Podiums and microphones were reserved for Rams coach Sean McVay and 10 Rams players on opening night at Super Bowl LIII.
Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman was not among them.
But Robey-Coleman drew the biggest crowds of reporters Monday night. He spent a full hour walking back published comments he had made about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady, 41, has won five Super Bowls. He will make his ninth appearance in the big game Sunday against the Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
In a story published Monday by Bleacher Report, Robey-Coleman said of Brady: “Age has definitely taken a toll. For him to still be doing it, that’s a great compliment for him. But I think that he’s definitely not the same quarterback he was. Movement. Speed. Velocity. Arm strength. He still can sling it, but he’s not slinging it as much. Whatever he was doing — because of his age and all that — he’s not doing as much of that anymore. He’s still doing the same things; he’s just not doing as much of it. And sometimes, it’s not the sharpest. But it still gets done."
The remarks, of course, sent shock waves through the NFL.
Robey-Coleman, who played against Brady multiple times as a member of the Buffalo Bills, said Monday night that his words “just got misconstrued and taken out of context.” He repeated that theme in one form or another for wave after wave of reporters.
He described Brady as “the GOAT,” an acronym for greatest of all time. He said there was no need for an apology.
“He’s a legend,” Robey-Coleman said. “It is nothing that I’m taking away from him. The only thing that I said was something about his age, but it was nothing to exploit that he doesn’t have the same tools that he has now as a player.”
When asked about Robey-Coleman’s comments, Brady said, “Yeah, I don’t have much to add.”
Robey-Coleman, 27, is no stranger to recent controversy.
New Orleans Saints coaches, players and fans — including legislators — are still reeling from the game officials’ decision not to call a penalty against Robey-Coleman for pass interference or helmet-to-helmet contact on a play that occurred late in the fourth quarter of the Rams’ 26-23 overtime victory over the Saints in the NFC championship game.
On Friday, the NFL fined Robey-Coleman $26,739 for the helmet-to-helmet contact. Robey-Coleman had said he would pay the fine and that he was moving on to prepare for the Super Bowl.
So he said he came to opening night prepared to be grilled on that subject and his comments about Brady.
“A lot of people want to hear me address some situations and I’m here to do it,” he said, “and I’m here to clear the air.”
This is not the first time Robey-Coleman has weighed in on the effects of age on an opposing player.
Last season, after the Rams defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, Robey-Coleman was asked what he thought of then 32-year-old running back Adrian Peterson, who had been signed by the Arizona Cardinals in advance of the Rams’ playing them in London.
A few stunned teammates looked on and listened as Robey-Coleman evaluated the future Hall of Famer.
“Adrian Peterson is not Adrian Peterson in 2008, 2009,” he said. “He’s not the same Adrian Peterson, and I think everybody knows that.”
Reminded of that comment Monday night, Robey-Coleman expounded on the subject.
“Age is always a factor in the NFL,” he said. “I mean, people don’t get bigger contracts because of their age, you know what I’m saying? So, like, you got to understand that age plays a factor in this league.
“Maybe not in basketball or baseball, but in football age plays a big factor.”
So now Robey-Coleman, making his first Super Bowl appearance, will try to stop Brady from winning a sixth ring.
“I’m not taking anything away from his game,” Robey-Coleman said. “I can’t take anything away from his game. It’s my first appearance. He’s been in this position many times.”
Asked if he was concerned that Brady would target him on Sunday, Robey-Coleman said no.
“There ain’t no backing down,” he said. “We’re gonna see him on Sunday. He’s gonna throw them, and I’m gonna try to deflect them.
“That’s the name of the game.”
Mike DiGiovanna, Bill Plaschke and Shotgun Spratling contributed to this report.