By Scott Malone
NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A marching band, costumed characters and an 9-year-old reporter were among hundreds of journalists and football fans that filled a Newark, New Jersey, arena on Tuesday for the media scrum that marks the kick-off of Super Bowl week.
Players and coaches from the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks fielded questions on everything from their hotel accommodations in Jersey City, New Jersey, to their favorite poetry, and, of course, Sunday's big championship game.
For the fans who paid $28.50 to sit above the arena floor to watch the event, it was their best hope of getting near the elite athletes.
"This is the closest I'll get to the players, because I'm not going to the game," said Michael Kenney, 38, a police officer who lives in Brick, New Jersey, sporting an orange Broncos jersey. "I'm hoping to get some autographs."
Costumed superheroes and historical characters mingled with a crowd that included NFL cheerleaders, as the Rutgers University band played "Eye of the Tiger."
Broncos head coach John Fox, whose players were first to be introduced to the crowd, said he was confident they would get through the day and then return their focus to preparing for the game.
"Most of these guys have been exposed to working with the media," Fox said. "Maybe not quite in this volume, but these guys all follow the game, they have watched many media days and Super Bowls and I think it's a neat experience."
Among those firing off questions at Fox were a boy who had been chosen NFL Play 60 Super Kid in an online contest. He thrust a microphone at the coach. How quickly should he run the game ball out onto the field on Sunday night, he wanted to know.
"As fast as you need to go to be safe," Fox said. "We don't want you getting hurt or doing a face plant. Be under control, but be efficient."
The boy, Thomas Brown of Virginia Beach, said he was happy to get a chance to talk to the coach but had no plans of becoming a reporter when he grows up. Asked what he wanted to be, he replied: "A player, probably."
Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said he was eager to get back to practice sessions and studying the style of the Seahawks, who were due to face the crowd later on Tuesday.
"One thing you can't do is let your mind stray away from what you're here for," Bailey said. "We're here to win a game."
Lineman Orlando Franklin admitted that the size of the crowd was "kind of a shock," and voiced the same eagerness to get back to preparing for Sunday's game.
"In a couple minutes we'll be done with this and can get back to football," he said.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by Gunna Dickson)