NEW ORLEANS (AP) Offensive linemen Alex Boone and Mike Iupati stood in one corner of a near-empty San Francisco locker room and pondered just how close they had come to winning the Super Bowl.
It quickly began to sink in, beneath the Superdome on Sunday night as the Baltimore Ravens celebrated, that their season had ended short of the goal.
One year, they almost reached the NFL's championship game. The next, they nearly won it.
The 49ers head into the offseason following a 34-31 Super Bowl loss knowing they were right there against the Ravens, and now move forward with the hope of keeping much of the team together and building to get back - and this time win it all.
One big question: What to do with backup quarterback Alex Smith?
If the NFL had an All-Academic team, Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel would be on it.
In February, Urschel began the Ph.D program in mathematics at MIT. How’s he doing so far? Here’s a hint. When it comes to grades, Urschel is only familiar with one letter in the alphabet.
“My first semester in school in nearly three years,” Urschel wroter on Twitter. “Four PhD classes at MIT. Four A’s. The streak continues!!!”
Entering his third season with the Ravens, Urschel has found a way to juggle his love for football with his love for mathematics. He posted an interesting article on The Players Tribune this week in which he described training with the football team at MIT this spring.
“I probably had about 50 or 60 pounds on the biggest guy on MIT’s O-line,” Urschel wrote. “But when we ran, they put me to shame. They could outsprint me.
“What I found is that the team at MIT is no joke. It is a football team – in some ways, more of a football team than any I’d ever seen. These guys love football. They are playing the game because they want to. No one is making them come to practice, no one is checking up on them. They know as well as anyone about head injuries; they know that football is dangerous; they know the feeling of exhaustion and pain. They still play. They don’t do it for money, and they don’t do it for status.
“We talk about dedication and passion in the pros, but the truth is, sometimes the game feels like a job. You start to think of the paycheck. You feel the grind. But training with the team at MIT, I started thinking about what had drawn me to football as a kid. It felt like a game again. I had thought I might have something to teach the team. I never imagined they’d have so much to teach me.”
That guy in the Dos Equis beer commercials might be the most interesting man in the world. But Urschel has built a strong resume as the most interesting player on the Ravens.
RELATED: NFL ANNOUNCES LOCATIONS FOR 2019, 2020 AND 2021 SUPER BOWLS
The NFL has decided on the locations of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls. The vote took place at the NFL owners meetings in Charlotte on Tuesday.
Atlanta will host Super Bowl LIII in 2019, while South Florida (Miami) will get the event in 2020 and Los Angeles will host in 2021.
The cities chosen each included new or upgraded stadiums in their pitches to the league.
Atlanta will be home to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opening in 2017.
Miami's stadium (Sun Life Stadium from 2010-2016) is undergoing a $400 million renovation that will include an open-air canopy to provide shade for 92 percent of seats, according to Sports Illustrated. Construction should be complete before the 2017 season.
And Los Angeles will boast a new 300-acre, campus-style stadium housing the Rams and potentially a second team. The $2.6 billion project will be the most expensive sports arena in the world, reports CNN, and should be ready before the 2019 NFL season.
Bengals Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert will undergo ankle surgery, according to multiple reports.
Estimates varied on when Eifert would return, but he was not expected to be back on the field until at least mid-August.
Eifert suffered his injury at the Pro Bowl, which he left wearing a walking boot.
His ankle has not responded to treatment as well as Eifert hoped, and he could not join his teammates for OTA’s this week.
A first-round pick in 2013 (21st overall), Eifert led all NFL tight ends with 13 touchdown catches last season, and had 52 catches overall for 615 yards. Still only 25 years old, Eifert has emerged as a major weapon for the Bengals, and they have already picked up his fifth-year option.
The priority for the Bengals is to have Eifert ready for Week 1 when they visit the Jets. Ryan Hewitt, Tyler Kroft, and C. J. Uzomah will see plenty of reps at tight end until Eifert returns.
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