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Kickoff in Arizona

Aired January 31, 2015 - 16:30   ET


RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN HOST: Welcome to downtown Phoenix. I'm Rachel Nichols. And to our viewers across the country and around the globe, I promise there is no other place you want to be right now.

We are right in the heart of Super Bowl Central. And you can hear and feel the excitement everywhere.


NICHOLS (voice-over): In the valley of the sun, two teams from opposite sides of the country go head-to-head in the biggest sporting event of the year.

TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS: It's not just another game. It's the biggest game of our season.

NICHOLS: The New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks fighting for this trophy.

RICHARD SHERMAN, SEAHAWKS: It's going to be loud.

NICHOLS: After a week rife with controversy.

BILL BELICHICK, PATRIOTS: We're trying to get a football to the proper texture the quarterback wants to grip it.

NICHOLS: On the eve of what's expected to be the most watched television program ever. We get personal with the game's key figures.

They are the team that fired you, even though you had a winning record, and replaced you with Bill Belichick.


NICHOLS: And our all-star cast will tell you what to expect on and off the field.

CNN's "Kickoff in Arizona" starts right now.


NICHOLS: My partner today is legendary Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.

Welcome, Dan. DAN MARINO, CO-HOST: Rachel, thank you. Glad to be here.

NICHOLS: And this resume of yours is too good not to read it a little bit. Nine-time pro bowler, the NFL's most valuable player in 1984, led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl in 1985, and oh, by the way, inducted into the pro-football Hall of Fame in 2005.

Really appreciate you being here.

MARINO: Thank you. That was nice.

NICHOLS: We are just a day away, of course, from the big game. And back when you led Miami to the Super Bowl, it was quarterback central around there, you facing Joe Montana. What do you remember about those 24 hours before the game?

MARINO: You know, I think as a player, you know, you look at -- there's an excitement, but also there's two weeks of just the build up. And, you know, you feel that excitement because you just want to get the game played and just get ready to get out on the field and start playing the game.

Then, there's also that calm, because you prepare for two weeks, right? Two weeks of preparation. You know I'm prepared, I'm ready to go. I want to get out and just play.

NICHOLS: And, of course, you didn't have to deal with any of the controversy that the teams in this Super Bowl, at least one of them especially, have seen this week. I've frankly never seen anything quite like it. Take a look.


BELICHICK: I have no explanation for what happened.

BRADY: I have no knowledge of anything.

BELICHICK: I'm not a scientist.

BRADY: I didn't alter the ball in any way.

BELICHICK: I'm not an expert in footballs.

BRADY: I would never do anything outside of the rules of play.

SHERMAN: If it's against the rules, it's against the rules.

BELICHICK: I'm embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I've put into this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they think it's a bunch of hogwash.

SHERMAN: Whatever they did, the risk reward was greater.

BRADY: My focus is on the game.

SHERMAN: Will they be punished? Probably not.

BELICHICK: I mean, we're not polishing fine china here.

BRADY: This is getting out of control.


NICHOLS: Now, yesterday was the first time we heard Commissioner Roger Goodell address deflate-gate. I asked him about some of the challenges the league has had when these issues arise.


NICHOLS: Roger, you guys have faced a lot of problems over the past year that have a really wide range. But a lot of issues have in common is a conflict of interest. When you do something like hire an outside investigator like Ted Wells into the Patriots investigation, you're still paying him, and Robert Kraft who owns the Patriots is still paying you.

So, even when you do everything right in one of those situations, it opens you guys up to a credibility gap with some of the public and even with some of your most high-profile players.

What steps can you guys take in the future to mitigate some of those conflict of issues -- conflict of interest issues?

ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: Well, Rachel, I don't agree with you in a lot of the assumptions you make in your question. I think we have had people that have uncompromising integrity. Robert Mueller is an example who -- I think you asked me the same question last fall about a conflict of interest.

Their integrity is impeccable. Ted Wells' integrity is impeccable. These are professionals. They bring outside expertise and outside perspective. And their conclusions are drawn only by the evidence and only by the attempt to try and to identify that truth.

So, I think we have done an excellent job of bringing outside consultants in. Somebody has to pay them, Rachel. So, unless you're volunteering, which I don't think you are, we will do that.

But we have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the league, whether we have an owner that's being investigated or whether we have a commissioner that's being investigated. They're done at the highest level of integrity and quality.


NICHOLS: All right. I want to bring a few more folks into this discussion. New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson, who earlier in his career spent six seasons with the Patriots, won a Super Bowl ring with them. We've also got "Bleacher Report's" senior NFL columnist Mike Freeman.

We're going to start with you though, Ben. You played in that offense. You played with Tom Brady. What do you think happened and how involved do you think your old quarterback was?

BENJAMIN WATSON, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: What do I think happened -- honestly, Rachel, I don't know what happened. I don't think any of us know. That's why the NFL is doing their investigation. We'll have to wait and see what comes of this investigation.

But I can say this -- as a player, I went through a similar thing when I was in New England. I went through the spy-gate situation where people were accusing the organization of filming practices of another team. I can tell you as a player, it made you come together. It created unity in our locker room.

So, I'm interested to see how they respond to this allegation, because right now, we don't know if Tom was involved, we don't know if Coach Belichick was involved. But I do know that inside the locker room, a lot of guys are feeling that some of our hard work is being tested and we want to go out and prove

MARINO: So, you know, someone's involved, right?

WATSON: Exactly. Something happened.

MIKE FREEMAN, BLEACHER REPORT: That's the thing. Who did the footballs were deflated. So how did they get that way? I don't buy El Nino. I don't buy aliens. I don't buy any of that.

Someone did that and someone I think did it purposely. I know the NFL is going to investigate. But I don't buy that they just sort of deflated themselves. I do think probably Brady had something to do with this. I don't think there's any question.

NICHOLS: Well, then you're a Hall of Famer, your fellow Hall of Famers, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman have chimed in and said they think that Tom Brady was involved. Are you in their club or not?

MARINO: Well, you know what? I just look at those guys, Joe and Troy and myself, we all had our opportunities to put the footballs in the games that you wanted to use in those games. They put 24 balls out there. You work with them during the week.

And you know what? They're all different. And I played 17 years. Guarantee you some of the balls are a little more deflated than others and some are overdeflated. And to tell you I think that Tom -- I mean, maybe he knew about it. But at the same time, I didn't know that actually check the balls before the game. So, this is a surprise to me, to be honest.

WATSON: You didn't walk around and you check --


MARINO: No. This one's OK. Let's throw it.

NICHOLS: Right, exactly.

WATSON: You needed to be throwing touchdowns, huh? MARINO: That's it. Throw some touchdown.

NICHOLS: Well, this is just the latest incident, right, in an extremely controversial year for the NFL. You have the Ray Rice incident. You had the Adrian Peterson incidents.

On the other hand, of course, we've all do have great television ratings, great revenue coming in. So, I'm just going to ask you guys in a word or two for your idea about the state of the NFL. What do you think state of the NFL here?

WATSON: Popular but there's questions.

NICHOLS: All right. That's for --

WATSON: Popular but there's questions. You know, I think the integrity of the game has been tried. Nobody's going to turn off the National Football League. We have the best business that there can be in. It's the most popular game. And it should be that way.

But over the course of this year, there have been some questions that people are starting to wonder what's going on in the NFL. But it gives us a great opportunity to turn it around into something positive next year.

NICHOLS: All right. What are your wonderful words?

MARINO: There's a lot of issues I think that Roger has got to deal with and continue to talk about and discuss and do what's right for the game, what's right for the players. But there are so many really good players, people who do good things in the NFL in a positive way. And I just think that it's going to continue and continue to grow. And be positive about it.

FREEMAN: You would think it would continue to grow and it probably will. But at some point, do these controversies really affect the popularity? How well can the NFL remain bullet proof? That's a big question they're facing right now.

NICHOLS: Right. Or the concussions if that's going to kick in as well too with people not letting their kids play as much football. We'll have to see.

All right. Good stuff, guys. Really appreciate it.

WATSON: Thanks.

NICHOLS: Never a dull moment in this league.

All right. Up next, the stars of tomorrow's game, the teams have been practicing all week. And now our quarterback, Dan Marino, is going to break down their quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson.

And later in the show, Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll. Well, he wasn't always in Seattle. Had opens up to me about his time behind enemy lines. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICHOLS: You, of course, coached the Patriots in the late '90s. They are the team that fired you even though you had a winning record and replaced you with Bill Belichick.

PETE CARROLL, SEAHAWKS COACH: Well, yes. I spent three amazing years there trying to get it done. And so, if I didn't feel that I wouldn't have put everything I had into it. And so -- but it's been a great storied organization, really. And it happened after I left.



NICHOLS: Welcome back to CNN's "Kickoff in Arizona". I'm Rachel Nichols. You know my legendary co-host, quarterback, friend Dan Marino over here.

Dan, the mayhem is pretty much all around us. So, I think we're going to check in with Andy Scholes who is down right in the heart of Super Bowl Central -- Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS: Hey, Rachel. There are so many things to do in Phoenix. I'm right at the heart of Super Bowl Central. As you see, we've got a concert stage. The Roots are going to be playing here tonight.

And over here, you've got the giant Super Bowl roman numerals, if you want to take that Super Bowl selfie.

And then, across the street, the NFL experience, you can run an obstacle course, you can punt, pass and kick, pretty much everything that a player does out on the field. You can also get autographs of some of your favorite NFL stars.

But, Rachel, the coolest thing you can do here this weekend in Phoenix is right here. It's called the Grand Canyon experience. It's 30 feet tall. It's a great simulation as if you're really climbing in the Grand Canyon.

I'm going to give it a try. Rachel, if you hear somebody scream over here, please send help.

NICHOLS: Nice, Andy, thank you.

You know, we might need to get a paramedic down there if he slips off that wall just in case.

All right. Now, let's talk about tomorrow's game. And we are joined now by a man who was nearly in that game. Randall Cobb, wide receiver from the Green Bay Packers.

You are here for the jersey report from Dick's Sporting Goods. And now, you're here with us. Thank you so much for joining us.

RANDALL COBB, GREEN BAY PACKERS: Yes, ma'am. Thank you for having me.

NICHOLS: We don't want to bring up a sore subject, Dan and I. But we do have to ask you. That was one of the more heart-breaking ways to lose a football game that anyone involved with the National Football League has seen in quite some time. Are you over it yet?

COBB: No. I'm still having nightmares about it.

MARINO: That doesn't happen.

COBB: It's tough. It's definitely tough to deal with. But as in life, you're faced with a lot of adversity and things happen in life you don't quite understand them but have to get through them. You're trying to live with it now.

MARINO: You played the Patriots late in the season and you beat them. What are your thoughts on them going into the Super Bowl and how they're playing right now?

COBB: I think they're playing great. I think one of the keys is going to be, how well can they move the ball against the Seahawks defense? They have a great defense. They're very fast to the ball. They're great tacklers.

It's definitely going to be one of those games where you have to continue to move sticks and have to continue to find a way to extend possessions. And, you know, they got some guys banged up in the secondary right now so it's going to be important for them to go at those guys.

MARINO: So, do you think Tom Brady will challenge those corners?

COBB: For sure.

MARINO: You think so?

COBB: I don't think Tom Brady shies away from anybody or anything. He's a great competitor. I love watching him play. I really think this is going to be a great matchup.

NICHOLS: Dan, you're a hall of famer. We've got Tom Brady, who's, of course, expected to be a Hall of Famer. Russell Wilson way too early to judge yet. But if he ends up having beaten Peyton Manning and the Broncos last year and then ends up beating Tom Brady and the Patriots in this year's Super Bowl, where do you think he sneaks into your elite quarterback club you've got going on there?

MARINO: To me, it's all about winning as a quarterback, no matter who you're playing or what you're doing. And this young kid has already won a Super Bowl. He's playing in a Super Bowl. He's the winningest quarterback to start in the league as far as wins in his third year.

So, I mean, to me it's about winning. So elite, he is elite, I mean, even if he doesn't win this game.

NICHOLS: Yes. And, of course, the Seattle defense is what gets the most attention. You were on the field with that defense just a couple weeks ago. But you guys banged them up a little bit. Richard Sherman has got an elbow injury. Earl Thomas has a shoulder injury.

How much would you test them early if you were the New England Patriots?

COBB: You have to, you have to. Like I said, they're great team and a great defense. But you have to go at them. You have to test them a little bit and see where they are physically. You know, I know the report says that they're going to play. And I'm sure they're going to play being the Super Bowl and everything on the line. But you don't know how good they feel exactly.

If you go ahead and test them and see early on how they react to the physicality of the game, it will be a little bit easier to determine the outcome.

NICHOLS: All right. Thank you so much. Thanks for joining us.

MARINO: Randall, thanks, partner. Appreciate it, man.

NICHOLS: Appreciate that.

All right. Next year, maybe we'll be talking to you in the Super Bowl.

But coming up right now, I am going to go one-on-one with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll discussing the value of being different and how words of one legendary basketball coach changed his life.


NICHOLS: Welcome back to our kickoff special. I'm Rachel Nichols.

Pete Carroll got his first NFL head coaching job back in 1994 with the New York Jets. He lasted a season. Then in the late 90s he coached the patriots. And he was replaced by Bill Belichick. But Carroll had the last laugh last year when his Seahawks won the Super Bowl.

We sat down to talk about his unorthodox coaching style and the road that shaped it.


NICHOLS: You got your first head coaching job in 1994 and it took you 20 years to get to the Super Bowl. I read a great story about you saying that you were influenced by the legendary college basketball coach John Wooden. You had actually been fired two times from the NFL head coaching jobs. There were people who would have maybe said ah, maybe I'm not cut out for this. But you were reading one of his books, and it kind of dawned on you the path he took and then finally getting his program right.

CARROLL: Yes. In something like his 16th year or whatever it was at UCLA, he won his first national championship. And when I read that line, I slammed the book closed and thought it took him 16 years. The point was once he won it, nobody could beat him. He won ten of

the next 12 or whatever it was. And once he figured out exactly what it took and he had his system and his mentality and could create the culture that he thought was necessary, he was almost untouchable from that point forward.

NICHOLS: Do you feel -- I'm not going to commit you to winning 10 of the next 12 Super Bowls.

CARROLL: Appreciate that.

NICHOLS: But do you feel that you now followed a similar path, that you had awhile to get together what your philosophies are, what your core values of your program were, and now you're in a role of having what you feel you want here?

CARROLL: Absolutely. It takes a long time to figure you out. So, often we operate with what we think people want us to be. And that's not when you're at your greatest strength. So, it hit me hard -- that was crucial.

NICHOLS: People sometimes refer to you as a new age coach because you involve yoga or meditation into the program here with the Seahawks. Do you ever have any doubt about the way you're doing things, because it is so different than a lot of the other coaches in the NFL?

CARROLL: No, not anymore. No. That was the old days. I didn't know.

Everybody has that doubt. Everybody goes whether I'm doing this right and they're worried about those that look over them. And am I pleasing those people. But it's not the right way to be at your best. You have to find your own soul, your own meaning, your own purpose to operate at your highest level.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was awesome!


NICHOLS: You're also a relentlessly positive person. Anyone around you, your family, friends, every say come on stop being so chipper, stop being so positive.

CARROLL: That happens a lot. I've grown up thinking that something good is just about to happen. I don't go the other way. We know how powerful it is to continue to be optimistic, continue to be positive, so we try to support that mentality.

NICHOLS: It has worked out pretty well for you. National championship hardware USC, Super Bowl ring. Where do you keep your Super Bowl ring?

CARROLL: It's in a drawer.

NICHOLS: There is room in the drawer for one of them?

CARROLL: There would be plenty of room if we could ever get that done.


MARINO: Rachel, that was a great piece. But I played a lot of football against Pete Carroll. His coached football teams, defensive coordinator and head coach, and the things he's been able to accomplish with the learning experience and win a Super Bowl last year and now winning a Super Bowl again, he is a great, great football coach.

NICHOLS: All right. But it was a game that he played against your Miami Dolphins team that involved you that people credit for him getting fired from the Jets.

MARINO: That's the Pete spike, Pete spike. That's what he's famous for. Some people say that's one of the reasons why he got fired from the Jets.

NICHOLS: Many people say.

MARINO: It's a play that Bernie Kosar brought from Cleveland. It was great. After this play Pete got fired and the Jets went down the drain.

NICHOLS: All's well that ends well, seems to have worked out in the end.

All right. The Super Bowl is tomorrow. But tonight is when we will learn who has been voted into the latest class of the pro football Hall of Fame. And all eyes are on one name, Junior Seau.

Seau was, of course, revered around the NFL, beloved in San Diego. He led the Chargers to the franchise's lone Super Bowl win. But then, of course, at the age of 43, tragedy. Junior Seau committed suicide.

His former teammates, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, stopped by the set earlier to talk about his old friend.


NICHOLS: No better person to talk about on Super Bowl weekend than a Super Bowl MVP. And you were able to play with Junior Seau, his election to the Hall of Fame is up tonight.


NICHOLS: What can you tell us about him and why he was such a great teammate and friend?

BREES: Well, one of the greatest if not the greatest linebacker to ever play the game. The length of time that he played, the intensity and passion that he played with -- I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to play with him for two years. An unbelievable teammate, an unbelievable example just as you watched him every day on what it took to be a great player, not just a good player, a great player.

NICHOLS: Well, first, we're talking about hall of fame and legacy, you still have a way to go in establishing what your career record is going to be. You got the Super Bowl ring. You've got the Super Bowl MVP.

But I don't think you're done yet, right? How competitive are you about getting back to this game?

BREES: It's all I think about. It's what can we do this off-season to put ourself in the position to be playing for this next year.


NICHOLS: All right. When we come back we go inside one of the greatest moments in Super Bowl history. And it happened right here in Arizona.


NICHOLS: Welcome back. I'm Rachel Nichols and this is my co-host, Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.

Now, Dan, you have seen a lot of Super Bowls


NICHOLS: What's your favorite moment, favorite memory?

MARINO: You know, I think back when ways a kid growing up in Pittsburgh. I was a Steeler fan. They won four Super Bowls during that time. The catch Lynn Swann, that's the one that kind of stands out in Dallas, the acrobatic catch he had. They ended up winning four Super Bowls with that same group. So, that's my memory of great Super Bowls.

NICHOLS: Not a bad memory to have from your childhood.

We're in the heart of Super Bowl central right now. Tomorrow we are going to be at the stadium about 20 miles from here in Glendale, Arizona. That is, of course, where what some call the greatest catch in Super Bowl history took place.


DAVID TYREE: Reaching the Super Bowl is really a surreal feeling. It's a dream that you probably had fantasized over, lusted after has now become real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Super Bowl XLII is under way.

TYREE: It's intense when you go into a fourth quarter game-winning drive you need a touchdown to win it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it takes the snap back to throw under pressure he's going to fight out of it.

TYREE: Eli made a ridiculous play.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still fight out of it.

TYREE: This is backyard football now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throws it deep down field.

TYREE: I was preparing myself for impact knowing I wouldn't be open yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wide open Tyree makes the catch.

TYREE: One hand got dislodged off the ball. As I'm fading back all I know is I got this thing and I'm not letting it go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a catch by Tyree.

TYREE: Because I didn't see the catch during the game, it wasn't until I got back to the hotel they finally showed the catch. I said for the first time in my life, I was impressed with my own work, you know? I'm the lucky recipient of one of the most significant plays in NFL history.


NICHOLS: A moment that a lot of Patriots fans, of course, still cannot get over.

MARINO: That was a great catch.

NICHOLS: Yes. Of course, maybe things will swing the other way for them tomorrow, who knows?

All right. What is your Super Bowl prediction? I don't know if we're going to see another one of those catches, but who's going to win?

MARINO: Well, you know, I hope we do. You look at this game. I think it's going to be a tight game, a very close game. Maybe when it comes down to the end I think the fact that Russell Wilson got that experience from last year, that's going to help him. His ability to run the ball and get out of the pocket, I think he might make some plays at the end of the game. I like Seattle.

NICHOLS: Seattle Seahawks. This is what Dan Marino says. You heard it here first.

One thing we know for sure, America will be watching tomorrow night. We all can't wait to see what happens.

Thank you, Dan.

MARINO: Thank you, Rachel.

NICHOLS: Thank you to all of you guys for joining us.