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In interviews, NFL players need to don big-boy pants

Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton answers questions after the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif.  The Broncos won 24-10. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton answers questions after the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. The Broncos won 24-10. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — Media availability for the Super Bowl ends the Monday before the game. In the ensuing six days, nobody other than the network TV broadcasters get access to the players.

It’s not much different in major college football. Most schools, including Utah and BYU, cut off access on Tuesday or Wednesday of game week.

So if something you read on a Friday sounds vaguely familiar, you can thank paranoid coaches and overprotective public relations people. They love controlling the message. More importantly, they love skipping interviews.

But at least they’re using it as an excuse to concentrate on winning.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera took things in a dramatic new direction at this week’s annual NFL coaches’ breakfast when he advocated that players on losing Super Bowl teams be excused from postgame interviews. His argument is that it’s too emotionally taxing for young men.

Boo.

Hoo.

NFL players make an average of $2 million annually. Cam Newton — whose behavior spurred Rivera’s remarks — signed a $104 million, five-year deal with the Panthers.

And he can’t handle talking about a loss?

The impetus for Rivera’s remarks was Newton’s walkout after this year’s Super Bowl. The quarterback showed up on the interview podium long enough to sullenly deliver a handful of monosyllabic answers — covering 2½ minutes — before leaving.

A few days later he admitted to being a “sore loser.”

Rivera’s point is that players on the losing side experience raw emotions and shouldn’t be expected to calm down in the few minutes after a defeat. His suggestion is to let only the coach answer questions for a couple of days, until players can recover.

“I’ve mentioned it a couple of times,” Rivera said, per Newsday. “That’s just how I feel. I get it, I understand how important it is for everybody to see this and hear this after the game and get the raw emotion. But we also need to, at least, understand or at least show the appreciation that that’s hard. That’s a difficult thing to get up and do after a loss.”

Nobody’s claiming losses aren’t painful. But people accommodate interview requests after truly tragic losses like family deaths and fires, sometimes right after they happen. Those are real tragedies, not overcooked sports dramas.

World leaders face the media on short notice to address terror attacks. But a football player with hurt feelings? Give him space.

Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo.

Karl Malone skipped a few interviews in his time, but I’ll give him this: Next time he opened his mouth it was usually worth the wait.

Rivera might rank a Super Bowl loss at the top of his degree of difficultly, but I rank it with losing a wallet or catching a cold.

It’s annoying, even disheartening, but not permanent.

Questions directed at a losing coach or player often result in terrible answers, or even angry comebacks. Most of the time a string of banalities ensues. So how hard can answering a few questions be?

I’ve seen NBA players laughing with teammates immediately after falling from the playoffs. Conversely, I’ve seen college kids weeping in the locker room after a postseason failure. I admire the college players that take the podium after a bowl game or tournament loss and field questions like grownups.

Too bad certain NFL players don’t do as well.

Facing commitments when you don’t feel like it is a good thing. College athletes get tuition, books, food and rooming paid, which is reason enough to do postgame interviews. But a quarterback who makes $20 million annually?

He should stand on a table and sing “Sweet Caroline” if asked.

Star athletes are already entitled. There’s no need to exacerbate the problem by requiring them to face the media only after wins. Soon the practice would creep into the regular season. Two days after a loss, players would be saying, “I don’t want to talk about the past. I’m looking ahead to next week, going forward.”

Instead of giving losing players a pass, coaches should tell them to put on their big-boy pants. If sports take as much courage as everyone says, how about showing some in the interview room?

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged