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Polamalu Is Looking a Little Green

January 31, 2006|Sam Farmer and Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writers

DETROIT — Troy Polamalu was not made available to the media Monday, saving him the embarrassment of trying to explain why a former USC All-American wore a Notre Dame jersey during a Pittsburgh Steeler practice.

Actually, it showed his teammates' depth of affection for Detroit native Jerome Bettis that Polamalu would include himself among nearly two dozen players who donned green No. 6 Notre Dame jerseys in honor of Bettis' homecoming.

"Today is Jerome Bettis Day," receiver Hines Ward said later, looking out onto a mass of reporters surrounding the Detroit native in a downtown hotel ballroom. "What better way to represent him than by wearing this Notre Dame jersey and giving him this one day? I think Jerome was pretty happy and pretty shocked that everybody was wearing his jersey. We brought him home."

The jersey salute continued a recent Steeler tradition. The Steelers also wore throwback jerseys this season in honor of Coach Bill Cowher, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and defensive assistants John Mitchell and Keith Butler.

"So I guess they thought that on the road back to Detroit it was only fitting to wear Jerome's Notre Dame jersey," said Bettis, who wore a Tiger jacket and cap.

Bettis vowed to stay focused.

"People say I'm not going to be able to focus because of the distractions, but there aren't really any distractions," he said. "The possible distraction would be family, but my family comes to every game anyway. If that's the case, then I'm distracted every week. So that's not really a distraction.

"I see my family every week. Sometimes they are tired of looking at me, sometimes I'm tired of looking at them. That won't be a distraction."


The Seahawks hit their share of bumps in the road this season, but nothing like the one they hit Monday.

A van carrying six of them struck a mechanical security fence at the Marriott Renaissance Center before the players were to meet with reporters. It was a low-speed collision, and no one was injured. Riding in the van were quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, running back Shaun Alexander, safety Michael Boulware, defensive tackle Chuck Darby, tackle Walter Jones and guard Steve Hutchinson.

Apparently, the van's driver tried to follow another vehicle into an area that was regulated by a fence that pops out of the ground to keep cars from entering more than one at a time.

"Crazy," Alexander said. "There was the van and the gates and all that. The first van went through, and the second van, the one we were in, we tried to go behind them and it didn't work. We all got tossed around inside a little bit. A little wake-up call for all of us."

The players were uninjured and completed their scheduled media availability.

"We are reviewing the incident and will take every appropriate precaution to ensure that it does not happen again," said Milt Ahlerich, NFL vice president of security, in a written statement.


Belying their reputation as a power-oriented team, the Steelers have turned their offense into a pass-happy, quick-striking force in the playoffs, accumulating nearly twice as many yards through the air as on the ground.

"I think we've shown that, but I don't think we feel that's who we are," guard Alan Faneca said. "We still feel like we're a smash-mouth offense and we're going to run the ball and we're going to dink and dunk [through the air]. The last couple weeks it's just happened that [the offense has opened up]."


At one point Monday, Seattle's No. 1 defense intercepted three consecutive passes by backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. "I didn't tell Seneca to throw the ball to the defense," Coach Mike Holmgren told a pool reporter with a laugh. "Sometimes you have to do that. You have to say, 'Feed them one.'

"Our defensive secondary has come together nicely. ... We weren't creating turnovers on defense for a good portion of the first half of the season, so we made it kind of a point of emphasis. And, like most things in our business, if you do that, good things happen.

"If a guy gets his hands on the ball and doesn't catch it, there is heck to pay from the rest of the guys on the defense."

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