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Kramer sports Bills logo in ad

Among the advertisements during the Super Bowl on Sunday night was an NFL American Family ad that included Cosmo Kramer with a Bills logo added to his jacket during an episode of Seinfeld:

Super Bowl Replay chat with Allen Wilson

Weather woes

DALLAS -- As hard as it is to believe given the part of the country we're in, this will go down as one of the worse Super Bowls ever in terms of weather.

An ice storm earlier this week resulted in traffic jams caused by disabled cars, forced the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport to cancel arrivals and departures and closed schools. On Thursday night, as much as five inches of snow fell in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, which is known as the Metroplex.

Even worse has been the frigid temperatures that have not risen above 20 degrees the past five days and featured minus-zero wind chills the first half of the week.

The weather delayed fans and celebrities from descending on North Texas and has made the lives of local residents, who aren't used to snow and ice, miserable.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tried to put a positive spin on the weather conditions, saying temperatures are improving. That's true. It's supposed to get up into the 40s by Sunday, about 35 degrees colder than last weekend.

---Allen Wilson

Homegrown talent

DALLAS -- The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers are in the Super Bowl because they have built their teams with shrewd drafting and showing restraint in free agency.

Seventeen of Pittsburgh's 22 offensive and defensive starters were selected in the NFL draft or signed as undrafted college free agents. The number would be 20 starters if rookie center Maurkice Pouncey and offensive tackles Willie Colon and Max Starks -- all draft choices -- weren't sidelined with injuries.

Of the Green Bay's 22 starters, 19 were acquired through the draft or as undrafted free agents out of college.

Both rarely venture into free agency unless they're trying to re-sign their own players. But when they do pursue players from other teams, they often nail the selections.

Among the Steelers' acquisitions is inside linebacker James Farrior, a castoff from the New York Jets. They also didn't give up on outside linebacker James Harrison, who was cut three times by the team before becoming the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The Packers' big free agent hits were cornerback Charles Woodson, the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett.

Credit for these rosters are Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh's director of football operations, and Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson, who played linebacker from the Houston Oilers from 1975-80.

Eight of the Steelers' 10 first-round draft picks on Colbert's watch are starters, including Pouncey, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews III and nose tackle B.J. Raji are among the first-rounders acquired by Thompson.

Colbert and Thompson also have hit on several middle- and late-round draft picks and uncovered some undrafted gems as well.

Stability in the front office has been a key to Pittsburgh's and Green Bay's success. Colbert, a Pittsburgh native, has been with the Steelers since 2000. Thompson became the Packers' GM in 2005, but was in the personnel department for most of the 1990s under GM Ron Wolf, the architect of the Super Bowl teams in 1997 and 1998.

Bills GM Buddy Nix has said he wants to rebuild the team through the draft. Bills fans can only hope he is as good as Colbert and Thompson in landing talent.

---Allen Wilson 



The MAC well-represented in Super Bowl

DALLAS -- The Southeastern Conference has the most players participating in Super Bowl XLV with 18. Guess who is second on the list?

The Mid-American Conference will be represented in the game with 15 former players. The Big Ten also has 15.

The Green Bay Packers have nine for MAC stars, including wide receiver Greg Jennings (Western Michigan), running back James Starks (University at Buffalo) and defensive end Cullen Jenkins (Central Michigan). Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (Miami, Ohio) and linebacker James Harrison (Kent State) are among six MAC products on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh has three MAC quarterbacks with Byron Leftwich (Marshall) and Charlie Batch (Eastern Michigan) joining Roethlisberger. Marshall is no longer in the MAC.

"That’s just an awesome thing for this conference," said Roethlisberger. "I’m proud to represent Miami. I think it speaks volumes that even as a small conference you don’t have to be a BCS or a national championship contender every year to have players be able to come play in the Super Bowl."

Jennings turned down a scholarship offer from Big Ten member Michigan to play for Western Michigan, a move he has never regretted.

"I got the opportunity to establish myself as a student and then as a player," Jennings said. "It worked out great for me. If I had the chance to do it all over again I would choose Western. It allowed me to progress a lot quicker and mature a lot quicker."

One of the reasons Starks chose UB was to prove a point that if you're good enough the NFL will find you.

"Everybody doubted and said, 'If you go there, you aren’t going to do this, you aren’t going to do that,''' the Niagara Falls native said. "Alright, that’s what pushed me to go there and I am happy to be a part of the University of Buffalo.''

---Allen Wilson


Gaughan elected president of Pro Football Writers

DALLAS -- Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan was named 26th president of the Pro Football Writers of America during the organization's annual Super Bowl meeting today.

The News is the first paper to have three PFWA presidents. Larry Felser and Vic Carucci were the first two. The PFWA has about 250 members.

A 1983 graduate of Buffalo State, Gaughan joined The Buffalo News as a full-time employee in 1984. He has covered the Buffalo Bills since 1988 and became a beat writer in 1992.

Gaughan will serve a two-year term as head of the PFWA, which promotes and fights for access to NFL personnel so that reporters can better serve the public.

--Allen Wilson

El Presidente

DALLAS -- Congratulations to Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan, who was voted in as the new president of the Pro Football Writers of America on Friday. Gaughan is the 26th president of the organization and the third News reporter to hold the position, joining Larry Felser and Vic Carucci.

The News is the first paper to have three PFWA presidents. The term is for two years.

A 1983 graduate of Buffalo State, Gaughan joined The Buffalo News as a full-time employee in 1984. He has covered the Buffalo Bills since 1988 and became a beat writer in 1992.

---Allen Wilson

Harrison exposes NFL contradiction

DALLAS -- Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison plays angry to begin with, but getting fined more than $100,000 by the NFL for helmet-to-helmet hits have him more ornery than usual.

He attracted a lot of attention, and criticism, this week for taking shots at the NFL for its emphasis on player safety, which the league had made a major point of emphasis. Harrison said he is sensitive to players getting hurt, but added you can't legislate violence out of the game.

"If you want to get [violence] totally out of the game, put flags on us,'' Harrison said. "And we'll pull flags off each other and see how popular your game is then and how many are watching.''

He also made a sarcastic remark about how a pillow could be used to soften the blows he delivers on players and said the NFL's push for an 18-game regular season is more interested in maximizing revenue than the health of its players. 

It's understandable the NFL wants to try and do more to protect its players, but Harrison and others may have a point that extending the season two more games contradicts the league's mission.

---Allen Wilson

Williams roots for Starks

DALLAS -- Tampa Bay wide receiver and Buffalo native Mike Williams was in town for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year announcement. He was one of five finalists for the award, which went to Detroit defensive tackle Ndomukong Suh.

Williams was one of several Western New Yorkers who enjoyed good rookie seasons in the NFL. One of them will be playing in Super Bowl XLV -- Niagara Falls' James Starks, a running back for the Green Bay Packers.

"That’s why I’m cheering for Green Bay,'' said Williams, who indicated that he and Starks are long-time friends. "We played basketball against each other in high school and played AAU ball together.''

Williams helped the Buccaneers to a 10-6 record this season. They failed to make the playoffs, but he expects that to change in 2011.

"We’re a young team, but we’re guaranteeing the playoffs,'' he said. "If we get to the playoffs, we know we can do some damage.''

---Allen Wilson

Former Bills coach lands on his feet

DALLAS -- Sean Kugler was not retained as the Bills' offensive line coach when head coach Chan Gailey was hired, but Kugler found a nice landing spot with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So the Lockport native goes from a team mired in a losing culture to one that is synomous with winning championships. Kugler's work with the Steelers' banged-up offensive line has been integral in the team reaching the Super Bowl.

Injuries have forced Kugler to use multiple starters on the line, but it's something he was used to after using seven different starting combinations with the Bills last season.

"Koogs is pretty good at dealing with misery," joked Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

There is nothing miserable about working for a team going for its seventh Super Bowl title. Kugler has been joined by former Bill Jonathan Scott, who has started 11 games at left tackle.

He didn't look too good in a Bills uniform, but he has played well enough to help running back Rashard Mendenhall rush for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns while keeping Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger upright.

"Playing for the Steelers is special,'' Scott said. "The thing I like about it the most is every offensive lineman on this team is a joy to work with. Everybody has a desire to win and bust their butts to be better. This is a very good team. I’ve never seen this much talent on a single team since my college days [at Texas].''

As for Kugler, he was glad to have a chance coach with the Bills. But there is no denying that he's in a much better situation with the Steelers.

"I enjoyed every minute in Buffalo and I respect everybody in that organization," Kugler said. "But to have a chance to work for the Pittsburgh Steelers organization is a great opportunity. It’s been a fun year and a challenging year. Hopefully we can put the work in and get one more done."

---Allen Wilson

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