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Video: 'SNL' spoofs Steve Tasker

By Tim Graham

Although it didn't quite reach "Wake Up and Smile" levels of desperation, "Saturday Night Live" opened this weekend's show with a parody of how the CBS Sports crew handled the Super Bowl XLVII power outage.

Buffalo Bills legend Steve Tasker hasn't been able to crack the list of Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists, but being lampooned on "SNL" is a pop-culture badge of honor.

SNL player Taran Killam played Tasker, who had his Anderson Cooper moment during the Superdome brownout. Tasker had the only working earpiece-microphone combo when the power went out and delayed the game for 35 minutes.

Trainer's Day

By Jerry Sullivan

NEW ORLEANS -- Corey Graham won't be the only Western New Yorker getting a Super Bowl ring for the Ravens. Mark Smith, who grew up in Lewiston and graduated from Lewiston-Porter High, is Baltimore's head trainer.  

Smith, one of the longest-tenured trainers in the NFL, has been with the Ravens franchise for 28 years. He has been head trainer since the spring of 2011, when long-time trainer Bill Tessendorf retired. Tessendorf had been with the franchise for 38 seasons.

Steve Tasker when Superdome went dark: 'You want to choke'

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- Steve Tasker was supposed to report on a football game and found himself covering a news event Sunday night at Super Bowl XLVII.

A Superdome power outage delayed the championship game for about 35 minutes in the third quarter. While the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers milled about in the darkness and the world wondered what was happening, Tasker was the first member of the CBS Sports crew to have a live microphone and communication with the production truck.

A sideline sound technician gave Tasker a working earpiece. Before the Buffalo Bills Wall of Famer knew it, the telecast was returning from a commercial break, and executive producer Lance Barrow was in his ear.

"It was pretty cool to be a part of," Tasker told me, "even though it makes you want to choke.

"He told me I was taking it out of commercial. He told me, 'Tell us what you know. Reset the game. Tell us where we're at, and then we'll go back to commercial.' "

Five, four, three, two ...

"I wasn't even on camera," Tasker said. "We didn't have operational cameras on my side of the stadium. The first thing I wanted people to know was that we were safe and sound. I didn't want any panic. I wanted to calm everybody."

The second time the telecast went to Tasker out of a commercial break, he was able to introduce the other sideline reporter, Solomon Wilcots. By then, the CBS Sports studio announcers had regained power and took over the broadcast while getting field reports from Tasker and Wilcots until the game resumed.

"It's certainly not what anybody expected to have happen," Tasker said. "But we've got a lot of people that have done a lot of television, and nobody seemed flustered. We knew it was a moment we had to handle very well or we'd get killed for it.

"Lance Barrow and [director] Mike Arnold really hit it out of the park. The production people stayed calm and cool and kept working. I think we came off pretty well because of it."

Tasker, who played in four Super Bowls with the Bills, was working his third Super Bowl as a sideline reporter.

"It was disconcerting," Tasker said. "But there was nothing dangerous going on, and the crowd handled it extremely well. It was good to see, and I'm glad we got through it. I'm glad the game turned into a really, really good one."

Ray Lewis responds unkindly to families of double-murder victims

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- CBS Sports analyst Shannon Sharpe sat down with Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis for an in-depth interview before Super Bowl XLVII and asked him about the double-murder case Lewis was involved with 13 years ago.

I was in the Superdome when the segment aired and was unaware of Lewis' comments until Shredd and Ragan replayed them for me this morning on 103.3 The Edge in Buffalo.

Shannon Sharpe: "A couple of weeks ago, the family of the incident in 2000, and I'm paraphrasing, but it goes something like this: While Ray Lewis is being celebrated by millions, two men tragically and brutally died in Atlanta. Ray Lewis knows more than Ray Lewis ever shared. What would you like to say to the family?"

Continue reading "Ray Lewis responds unkindly to families of double-murder victims" »

With the championship on the line, Corey Graham makes plays

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- The San Francisco 49ers had three plays to move the ball five yards and win the Super Bowl.

Twice, they tried to beat Baltimore Ravens cornerback Corey Graham. Twice, the 49ers failed.

Graham, a Turner-Carroll alum, helped Baltimore lock down the Super Bowl XLVII victory Sunday night by denying San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree inside the two-minute warning and helping the Ravens win, 34-31.

Continue reading "With the championship on the line, Corey Graham makes plays" »

Corey Graham on the spot, Donte Whitner not in Super Bowl XLVII

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS --At halftime of Super Bowl XLVII, the Baltimore Ravens appear to be in control with a 21-6 lead over the San Francisco 49ers.

Turner-Carroll grad Corey Graham is a reason for that. He has been an on-the-spot star for the Baltimore Ravens throughout the postseason.

On the sports world's biggest stage tonight, Graham was involved in a game-changing turnover that helped swing momentum for the Ravens in the second quarter.

Continue reading "Corey Graham on the spot, Donte Whitner not in Super Bowl XLVII" »

Drawing the pistol: Trent Dilfer says it's bigger than a fad

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- Trent Dilfer was unequivocal when asked if the pistol offense and read-option runs were here to stay.

"Without a doubt," Dilfer said about the offense that's helped propel the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII.

Dilfer, an ESPN analyst and the quarterback when the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl 12 years ago, sees a significant tactical advantage for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick tonight.

Continue reading "Drawing the pistol: Trent Dilfer says it's bigger than a fad" »

On the line from Vegas: Super Bowl XLVII betting analysis

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- Las Vegas oddsmaker Joel Staniszewski of Sloan has been delighting us degenerates all season with his betting observations on the Buffalo Bills and the postseason.

Here are his thoughts and trends for Super Bowl XLVII.

San Francisco 49ers versus Baltimore Ravens

Spread: Niners minus-3.5

Total: 47.5 points

• Ten teams from the wild-card playoff round have reached the Super Bowl. They are 10-0 against the spread and 7-3 straight up.

• In the last 11 Super Bowls, the underdog is 8-3 against the spread.

• San Francisco is 5-1 against the spread in its past six games against a team with a winning record.

• Baltimore is 4-0 against the spread in its past four postseason games.

• Baltimore is 4-1 against the spread in its past five games overall.

Baltimore beat San Francisco, 16-6, at home on Thanksgiving 2011. Staniszewski points out the Ravens pretty much have remained the same, but Niners quarterback Alex Smith threw for 140 yards, ran for 12 yards and got sacked nine times in that game.

• In nine starts, Colin Kaepernick has averaged 233 passing yards, 48.5 rushing yards, 1.9 touchdowns (passing and rushing), 0.4 interceptions and 1.5 sacks.

And because Staniszewski was incredulous someone would think to track such a thing:

• The team from the city with the lowest unemployment rate has won 20 of the past 25 Super Bowls. Baltimore's unemployment rate in 2012 was 7.2 percent, while San Francisco's was 8.2 percent.

Staniszewski's take:

"My initial thought when the line came out was that San Francisco was the play. But the more historical research I've done, the more I'm leaning toward Baltimore as the play. Also something to keep in mind is that if you think Baltimore is the play, then take the under because they have a better chance to win a low-scoring game. If you like San Francisco, then you should take the over."

David Nelson declares knee will be 100 percent for training camp

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- The absence of injured receiver David Nelson was an often-overlooked reason for the Buffalo Bills' offensive struggles.

Nelson crumpled to the Meadowlands turf with a torn knee ligament on opening day against the New York Jets and was done for the season. The loss hurt. He caught 61 passes for 658 yards and five touchdowns in 2011.

Nelson now calls the timing of his injury "a blessing" because he is so far along in his recovery that the knee should be back to normal well in advance of training camp.

"The way it's progressing right now, I'm hoping to be full-go for OTAs," Nelson told me in the Super Bowl XLVII media center, where he made the rounds at Radio Row. "I'll try to work myself in slowly and then be full-go for mandatory minicamp and then hit camp at 100 percent.

"It was a blessing to have it happen so early. Now I can be ready to go."

Nelson revealed he has been running pass routes, moving laterally and doing plyometric workouts. He said he's not cutting much, and deceleration "still gives me a little bit of an issue," but claimed he's ahead of schedule in his recovery.

"It's a whole different animal when you talk about competition or running a route against somebody or getting tackled or having to block somebody," Nelson said.

"People tell you not to push it too hard because in the long run it could come back to haunt you. So when I feel a little pain, I try to slow down. I push it to the point I feel like I get some good work in."

Nelson hopes the injury won't hinder his status with the Bills.

It shouldn't. He is a restricted free agent after finishing up the rookie contract he signed as an undrafted free agent three years ago. He'll be a bargain for somebody.

Nelson said Bills vice president of football administration Jim Overdorf has reached out to agent Joel Segal to express interest in re-signing Nelson.

"I'm restricted," Nelson said, "so I'm limited to what I can do, but just knowing there's some interest is all I need right now.

"There's uncertainty in coming back off a knee surgery, especially at the position that I play. You don't want to invest in somebody who's not going to be the same player they were. I understand that. That's why it's my job to make sure my knee's 100 percent, so when I show up to training camp I'm giving them what they need."

Nelson is rehabbing in the Dallas area and hasn't met with new Bills coach Doug Marrone or receivers coach Ike Hilliard, but he said he has exchanged texts with them.

"I love the hire," Nelson said. "As a receiver, you want an offensive-minded guy, somebody who likes to throw the ball around. Coach Marrone's track record shows that from New Orleans and Syracuse."

Original Ravens coach rooting for 49ers to win Super Bowl XLVII

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- Jack Harbaugh isn't the only old coach whose rooting interests for Super Bowl XLVII will be conflicted.

Ted Marchibroda was the Baltimore Ravens' first head coach and worked closely with General Manager Ozzie Newsome.

"You have to give it to Ozzie," said Marchibroda, the former St. Bonaventure quarterback. "That first draft was a great draft in 1996. Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis was probably the best draft since Gayle Sayers and Dick Butkus. Maybe it's even better than those guys."

Marchibroda also is close to San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

While nobody can expect Jack Harbaugh to root for one of his sons to beat the other Sunday night -- John Harbaugh is the Ravens' head coach in case you just crawled out from under a manhole cover to read this blog -- Marchibroda actually has a favorite.

Marchibroda was the Indianapolis Colts' coach until 1995, the season Jim Harbaugh won the Comeback Player of the Year Award, led the NFL in passer rating and took the Colts to the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

"I'm a little closer to Jim than I am to the Ravens," Marchibroda said. "It was an outstanding year Jim had for me in Indianapolis. It was special. You don't have that many in your lifetime.

"I enjoyed my time with the Ravens. It's a tough situation when you're taking a ballclub and moving from city to city. But I'm leaning toward Jim. I spent more time with him."

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |