NEW ORLEANS -- There's no crying in football.
Unless you're Joe Staley, and you've been relegated to the offensive line.
Staley, San Francisco's left tackle, has talked this week about how he cried when Brian Kelly, then his coach at Central Michigan, moved him from tight end to tackle. Coming into college, Staley was a 200-pound receiver who had dreams of reeling in a lot more passes in his football career.
Then, he got the bad news. He was neither a born blocker nor a willing one.
"I was a freshman and you have no idea how much I just did not want to play offensive line," he said Wednesday. "When I was a freshman in college, I was the liability in the run game as the tight end. I was the guy you did not want to have out there blocking everybody. I was terrible.
"I hated blocking. I just wanted to go run downfield and catch passes. Then they were, 'You're just going to block everybody for the rest of your life,' and I was, 'Awww, no.' "
When he got out of earshot of the coach's office, the tears started to flow. He made a beeline for his then-girlfriend's dormitory room and told her he wanted to transfer.
Eventually, though, he made peace with the decision.
"It came about slowly," he said. "I really enjoyed the camaraderie and the team within the team of the offensive line when I first started playing, that whole concept of working together with and being accountable for those five guys, and just the work."
Fast forward to Super Bowl XLVII, and the 49ers' offensive line is a huge asset for the team.
"I think we are a physical weapon, a blunt-force object," Staley said. "It's one of our strengths, all five of us, and we're playing at a pretty high level this year."
The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which advocates the hiring of minorities for NFL coaching and front-office positions, applauded the league Wednesday for selecting Jerome Boger as referee for Sunday's game. It's just the second time an African American will be the top on-field official in the Super Bowl.
"Boger is one of the most respected officials in the NFL," John Wooten, chairman of the alliance, said in a written statement. "It is not at all surprising that he ranked No. 1 among referees in the League's merit-based scoring system for game day officials."
Under the NFL officiating program's evaluation system, the highest-rated eligible officials at each position earn the right to work the Super Bowl. Super Bowl officials must have at least five years of NFL experience and previous playoff assignments. Boger, in his ninth season as an NFL game official, entered the league in 2004 as a line judge and was promoted to referee in 2006. He has officiated four divisional playoff games.
Wooten criticized a recent Yahoo Sports report that quoted unnamed game officials who accused the NFL of changing Boger's grades for the better to ensure he would be selected to work the Super Bowl. Yahoo also confirmed a report by FootballZebras.com that the league downgraded Boger eight times for mistakes this season, but that each of those cases was overturned on appeal.
"The attacks on his selection are unfair, inaccurate and offensive," Wooten said. "Statements that he had eight downgrades are simply untrue."
'Devil' in the details
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has repeatedly credited God for the good things in his life. As for the new allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs this season to aid in his recovery from a torn triceps, part of a Sports Illustrated story, Lewis blames someone else.
"That's the trick of the devil," Lewis said. "The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That's what he comes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you're trying to do."
Words of regret
The 49ers apologized Wednesday afternoon for comments made a day earlier by cornerback Chris Culliver, who said on a radio show that he would not welcome a gay player to the team.
The interview took place at media day Tuesday and was with comedian Artie Lange, who aired it on his syndicated show later that night.
“I don't do the gay guys, man,” Culliver said in response to gay players in the NFL. “I don't do that.”
Lange asked whether he thought there were any gay players currently on the 49ers.
“No, we don't got no gay people on the team; they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff.”
Asked whether gay players would need to keep it a secret, Culliver said: “Yeah, come out 10 years later after that.”
In a statement issued by the team, the club said: “The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris. There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.”
Culliver also released a statement Wednesday: “The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”
Earlier this week, news broke that former 49ers tackle Kwame Harris is alleged to have assaulted a former boyfriend. Harris did not disclose that he was gay during his NFL career.
San Francisco's Randy Moss on Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, in the news recently for having an imaginary girlfriend that he claims was an Internet hoax: "I've been a fan of his since he came on the scene playing football and being catfished I guess."