Yesterday, we introduced the NFL's use of pool writers during Super Bowl week. Each yearm the league picks two Pro Football Writers of America members, with each one covering one of the team's in the championship game during practice, then writing an article for use by the media. This year, John Clayton of ESPN is covering the San Francisco 49ers and SI's Peter King with the Baltimore Ravens. Here are their reports from Thursday.
NEW ORLEANS-First, it's the Harbaugh Super Bowl. On Friday, it will be the Harbaugh dual press conference. Thursday offered the Harbaugh dual practice.
Preferring to move from the field built on the baseball field at Tulane University, John Harbaugh moved the Baltimore Ravens practice to the New Orleans Saints facility in Metairie, La., putting both John and Jim Harbaugh in the same facility at roughly the same time as they prepared their teams for Super Bowl XLVII.
With the help of the Saints and local merchants, the NFL was able to acquire approximately 100 feet of piping drapes to block the views of both teams. The league covered up all the windows in the weight room. The brothers worked together on the arrangements while the NFL football operations staff did their best to create two separate, secure practice venues in the same site.
"Just cooperating spirits,'' Jim Harbaugh said.
This isn't the first time two teams practiced on the same field for a Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers both used the Houston Texans facility, which is located at Reliant Field.
Rain forced the Patriots to spend three days at the Texans facility because of soaked field at Rice University. The Panthers moved a Friday practice from the University of Houston to Reliant Stadium, meaning the two teams shared the facility for one day of practice and a Saturday walk-through.
The 49ers had a 100-minute practice that overlapped with the Ravens by about 10 minutes. The Ravens were scheduled to go on the field around 4 p.m. central.
Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday that he would have no problems if the Ravens ended up practicing at the same facility.
"We're focused on what we're doing,'' Harbaugh said. "I'm sure they are the same.''
For the second consecutive day, the 49ers practiced at a crisp pace. After working indoors Wednesday because of the winds, the 49ers went outside for the first time in New Orleans.
The 49ers worked on their core offense, defense and special teams and devoted some time to situations.
"I thought yesterday was outstanding, but today was a photo copy of that,'' Harbaugh said. "In some ways, it was maybe a little better. I'm real pleased, real pleased.''
"You don't want burnt meat, stale bread or overripe fruit,'' he said of the two quality practices. "It's coming along nicely.''
After 70 minutes, the 49ers moved into the Saints indoor facility. During that time, they tried some field goal kicking. Spontaneously, players started to yell to create crowd noise for David Akers. At one point, Aldon Smith grabbed some kind of an amplifier to further help with the noise as Akers kicked.
"That's the first time they ever have done that in two years,'' Harbaugh said of the manufactured crowd noise. "David made all of them (field goals), which was even better. His mechanics are real good. That bodes well. Good things will happen for us in that area.''
The 49ers did turn on a simulated noise machine to give the team a crowd noise sound, something they could expect in Sunday's game.
A shorter practice is scheduled for Friday.
After several players told Ravens officials Wednesday night they'd prefer to practice on grass, the Ravens early Thursday morning asked the league if it could be worked out that they practice at the Saints' facility. This was potentially awkward, because the 49ers practiced at the same facility, and obviously neither team wanted the other to be able to see their practice sessions. So the Ravens agreed to dress at Tulane's baseball facility--site of their full Wednesday practice, with a makeshift 80-yard field stretching across the artificial-turf outfield--and hold their 30-minute walk-through practice there. Then the players and coaches boarded five buses for the eight-mile trip from Tulane to the Saints' facility not far from New Orleans International Airport. There, under heightened security, the Ravens completed their on-field work for the day with a one-hour, 25-minute practice coach John Harbaugh called "a very normal, late-season Thursday practice.''
"Just like in high school,'' one player said of the commute, "only the buses are nicer."
All 53 players on the Ravens' active roster practiced under sunny skies, and none of the players was limited.
"I think our players dealt with it great,'' said Harbaugh, who walked off the field afterward with linebacker Ray Lewis. "As Ray just said to me, 'We work.' That's what we do. Our guys don't flinch at things like this.''
Lewis, in fact, helped carry one of the Gatorade coolers from the bus to the practice field as the team disembarked. And the players seemed happier working on the grass, particularly this late in the season when six months of practice and game wear-and-tear makes the players crave a grass field.
After a special-teams period to start practice, the specialists--kicker Justin Tucker, punter Sam Koch and snapper Morgan Cox--adjourned to the Saints' indoor practice field for their work. On the field, the Ravens regular units and scout teams went through another 60 minutes of work before finishing, sereneded by an eclectic mix of music, from the hard rock of AC/DC to the rap of Soulja Boy and Chief Keef to the metal of Metallica.
After Harbaugh spoke to the team, veteran Terrell Suggs addressed the players for about two minutes.
John Harbaugh and his brother Jim, the 49ers coach, will hold a joint press conference Friday morning at the media center here, their last press obligation of the week. The Ravens will hold their final full practice of the week Friday afternoon, again at the Saints' facility, before having a normal light Saturday workout prior to Sunday's game.