HOUSTON – Bill Belichick is not the Godfather, but this week he'll be playing the role of Michael Corleone. His message: It's just business.
While the Super Bowl hoopla rains down around his team, Belichick will continue to hammer home his message just as he always does. The hype hit full swing when the Patriots arrived at the Inter-Continental Hotel at 6.p.m. central time, as Belichick and six of his players walked off the team bus and into a hotel ballroom to meet with a sampling of the media throng that will gather in Space City this week.
"Even with the fans out [at Gillette Stadium], I didn't feel the impact until we got here," safety Rodney Harrison said. "My heart started racing. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight."
Harrison is making his second Super Bowl appearance, his first coming as a rookie back in 1994 when the Chargers captured the AFC Championship before losing to the 49ers. Harrison was a little-known special teamer that season and didn't understand what he was experiencing.
"I thought, 'This is easy to get to the Super Bowl,'" he admitted as he sat at a table in front of a small media contingent. "I was thinking it would happen every year. I have a greater appreciation now, which means I have a greater focus. It's a waste if you go out and party and don't take care of business. This is a business trip."
That's certainly the theme this week. Tight end Christian Fauria has made no secret of his excitement about finally playing in a Super Bowl. The nine-year veteran appeared in just one playoff game in his career before this season and doesn't even know what it feels like to be playing football in late-January.
But as a non-participant, Fauria has had plenty of opportunities to enjoy Super Bowl week. He hopes to enjoy this one Sunday night, but not before.
"I've done the Super Bowl as a guest just having fun," he said. "It was in San Diego last year where I live, and my wife and I went out every night. I'm not missing much. If I want to do that I'll come back next year. ... Don't go getting me in trouble. I'm not saying we won't be back," he added, joking with the press.
Cornerback Ty Law is making his third trip to the big game and has experienced both ends of the spectrum – losing his first as a second-year player in 1996 before winning in 2001. He wants no part of that 1996 feeling.
"It's about going out and playing football," Law said. "If you get caught up in the all the distractions, it will affect how you play. We're here to do a job. We're on a business trip. We'll have plenty of time to party and hang out with the in-crowd when it's all over. I've experienced losing this game and it's terrible."
Belichick, during his first press conference in the host city, was asked about the pitfalls of teams that have made multiple trips to the Super Bowl in a short span and been favored only to lose – the 1997 Packers and 2001 Rams being the examples offered. But Denver won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, which would contradict the theory that a team returning to the championship game might stumble because of that, but Belichick doesn't care either way.
"The thing I've addressed is what our challenge is against the Carolina Panthers," Belichick stressed. "What happened in other years with other teams makes no difference to us. We have to give everything we have to play our best game of the year against our toughest opponent of the year."
The festivities have officially begun.