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ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. – Just an hour after arriving at the Patriots team hotel Sunday afternoon, New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick had his first of what will be many meetings during Super Bowl week with a large media contingent. Belichick's first order of business was a humble acceptance of the team's role in the spotlight as the AFC representative in the biggest game in sports, its third such honor in the last four seasons.

"It's a pleasure and an honor on behalf of the New England Patriots to represent the AFC in this game," Belichick said in a large tent just outside side the team's Renaissance World Golf Village Resort. "We started with the Eagles a long time ago, we opened with them in the preseason, and that seems like a lot longer than the six months ago. But we have a great respect for their football team. They led the NFC pretty much from wire to wire."

Belichick went on to spend plenty of time praising the Eagles, their coaches and entire organization. As it should be in a Super Bowl, New England will have to put its best foot forward this Sunday night at ALLTEL Stadium in order to defend its Lombardi Trophy.

"We have a great deal of respect for the Eagles, their football team, their program and how competitive they have been in the last few years and particularly this year," Belichick said. "We are excited about the opportunity to face them and we expect this to be our toughest game of the year. We hope to have a good week of practice down here and finish up our preparations so we will be ready to go on Sunday night."

Rally good fansBefore the team's departure Sunday morning from Gillette Stadium, thousands of Patriots fans gave the players and coaches a cheer-filled sendoff. Unofficial estimates placed the rally turnout numbers in the 5,000-7,000 range.

Along with the fans, Patriots cheerleaders, players and Belichick, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was one of a number of New England political leaders in attendance. Romney said Belichick was "the greatest coach in football." Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri and New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch were also in attendance.

Quarterback Tom Brady was one of three New England players to address the crowd that also witnessed a show of highlights and music on a large video board.

"This is the reason we've been undefeated at home for the last two years. We've got the best fans in the league, we've got the best stadium in the league, and you guys got the best team in the league," Brady said. "Hopefully we have one more left in us. If we go out and play the way we're capable of, we'll see you all at the parade in a week."

The team left Foxborough around 11 a.m. with a police escort to Logan Airport in Boston. A midday flight carried the defending champions to Cecil Field in Jacksonville, where they arrived around 3 p.m., at which point the team buses moved on to the Renaissance in St. Augustine.

Coach speakAccording to a report on ESPN.com that cites league and team sources, Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is about to officially surface as the man to fill the Cleveland Browns vacant head coaching job. The report says Crennel could receive an official offer as early as next Sunday night, after the conclusion of the 2004 season at Super Bowl XXXIX.

Belichick was questioned about the report and the fact that Sunday will be the last time he, Crennel and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will work together. Weis will be moving on to the college ranks, having already been named head coach at his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.

"Right now Romeo is working hard on the game plan for the Eagles," Belichick said. "And with their offense we've all got our hands full on that, and Romeo in particular, in trying to defense all the threats that they have. That's really where our focus is. What goes on beyond that is something to be discussed later.

"Of course Charlie's position with Notre Dame was established several weeks ago and I think that he's done an outstanding job of trying to balance those two situations. Ninety percent of his time has been spent in Foxborough with the Patriots. He's worked hard. I think we've had all the preparation and game planning and consistency from a coaching standpoint that we have had all year or in the last five years. But it's really been an honor and a privilege for me to have Romeo for the last four years and Charlie for the last five as our coordinators on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. They have both done an outstanding job and we certainly wouldn't be where we are without them."

A fine day
Add another fine to Rodney Harrison's long list of donations to the NFL's favorite charities. The safety had to pay up $7,500 for an incident in last week's AFC Championship game that he doesn't even remember. "They said I ripped off somebody's face mask, Hines Ward's face mask or helmet or something. I just play. I didn't even see it. I don't even remember it."

According to Harrison the latest reprimand has his career, pre-tax fine total approaching $700,000. How many of those fines were worth the coin?

"All of them," Harrison said with a smile. "I don't worry about the money. I just play football. I have been in the league a long time. It's about hitting and running around and being a kid out there. I love it. I am not worried about the fines. I am going to keep playing the way I play.

"Of course it pays off because they look for you. They know who you are. Even though they don't vote for you and you don't have many friends around the league, when you get that respect and you have guys come up to you, 'I love the way you play. I don't like you as a person, but I love the way you play.' That's all you ask for."

Sam SuspendedIt's safe to say P.K. Sam's rookie season in the NFL didn't end as he hoped. Sam, who came out of Florida State after his junior season, was drafted by New England in the fifth round, but suffered a hamstring injury during training camp. He played in only three regular season games before being placed on injured reserve in October. But earlier this week, Sam was moved from injured reserve to the reserve/suspended list for violating unspecified team rules.

Worthless season?
It's amazing how far the Patriots organization has progressed. In the not-so-distant past, simply making the playoffs was satisfactory, but now the Patriots are all about winning championships.
"It's expectations," linebacker Willie McGinest said. "Our expectation as a team is to come out here and put everything we put into a whole year to get to this point to win. I don't think second place is really accepted in New England with our organization and our team. We have a lot of competitors on the team and coaching staff. We like to win and we work really hard."

Bryan Morry contributed to this report

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. – Just an hour after arriving at the Patriots team hotel Sunday afternoon, New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick had his first of what will be many meetings during Super Bowl week with a large media contingent. Belichick's first order of business was a humble acceptance of the team's role in the spotlight as the AFC representative in the biggest game in sports, its third such honor in the last four seasons.

"It's a pleasure and an honor on behalf of the New England Patriots to represent the AFC in this game," Belichick said in a large tent just outside side the team's Renaissance World Golf Village Resort. "We started with the Eagles a long time ago, we opened with them in the preseason, and that seems like a lot longer than the six months ago. But we have a great respect for their football team. They led the NFC pretty much from wire to wire."

Belichick went on to spend plenty of time praising the Eagles, their coaches and entire organization. As it should be in a Super Bowl, New England will have to put its best foot forward this Sunday night at ALLTEL Stadium in order to defend its Lombardi Trophy.

"We have a great deal of respect for the Eagles, their football team, their program and how competitive they have been in the last few years and particularly this year," Belichick said. "We are excited about the opportunity to face them and we expect this to be our toughest game of the year. We hope to have a good week of practice down here and finish up our preparations so we will be ready to go on Sunday night."

Rally good fansBefore the team's departure Sunday morning from Gillette Stadium, thousands of Patriots fans gave the players and coaches a cheer-filled sendoff. Unofficial estimates placed the rally turnout numbers in the 5,000-7,000 range.

Along with the fans, Patriots cheerleaders, players and Belichick, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was one of a number of New England political leaders in attendance. Romney said Belichick was "the greatest coach in football." Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri and New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch were also in attendance.

Quarterback Tom Brady was one of three New England players to address the crowd that also witnessed a show of highlights and music on a large video board.

"This is the reason we've been undefeated at home for the last two years. We've got the best fans in the league, we've got the best stadium in the league, and you guys got the best team in the league," Brady said. "Hopefully we have one more left in us. If we go out and play the way we're capable of, we'll see you all at the parade in a week."

The team left Foxborough around 11 a.m. with a police escort to Logan Airport in Boston. A midday flight carried the defending champions to Cecil Field in Jacksonville, where they arrived around 3 p.m., at which point the team buses moved on to the Renaissance in St. Augustine.

Coach speakAccording to a report on ESPN.com that cites league and team sources, Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is about to officially surface as the man to fill the Cleveland Browns vacant head coaching job. The report says Crennel could receive an official offer as early as next Sunday night, after the conclusion of the 2004 season at Super Bowl XXXIX.

Belichick was questioned about the report and the fact that Sunday will be the last time he, Crennel and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will work together. Weis will be moving on to the college ranks, having already been named head coach at his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.

"Right now Romeo is working hard on the game plan for the Eagles," Belichick said. "And with their offense we've all got our hands full on that, and Romeo in particular, in trying to defense all the threats that they have. That's really where our focus is. What goes on beyond that is something to be discussed later.

"Of course Charlie's position with Notre Dame was established several weeks ago and I think that he's done an outstanding job of trying to balance those two situations. Ninety percent of his time has been spent in Foxborough with the Patriots. He's worked hard. I think we've had all the preparation and game planning and consistency from a coaching standpoint that we have had all year or in the last five years. But it's really been an honor and a privilege for me to have Romeo for the last four years and Charlie for the last five as our coordinators on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. They have both done an outstanding job and we certainly wouldn't be where we are without them."

A fine day
Add another fine to Rodney Harrison's long list of donations to the NFL's favorite charities. The safety had to pay up $7,500 for an incident in last week's AFC Championship game that he doesn't even remember. "They said I ripped off somebody's face mask, Hines Ward's face mask or helmet or something. I just play. I didn't even see it. I don't even remember it."

According to Harrison the latest reprimand has his career, pre-tax fine total approaching $700,000. How many of those fines were worth the coin?

"All of them," Harrison said with a smile. "I don't worry about the money. I just play football. I have been in the league a long time. It's about hitting and running around and being a kid out there. I love it. I am not worried about the fines. I am going to keep playing the way I play.

"Of course it pays off because they look for you. They know who you are. Even though they don't vote for you and you don't have many friends around the league, when you get that respect and you have guys come up to you, 'I love the way you play. I don't like you as a person, but I love the way you play.' That's all you ask for."

Sam SuspendedIt's safe to say P.K. Sam's rookie season in the NFL didn't end as he hoped. Sam, who came out of Florida State after his junior season, was drafted by New England in the fifth round, but suffered a hamstring injury during training camp. He played in only three regular season games before being placed on injured reserve in October. But earlier this week, Sam was moved from injured reserve to the reserve/suspended list for violating unspecified team rules.

Worthless season?
It's amazing how far the Patriots organization has progressed. In the not-so-distant past, simply making the playoffs was satisfactory, but now the Patriots are all about winning championships.
"It's expectations," linebacker Willie McGinest said. "Our expectation as a team is to come out here and put everything we put into a whole year to get to this point to win. I don't think second place is really accepted in New England with our organization and our team. We have a lot of competitors on the team and coaching staff. We like to win and we work really hard."

Bryan Morry contributed to this report

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