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Archive for Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Game’s stigma not lost on Patriots

February 1, 2005

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— Tom Brady settled his nerves before his first Super Bowl by taking a nap on the floor of the Superdome locker room. Then he went out and won the game's MVP.

Now, he's back in the NFL title game for the third time in four years as a starter and suffering from the same jitters.

"I do get nervous. I get butterflies and anxiety, and you want to get out there and play," the Patriots quarterback said.

That he does.

Twice in two Super Bowls, Brady has led his team on the game-winning drive, and his teammates credit his demeanor for keeping them cool in the huddle.

"He's not a guy that's going to get all nervous and start screaming and stuff," offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi said. "He calms everybody when we're in a tough position."

Most of the Patriots will be playing in their third Super Bowl when they face the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, but five are making their fourth trip with New England: Troy Brown, Willie McGinest, Ted Johnson, Tedy Bruschi and Adam Vinatieri. Fourteen players are here with the Patriots for the first time.

"The schedule is familiar, but you still realize it's the Super Bowl and it's for the NFL championship," Bruschi said. "It's my fourth one, but each one is its own special event that I have always cherished."

New England has a decided edge over the Eagles in big-game experience -- one reason the Patriots are seven-point favorites to win the game. Philadelphia had not been to the Super Bowl since 1981, and just five Eagles have played in one.

All that was apparent in the way they arrived for work in this Super Bowl city.

New England linebacker Willie McGinest, right, laughs with teammate
Roman Phifer during practice. The Patriots worked out Monday in
Jacksonville, Fla.

New England linebacker Willie McGinest, right, laughs with teammate Roman Phifer during practice. The Patriots worked out Monday in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Patriots showed up in business attire -- right down to Brady's shiny metal briefcase and coach Bill Belichick's blue suit. The Eagles were a little more casual. Armed with camcorders, they captured each other's every move on the flight down.

"This is something we can show our grandkids," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said.

"Just because we have camcorders doesn't mean that we are caught up in it. ... When you have been to a couple of Super Bowls, obviously it is kind of a thing that you are used to. We are not used to it, but we are not going to sit in a room and kick our feet up and start dwelling on being here at the Super Bowl.

"We have a job to do."

Brady did his job in 2002 when he awoke from his nap to lead the Patriots to a victory over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams, leading New England downfield to set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal as time expired. Two years later, Brady won his second Super Bowl MVP after setting up another Vinatieri game-winner.

"He doesn't look under pressure to me when I look at him," running back Corey Dillon said. "I think everybody feels a little anxious out there. I always do until I get hit, and I can focus a little bit and I can relax and play football."

Belichick is at his sixth Super Bowl -- his third as a head coach. So he knows that pregame excitement isn't a problem, as long as it doesn't carry over into the game.

"I certainly (feel) it, and I've coached for 30 years," Belichick said. "But once the game starts, you do your job."

Belichick said the experience is nice -- after all, he gets to keep his first two rings regardless of what happens Sunday. But he reminds his team that it won't get them much after kickoff.

"We're not defending anything," linebacker Mike Vrabel said. "We haven't pretended that we own this title and that we carry it with us. We have put a lot of work in and won a Super Bowl, but you have to come back and start all over. You realize that when the season starts and everyone is gunning for you."

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