AP Movie Writer
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 travelers 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, centered 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 offenses 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 defense is tied for fifth best in the NFL, allowing TDs on 57.1 percent (12 for 21) chances.
"We're not a bunch of Pro Bowl names, pretty faces," defensive coordinator 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 defense 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."