Marv Levy must confront one more handicap for his Buffalo Bills when they meet the New York Giants in Sunday's Super Bowl - the green, green grass of Tampa Stadium.
As Levy and Giants coach Bill Parcells faced the media for the final time Friday, Levy was asked about playing for the NFL title on grass. The Bills (15-3) have lost two of their three games on grass this season."It's true we haven't played very well on natural turf," Levy said. "But if you want to be a champion, you have to overcome things. We're not playing the grass, we're playing the New York Giants."
Both coaches proclaimed themselves and their teams ready for Sunday's game. Only one injured player was deemed questionable - Butch Rolle, Buffalo's third tight end and short-yardage specialist whose last eight catches have been for touchdowns, although they've netted just 16 yards.
"This is the point where the players start getting edgy," said Parcells, whose team beat Denver 39-20 in this game four years ago. "After today's practice, it seems like forever until the game."
Parcells also acknowledged that a Super Bowl can be an overwhelming experience.
"I think probably the most difficult thing to explain would be what a great thrill it is to be just standing in that tunnel before the game, waiting to come out," he said.
"That's what I remember - just standing there, and being able to see out at all the people and the pageantry, to feel that exhilaration that comes over you to know that you're part of this and, at least for one day, on the center stage. That is my most vivid memory and it's something I cherish very much."
The most curious discussion was over playing the game on grass, which until two decades ago was the surface of choice for all football games.
But not now.
Both the Giants and Bills play their home games on artificial turf, but the Bills' hurry-up offense, which features the speed of Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and James Lofton, seems more suited to the fast track.
In Buffalo's only three games on grass this season, they lost at Miami 30-7, beat Cleveland 42-0 and lost at Washington 29-14. The Washington game, however, was the last of the regular season, when Buffalo had already clinched its division and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and had nothing to play for.
The Giants played on grass five times and won four: 24-20 in Washington, 31-7 over the Rams in Anaheim, 24-21 in Phoenix and 15-13 last Sunday in the NFC title game in San Francisco. The lone loss was 7-3 on Dec. 3 to the 49ers at Candlestick Park.
The Giants' ball-control offense, which depends on the straight-ahead and off-tackle running of Ottis Anderson and straight-ahead blocking by an offensive line that averages close to 290 pounds, is better suited to grass.
The Giants also have beaten the only teams they lost to this season - except Buffalo.
They beat Philadelphia 27-20 in their opener, then lost to the Eagles 31-13 in Philadelphia. Last week's 15-13 win in the NFC title game avenged their 7-3 loss to the 49ers in that Monday night game dubbed "Super Bowl XXIV1/2."
Now, underdog by nearly a touchdown, they're aiming at avenging their 17-13 loss to Buffalo at Giants Stadium on Dec. 15.
"The two best things that can happen to us are being an underdog and playing a team that beat us earlier," said defensive end Leonard Marshall.
That theory gets tested again on Sunday.