the Super Bowl patch. As you get dressed, you think this is the greatest moment in your life.”

Super Bowl LVI – Sixteen Super Bowl players and coaches share stories of Super Bowl anxiety

Lance Briggs

“The locker room is the only thing that I can remember. It was incredible to me. The Super Bowl patch was next to our nametag, so when you get dressed, this is the greatest moment in our lives.

“I do recall warm-ups when there were so much flashing lights and so many people taking photographs. It was the first time I'd ever seen something like it. It didn't make it scary. It gave me a feeling if accomplishment. It is so difficult to reach the Super Bowl. I told myself to not let the moment become too large.

— ESPN reporter Jesse Rogers

Kevin Butler: ‘I did not want to let Walter Payton down.

Butler was a rookie kicker with the 1985 Bears who beat the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.

“I was nervous. “I was nervous.

“There were demons that went into the Super Bowl, but I wanted to be perfect after that championship match.”

Kevin Butler

“I had an up/down playoff. In [the divisional round against the Giants]Three field goals were missed on the windiest day that I've ever played in. The week leading to the NFC Championship Game versus the Rams was nerve-wracking. However, it was a good game. [4-for-4, including an extra point]. However, I was not able to overcome my demons in the Super Bowl.

“The nerves were there but not because of the size of the football game. I've played in large games all my life, including at Georgia and other locations. The moment was stressful for me. Walter Payton was the one I wanted to help. Dan Hampton was the one I wanted to protect. Those were my nerves. These guys were my heroes in the previous year. “The extra pressure was on me, and not the game.”


Gary Fencik – This was going to the last time that we were all together

Fencik was the safety start for the '85 Bears.

“One of my biggest concerns was when Buddy Ryan (our defensive coordinator) told me privately that he was leaving to become the Eagles head coach. This was to be our last time together. We had an emotional night prior to the game, although I'm not sure if it was nerves. We were ready with only two weeks to prepare. We wanted to win because of all these reasons.

“The other nerve-wracking thing was the reaction of people who, for a decade, said to me: “Hey, if ever you get to a Super Bowl call me up, I'd love some tickets. I had five sisters and brothers, and there are only so many tickets. I had to buy a house in Mississippi for my siblings. I had to find a hotel in order to accommodate my parents. College friends asked me. It was unbelievable. I was only two tickets short during the week. I was done. I didn't have any access, other than to go out and buy two tickets. Bob Verdi was a Tribune columnist. So, I went to dinner with him. I explained to him that I was in serious trouble regarding tickets. He suggested he might be willing to help me. He offered me two tickets at unbelievable prices, but I would never tell anyone about it. This is the first time that I've done so in over 30 year. He saved my butt. This was as difficult as the game.


Grady Jarrett: ‘That moment was amazing for me'

Super Bowl LI was dominated by three sacks for the Falcons defensive tackle, but his great performance came at a loss as the Patriots overcame an 8-3 deficit to win 34-28.

It was definitely a surreal moment. It was an exciting moment. Anyone who says it's just another day, another game is lying.

“You're certainly looking around, taking in all the surrounding environment. It was one the pre-walkthrough stadium things. I don't know if they did it the day before. Houston had the JumboTron. They were putting your name up and the roster up. My name was up, along with my picture. It was an incredible moment for me. It was for everyone on the field, I'm sure.”

— ESPN Falcons reporter Michael Rothstein

Ray Lewis: “You have to calm down sugar. You have to calm down.”

Lewis is a twice-crowned Super Bowl champion. After helping the Ravens beat Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, Lewis earned MVP honors and was then credited with seven tackles in a victory over the 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII.

“I always had a confident, nervous energy. It never felt like I was losing control or getting anxious. It wasn't that for me. It was always in the moment.

“Rod Woodson used always to tell me, “You got to calm yourself, sugar. You got to calm your down.” Because I was always ready to take advantage of the moment. Let's go through all these flags, fly cross, and get the ball snapped. “I was always ready to lead throughout my entire career.”


Lincoln Kennedy: “I was exhausted”

Kennedy was the Oakland Raiders right tackle in Super Bowl XXXVII. The team lost to Jon Gruden (ex-coach), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-21. Kennedy was raised in San Diego. This city is where the game was played, creating a sense of community.

The anxiety that comes with dealing with uncertainty is the root of all anxiety. The Super Bowl is approaching, and you aren't sure what to expect. It doesn't matter how many times you've been in the Super Bowl, you won't be able to appreciate it.

“And we were last of the one weekrs [there was one week between the conference title games and the Super Bowl in 2003, the last time that happened]. Once you are there, you won't want to leave. [and there's a two-week gap]The first week is stressful because you have to deal the fear of the unknown, the hype, and all the other anxieties. It's all back to normal the second week. But, that was not the case.

My week was a double-edged knife on a personal level. We were in San Diego, our home city. Everything was extra. I was the talk in the town. Everyone considered me a VIP. I wanted to be everywhere and I was. I was so exhausted. I was exhausted when the game ended.

— ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez

Rob Ninkovich said: ‘I was so anxious. It was “I must win” that I was thinking.

Ninkovich, a Patriots linebacker, went 2-1 in Super Bowls. He was a Super Bowl XLVI loss to the Giants.

“We're playing against the Seahawks in Arizona.” [in Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015]It was very slippery on the field. Bill [Belichick]They ordered that everyone wear seven-stud shoes [longer ones used for slippery or sloppy fields]. I fell so badly the first time I played. It was an outside run. I was at two tight ends. The first tight end I hit was the one I missed, so I was bounced out. Everyone's hats off to the ball, it's Marshawn Lynch. I try to cut but my feet get caught under me as I run. The whole field was green and super slimy. It was very slippery and wet.

“All week I kept thinking, I still haven't won the Super Bowl. I haven’t done anything. People assume you've won a Super Bowl, especially if you play for the Patriots.

Super Bowl LVI – Sixteen Super Bowl players and coaches share stories of Super Bowl anxiety

Rob Ninkovich

“When Bill ordered the seven studs it was almost like a mental exercise. [game]. Seven studs were a pain because I suffered from Achilles tendinitis. My Achilles tendinitis was worsened by seven studs. They made my toes feel higher than mine, and put pressure on my Achilles. I was afraid I would tear my Achilles. But, it was the Super Bowl and I was like, “Screw it!” If I tear it, I tear it.' This was what I used to say to guys: “If it pops today it pops.” It was great fun! It was fun!

“The whole cleat thing may have been a blessing in disguise, because it distracted my attention from the enormity of the game. All week I kept thinking, “I haven’t been to the Super Bowl. I really haven’t done anything. Everyone assumes that you have won the Super Bowl, especially when you are playing for the Patriots. At that time, they hadn't won in ten years. So I was nervous about the second one. It was nerve-wracking. It was ‘I must win. I must have a great match. Lynch must be stopped. The third one was the easiest because I knew it would be my last. It was “I'm going play and hopefully we win.”

Mike Reiss (ESPN Patriots reporter)

Bill Parcells says, ‘It’s just like Elvis in Las Vegas.

Parcells coached New York Giants in two Super Bowl victories, defeating the Broncos Super Bowl XXI before leading them to the edge. Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV.

“When we were very close to the Super Bowl [XXI in Pasadena, California]I wanted it to be moving. We had waited too long to get it. All the work was done. Now I was ready to have fun. Let's go.

“The game started at 3:18 on Pacific Coast, and I was there in my dressing area at a quarter past 8. I wanted to leave the hotel and enter my environment.

It's an exciting moment. This is what I remember. I don't believe ‘butterflies is the right word. I believe that ‘impatience might be a better choice.

Bill Parcells

It's an exciting moment. That's all I can remember. I don’t think butterflies is the correct word. Perhaps impatience is a better word.

“[In the tunnel before the game]It wasn't about my life's journey, or anything like that. It was more like, “This is the big show.” It's almost like Elvis in Las Vegas. Everyone is watching.

“One thing that worried me was George Toma, the man who was doing the field. He said the field was oily. I was out there very early on, I would say 9 or 9:30. I was trying to find spots that might be slippery. I knew that the end zone bleachers were right next to the endzone, so I was able alert my receivers. If you are going to the back of this zone, be careful. It may sound stupid, but I was looking for any slippery spots on field. I was trying figure out where the shadows were, where the sun will shine, and where it won't. This kind of stuff.

Rich Cimini is an ESPN Jets reporter

Patterson is normally relaxed before games. He jokes with teammates and fans, and tosses the ball into a crowd to play catch for at least fifteen minutes. Even though he admitted that it was just a little different when he was with the Patriots before Super Bowl LIII.

“I was anxious the entire game. Couldn't hear. Couldn't breathe. The whole game was pounding in my heart. It was completely different.

“I was doing little [pregame]Routine, but I got tired. It's bizarre. To really understand you must be there. It's difficult to explain.

“[He kept telling himself:]It's a fun game. It's a game. It's still a fun game that we have been playing for our entire lives. Just come in and enjoy the game.

— Rothstein

Dean Pees: “Do your usual routine.”

Pees was the Patriots' defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Pees was the Ravens' defensive Coordinator for Super Bowl XLVII.

“The first Super Bowl that I attended was with New England. Bill Belichick did an amazing job of talking to players. They had been to two previous years. The guys are out there, all hyped up and excited and driving 110 miles per hour in pregame. Keep up your usual routine.

“I always thought that it was an advantage for his teams because he made them calmer. While other teams jump around and go crazy, you can see them looking good in the first two series. However, by the third series half are hyperventilating as they have expended all of their energy in pregame, and at the beginning. He was a great leader and kept everyone calm and in a routine.

— Rothstein

Antwaan RandleEl: “It's just about going out to hit somebody.”

To help Pittsburgh beat the Seahawks, the Steelers' receiver threw a touchdown in Super Bowl XL.

You get the jitters before every game. The Super Bowl is no different. It's as simple as going out and hitting someone. It doesn't matter if you are hit or knocked down – it's just a matter of hitting somebody.

Preparation is the key to a lot of this stuff. You won't get your usual night's sleep the night before the Super Bowl. But, I took my Ambien anyway so that I was fine. It all comes down to being prepared. Once you are prepared, you can now go out and catch this play. Now, let me block someone really hard or knocked down. Then you are ready to go.


Nate Solder: ‘I couldn’t catch my breath'

Former Patriots offensive tackle, he played in four Super Bowls, going 2 for 2.

“You have more time to think about everything. What if they did that? What if they did that? You will have more time to think for yourself and not worry about it all.

“I can remember the entire game.” [in Super Bowl XLVI]I could not catch my breath. One month later, I recall talking to my high school coach and saying, “It's just the strangest thing.” I couldn't even catch my breath, no matter how small the movement was.

“I probably held my breath for the entire time because I was so anxious. That is what we do. Your natural functions lock up.”

Super Bowl LVI – Sixteen Super Bowl players and coaches share stories of Super Bowl anxiety

Nate Solder

“He said, “Were your breathing?” He asked me if I was breathing. I answered, ‘Probably not. Because I was so anxious, I probably held my breath for the entire time.

“You are more likely to do this.” Your natural functions lock up.”

Jordan Raanan is an ESPN Giants reporter

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