ATLANTA (Reuters) - Los Angeles Rams defensive end Ethan Westbrooks has faced a lot of intimidating opponents in his five NFL seasons but he has never confronted a plate of scorpions, cricket and worms before — not until Monday’s Super Bowl Opening Night, that is.
After some initial hesitation, the 28-year-old settled on a dried cricket from a sombrero-wearing Mexican reporter in one of the kinds of wacky moments that have become standard at the annual event.
“I don’t regret it because I was always told to try new things,” he told Reuters.
“I’ve never tried escargot so this is probably the wildest thing I ever ate,” he said, adding that he would have tried the scorpion if there had been any hot sauce available.
Once a journalists-only event, the Media Day has been transformed into Opening Night, a televised prime time question-and-answer free-for-all where very little is out of bounds.
The hundreds of journalists and thousands of fans that packed into State Farm Arena, the home to the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, included one who came dressed as a clown.
Westbrooks said he was enjoying the wild atmosphere but said his team was in Atlanta for one reason — to defeat the New England Patriots in Sunday’s game and take the Lombardi Trophy back to LA.
“It’s definitely dope and I’m still just taking it all in,” he said.
“This is an experience but at the end of the day it’s work, so you’ve got to keep that in mind.”
Navigating the hoopla and endless interviews in the run-up to the big game is a much newer experience for the underdog Rams than it is for the experienced Patriots.
Only four players on the Rams roster have played in the title game before and many, including third year quarterback Jared Goff, looked a little caught off guard by the surreal scene.
It is nothing new for the Patriots, however, who are making their ninth Super Bowl appearance since the 2002 game when quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick led the team to victory over the then St. Louis Rams.
The Patriots will also mean business when they take the field at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday as they look to avenge last year’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the championship game.
Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty