- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

SEEN AND HEARD AROUND HOUSTON

Houston hasn’t been the site of a Super Bowl since 1974 (when the Dolphins toppled the Vikings at Rice Stadium), and we’re starting to understand why. Nothing against this place, but rush hour on the Capital Beltway is a more enjoyable experience than busing from venue to venue here.

You’d expect a Super Bowl city to have some kind of central hub of activity where people gather all week to celebrate the country’s biggest sporting event. Not here. Reliant Stadium is 30 minutes away from downtown, which is 30 minutes away from the Patriots’ hotel, which is 30 minutes away from the Panthers’ hotel, which for all we know is 30 minutes away from Dallas.

In between it all is nothing but an endless array of highways, strip malls and prairie land as far as the eye can see. It doesn’t exactly produce the kind of party-like atmosphere you look for when the Super Bowl comes to town, though not everyone’s complaining.

“Our hotel is pretty far away from everything, so we can keep focused,” Carolina fullback Brad Hoover said. “This is a business trip, so it doesn’t matter to me much where our hotel is.”

THE BUZZ

URBAN SPRAWL

[down arrow] — Charter a prop from North Houston to South Houston.

ANONYMITY

[up arrow] — More household names on the Independent Film Channel.

NBA

[up arrow] — Kings-Rockets clash thankfully absorbs some of Houston’s sporting spotlight.

EX-REDSKINS

[up arrow] — Stephen Davis, Larry Centers, Rodney Peete, Mike Trgovac, Dan Henning and … Wilbert Brown.

STUPID QUESTION OF THE DAY

“Are you sad that you’ll be missing the Super Bowl commercials on Sunday?”

— Reporter to New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who one assumes prefers playing in the Super Bowl over watching it on TV.

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Patriots nose tackle Ted Washington — Bloated, aged and injury-prone but a powerful force against the run game.

vs.

Panthers center Jeff Mitchell — Better enlist a guard or two to dislodge Washington.

BY THE NUMBERS

2 — Over/under line in Las Vegas for net rushing yards by Panthers running back Rod “He Hate Me” Smart. Smart carried 20 times during the season for 49 yards (a 2.5 average).

30 — Percent chance of rain in Houston on Sunday. Never fear, Reliant Stadium has a retractable roof.

QUOTABLE

“I think the strangest question I had yesterday was, ‘What was my favorite pregame Super Bowl meal?’ I guess the guy didn’t know that this is my first Super Bowl, so I hadn’t had one yet.”

— Patriots tight end Daniel Graham.

“Well, not getting into specifics, we were 31st on both sides of the ball in a 31-team league. So we definitely had some work to do.”

— Carolina coach John Fox, on his initial impressions of the 1-15 team he inherited two years ago.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

Mike Trgovac learns well.

Asked if he took anything away from two seasons (2000 and 2001) as the Washington Redskins’ defensive line coach, the Panthers’ defensive coordinator replied with a laugh, “Yeah, don’t buy a house.”

That’s sage advice for the assistants shuffling into town as part of new coach Joe Gibbs’ staff. After all, this isn’t the first time owner Dan Snyder has promised fidelity to a new coach.

“We rented our first year in Washington,” Trgovac recalled. “Then at [Marty Schottenheimer’s introductory] news conference, the owner says, ‘This is my stamp on the organization. Marty Schottenheimer is my guy.’ I was like, ‘Whoa.’ I called up my wife and said, ‘Honey, we live in one of the greatest [housing] markets in the country. Houses climb here constantly.’ I said, ‘I don’t care what you buy, but pick you out a house.’”

The Trgovacs bought in Ashburn, not far from Redskin Park. However, at the end of the season Schottenheimer was fired.

“I lost my [butt] on that house,” Trgovac said with a grimace.

These days, though, things are going swimmingly. Hired for John Fox’s first staff in 2002, Trgovac was promoted to defensive coordinator when Jack Del Rio became the Jacksonville Jaguars coach last winter. Trgovac, a longtime assistant to Ray Rhodes, guided the Panthers’ defense to a No.8 ranking in his first stint as a coordinator.

“I’m like a sponge,” Trgovac said of the talented coaches he has worked with. “I was so prepared for this job, it was like not missing a beat.”

Mark Zuckerman and Jody Foldesy

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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