PADECKY: Al Netter doesn't let Super Bowl hype go to his head
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 7:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 7:08 p.m.
NEW ORLEANS - At least no one stuck a microphone in his face Tuesday morning at the Superdome and asked Al Netter that if Al could be any dog, what dog would that be?
“I don't know if I could put all this (Super Bowl) into words,” said Netter, the Cardinal Newman and Northwestern offensive lineman who signed with the 49ers following the NFL draft and spent his rookie season on the practice squad.
Others tried to help Netter, however. He was asked to play a word association game. First thing that pops into your mind, said the guy with the microphone.
“Losing the Super Bowl.”
“Not going to happen.”
“One thing you won't do this week.”
That guy left and another guy immediately took his spot. For those who have never met Al Netter, he is about the most approachable large human being you have ever seen. Netter was told to roll with the punches and this guy asked Netter a question no one in their right mind could ever see coming.
“If you could have a football game with a twist, what would that twist be?”
Netter looked at the guy as if someone asked him for the Portuguese recipe for pork chops. Huh? Netter didn't answer at first because he didn't know what the heck the guy was talking about. Netter stood there with his wheels spinning. I could tell because I heard them spinning. Then the light bulb went off. And I thank you for tolerating this mixed metaphor.
Said Netter, “I would want both Harbaughs to dress in pads, a uniform and a helmet, dress in their sport's uniform, just like baseball managers do. And then go coach the game. That would be fun.”
I thought it was a smart PG response, given the odd nature of the question. Actually I thought it was better than anything I could have invented. The microphone guy looked at Netter like he was lame and walked off. I'm sure the guy was looking for something from Netter at least PG-13, something racy or scatological. On Media Day too many questions are asked with the hope they turn into an embarrassing YouTube moment. Netter knows better. He's Barbara's and Joe's kid and they taught him not to act the rube. By the way, his parents will fly down Thursday, at the 49ers' expense.
“I'm very careful to what I say,” he said.
In some ways going down Bourbon Street is easier than you might imagine. People ask only one question when he's out in public.
“I get stopped every 30 seconds,” Netter said, “They ask what team I play for. I say Niners and they take my picture.”
Do they know who he is? No. Do they know it's unlikely he'll play unless someone is hurt?
No. But he's a Niner in the Super Bowl, a professional football player! Immediate credibility.
“It's hard to hide when you're 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds,” Netter said.
On the other hand, Netter could really have impressed a stranger if he told them he played AAU summer basketball for Joe Montana when Netter was at Newman. And Joe coached him.
“Along with his sons Nate and Nick,” said Netter, 23. “I know the family a little bit.”
I could hear the question: So you know the great Joe Montana? What's he like? Did he ever tell you that if he could be a dog, what dog would Joe wanna be? Netter, sorry to say, looks to have more memorable moments than goofy ones.
“I don't think being at the Super Bowl has really sunk in yet,” Netter said.
He did take his first baby step toward that reality Tuesday when the 49ers issued him his Super Bowl jersey.
“Yeah, right here, that's when it hit me a little bit,” Netter said.
Netter placed his right index finger on the patch on his left shoulder — the Super Bowl XLVII patch. As he pointed at it, Netter had that look of having just been honored with a trophy. In a way he's right. That No. 65 Super Bowl-patch jersey will never be worn by anyone else.
“People take this (game) seriously,” he said.
He is referring to the five security guards on both the second and third floors of the downtown Marriott. He is referring to a credential he needs for admission to those floors. Be he Colin Kaepernick or a practice squad player, nothing screams security than two football teams about to play a game that 113 million people watched in 2012.
Kaepernick or a guy on the practice squad, no one gets past the guard tower, so to speak. Curfew is midnight and, if you know Jim Harbaugh, there will be no exceptions.
Netter had the importance of the occasion drilled into him Monday. After each practice this season Harbaugh picked two players to give what he calls “Wise Words.” On Monday, wide receiver Randy Moss, who played for the Patriots in a Super Bowl loss, and defensive lineman Justin Smith, a 12-year veteran, were chosen, and they said don't be tempted by New Orleans and blow the opportunity.
“I can't tell you exactly what they said,” Netter said, “but I remember how I felt.”
That he wanted to go there right then and play, and he's on the practice squad.
“Don't let the hype get to your head,” Netter said.
Netter won't because, as he told someone who he had never met before, he won't be stupid. In the past it's been easy for Super Bowl players to get stupid in the Big Easy, especially when you are 6-foot-5, 315 pounds. Being that big, Netter stands as a mark for someone who has consumed too many adult beverages on Bourbon Street. No worries. He won't stray. Why? Heck, Netter grew up as a Niners fan but he won't even tell anyone he knows Joe Montana. One can't get any more disciplined than that. Or mature.
You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or email@example.com.
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