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The countdown is on

HOUSTON (AP) — The Falcons and Patriots have gone through the business of the NFL's Media Day for the Super Bowl. For years it took place on the Tuesday of Super Bowl week, but in Houston, the proceedings took place last night at Minute Maid Park, the playing home of the Houston Astros.

Was there any real news from the gathering? No, there very rarely is, but the event kicks off Super Bowl week.

The game is being played this Sunday in Houston's NRG Stadium.

Painkiller controversy

HOUSTON (AP) — The last thing the Atlanta Falcons need to be thinking about this week is a controversy regarding the prescribing of pain killers to players, but that's what the team is facing.

A string of emails that began in 2010 with the teams head trainer that reached all the way to owner Arthur Blank shows a franchise worried about its "excessive" reliance on painkillers to treat players.

One topic raised in the email chain concerned the review by an outside agency that found the team spent $81,000 on drug prescriptions for players in 2009, nearly three times the league average.

General manger Thomas Dimitroff says the club will not address the story now but will when the time is right because, he says, "it's being litigated now."

Falcons, Patriots on site

HOUSTON (AP) — Super Bowl week began with media night as both the Patriots and Falcons get ready to meet for the NFL title Sunday in Houston. Both teams are in the Super Bowl city for the week-long countdown to Super Bowl 51.

A man traipsing around Monday's Super Bowl opening night in a full-length gown declaring himself "The Empress of Austria, Elizabeth I" was the most outlandish character.

The event, which is the first availability with the teams during Super Bowl week, was held at Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros play.

While media mingled with players on the field, 10,204 fans filled the stands to get a glimpse of the players.

Falcons Muslim receiver sidesteps religious talk

HOUSTON (AP) — Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu wants no part of talking about his religious beliefs as he prepares for his first Super Bowl appearance.

Sanu, a practicing Muslim, said at Monday's opening night that though President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigration for seven majority Muslim countries was "a very tough situation" and "hard for me to talk about right now," that he prayed the country and world would "unite as one."

He said he is trying to place his focus on football instead.

Sanu said his mother is travelling to the game from Sierra Leone, which is not one of the countries affected by the executive order.