The Return: Linemen honor Flozell Adams
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DALLAS -- This was the sort of stuff reserved for longtime locker-room leaders and revered father figures, not a mean-looking offensive tackle with a supposed nasty disposition.
This was the type of tribute the Steelers have reserved for icons such as Jerome Bettis and Dick LeBeau, not a player who has spent only one season with the team.
But, when the Steelers arrived for Super Bowl XLV on Monday, 13 players -- all offensive linemen -- got off the plane wearing the No. 76 college jersey of right tackle Flozell Adams, a touching salute to a 13-year veteran making his first appearance in a Super Bowl.
And doing it in the city where he played his previous 12 seasons -- and won only one playoff game -- with the Dallas Cowboys.
"That shows how much we care about each other in the locker room, no matter who the guy is," said inside linebacker and defensive captain James Farrior. "Those linemen really went all out for Flozell."
When the Steelers arrived in Detroit for Super Bowl XL, many of the players wore a No. 6 Notre Dame jersey in honor of Bettis, who was making his first Super Bowl appearance in his hometown. The Steelers made good on their tribute by beating the Seattle Seahawks.
When the Steelers played a preseason game in Canton, Ohio, in 2007, many of the defensive players wore a retro No. 44 Detroit Lions jersey in honor of LeBeau, their beloved defensive coordinator who they believed belonged in the Hall of Fame. Three years later, LeBeau was enshrined.
Now they have accorded the same type of tribute and respect for Adams, their 6-foot-7, 340-pound right tackle who was signed right before training camp after a season-ending injury to starter Willie Colon. Every offensive lineman -- including Colon, injured Max Starks and several members of the practice squad -- wore the No. 76 green-and-white Michigan State jersey when they walked off the plane.
"I walked in this morning and they had these jerseys and they told me they wished they had gone to Michigan State," Adams said, breaking into a smile. "They did it just to be funny. That's how the offensive line is here in Pittsburgh."
Perhaps, but they did it mostly as a salute to Adams and his long-suffering career, to everything he has done in just one season with the Steelers.
At 35, he will be the only offensive lineman to start every game this season, something he has done 11 times since his rookie season in 1998.
"It's special," Adams said. "It's special to be in the Super Bowl. You can't take it for granted because you never know if you're going to make it, so, fortunately, in my 13th year, I made it. I feel honored and grateful."
That, though, is why Adams signed with the Steelers. After winning just one playoff game in six postseason appearances with the Cowboys, he wanted to go to a team that had a chance to get to the Super Bowl.
"It was definitely important," Adams said. "I only had one playoff win in 12 years and you don't know how much longer you got. So you try to get in the best possible situation you can."
The Steelers were reluctant to immediately sign Adams to replace Colon because he had played his entire career at left tackle, where he was a five-time Pro Bowl performer for the Cowboys.
But, because Adams had played right tackle at Michigan State, the Steelers coaches thought he could handle the transition. So they signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract, and they're glad they did.
"He was a mean guy when I didn't know him and he's a mean guy now," Farrior said. "He's always been a tremendous player. I had a few battles with him when he was at Dallas, some of them didn't go so well. I'm glad he's on my team now and I'm glad he's doing it to other people."
First Published February 1, 2011 12:00 am