Stage set for Super Bowl drama as parties begin
Miami: Super Bowl 44 rivals Indianapolis and New Orleans conducted final walkthrough sessions as tensions built for Sunday`s National Football League title showdown and parties began across South Florida.
The Saints, playing in their first Super Bowl after 43 futility-filled seasons, will try to win a title for devoted New Orleans fans still rebuilding in the aftermath of the devastation from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Practice sessions have allowed Saints star quarterback Drew Brees to to replace his nervous excitement with poised confidence.
"A little bit of nervousness, or butterflies, is what gives you that edge," Brees said. "Those butterflies, slowly as the week goes along, diminish and what replaces them is confidence.
"The more you prepare and visualize it, the more you are ready to take on the moment."
Indianapolis, seeking a second crown in four seasons, moved from an oceanside resort to an undisclosed hotel as the Colts hoped to relax on the eve of the championship matchup.
"If you start thinking about all the implications, that this is the biggest game of your career and your life, then it`s tough to get any shut-eye," Colts guard Ryan Lilja said.
Colts star quarterback Peyton Manning, who threw for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns this season, hoped to sleep for 12 hours as he did the night before Indianapolis won the 2007 Super Bowl at the same stadium as Sunday`s game.
"I hope for that peaceful night of sleep again. I think that`s important," Manning said. "Sunday becomes somewhat of a long day. It`s an evening game so there`s time to wait. I`ll study a little bit, review some notes, maybe read.
"You`re excited when you finally board the bus and head to the stadium."
Brees, who threw for 4,388 yards and an NFL-best 34 touchdowns this season, has tried to prepare for the long hours at the stadium before the Super Bowl.
"Everybody talks about pre-game taking forever," Brees said. "It could take your focus off the task at hand. It`s about getting past all that stuff and into the game.
"Everybody is going to be fired up. It`s the Super Bowl. I just have to control my emotions, not use too much energy too early, not get sidetracked. We can`t burn ourselves out."
For the first time in Super Bowl history, the field paint includes the black and gold Fleur de Lis symbol used for the Saints logo and a rebuilding New Orleans.
"When you look at that symbol, it`s the symbol of the city," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees. "It makes you well up with pride."
Security intensified across South Florida as more supporters for both clubs arrived to enjoy warm weather and thrills in the atmosphere around a one-day spectacle that brings together fans worldwide to watch on television.
A splashy sendoff to the Super Bowl party scene included celebrity-packed galas at oceanside resorts Friday night along South Beach. Saturday`s parties included a free beach bash as well as an invitation-only NFL gala affair.
Curfews followed final workouts at Sun Life Stadium, ensuring players would not join in the festivities.
Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney sat out for the sixth day in a row due to a torn right ankle ligament but will test the ankle in a pre-game workout.
Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne practiced all 35 minutes on Saturday after concerns over his right knee sidelined him early from Friday`s workout.
NFL owners met with each other for several hours Saturday to talk about the possibility of a labor shutdown in March of 2011. Some met with NFL players union executive director DeMaurice Smith as sides try to hammer out a new deal.
About two million dollars worth of Super Bowl souvenir clothes will be sent to Haiti because T-shirts and caps with each team listed as champion are manufactured before the game.
Rather than destroy huge amounts of pre-made hats and garments honoring the Super Bowl loser, items have been donated since 1992 to World Vision for charity relief, un-true champions no concern for people who simply need clothing.