Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick opened his Thursday mooring press conference talking about the team's preparations winding down and the challenge that coaches face in guarding against over preparing for the opening opponent. While that is true, Belichick and the Patriots will also be facing a number of unique challenges as they prepare for a Buffalo team that now includes safety Lawyer Milloy.
In less than a week Milloy went from team leader and captain of the New England defense to the enemy. He was always going to be on the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, but now he will be playing behind London Fletcher, Takeo Spikes, Sam Adams and the rest of the Bills front seven rather than his former New England mates.
While Belichick went out of his way to say that Milloy is a very intelligent player who learns quickly in terms of football, it isn't clear exactly how much the Pro Bowl safety will be able to do for the Buffalo defense or even what Milloy might be able to express to his new field allies in terms of what to expect from his former team. One thing that is for sure is Milloy's change in uniform will bring a level of emotion and excitement to both sidelines on Sunday.
"They are definitely going to be on an emotional high because we have some of their players and they have some of our players," Richard Seymour said. "It's kind of like the Jets rivalry. It's going to be exciting, but I definitely think that after the first couple of plays it's going to be back down to the basics and down to football. I think there is going to be a lot of hype before the game and pregame warm-ups and that sort of thing. But once the first ball is snapped I think it is back to playing football."
Patriots fullback Larry Centers has a unique view on the coming game. Not only did he grow to consider Milloy a friend and good teammate in their short time together in New England, but he also has something to prove to the Bills, a team that he played for a year ago.
"I am pretty sure [I know what Milloy is feeling]," Centers said. "He's got a lot of emotions. He's going to bring a lot of emotions into the ballgame. There is no doubt about it. But the biggest question is in what capacities is he going to be used. Obviously he hasn't been there very long. That can work a couple of different ways. It can be a positive thing if he's on an emotional high and it can be a negative thing in that he's not going to be as familiar with their system and it might allow for some mistakes to be made. We'll have to see what happens."
For his part, Centers hopes to balance his own desires to show his former teammates what he has left with his role to fit in within the offense of his new team.
"I know the type of player that I am," Centers said. "I know the player that I see when I look in the mirror. Just to go out and just reconfirm that is big for me after facing a situation where I was fired, kicked out, sent away, put on the street, whatever you want to call it. It's time for me to go back and just make a statement.
"In the bigger scheme I have to channel my emotions and my feelings into doing things that are not necessarily best for me but best for the team. I can't go out [free-wheeling] and doing things that aren't in the game plan. I have to go out and play football, play it to the best of my ability and hope for the best."
And that is probably what Belichick is hoping for from every player in his locker room, because in the end after all the theater and underlying themes are tossed aside, both teams need to start the season with a win in what is probably the tightest division in football. Yes there will be a lot of emotion on the field Sunday, but like Seymour said once the ball is snapped the players just have to play football.