Brady wins MVP, Rams get 3 awards, Allen comeback player

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) For the third time, Tom Brady is the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.

Now he goes for his sixth Super Bowl title, and perhaps with it a fifth MVP trophy for the NFL championship.

Brady added The Associated Press 2017 NFL MVP award Saturday night at NFL Honors to his wins in 2007 and 2010. The New England Patriots quarterback was joined as an honoree by three Los Angeles Rams: Coach of the Year Sean McVay, Offensive Player of the Year running back Todd Gurley and Defensive Player of the Year tackle Aaron Donald.

Other winners in voting by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league were Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen as Comeback Player; New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara and cornerback Marshon Lattimore as top offensive and defensive rookies, respectively; and former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, now head coach of the New York Giants, as Assistant Coach of the Year.

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Brady is the second the player in the four major professional sports to win MVP at age 40; Barry Bonds won baseball’s award in 2004.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman, who missed the entire season with a knee injury, accepted for Brady.

“Thanks, thanks. Wait up. I literally just found out I was doing this like 20 minutes ago. So, I’ve got to read the text,” Edelman said.

“No, but I’m joking. But serious, Tom said he wanted to say he’s very honored and humbled that he gets this award for MVP. Also, he wanted to thank his teammates, his friends, his family and the Patriots organization for going out and doing what they do.”

Brady competed 385 of 581 passes (66.2 percent) for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns with eight interceptions as New England went 13-3 for the AFC’s best record. At an age when many QBs are deep into retirement, Brady is throwing deep – and short – as well as ever.

Donald was the first pure defensive tackle to win the award since Warren Sapp in 1999. He said it means “everything. That’s one of the best to ever do it. So, even for my name to be next to that guy’s name is beyond a blessing. This is what you dream about as a kid, dreaming about playing in the NFL to have success like this, to be able to (play good enough) to win this trophy.”

Gurley’s sensational turnaround season in which he ran for 13 touchdowns and caught six TD passes sparked an equally impressive reversal of fortunes by his team, which won the NFC West at 11-5.

“The Saints got the rookies and we took home the offensive and defensive” player awards,” Gurley noted. “It just tells you the type of players we have on the team. We all help each other out, absolutely. We have some talent, but we’re nothing without the whole nine yards and everybody together. And we also have a coach who’s up for Coach of the Year.”

A little while later, McVay was handed the coaching award.

In his first season running a team and as the youngest head coach in NFL history, McVay led the Rams to a seven-game improvement. McVay, who turned 32 on Jan. 24, ran away with the voting with 35 votes to 11 for Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer.

The Rams’ hat trick of awards was not unprecedented. In 2003, Baltimore’s Ray Lewis was top defensive player, Jamal Lewis won best offensive player, and Terrell Suggs was Defensive Rookie of the Year. And in 1999, the St. Louis Rams had three award winners: Kurt Warner (MVP), Marshall Faulk (Offensive Player) and Dick Vermeil (Coach).

New Orleans’ sweep of the rookie awards was the first since 1967, when Detroit running back Mel Farr and cornerback Lem Barney were honored. That was the first season for the top defensive rookie award.

“You get caught up in the season, you don’t really get time to pat yourself on the back,” Kamara said. “But when the season is over you realize what you’ve done. I’ve kind of had to time to look back and say, I made some history this season.”

Kamara shared duties with veteran Mark Ingram as the Saints won the NFC South. He rushed for 728 yards with a 6.1-yard average, and scored eight times. He also caught 81 passes for 826 yards, with five touchdowns.

The 11th overall draft pick and first from his position selected, Lattimore was a shutdown defender as the Saints went 11-5. He had five interceptions and 18 passes defensed in 13 games, was a sure tackler and, by midseason, was someone opposing quarterbacks tended to avoid. He missed three games, one because of a concussion and two with an ankle injury.

Allen returned from two devastating injuries to win the comeback honor. Allen missed half of the 2015 season with a kidney issue, then was lost in the 2016 season opener with a torn right ACL. There were questions if Allen would ever player at a high level again.

He answered those emphatically this season with the best year of his career. Allen caught 102 passes for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns. He was targeted 159 times, nearly 10 per game.

The award were announced Saturday night at NFL Honors.

AP Pro Football Writers Josh Dubow and Arnie Stapleton contributed.

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Patriots, Eagles tackle the serious and silly at media night

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Tom Brady wore a black wool stocking cap and a big smile. Bill Belichick wore a full suit.

The guy in the shark costume, well, he was just trying to not wear out his welcome.

The New England Patriots were the first team on stage Monday at Super Bowl opening night, the kickoff to the week of buildup to the big game. They gathered at Xcel Energy Center, the hockey rink and home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, for their first on-site media obligation after landing in Minneapolis in the afternoon.

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The Philadelphia Eagles, whose charter flight arrived Sunday, had the second half of the NFL’s annual assembly of hundreds of reporters, camera operators and just-for-fun “journalists” surrounding players and coaches with a ticketed crowd looking on from the seats.

Brady led his team out of the tunnel made out of the set designed to resemble a giant glacier in honor of the host state’s wintry climate. Swarmed by a 12-deep pack of media at his podium in advance of his eighth career Super Bowl, Brady was asked often about his family ties to the area and his desire to keep his children from criticism and scrutiny. He fielded a query about his most attractive teammate, nodding to Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.

And, of course, he fielded a few football questions.

As the Patriots filed out, Belichick met his Eagles counterpart, Doug Pederson, for a handshake and a photo op that produced a jarring juxtaposition of their wardrobe selections. Pederson had on a white polo shirt with jeans and a cap.

Belichick even flashed some smiles during his interview session, including questions from former figure skating star and lifelong Patriots fan Nancy Kerrigan. Working the room as a special correspondent for “Inside Edition,” Kerrigan later asked Amendola about his favorite Super Bowl party food.

“Nachos,” he quickly responded.

The guy in the shark costume, wearing a credential for TYT Sports, was trying to dive into center David Andrews‘ deepest fears. Andrews readily called himself a “scaredy cat” and acknowledged a fear of clowns.

“Clowns are out,” he said. “Birthday parties. Circuses. Clowns are a no go.”

In the thick of the throngs of media on the floor was 39-year-old linebacker James Harrison, the oldest active defensive player in the league. He wasn’t interested in reflecting on that or much of anything else.

“I’m just blocking this out,” Harrison said, after declaring the questions from reporters the most annoying part of his Super Bowl week. “Football is always the focus in my head. I’m running through defenses right now. I’m not really listening to what you’re saying.”

Wait, why such malignant thoughts about media night?

“Because it’s unnecessary. It’s useless,” Harrison said. “You ask me questions that don’t matter, that don’t have any consequence or nothing about the game.”

Teammate Shaquille Mason was more of a willing participant in the silly side of the event. Asked what precious metal Harrison reminds him of, Mason replied, “some kind of iron.”

Up in the seats was bushy-bearded defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, in blue jeans, a leather jacket and a Patriots cap with a pencil stuck behind his ear. Leaning back in a seat as if he were a hockey fan watching a game, Patricia complimented a reporter for his focus in asking a repeat query about his impending hire as Detroit’s head coach. Patricia predictably declined to entertain any questions about the Lions.

“I am very concerned right now about making sure our players have the best possible experience,” Patricia said.

He meant the Super Bowl itself. Media night, well, that’s one to get over and get through.

“Can we go home now, coach?” one player playfully yelled to Belichick as he walked by his podium.

To which Belichick replied, “I don’t know. We haven’t heard the whistle yet.”

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Patriots enjoy big Super Bowl experience edge over Eagles

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) The Eagles are playing some of their best football heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup with the Patriots.

One thing Philadelphia can’t contend with is New England’s huge experience advantage in the big game.

On the 53-man active roster the Patriots brought to Minnesota, 32 players have a combined 60 games of Super Bowl experience.

Tom Brady alone has been to the Super Bowl seven times during his 18-year career, winning five.

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By comparison, the Eagles have seven players on their active roster who’ve won a Super Bowl. Two of those players, LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long, won their rings last season with the Patriots. The others are Torrey Smith, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Dannell Ellerbe and Will Beatty. An eighth player, Chris Maragos, is on injured reserve with a knee injury.

It’s a huge gulf. By comparison, the 2015 Panthers that lost to the Broncos in the Super Bowl that season had three players who had won a ring: Ed Dickson (Baltimore), Roman Harper (New Orleans) and Michael Oher (Baltimore).

But the Patriots say it’s nothing they will spend time talking about this week.

“I think it’s overrated,” said special teams captain Matt Slater, who will be appearing in his fourth Super Bowl.

Defensive end Trey Flowers said the coaching staff hasn’t mentioned last year’s Super Bowl win since it came up in film study prior to their regular-season meeting with Atlanta back in October.

“It’s a brand new team, so I wouldn’t say last year’s experience will have anything to do with the outcome of this game,” Flowers said. “This team has a lot of different guys from a year ago, so it’s something you’ve got to do all over again as far as experience goes.”

Yes and no.

New England actually returns 31 players who were on last year’s Super Bowl roster against the Falcons. That doesn’t include injured linebacker Dont'a Hightower or receiver Julian Edelman.

Two of the Patriots’ additions since then both played in the Super Bowl with other teams. Linebacker James Harrison won two rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois played on the San Francisco 49ers team that came up short against Baltimore in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season.

“We know what to expect, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to perform,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “So there’s really no upper hand. You’ve got to just play the game and get ready for it and play at a high level.”

He said that is because there is respect across the board for what backup quarterback Nick Foles has accomplished since Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14.

“Everyone wants to hate on Nick Foles, but he’s done a great job,” Van Noy said. “He’s still a high-caliber quarterback, like Carson Wentz. Nick Foles is a great quarterback who’s done a great job. They distribute the ball really well and their run game is at a high level.”

More than experience on either side, linebacker Elandon Roberts said the biggest challenge is not getting caught up in the emotions that come with playing in a Super Bowl.

“Obviously it’s all the marbles right here, but it’s everything you work for,” Roberts said. “So you’ve got to think back to what got you here: doing your job, not getting overwhelmed and what not. As long as we do that that takes away most of it.”

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Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower