The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired former Minnesota Vikings assistant James Saxon as the team’s running backs coach.
Saxon replaces Kirby Wilson, who left the Steelers to take the same position in Minnesota earlier this week.
Saxon will try to help revitalize a running attack that ranked 27th in yards and 29th in yards per carry in 2013. Saxon is the second offensive assistant brought in by the Steelers in the last two weeks. Pittsburgh hired former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak to coach the offensive line earlier this month.
Saxon’s previous coaching stops include Miami, Kansas City and Buffalo. He played eight seasons in the NFL from 1988-95, running for 533 yards and five touchdowns.
HARVIN ‘ABSOLUTELY PLAYING’
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin says he is “absolutely playing” in the Super Bowl on Sunday after a season filled with “frustrating” health issues.
Harvin returned to practice last Wednesday after passing the NFL’s concussion protocol. He suffered a concussion in Seattle’s NFC divisional playoff game against New Orleans.
Harvin says Tuesday at media day that he feels “really good” and has “no restrictions” as the Seahawks prepare to face the Denver Broncos. He missed the first 10 games of the season after needing hip surgery, and played sparingly when he returned because of complications. Harvin came back for the playoffs, but hit his head on the turf in Seattle’s win over New Orleans.
He says being able to play in the Super Bowl “means everything” to him.
LYNCH LEAVES EARLY
Seattle Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch made an early exit at Super Bowl media day, then returned to Tuesday’s session just in time to possibly avoid a hefty fine from the NFL.
The running back, wearing a hood and dark sunglasses, abruptly left the required session at the Prudential Center, walking out after 6½ minutes.
He later came back and stood on the side of the media area, doing interviews with the Armed Forces Network, Deion Sanders for the NFL Network, and a Seahawks Web reporter. Lynch also talked to teammates and signed footballs and a helmet for fans in the stands.
While he did that, about five dozen media members stood in front of Lynch and shouted out a few questions. He ignored almost all of them as time ran out in Seattle’s 45-minute availability.
One reporter asked, “Are you trying to avoid being fined by standing here?” Lynch twice nodded his head yes.
Earlier this month, Lynch was fined $50,000 for not cooperating with the Seattle media. The NFL put the fine on hold, saying it would be rescinded if his behavior improved.
“Players are required to participate and he participated. We will continue to monitor the situation,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday.
Lynch has required media sessions Wednesday and Thursday. The Seahawks play the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
At media day, Lynch was standing on the floor of the covered-over hockey rink among a cluster of about 100 reporters. There were eight podiums set up for Seattle stars and coach Pete Carroll, plus nine other separated areas separated from the throng. Lynch wasn’t positioned at any of them. The team decided to put him among a group of players standing behind barriers with reporters on the other side.
Lynch answered a half-dozen questions before walking away. He came back a little bit later, off to the side of the interview zone, but close enough to hear questions. And to answer them, had he felt so inclined.
He generally didn’t.
Lynch watched as the clocked counted down to zero and, when it was announced the Seattle portion of media availability was over, he left for good.
Lynch never has explained his beef with the media. He regularly spoke to reporters until late in the 2012 season. In March of that year, he signed a four-year contract worth $31 million, including a guaranteed $18 million. In July 2012, he was arrested for driving under the influence near his hometown of Oakland, Calif.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday of Lynch’s actions:
“He’s such a major factor on our football team, but in this setting he becomes somewhat of a recluse and doesn’t want to be a part of it. We try and respect that as much as we can.”
MEDIA DAY MUSINGS
Tuesday was the Super Bowl freak show.
As the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks prepared to face hundreds of journalists, pseudo-journalists, comedians, pranksters and low-level celebrities, here was a look at some of the great and not-so-great moments in media day history:
MR. ED VS. THE CROSS-DRESSER, 1999: Atlanta Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan showed up for media day in South Florida wearing a silver-studded dog collar, emphasizing the underdog role his team had against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Things really picked up a couple of days later — not media day, technically, but we’ll let it slide — when Buchanan got into it with the mouthiest of the Broncos, star tight end Shannon Sharpe. “That’s an ugly dude,” Buchanan said. “You can’t tell me he doesn’t look like Mr. Ed.” It didn’t take long for those comments to be relayed to Sharpe. “Tell Ray to put the eyeliner, the lipstick and the high heels away. I’m not saying he’s a cross-dresser; that’s just what I heard.”
WILL YOU MARRY ME, 2008: Once a serious endeavor, media day is now a forum for credentialed “media” such as Ines Gomez Mont. The entertainment reporter for Mexico’s TV Azteca showed up in Glendale, Ariz., wearing a scanty white wedding dress and towering red pumps. She spent the next two hours trying to persuade someone, anyone, to accept her marriage proposal. “I’m in love with you,” she told New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, adding, “I’m the real Miss Brady.” The quarterback didn’t miss a beat. “I’ve got a few Miss Bradys in my life,” he said. At the time, Brady was dating Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen (now his wife) after fathering a child with former girlfriend Bridget Moynahan. Clearly, Brady needed no more complications in his life.
UNREPENTANT Ray Lewis: One year after being implicated in the stabbing deaths of two men in Atlanta, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis spent an hour deflecting questions that weren’t about football. “That chapter is closed,” he declared on a warm day in Tampa. But Lewis did manage to express his frustration at prosecutors and the NFL. “It was never about those two kids lying dead in the street,” he said. “It was about Ray Lewis, and that’s not right.” Lewis was initially charged in the murders, then cleared several weeks later. In a plea deal, he admitted to misdemeanor obstruction of justice and testified against his two former co-defendants. Both were acquitted.
BETTER WATCH WHAT YOU SAY, 2013: Every player is warned not to say anything on media day that will get them in trouble. San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver failed to heed that advice during a one-on-one interview with Artie Lange. The comedian asked Culliver whether he would consider pursuing a gay man. “I don’t do the gay guys,” Culliver replied. “Ain’t got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.” Two days later, Culliver spent his time with the media apologizing profusely.
GROUNDBREAKING QUARTERBACK, 1988: Washington’s Doug Williams became the first black to start at quarterback in the Super Bowl, which prompted some awkward moments and a lasting urban legend from his session with reporters in San Diego. To this day, people will tell you that someone asked, “How long had you been a black quarterback.” Actually, the query was along the lines, “It’s obvious you’ve always been a black quarterback all your life. When did it start to matter?” Williams was reluctant to get into the issue that week, though he certainly understood the significance of the moment. “It’s going to be the same if a black coach brings a team to the Super Bowl. It’s going to be the same hype. It’s always going to be there.”
LEON’S DAY OF DREAD, 1994: Leon Lett, a soft-spoken defensive lineman, had not commented to reporters since a Thanksgiving Day blunder led to a Dallas Cowboys loss. He couldn’t escape media day in Atlanta — and it was downright painful to watch. “I can’t breathe,” Lett exclaimed, sweating profusely, before he bolted from his seat just 11 minutes into his session. The NFL ordered Lett to return. Now looking more like a condemned man, he spoke in hushed tones, wringing his hands around a towel, never taking his eye off the clock. “Is that it? Can I go now?” Finally, the session came to a merciful end. No one has ever been more relieved NOT to have to talk anymore.
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