First there was Randy Moss going on about being the game’s greatest-ever receiver on Tuesday. Then there was cornerback Chris Culliver’s homophobic discourse on Wednesday.
For a couple of days in Super Bowl week, the focus was shifted away from a football game. That may ultimately prove to be a problem.
There has been collateral damage. How much remains to be seen.
Neither of the episodes will rank even close to something like a Eugene Robinson arrest for soliciting a prostitute (who turned out to be an undercover police officer) the night before his Atlanta Falcons were to play the 1998 Super Bowl. And neither were of the magnitude of Ray Lewis’ deer-antler issues.
But Lewis is a proven master-focus’er and he is preparing for his final NFL game. He compartmentalizes exceptionally well, perhaps too well in the minds of surviving family members of the two men stabbed to death by Lewis associates 13 years ago.
And in a game between two ostensibly evenly matched teams, a tiny tipping point can matter. Not directly on game day, but during preparation days, when foundations are put in place.
Moss has not handled distractions particularly well over his career, although his veteran-ness and simple belief that he’s right anyway shouldn’t leave his back-and-forth with Jerry Rice anywhere on his mind.
But Culliver is finishing just his second NFL season and has the distinction of introducing a subject that created obvious questions for media to pose to his teammates. Probably just what they wanted.
More to the point of distraction, Culliver is hardly a fringe member of the NFC champions. He was in on 63 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and 24 percent of special-teams plays in kick coverage. This is not someone that the 49ers needed to have enduring public humiliation (the organization called him “insensitive,” among other things) as they swung onto final approach to the Super Bowl.