ATLANTA — Marcus Peters snaked his way through the suffocating crowd, trying in vain to move undetected.
He made it clear he didn’t want any attention, pulling the grey hood of his sweatshirt even lower over his eyes as he briskly slithered through the sea of humanity. But his hood and his knit cap did little to obscure his identity – or keep the throng of reporters at bay.
While Peters’ name didn’t adorn one of the 10 risers at Super Bowl opening night – a conspicuous decision by the powers that be – the polarizing Los Angeles Rams cornerback was one of the most sought-after subjects on Monday.
Many expected Peters to go full “Beast Mode” during the hour-long session, mimicking the flip “You know why I’m here”-style retorts of fellow Oakland native Marshawn Lynch. But instead, the Rams star greeted curious observers with the full Peters experience – a mixture of indifference, thoughtful answers, well-timed comebacks and playful (we think?) combativeness.
There were no bombshell headline-grabbing comments from Peters on this night, none that came close to rivaling his now-infamous clapback at Saints head coach Sean Payton following the Rams’ loss to New Orleans in Week 9. “Tell Sean Payton to keep talking that s—,” Peters said back in November, two months before he and the Rams would defeat the Saints with a controversial victory in the NFC title game. “… I hope we see them soon. You feel me? And we’re gonna have a nice little bowl of gumbo together.”
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At times, Peters seemed just as serious and humorless on Monday night. He returned serve on questions that seemed to come from left field and he was quick to shut down any inquiry that left him feeling uncomfortable.
“Media Night Monday is a big deal, but in Atlanta, Magic City Monday is a big deal. Can you describe what that atmosphere is like?” asked one social media reporter, referring to the popular local gentlemen’s club.
“Oh man, you talking about some bad stuff, man,” Peters said. “I mean, it’s good, but it’s bad. But I don’t like all that stuff like that. You’re trying to get me in trouble too. Why we talking about Magic City, girl?”
But Peters saved his best defense for those who wondered whether the Rams could have faltered due to the addition of new talent with strong personalities, like himself, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh.
“What happened when Golden State brought in all those people?” Peters shot back. “Alright, cool. So what’s the difference between those guys bringing in guys and us bringing in guys? … Why would it blow up on us? Would you count on it to blow up?”
And later, when a hypothetical question began with “If you’re a ref in a game and y’all are playing the Saints …” Peters sharply interjected: “Nope. I ain’t got nothing for you.”
When pressed to provide details about how the Rams plan to stop Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense in Super Bowl LIII – and specifically if he planned to “travel with a certain player” – Peters didn’t budge: “You trying to get all up in our gameplan. I can’t tell you all our stuff. No, y’all can’t have it.”
But there were plenty of playful moments with Peters, too.
Asked by Yahoo Sports’ social media team if he’d rather get into the octagon with MMA fighter Conor McGregor or take a body shot from boxer Deontay Wilder, Peters joked: “Oh, I’ll beat McGregor’s ass. I’m just bulls——- though. I’ll go see McGregor. I ain’t taking Wilder’s shot.”
Asked to rank TV shows “Scandal,” “Atlanta” and “Game of Thrones” in order, Peters offered an unexpected admission. “I’ve never watched ‘Game of Thrones.’ I know Scandal because I know Nnamdi Asomugha’s wife – and she’s crazy in that show. No offense, Nnamdi. So I don’t really watch that show. But I like ‘Atlanta.’”
And when approached by an Australian sports radio guy, Peters’ face instantly lit up: “OK! I’ve been out there. Melbourne and all that. Yeaaah. I’ve been out there!”
In a follow-up question, Peters was asked to describe the crazy, quirky opening night experience for American football fans Down Under: “It’s like all them sharks that y’all got up over there,” he quipped. “They’re all up in our pockets, but it’s been cool. I’m enjoying it.”
The pomp and circumstance of opening night is an acquired taste. It also can be an unpredictable evening when free spirits like Peters take center stage.
The Rams and the NFL – or, perhaps, both – made sure that this star wouldn’t have a chance to fill notebooks and social media streams with more viral quotes. But Peters, who was whisked away by two public relations staffers multiple times over the allotted hour, still found moments to be himself, and to acknowledge how lucky he was to be on the floor of the State Farm Arena, surrounded by cameras and microphones under the bright lights of Super Bowl week.
The former Chief, who was traded last March to the Rams, repeatedly stressed that his fresh start in Los Angeles was the missing piece.
“It’s home, baby,” Peters said, smiling. “I got a chance to be closer to home and take full advantage of the opportunities. And then when we come into a great organization with a great head coach, great GM, great owner – just the whole organization, how everything just runs so smoothly – you respect it, man, and you want to be a part of things.
“A change of scenery is always good sometimes. I guess it just wasn’t working in K.C., so it was just time to move on.”
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