Yesterday morning 5,000 fans arrived at Gillette Stadium to wish the Patriots well before they boarded a plane for Jacksonville, Florida and Super Bowl XXXIX. Governors from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island were on hand for a 9AM event that featured music, a performance by the cheerleaders, and some words from the players. Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, and Troy Brown addressed the crowd, as did team owner Robert Kraft. Many fans drove to Foxboro as early as 6AM, while others took free trains from Boston and Providence. For more on the exciting sendoff, check out Mike Grimalaof The Boston Globe,Mark Arsenaultof The Providence Journal, and Alan Greenbergof The Hartford Courant.
The team is now in Jacksonville, and held a light workout this morning. The team will address the media later today, as part of a week that is becoming awfully familiar to most of the players. As Jim McCabeof the Globe and Tom Curranof the Journal discuss, this is familiar territory that has made it to three of the last four Super Bowls.
A major storyline to be followed this week is the last hurrah for Bill Belichick with his two top assistants. The Pats headman won't be going anywhere, but offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will coach his last game with the Patriots this Sunday before departing to be head coach at Notre Dame. Furthermore, it is expected that defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will be offered the Cleveland Browns head coaching job as early as Sunday night. Kevin Mannixand Karen Guregianof The Boston Herald take on the impending exodus.
Also in the Herald, Steve Conroy zooms in on Weis, whose players have very high praise for his offensive innovations.
Meanwhile, Rich Thompson of the Herald looks at Crennel's defense, and his relationship with on-field defensive leader, Bruschi.
Speaking of defense, safety Rodney Harrison is in the news this week for his through-the-media exchanges with loudmouth Philly receiver Freddie Mitchell. Mitchell alerted Harrison at the end of last week, that he would "have something" for him. It is generally not a good idea to upset the hard-hitting Harrison, and Rodney has spit back at the former first-round pick from UCLA. Karen Guregianand Michael Felgerof the Herald, USA Today, and Michael Parente* of *The Woonsocket Call cover the explosive war-of –words that might give the Patriots there often-sought-after extra bit of motivation.
Kevin Paul Dupont of the Globe traces Harrison's roots back to his Chicago area high school, and finds Rodney has always been the fearless, undersized, but hard-hitting competitor that has helped him become an NFL All-Pro safety.
In his notebook, Nick Cafardo of the Globe spotlights Kraft and his message that everyone soak up the Super Bowl as much as possible because, despite this recent run, you never know when you will make it back.
Also on the Kraft front, Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News tells a nice story about Kraft's wife, Myra, meeting a young Troy Brown shortly after her husband purchased the team. Brown's quiet, reflective demeanor helped change Myra's view of football players, and helped form a long-standing bond between Brown and the Krafts. Kraft believes Troy to be the "quintessential Patriot," sentiments echoed by his head coach Bill Belichick who, like Kraft, is out-tenured by the receiver-cornerback veteran.
It just wouldn't be The Blitz of late without a T.O update. Over the weekend, it was reported that Terrell Owens ran and cut on the field, and the Eagles supposedly said they would use the charismatic superstar as a third receiver behind Mitchell and Todd Pinkston. Rich Thompsonof the Herald reports from Philly's camp, while Phil Taylor of SportsIllustrated.com discusses what he perceives to be Terrell Overload.
In the Globe, McCabe features former Patriot Julius Adams, who played for the Patriots against the Bears 19 years ago in Super Bowl XX. This year the ex-Patriot will be rooting for the Eagles, a team featuring his son Keith at linebacker and on special teams.
Frank Dell'Apa of the Globe spotlights Philly safety Brian Dawkins. Dawkins, a Pro-Bowler who suffered through three straight losses in the NFC Championship games as an Eagle veteran, will play his first Super Bowl in his hometown of Jacksonville.
Christopher Gasper of the Globe tells the unique story of Hank Poteat. Poteat was taking classes of The University of Pittsburgh when the Patriots called to see if he would be interested in joining the defending champs as the geared up for their first playoff game against the Colts. Poteat played in that game, as well as the AFC Championship against his former team, the Steelers. Now, Poteat will play for a Super Bowl ring.
Chris Snow of the Globe examines the difficult life of a long-snapper, looking at Mike Bartrum, a former Patriot who now handles the duties in Philadelphia. As Snow points out, a long-snapper is constantly one blown snap away from painful infamy.
The Journal *runs an article byGary Meyers of *The *New York Daily News *conveying the confidence of Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, who is not buying into the mystique many attribute to Belichick and the Patriots.
In the Courant, Greenberg looks at Pats linebacker Willie McGinest, whose career has been revitalized over the last few seasons after injuries plagued him earlier in his career. McGinest, one of the team's most vocal leaders, will play in his fourth Super Bowl with the Patriots.
Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com reports the Eagles may use Jevon Kearse on both ends of the defensive line, as they did against Atlanta in the NFC Championship game.
Pasquarelli also reports the Eagles will consider using X-back Brian Westbrook as a punt returner. Westbrook, the team's feature back, who led all running backs in receiving yards this season, returned punts early in his career, and has indicated he would like to do so again in the Super Bowl.