ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. -- Dynasty? What are you talking about?
Defending champs? Not the Patriots. They cannot defend what cannot be taken.
Super Bowl experience? They have it, but don't ask them to rate its importance.
The past? It's only relevant when it helps preparation (see Oct. 31 at Pittsburgh). Beyond that, it is only forgotten time. The future? Sunday. This Sunday. That's all it ever is for the Patriots.
It's not some overused cliché about one game at a time. No, it's a mentality that is beaten into the players in Foxborough because of the consistency of the message. The preparation is diligent, the work is hard, the program demanding. So why waste all of that effort by losing focus, by not channeling it into one Sunday without ever peaking back at or looking past the nearest racer?
Dynasty talk will no doubt dominate Super Bowl week. But don't think the Patriots don't remember then-Ram Ricky Proehl being caught on tape by NFL Films at Super Bowl XXXVI, chirping about the Rams impending dynasty that ended abruptly at the Superdome that February night in 2002.
The Patriots will hear none of it. That would be disrespecting the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles. That would be assuming a win on Super Bowl Sunday, a win that is hardly guaranteed and that can only be earned with extreme focus and perfect preparation and execution.
"We're not defending anything," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said, interrupting a questioner that referred to the Patriots as defending champs.
It was Belichick's Super Bowl week opening press conference and was standing at the podium in an expansive white tent adjacent to the Patriots team hotel at the World Golf Village. He was setting the tone for the week's questions regarding the Patriots stature and potential place in NFL history, history that indeed lacks relevance as it pertains to the team's performance in one week.
"That title will always be with the Patriots. This season is this season."
The dynasty thing? "I don't have much to say about that. Our focus is on the Philadelphia Eagles and what we will have to do against them. What our team does in terms of preparation and execution on Sunday is all that matters to our team."
His players mimic that message as if brainwashed into believing it, which in some small way they have been. Special teams captain and Pro Bowler Larry Izzo echoed the head coach's sentiments.
"We're here to win a football game," Izzo said. "We're not too concerned with where people on the outside want to rank us in comparison to teams of other ages. It doesn't matter. In order to win a football game, we have to focus and beat a very good opponent. The Eagles present a lot of problems in all three phases and they have had a lot of success over the last four years. They're finally here and they're going to do everything they can to prepare to play their best. It will take our best effort to match that."
With all due respect to Izzo, a cagey veteran playing in his third Super Bowl, his words could have emanated straight from Belichick's mouth. The same goes for veteran guard Joe Andruzzi.
"It's a new year, a new game, a new place and a new team," Andruzzi said. "It's not like it used to be when teams stuck together year in and year out. With the NFL and how it is now, we probably only have half our team back from last year. It doesn't mean much. The past is the past."
Well, it is when they want it to be. The Oct. 31 Steelers game certainly wasn't the past when they used the tape of that loss, and the Steeler celebrations that went with it, as motivation. The Patriots were more than willing to discuss the past before the AFC Championship rematch with the Steelers. But asked about the Patriots last game against the Eagles, a 31-10 win in Week 2 of the 2003 season in which New England sacked Donovan McNabb eight times and intercepted him twice, and veteran Willie McGinest said, "We don't remember. That was a long time ago. They're a different team, we're a different team and nothing in the past matters."
Of course it doesn't. Sunday is all that matters. Super Sunday in this case.