NEW ORLEANS -- Phil Simms couldn't be there. He couldn't stand to be around all the joy or pain, whichever was coming through those doors. So as he sat in the locker room at Tampa Stadium while the Giants -- his Giants, once his Giants -- were playing the Bills in Super Bowl XXV, he had a police officer drive him to the team hotel so he could watch the rest of the game on television.
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"I didn't really get emotionally involved," Simms said of his role in that Giants championship 22 years ago. "I just watched it and you try to deal with it the best way you can."
Simms is one of the few people who has any idea what 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is going through this week. The feeling of being a team's starting quarterback, then not, then having that team go on to the Super Bowl, essentially, without you. Their circumstances are a bit different; Simms broke his foot in the team's 14th regular-season game and was still on crutches for the Super Bowl and Smith, who was sidelined by a concussion in Week 10 and came back to find he'd lost his job, is healthy enough to play if needed. But this week, the 49ers' plan is that he won't be needed. He hasn't been needed since November.
"I would think it would be much tougher to go through what he's going through than what I did," Simms said. "The fact that I was hurt, I realized there was nothing I could do. I don't know if that softens the blow or not. It probably does.
"It's not easy, sure. But to think that we would both be standing there and having the same thoughts, I don't know."
Smith has handled his odd circumstance well. Tuesday, at Media Day, there was a healthy crowd around Smith, waiting to see if he'd crack or waiver in his team-first attitude. He did not. He even squashed the report that he would ask for his release from the 49ers after the Super Bowl and a few weeks before his contract expired, presumably to get a jump on his free agency.
"I'm not going to lie about any of that," he said. "[It's been] tough at times for sure, tough to accept, tough to watch. But we're in the Super Bowl, and this has been an amazing experience. It's a great team, I love being a part of it. I have said it before, it's bittersweet a little bit, but still, it's been a great thing to be a part of."