Morten Andersen is paying back the ones who helped get him to the Super Bowl.
Not the linemen who blocked for him or the guys who held the ball for his field goals and extra points, but the people who took care of him when he was an exchange student from Denmark.
Andersen, whose overtime field goal against Minnesota lifted the Atlanta Falcons to the NFC championship, brought the families who housed him as a high school student in Indianapolis and in college at Michigan State to the Super Bowl this week.
"I'm bringing them in because they deserve to be a part of this," Andersen said. "I'm also bringing in the lady from Michigan who took care of me when I was in college. I want to remember people who were good to me when I was living on $150 a month and when I barely spoke English. It's payback time, and that's how I feel."
Andersen never played football until his kicking prowess at an open tryout landed him on his high school team and ultimately to Michigan State and the New Orleans Saints and Falcons. He is an eight-time Pro Bowl kicker and No. 2 on the career list of field-goal kickers.
"The reason I came here was to open my mind and get good exposure to a different culture, language and people," Andersen said. "I've never been what you call a 'football player.' In high school, I would kick off and haul myself to the sideline as fast as I could. Covering kicks is still not something I cherish. I rely on the other 10 guys to do their thing.
"However, I did crush Deion Sanders when I was on the Saints and he was on the Falcons. Actually, I just knocked him out of bounds."
The resume is impressive: Hall of Fame lineman. Survived almost six seasons as the Raiders' head coach working for the despotic Al Davis. Turned a bunch of run-and-shoot misfits into a Super Bowl offensive line.
Art Shell wants another chance to be a head coach. Only this time, he doesn't feel the color of his skin should have anything to do with it.
"I feel I have something to offer," the first black coach of the NFL's modern era said. "I've done it before. I know what it takes to win. . . . I can lead men."
Shell has certainly done nothing to dissuade that notion as offensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons. Two years ago, he inherited a ragtag unit that was used to the passive blocking schemes of the run-and-shoot. Today's Falcons favored a run-oriented, ball-control style of offense centered around Jamal Anderson.
Shell was interviewed by the expansion Cleveland Browns during the playoffs, but didn't get the job. All the other available positions have been filled as well, so it appears he'll spend another season as an assistant with Atlanta.
While disappointed, Shell says race is not an issue.
"When I was named the coach the first time, the black issue came up and I understand that," he said. "But now, I hope and expect that we are beyond that."
Defensive end Lester Archambeau and fullback Brian Kozlowski, hampered by sprained ankles, returned to practice Wednesday for the Atlanta Falcons and are expected to play in the Super Bowl.
Archambeau (left ankle) and Kozlowski (right ankle) were held out of Monday's practice as a precaution. After an off day, they were back on the field for the 2-hour, 15-minute workout at the University of Miami.
Archambeau, who led the Falcons with 10 sacks, moved well along the defensive line in his first practice since injuring his ankle in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 17.
Kozlowski, bothered by his injury for several weeks, displayed no apparent problem running or carrying out his blocking assignments. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder was shifted from tight end to fullback after Bob Christian sustained a season-ending knee injury with two weeks left in the regular season.
"I would say, if there are no complications, Kozlowski will be probable," coach Dan Reeves said. "And if Lester doesn't have any (complications), we'll move him from questionable to probable."
The Falcons practiced three times last week at their training complex in Suwanee, Ga. They will complete their preparations for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos with two more workouts.
"I thought we practiced good," Reeves said. "The tempo was good, the communication was good, all the things you look for were good. I mean, you've got mistakes, but that's what practice is for. If you didn't have that, you could just go out and play on Sunday and not worry about practice.
"We've got some things to correct, but if we keep concentrating the way we did today, then I hope by Sunday we'll have them minimized."
A national fans group is calling for a massive "mute out" of Sunday's halftime show. The National Sports Fan Union is asking television viewers to turn off the program in protest of being taken for granted "in a sports world featuring lockouts, outrageous ticket prices, and owners holding cities hostage for new stadiums."
"By participating in this 'Mute Out,' fans will be sending a clear message that the greed in sports has gotten out of control, and that changes must be made," said Steve Goldstein, co-founder of the group.
Players for five teams, including the Broncos and Falcons, will thank fans in their communities during a 60-second NFL commercial that will air during Sunday's game.
Denver's Davis, Ed McCaffrey, Howard Griffith and Vaughn Hebron and Atlanta's Chris Chandler, Jamal Anderson, Ray Buchanan and Bob Whitfield are among 20 players reaching out to fans at their homes, in grocery stores, restaurants, railroad stations and beauty salons.