ST. PAUL, Minn. – Two of the key New England Patriots, tight end Rob Gronkowski and cornerback Malcom Butler, weren't available for Super Bowl LII opening night at the Excel Energy Center.
Gronkowski suffered a concussion in the second quarter of the Patriots' 24-20 win over Jacksonville in the AFC championship game on Jan. 21. He returned to practice Saturday on a limited basis but remains in the concussion protocol.
One of the NFL's most feared offensive weapons, Gronkowski had one reception for 21 yards against Jacksonville and has 10 career postseason touchdown catches.
Butler, the hero of the Super Bowl XLIX win over Seattle with his late interception of Russell Wilson, missed Monday night's event because of an illness, the team said.
Opening night used to be known simply as media day but is now done on the Monday night before the Super Bowl and televised live by NFL Network.
The Super Bowl's popularity is demonstrated by the number of media representatives covering the event. Michael Signora, the NFL's vice president of football communications, said more than 5,800 have been accredited to cover the game.
This Super Bowl week is a little different, with media night held in a hockey arena and the media set up all week in a mall.
Welcome to Super Bowl LII, where Minnesota hopes to have plenty of good indoor activities since the collective reaction to the weather is "Brrrr."
According to the Weather.com, the high on Monday in Minneapolis, site of the Super Bowl, was 16 degrees. Good thing it's a domed stadium. Sunday's high is expected to be 6 degrees.
Player interviews this week will be conducted at the media center in the Mall of America in Bloomington. The players from both teams are staying in hotels that are connected to the mall.
The Eagles aren't popular in Minnesota, especially after beating the Vikings, 38-7, in the NFC title game.
Before Monday's media session, the announcer, Scott Hanson of the NFL Network, asked how many fans in attendance were for the Patriots. (That's right, fans came to watch interviews.) The Patriots got a good cheer.
When he asked about Eagles fans, the reaction was a clear "Booooo!"
Then he asked about Vikings fans and got the expected cheers.
The players and coaches deemed more popular were literally elevated to a higher status, conducting their interviews on risers Monday.
Those Eagles who conducted interviews on risers were head coach Doug Pederson, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, offensive coordinator Frank Reich, quarterback Nick Foles, tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, defensive end Brandon Graham, offensive tackle Lane Johnson, safety Malcolm Jenkins, and receiver Alshon Jeffery.
For New England that meant head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, receivers Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, cornerback Stephone Gilmore, center David Andrews, special-teams ace Matthew Slater, running back James White, and safeties Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, and Patrick Chung.
Butler was supposed to be on one of the risers before he took ill.
No surprise, Brady drew an overflow crowd, something he is used to since this will be his eighth Super Bowl.
Defensive end Chris Long said on the "Pardon My Take" podcast that if the Eagles win the Super Bowl he will not go to the White House.