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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (NBC NEWS) -- Kickoff is still two days away, but the game has definitely started in New Orleans.

Thousands of fans are filling the French Quarter, getting into the spirit of a Super Bowl that comes in the middle of Mardi Gras.

While the focus is on fun, there's also a serious side to this Super Bowl.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called for new rules aimed at eliminating blows to the head and knees in an effort to improve safety.

"I believe the changes that we are making to our game will make football better, it will make it safer," he said.

There continues to be mixed opinions on whether it will be safe enough.

"We have to find a way to prevent the kind of head-to-head contact that has led to so many former players suffering from dementia and other things," said Dr. David Satcher of the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Many of those who will play in the biggest game of their lives Sunday say they understand and accept the violent nature of their sport.

"It's football," said 49er Frank Gore. "Football is a physical sport and I think they are doing the best they can."

One change the league will make next season: Independent neurological consultants will be on the sidelines during every game.

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