NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Around the Super Bowl and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the game:
WHAT'S IN A NAME? FOR HARBAUGHS, DEFINITELY A 'J'
Jack and Jackie Harbaugh weren't trying to be cute when they gave all three of their kids names that start with the letter "J."
John, the eldest, was a given. He's named after Jack, whose given name is also John. Jim's name came from Jackie's doctor in Perrysburg, Ohio, who also was named Jim.
"They came in and said, 'What are you going to name this baby?' and I said that I liked the name Jim," Jackie Harbaugh said.
As for Joani, their third child and only daughter, her full name is Joani Marie and it comes from Jackie Harbaugh's mother's middle name and the first name of Jack Harbaugh's mother.
So it really wasn't planned, this whole family of J Harbaughs?
"No," Jackie Harbaugh said. "We aren't very creative."
— Nancy Armour — http://twitter.com/nrarmour
SALSA VS SQUIRREL
Which dance do you prefer: Victor Cruz' touchdown salsa or Ray Lewis' game entrance squirrel?
Cruz breaks it down: "The Ray Lewis slide has a little more intensity, a little more swagger fire under it. The salsa is just for swagger, for flavor, a little bit, but it's two completely different joints."
Cruz did his interpretation of the Lewis dance and said he likes them both.
"It's unique to each other's character, each other's personality," he said.
Lewis might trade dance props for any holdover luck from Cruz' trip to the Super Bowl last year; the wide receiver won a title with New York.
Cruz said he plans to tweet during Sunday's game from his (at)teamvic account, about the game and the entertainment.
"I'm looking forward to Alicia Keys ... singing the national anthem, as well as Beyonce at half time," Cruz said. "I feel like they picked some good performers this year."
— Nekesa Mumbi Moody — http://twitter.com/nekesamumbi
FAN TAKES: GOODELL
Fans at the NFL Experience are here for fun but also have some strong thoughts about Commissioner Roger Goodell as he talks about the state of the league.
Many are torn with the Super Bowl in town as they heal from Goodell's disciplining of the New Orleans Saints in a bounty scandal.
Despite mixed feelings, the party's not stopping.
Here's what some folks said Friday as a local brass band, the Brass-O-Holics, jammed on a stage.
— "He's the grinch who stole our Christmas, but it's Mardi Gras, so it's all good in the neighborhood. Welcome, Roger." —Stephanie Arwood, a New Orleans resident in a Marcus Colston jersey with her young son.
— "There's a lot of anger toward Roger Goodell. I hope the Saints fans have mercy on him while he's here, truthfully. ... Katrina's a perfect example of how we'll pick up and move on, but we're not going to move on until the season's over with. Especially while he's here, I think we'll take every opportunity to give back to him what he gave to us." —Sammie Mitchell, a New Orleans resident sporting a gold Saints jersey as he took pictures with friends and family.
— "I don't have any hard feelings. ... "It's time to move on and get ready for next season. We just have to move forward." —Edwin Cowart of Gretna, La., sporting a Jimmy Graham Saints jersey. He says he's following the lead of coaches and players in moving on.
— Stacey Plaisance
5 KEY PLAYERS: BALTIMORE
We asked AP pro football writer Barry Wilner to pick five key players for each team in this Super Bowl. You'll want to pay attention to these guys on Sunday.
First, for the Baltimore Ravens:
—JOE FLACCO (QB, JERSEY NO. 5): Flacco is on a personal streak this postseason with eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three games. He outplayed top draftee Andrew Luck, then Peyton Manning, then Tom Brady in leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl. And he's been successful in the playoffs over his five-year career — he has an 8-4 playoff record and an NFL record by leading his team to playoff wins in each of his first five seasons.
—RAY RICE (RB, JERSEY NO. 27): Rice has been the hub of the Ravens' offense throughout his career — a threat to break long gains on runs or screen passes. This season, he rushed for 1,143 yards and nine TDs, caught 61 passes for 478 yards. He has two touchdowns in the postseason.
—RAY LEWIS (ILB, JERSEY NO. 52): Lewis has been the emotional engine for Baltimore his entire career, and retires after this game. Teammate Bernard Pollard calls him "The Raven." Lewis missed 10 games this year with a torn right triceps, but has been sensational in playoffs with 44 tackles. He was the MVP of the 2001 Super Bowl, the Ravens' only championship, and Defensive Player of Year in 2000 and 2003.
—PAUL KRUGER (DE, JERSEY NO. 99): Kruger had a breakout season and has been among the best defenders in playoffs. He led Baltimore with nine sacks and has 2½ in the postseason. He's very disruptive and also can drop into coverage, though that's not his strength. He doesn't get double-teamed as much with Terrell Suggs getting healthier.
—CARY WILLIAMS (CB, JERSEY No. 29): Williams is a very up-and-down defender who has two picks in postseason, including one in the end zone in the AFC championship. A so-so tackler, better as coverage man, yet made 75 tackles during the season. Williams joined the Ravens in 2009 after Tennessee cut him.
— Barry Wilner
Repeating something the league has been saying for more than a year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he hopes there will be HGH testing soon — before the start of the 2013 season if he has his way.
Your turn, players' union.
The league and union paved the way for testing two seasons ago in the collective bargaining agreement. But the sides have been at an impasse, with the NFL Players Association saying it needs more information about the validity of a test that is used by Olympic sports and Major League Baseball. The union also has issues with the appeals process, saying the league won't agree to the independent arbitrator that Major League Baseball's drug-testing program has.
OBAMA WANTS CLOSE GAME
President Barack Obama hasn't said who he's rooting for in the Super Bowl, but a White House spokesman says the president is hoping for a close game.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says Obama will watch Sunday's matchup and expects it to be highly entertaining, even though his beloved Chicago Bears aren't playing.
Carney says he's not sure who else may watch the game with Obama. In previous years, elected officials and prominent entertainers have joined Obama and the first lady at the White House to watch the big game.
Obama didn't pick sides last year when he was running for re-election. But he did honor the victorious Giants later at the White House, as the president does with championship teams.
London apparently loves football — the American kind.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says two games to be staged next season at Wembley Stadium are sold out.
The Pittsburgh Steelers play the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 29, while the San Francisco 49ers play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 27.
— Nancy Armour — http://twitter.com/nrarmour
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
If you want Jim Harbaugh to show some emotion, don't ask about his brother or his parents.
Ask about his son.
While the Brother vs. Brother matchup dominated storylines leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl, John and Jim aren't the only Harbaughs involved. Jim Harbaugh's oldest son, Jay, is part of John's staff with the Baltimore Ravens. After serving as a graduate assistant at Oregon State, Jay went to Baltimore, where he's a coaching intern.
"I'm really, really thankful and proud at the same time that Jay is doing what he loves to do. That's a real blessing," Jim said Friday. "And he's doing it with the Baltimore Ravens, a tremendous organization with great coaches around to mentor him and teach him, especially John being there. I hear he's doing a phenomenal job, which I'm really, really proud of."
As he continued talking, the terse coach sounded like any other father.
"This week is tough," Jim Harbaugh said. "I haven't been talking to him or calling him. I've sent him a few texts just letting him know how I feel about him — I don't want to give reason for people to think I'm talking to him.
"I'm really proud of what he's doing. I've heard he's done a great job and that means the world."
— Nancy Armour — http://www.twitter.com/nrarmour
GANGLY KID, BIG ARM
Hard to imagine now, but there was a time when Colin Kaepernick was almost unwanted.
College coaches thought he was going to sign with the Chicago Cubs, who drafted him as a pitcher out of high school. They didn't want to take a chance on the gangly kid with a big arm who was never asked to run on his high school football team.
Nevada coach Chris Ault saw something he liked, but even he wasn't sure about chancing a scholarship on Kaepernick.
"He was a tall skinny kid who was a good athlete," Ault said. "But really there wasn't anything to say this guy is the guy."
Other schools wanted Kaepernick to come as a walk on. But Ault finally gave him a scholarship, reasoning that if he didn't work out at quarterback he was big enough to perhaps play another position.
The rest, as they say, is history.
— Tim Dahlberg — http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
MORE COPS IN BALTIMORE
Coming to Baltimore on Super Bowl Sunday: Extra police officers and camera monitors.
It's all part of an effort to keep the city safe, whether or not the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi (goog-lee-EL-mee) says police are prepared for fans to celebrate, but will be on alert for anyone who crosses the line and puts people at risk of getting hurt.
Police also plan extra staff at headquarters to monitor feeds from stationary and helicopter cameras.
AP PHOTO: DO NOT SERVE
New Orleans has a complex relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
On one hand, fans are upset over the way he handled the bounty scandal involving their hometown Saints. On the other hand, many are thankful the NFL brought the Super Bowl back to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the city in 2005.
AP photographer Julio Cortez caught a sign picturing Goodell taped to the door of a restaurant and video poker bar that reads in all caps: "DO NOT SERVE THIS MAN."
— Julio Cortez — http://twitter.com/juliocortez_ap
QUICKQUOTE: IN THE CAN
Jim Harbaugh remembers it well, that initial phone message from late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh asking if he would leave San Diego and come coach at Stanford to turn around a spiraling program.
"He did call me and left a message on my phone to see if I'd be interested in the Stanford coaching job," Harbaugh said. "I was intending to leave that message on my phone for the rest of my life, but I lost that phone or I dropped it in the toilet or something. I can't remember which it was — lost it or dropped it in the can. I don't have that message anymore, but it truly was one of the most memorable things."
Now Harbaugh is following in Walsh's steps coaching the San Francisco 49ers, and in the Super Bowl to boot.
— Janie McCauley — http://twitter.com/JanieMcCAP
All week long, John has been billed as the warmer, funnier Harbaugh with Jim cast as the curt, almost curmudgeonly brother.
Yeah, that's pretty much right.
The Harbaugh brothers shared the stage for a joint news conference Friday morning and immediately reinforced the impressions the world has of them.
"Hi, how you guys doing? Welcome and thanks for coming. Just want to start by saying what an honor it is for both of us to be here, with each other. What an exciting moment it is, but even more for our families," John said, pointing out the Harbaugh parents in the audience along with their grandfather, a cousin and an uncle, and then spending a few minutes detailing his Baltimore Ravens schedule for the day.
After his minute-long opening statement, John turned the mic over to Jim.
"I concur," Jim said, drawing laughs.
While Sunday's Super Bowl between John's Ravens and Jim's San Francisco 49ers has been billed as "The Harbowl," the brothers have only reluctantly gone along with the storyline. When a reporter noted that both brothers had made risky mid-season decisions — John fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron while Jim dumped quarterback Alex Smith for Colin Kaepernick — and asked if that could be traced back to their childhoods, Jim ignored the question, talking about his players instead.
"The way our players have played, to me, that is why we're here," Jim finally said. "Not because of any coaching decisions or the way we were when we were kids. It's really a credit to those men, and we're looking forward to game."
When asked what "philosophical commonalities" the brothers share, Jim replied, "I'd be hard pressed to spell philosophical right now."
John was more willing to play along with the fascination surrounding the family this week. He told how he and his brother had built a hockey goal out of chicken wire when they were about 13 — John is 15 months older — and broke all the windows in the garage. He gave a glimpse at what their conversations are like during the season — "Just normal personal stuff any two brothers would talk about. That's 95-plus percent of our conversations" — and talked of how agonizing it was to watch his brother when he was an NFL quarterback.
But John is still a Harbaugh, as was clear when he was asked if he and his brother might forego the traditional postgame handshake and hug instead.
"I have given absolutely no consideration to a postgame handshake or bear hug or anything else," John said. "Jim, have you?"
"I have not," Jim replied.
— Nancy Armour — http://www.twitter.com/nrarmour
SURPRISES? NOT REALLY
Don't be surprised if you're not surprised by the Super Bowl ads on Sunday.
The multimillion-dollar spots used to be closely guarded secrets. That's out the window. Thank Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Today, the eyeballs advertisers covet are online.
Last year, Super Bowl ads released early had six times the views — with 9.1 million average views — than spots released after the game, according to YouTube.com, which hosts advertisers' commercials on its site.
In recent years, more advertisers have been making their spots public before the Big Game. This year, 26 of the 35 or so advertisers have released their spots, with more reveals expected, YouTube says.
— Mae Anderson — http://twitter.com/maetron
AP national sports columnist Tim Dahlberg writes about Colin Kaepernick's parents, Rick and Teresa, who lost two sons while young parents in their mid-20s before the future 49ers quarterback was born. Read the whole column here: http://bit.ly/VsFmEc
Their new son was 5 weeks old when they first held him at the Lutheran Social Services office in Appleton, Wis. He was healthy, vibrant, and full of life.
On Sunday he'll be behind center, trying to win a Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers.
"He's ready to roll," Rick Kaepernick said this week from his hotel room in this party town. "He's pretty focused."
If the story of Colin Kaepernick's meteoric rise from obscurity to superstar in the making is a remarkable one, the story of his life bears some telling, too. Born to a teenager in Wisconsin a quarter century ago, the only memories he has of his early life are with the couple who adopted him.
He doesn't like to talk about it, and has declined chances to meet with his birth mother. For their part, the Kaepernicks particularly dislike it when people refer to their son as adopted.
Of course, they couldn't have imagined when they began the process that the offspring of a blonde, athletic mother and an African-American father who was out of the picture before he was born would be a star quarterback.
"At the end of the day he's just our son," Rick said.
— Tim Dahlberg — http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
APE PICKS RAVENS
Too bad gambling's illegal in Utah: This ape's on a roll.
An orangutan at a Utah zoo has predicted the winning Super Bowl team each of the past five years. The ape, named Eli, is picking the Baltimore Ravens this time around.
Casinos in neighboring Nevada favor the San Francisco 49ers.
Eli made his pick by knocking down a papier mache goal post decorated with the Ravens logo. He ignored the 49ers post.
Hogle Zoo spokeswoman Erica Hansen said Eli has hesitated in years past, but charged toward the Ravens side this year. He then joined his mate and daughter in chowing down on the edible posts.
At least he's confident.
EDITOR'S NOTE — "Super Bowl Watch" shows you the Super Bowl and the events surrounding the game through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across New Orleans and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.
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- Roger Goodell
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- Victor Cruz