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Super Bowl notes: Seahawks laugh off van accident

Associated Press

Detroit — NFL MVP Shaun Alexander and several other Seattle Seahawks stars got quite a rough ride in the Motor City.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was among a half-dozen players jostled but uninjured Monday when their van was hit by a mechanical security fence. Steve Hutchinson, Walter Jones, Chuck Darby and Michael Boulware also were going to a downtown news conference.

Alexander said they were in the second of two vans transporting the players. The first van was full of team public relations personnel and cleared the gate without incident.

The van carrying the players was struck from the side and below by automatic gates while trying to get through the entrance at a hotel complex, he said.

"It was a big jerk. That was about it," Jones said. "It was a freak thing. But everyone laughed it off."

Hasselbeck said he had just removed his seat belt when the gate struck. He said the van was left inoperable.

Alexander said there was a loud bang that startled the players and shook the driver.

"It was crazy," Alexander said. "We all got tossed around a bit inside. But we're all OK."

Alexander said he saw Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis coming out of the hotel. The Steelers had just finished their news conference.

"I said to him, 'Do you have one of those automatic things to push the gates down?' He said, 'No, it wasn't me,"' Alexander said.

NFL vice president of security Milt Ahlerich said the accident would be reviewed.

"The most important thing is that no one was injured," he said.

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NO BLACK AND GOLD: The Steelers pulled a surprise when they decided to wear their white road uniforms for the Super Bowl instead of their black jerseys.

Their duds for their first practice in Detroit also got attention.

Almost half of the team wore Irish green jerseys for a walkthrough on Monday, replicas of the No. 6 jersey that Jerome Bettis wore at Notre Dame. It was a way of honoring the running back who is playing perhaps his final game in his hometown.

"It says a lot," cornerback Deshea Townsend said. "It most definitely lets you know that we care about each other on our team. Jerome is such a good teammate and such a good person that this is like a tribute we can give him on his day."

The Steelers have worn replica jerseys in honor of several of their coaches. For instance, they donned throwback Lions jerseys before one game to honor defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who played for Detroit.

James Farrior said fellow linebacker Joey Porter was behind the latest throwback threads.

"It was Joey's treat," Farrior said.

Bettis has gotten the spotlight during his homecoming. He wore a Detroit Tigers jacket to the interview session Monday, but sat in a white polo shirt while fielding questions. He had, by far, the most reporters and photographers at his table.

His teammates enjoyed watching him revel in the moment.

"I don't think it could be written any better as far as a story line — a happy ending," receiver Hines Ward said.

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WHO KNEW?: Mike Holmgren didn't even give the Super Bowl a thought last autumn when he urged his wife to sign up for a medical mission to Africa.

Four months later, his Seattle Seahawks are playing for the NFL title in Detroit and his wife is packing for Congo, where she'll treat villagers and wonder about the outcome of a game a world away.

"I'm very proud of her," Holmgren said. "She works very hard at a lot of things that are a lot more important than coaching a football game. Her heart's here, even though she is going to be in Africa with my daughter."

Kathy Holmgren started her nursing career as a missionary to Congo. One of the couple's twin daughters, Calla, is a gynecologist who signed up for a mission to Africa with Northwest Medical Teams International, Inc.

When he found out that their 33-year-old daughter was going to Congo, Holmgren suggested that his wife accompany her. They'll be in a group of eight volunteers.

"She's going to exactly the same place Kathy went to 35 years ago, a little mission right in the middle of the jungle," Holmgren said. "I said, 'Why don't you go with her?' It was the best present I could ever give her.

"We didn't know when she signed up for this thing four months ago that we would be in the Super Bowl. In fact, we didn't even think about the dates being a problem."

Kathy Holmgren declined interviews this week about her trip.

It will be her third trip with Northwest Medical, an Oregon-based organization that works with other humanitarian agencies and sends volunteers to Africa, Asia, eastern Europe and Latin America. She went on missions to Mexico in 2003 and Romania last year.

"This is something she's doing on her own," Northwest Medical spokeswoman Barbara Agnew said Monday. "She's volunteering her time and paying her own way. That says a lot about her as a person and about the family as well."

The Holmgrens leave Thursday and won't return until Feb. 19. Communications are difficult in the northwest Congo area, so there's no guarantee they'll be able to keep up with Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I'll let her know who wins when she gets back," Holmgren said.

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TOO MUCH FOOTBALL?: John Madden is worried about the new television deal that puts Thursday and Saturday games on NFL Network beginning next season.

Madden, whose last game for ABC will be the Super Bowl, said the wait between weekend games is what makes the NFL special.

"I just worry about overexposure," Madden said on a conference call. "No matter how much you wanted to watch the NFL, there were no more games between Monday night and the next Sunday. I don't want us to become like college basketball or college football where you have games on every night.

"That's the direction it's going in. I really don't know that it's a great direction."

Broadcast partner Al Michaels agreed that there can be too much of a good thing.

"You're going to reach a point at some point of oversaturation," Michaels said. "Is this it? I don't know. That's the danger that lurks there. If you're going to make things less and less special, at some point you're going to pay the price."

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FORD FIELD SECURITY: About 100 federal, local and state agencies are protecting Ford Field and other venues from street crime or possible terrorist attack.

"We all know where we're all supposed to be," Michigan State Police First Lt. Monica Yesh said Monday.

Officials said thousands of officers are on Super Bowl duty, including plainclothes teams and bomb-sniffing dogs that will continually check the stadium and every other Super Bowl event site.

Detroit police already have banned parking in the central business district. Starting Tuesday, the Coast Guard will make about a one-mile stretch of the Detroit River off-limits. The security zone will extend 300 yards offshore, but will not affect Canadian waters.

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