The pair were being interviewed on NFL Network at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros, when each was asked for the identity of the most famous person in his cellphone. Blank went first, and offered the name of country music star Kenny Chesney.
Then it was Kraft’s turn, but before he could provide an answer, Blank jumped in with, “Donald Trump over here.”
Kraft went with “Elton John,” but Blank may actually have hit the bull’s-eye. The Patriots owner has spoken about his close relationship with Trump, who praised Kraft, plus New England quarterback Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick, in remarks at a dinner the night before his inauguration.
“I will always be grateful to him for his thoughtfulness and his continued friendship,” Kraft said of Trump in March of last year, noting that he had attended the 2005 wedding of the then-businessman to Melania Trump. Brady has also spoken of his friendship with Trump, although he has tried to downplay that relationship in recent months, as the president emerged as a highly polarizing figure.
Another relationship Brady has been asked about is the one he has with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who famously handed the quarterback a four-game ban to start this season for his alleged role in Deflategate. It was inevitable that the subject would come up again Monday, given that Goodell may be forced to hand Brady the Lombardi trophy if the Patriots win the Super Bowl.
“Well, I just hope we win and that we’re in that situation where we can go celebrate,” Brady said, dodging the question as adroitly as he does pass-rushers. “I’ve just been thinking about the game, and the game I’m going to play. I’m not worried about postgame or anything like that.”
Falcons offensive coordinator (and soon-to-be 49ers head coach) Kyle Shanahan nearly had something about which to worry very, very much. At the end of his session with reporters, he discovered that his backpack was missing — the one containing his team’s Super Bowl game plan. It turned out that the bag was mistakenly grabbed by San Francisco Examiner columnist Art Spander, and the 78-year-old returned it about a half-hour after Shanahan realized it was gone.
“That would have been bad,” the coach told USA Today, in a major understatement.
For his part, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan revealed that he had gotten some help from a pair of quarterbacks with experience playing the Patriots: the Mannings. Ryan said that Eli Manning, who twice helped the Giants knock off Brady and Co. for the NFL crown, had given him tips on how to beat New England.
Neither of the Mannings was at Opening Night, but their older brother Cooper was around, serving in his role as a correspondent for Fox News. He wore a suit adorned with the images of hundred-dollar bills, because, well, why not?
During their media sessions, both Brady and Ryan were graced (or menaced) by “Fake Brady,” the creepy creation of Bleacher Report’s Dan Worthington (formerly a designer at The Post). The disconcerting alter ego made his presence felt, having an impact on social media coverage of the event and getting in an interview of sorts with comedian JB Smoove.
Another celebrity conducting Opening Night interviews was gymnastics superstar Simone Biles, on hand as a correspondent for “Inside Edition.” The 4-foot-9 Olympic champion made for quite the height disparity as she interviewed 6-8 Atlanta tight end Levine Toilolo.
Biles managed to get Brady’s attention long enough to ask him about his favorite food, to which the quarterback — he of the $200 cookbook — replied “Cheeseburger.” Which segues nicely to …
Yes, that was Kel Mitchell, reprising his role as Ed from the 1997 film “Good Burger” in which he co-starred with Kenan Thompson, now of “Saturday Night Live” fame. Mitchell, as Ed, produced a fairly cringe-worthy moment when he tried to engage Brady in a joke about the quarterback’s G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) status.
Representing his hometown team, sort of, was Jim Mudd, a member of a Houston sports radio show. As he has been doing during Texans games, Mudd left little doubt as to his opinion of his team’s expensive new quarterback.
Decidedly better dressed, give or take an incongruous beard, were a two-man team from an Austrian TV station. They were dressed as Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth, as one does, and did not seem the slightest bit out of place at the NFL’s zaniest annual event.