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Panthers don't shy away from Opening Night fun

Posted Feb 1, 2016

The annual media day madness at the Super Bowl has driven many a player crazy, but the Panthers are just crazy enough to embrace it.

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Beauty queens are usually the ones being asked the questions, but at Super Bowl Opening Night, normal goes out the window.

Where else would you find Miss Universe posing questions to NFL players just a few feet away from a man wearing an American flag dress doing the same thing?

Welcome to the NFL's version of a carnival sideshow, featuring members of the "media" as the stars of the show and members of the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos as the objects of their bizarreness.

While giants of the NFL media world like Peter King and John Clayton worked the room at the SAP Center – home of the San Jose Sharks of the NHL – "reporters" dressed up as superheroes or sporting puppets ask hard-hitting questions.

"Does your wife prefer you in Spandex or your birthday suit?" Kevin Frazier of Entertainment Tonight – a SportsCenter anchor back in the day – asked safety Roman Harper.

"When is the last time you cried?" an unidentified reporter asked offensive tackle David Foucault.

(The answers, for the record, were "Spandex" and "when my girlfriend left town.")

Formerly known as Super Bowl Media Day and typically held in the middle of the day at the Super Bowl stadium, the NFL decided the event was ready for primetime this year and moved it in the evening. Some of the material was only fit for broadcast after 10 p.m.

The event is known for being fun for fans but a drain on the players being put on the spot – from a female "journalist" virtually propositioning safety Colin Jones to someone asking guard Trai Turner how he envisions himself dying.

But the great thing was, the Panthers seemed to take it all in stride.

Behind the scenes, waiting in the "green room" for their turn with the media while the Broncos ascended the stage, the Panthers were all smiles. The man with the biggest smile of all, quarterback Cam Newton, was right in the middle of it, serving as commentator for a heated game of Madden between jack-of-all-trades Joe Webb and safety Kurt Coleman.

Once on the stage, players wandered around not in cliques but in constantly changing small groups, smiling and laughing together through a gauntlet of goofy interviews. Toward the end of the hour-long session, Webb and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin couldn't have had more fun going around to the podiums where several of the team's stars were stationed and asking questions of their own.

Even when it was announced that the session had come to a close, Panthers players didn't hurry into the bowels of the stadium and sprint onto the buses. They lingered, posing for pictures before finally trickling out.

In a way, the wackiness of Super Bowl Opening Night meshed with the personality of this team. The Panthers love to have a good time together, and this was one of the last times this group will get to do that.

At the same time, looking forward to the arc that is Super Bowl week, this was only the beginning of the fun.