The New England contingent that spoke at Friday's league mandated press conferences for Sunday's AFC Championship Game arrived at the Hyatt Harborside Hotel in Boston a bit late. But that was about as much controversy as the Patriots were willing to create.
In fact, Tedy Bruschi wouldn't even hypothetically say anything that could have gotten him in trouble. With Head Coach Bill Belichick delayed by some typical Boston traffic, Bruschi, who arrived earlier with Willie McGinest, was asked what his coach might say if he was behind the podium.
"I could entertain you a bit," Bruschi said with a smile, "but I'll save that for the locker room and move on."
Bruschi's response drew a laugh from the large throng of media at the Grand Ballroom, but there was no repeat of the 2001 get together in Pittsburgh. Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart particularly rankled the Patriots – Lawyer Milloy in particular – two years ago by discussing the possibility of going home to New Orleans for the Super Bowl. Milloy responded later by saying he was so upset that "he wanted to pull a Mike Tyson."
Friday's get together was much tamer, although there was one particular element from earlier in the week that caught the Patriots attention. Colts tight end Marcus Pollard, speaking in the aftermath of his team's impressive 38-31 win at Kansas City last week, said that if the Colts "continued playing like this, they might as well give them the rings now."
Pollard's words seemed fairly innocuous, but judging from the Patriots reaction earlier this week and again on Friday, they've circulated the New England locker room. Rodney Harrison took exception first when he incredulously repeated the second half of Pollard's quote on Thursday when he mumbled, "just give them the rings." The safety conveniently left the first part of Pollard's sentence out.
But Harrison wasn't the only one using the Colts tight end's words as a rallying cry. Quarterback Tom Brady made it a point to delve into the topic of Pollard – unsolicited by the way – when answering a question about his team's edge over the Colts in the experience department.
"Once Sunday gets here, it ends up being the game you remember all year," Brady said. "We expect them to be prepared. You look at how well they've played – their punter hasn't punted, their kicker hasn't missed all year, Peyton has just 12 incompletions [in the playoffs] … Marcus Pollard thinks they have it won."
Brady was predictably asked to follow up on his Pollard remark shortly after.
"Guys want to know the mindset of the opponent," he said. "If that happens to be his mindset, we have 53 players trying to make sure that doesn't happen. I don't think you'd hear anything like that coming out of our locker room. Not only don't we say anything stupid, we don't even think anything stupid."
"[Pollard] was just trying to express how well we played against Denver and Kansas City," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "The game is going to be decided on the field. I chalk that up to another thing that won't matter come Sunday."
"He's a beauty, he's a piece of work," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning added. "I think the Pats were pretty fired up to play for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. If it fires them up, that's what I was expecting anyway. It will come down to who plays better on Sunday."
One might argue that Brady's final comment was precisely the type of statement he claimed never emanated from the Patriots camp. It was certainly out of character for the Patriots quarterback, who brilliantly handled several other questions that potentially could have drawn defensive responses.
Brady was asked more than once if he and the offense took any offense to the attention being given to the NFL's co-MVP Manning, but failed to take the bait.
"Peyton had such a great year," Brady said when asked if he was tired of hearing so much about Manning. "He was the co-MVP and he really runs that offense. From watching that team on film, it seems their defense really feeds off the offense. I'll be worrying more about Dwight Freeney and keeping him off my back come Sunday than worrying about Peyton."
When the Colts were the topic, Bruschi, McGinest and Belichick all rivaled Brady's diplomacy. The coach fielded several questions about Indianapolis' explosive offense that put 79 points on the board in two postseason games and has yet to punt.
"[Manning] puts tremendous pressure on you because he is standing there at the line looking at everything you're doing," Belichick said. "You have to have a consistent plan on how you are going to keep him – I wouldn't say fool him or disguise it, but at least not be as predictable as you can. We are not going to show him anything he hasn't seen before.
"What we need to do is just be able to play defensively a game that's complimentary and effective against them. There's no magic to it. They've got too many weapons and too many players that they can't take one guy away. Everybody has to do a good job, but in terms of disguise, you can't worry about if he sees this or that."
Tom Brady and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw are the only NFL quarterbacks to build a perfect overtime record in their careers, including the postseason, with a minimum of five games. Brady is currently 7-0 in overtime games, while Bradshaw finished his career with a 5-0 mark. … Since the start of 2001 Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy are two of the top five winningest coaches in the NFL. Belichick's 34-14 record (.708) ranks second, while Dungy's 31-17 (.646) mark ranks fifth. Eagles coach Andy Reid tops the list going 35-13 (.729). … The Patriots are the first team to reach a conference championship game without a 1,000-yard rusher or 1,000-yard receiver since the 2001 Eagles. The last team to advance to the Super Bowl without either a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver was the 1996 Green Bay Packers. … Sunday's AFC and NFC Championship games are both rematches of games played on November 30th of this season. It is just the second time in history that both championship games have been rematches of regular-season games played on the same day. On Oct. 1, 1989 the Cleveland Browns defeated the visiting Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams downed the 49ers in San Francisco. Both home teams, the Broncos and the 49ers, won the championship game rematches. … Brady and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning are the top two active quarterbacks in lowest playoff interception percentage with a minimum 100 attempts. Brady has thrown one interception in 138 attempts (0.72), while Manning has thrown two picks in 161 attempts (1.24). … Former Dolphins running back and Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Csonka will present the winner of the AFC Championship game with the Lamar Hunt Trophy on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.