NFL to hire 1,500 "volunteers" for Super Bowl to go with thousands used by local organizers

While as many as 12,000 true volunteers will be involved during Super Bowl week in New York and New Jersey this winter, the NFL also is hiring about 1,500 people for its support staff at various venues.

While the local volunteers handle such duties as greeting travellers at airports and train stations, and providing information on all aspects of Super Bowl week, the league is contracting with a series of staffing organizations for other helpers. The paid "volunteers" will work Super Bowl Boulevard in Manhattan, a 14-block outdoor celebration of all things football-related, centred around Times Square. They also will work other events during the buildup to the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold weather site, and will have game-day duties, too.

Frank Supovitz, the NFL's vice-president in charge of preparations for the game, cites several reasons for the paid workers supplementing the volunteers.

"There is the class-action lawsuit that Major League Baseball had brought against it at the All-Star game last year," Supovitz noted; MLB did not pay volunteers at its FanFest in New York, and that suit has not been settled.

"There's the complexity of the market and the difficulty in moving back and forth between major venues on two sides of the Hudson (River). People in New Jersey are more familiar with that state and its venues and it's the same for New York."

More true volunteers are required for this Super Bowl than most because New York has more airports, train and bus stations and hotels involved than other cities.

NO SCORE ZONE: The Eagles are shutting down teams once they get inside their red zone, allowing only two touchdowns the last 12 times offences have reached their 20. They've come a long way since allowing 15 touchdowns on the first 24 trips inside their red zone. Overall, their goal-to-go defence is tied for fifth best in the NFL, allowing TDs on 57.1 per cent (12 for 21) chances.

"We're not a bunch of Pro Bowl names, pretty faces," defensive co-ordinator Billy Davis said. "We're scrapping and keeping people out of the end zone. It's hard work and high effort that's getting it done."

Getting three turnovers inside the red zone over the past two games has been a big help. The last one was Brandon Boykin's interception on Robert Griffin III to seal last Sunday's win over Washington.

A much-improved defence is a major reason the Eagles (6-5) have turned things around and are first in the NFC East going into their bye.

"Obviously, the No. 1 thing is you want to stop," coach Chip Kelly said. "Not only are we getting stops, but we're getting turnovers created down there. That's kind of like the icing on the cake. But as the field obviously gets shorter, there is not as much room for them to operate, and our guys have a pretty good understanding of the plan that's going in. I also think our guys, now that we have a body of work to study film, we have an idea what people are trying to do down there. Our coaches put together a plan and our players are executing them."

DOLPHINS QB COMPARISON: Bob Griese was a second-year pro with Miami in 1968 when he was sacked 43 times, which is still the franchise record.

Second-year pro Ryan Tannehill has been sacked an NFL-high 41 times this season. He's 12-13 as a starter and ranks in the lower half in most statistical categories this season, but Griese is a fan.

"I compare him to what I was my second year," Griese said. "He is way ahead of where I was, there's no doubt."

That's good news for Tannehill, because Griese led two Super Bowl championship teams and went on to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

STAY TUNED: Remember all that talk about Titans running back Chris Johnson and Bears receiver Devin Hester racing cheetahs back in the summer? Well, those races finally are set for TV on Nov. 29 on Nat Geo Wild in a show titled "Man v. Cheetah."

Johnson and Hester raced a cheetah separately during the summer at SeaWorld's Busch Gardens for the episode pitting the fastest mammal on land against two of the NFL's speediest players. Johnson was timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.24 seconds at the 2008 NFL combine. Still, Johnson says his Titans' teammates don't believe he raced a cheetah.

"They think it's false" Johnson said. "They'll see Nov. 29th."

Will Johnson make sure his teammates are watching or at least have the episode set on their DVRs?

"They going to watch. I know they going to watch," Johnson said.

Johnson also isn't giving a clue on how the races end.

"You got to watch," Johnson said with a laugh.

BOOING THE BENGALS: Defensive end Michael Johnson didn't like the way the way Paul Brown Stadium filled with boos after the Bengals got off to a rough start last Sunday, so he said what was on his mind, knowing it might not be popular.

"I don't appreciate it," he said of the fans' reaction during a 41-20 win over Cleveland. "Stay with us and believe in us. That's what you're here for. ... The negativity doesn't help."

The response? Some fans made it known on Twitter that they saw it otherwise.

"But that is expected anytime you have something to say," he said.

The Bengals have spent the last few years trying to win back fans. They regularly had games blacked out on local television because they didn't sell out, and they'd often have nearly as many Steelers fans in the stands as Bengals fans when Pittsburgh came to town.

They've sold out all five home games this season and won all five, a big step for the franchise. Given their history, the booing by 63,856 fans during the first quarter last Sunday was easy for many long-time veterans to overlook.

"You play offence like we did in the first three series, you're going to get booed," said left tackle Andrew Whitworth, in his eighth season in Cincinnati. "I've been here when we were 0-8, so that ain't (nothing). That ain't booing."

The Bengals moved into Paul Brown Stadium for the 2000 season. Their best record there was 6-2 during the 2009 season. They've assured themselves of only their sixth winning home record during their 14 seasons at Paul Brown.

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GIANT SEASONS: Of the recent football books to flood the market, one of the more intriguing is "If These Walls Could Talk — New York Giants."

Written by long-time beat writer Ernie Palladino, the book chronicles nine playoff appearances and two Super Bowl titles for the Giants in the last 20 years. The most fascinating portion has to do with the events of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. An entire chapter is devoted to the aftermath of 9-11, after which the Giants found out that the plane they'd parked next to on the way back from a game in Denver the previous night was the United 90 flight that went down in Pennsylvania.

Palladino writes about the anguish team owner John Mara and a college friend endured as they actually watched the Twin Towers burn and crumble from Mara's Giants Stadium office.

There's also plenty of a behind-the-scenes looks at the era from the players' and coaches' perspectives. Palladino traces Eli Manning's development from a mistake-plagued rookie to "Captain Comeback" and a two-time Super Bowl MVP. And he tells how Michael Strahan was moved from the weak side to the strong side of the Giants' defensive line because a half-blind first-round pick named Cedric Jones was placed on the other end of the line. Strahan's reluctance disappeared when he developed into one of the game's sackmaster.

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AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner and Rob Maaddi, and Sports Writers Joe Kay, Teresa M. Walker and Steven Wine contributed to this story.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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