Foxborough, Mass. - As the unofficial face of the organization, Tom Brady is interwoven into everything that is the New England Patriots. As two-time Super Bowl MVP and holder of the best record of any active NFL quarterback, one might think a feeling of being content might enter into the picture.
Problem is, Brady can't envision a time when he'll be content with where he is.
"Probably not," Brady said yesterday. "That is just part of my personality I guess. Sometimes you wish you could change that because you are never satisfied or content with anything in your life. Maybe one day when I retire."
Until that time, Brady will be forever linked with the recent success of the Patriots. He improved to 8-0 in the playoffs following Sunday's win in the AFC Championship game, and has led the Patriots to wins in 48 of his 62 regular season starts, compiling a .774 winning percentage to give him the best record of any quarterback since 1966 with at least 40 starts. Brady is a perfect 7-0 in overtime games, further adding to his reputation as a big-game performer.
Fair or unfair, Brady has endured endless comparisons to Joe Montana. And as the Patriots keep winning playoff games and reaching Super Bowls, so too will the comparisons intensify. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, like Brady, won two Super Bowl MVPs early in his career (of his three total) and was most remembered for his clutch play in the big game. With the Super Bowl nine days away, the comparisons will once again be brought to the national stage.
Brady does his best to sidestep such banter. It's a difficult proposition considering he grew up idolizing Montana and fellow 49er Steve Young, pretending to be them while tossing footballs in the driveway and attending the post-Super Bowl parades just to catch a glimpse of one of the signal callers.
"Of course I'm very flattered," Brady said. "What a great comparison. To ever think when I was a kid growing up playing that I would ever be compared to him - never in a million years.
"I think part of it is that I don't think I'm on that level. The second thing is still trying to get better. That is something really to aspire to. What a great goal that would be to play like one of the best quarterbacks of all time. I think that I'm a long way from that. I think Joe and Steve Young, Dan Marino and John Elway and some of these really great quarterbacks did it over such a long period of time. For me, this is my fourth year [as a starter]. That is not a long time at all. Brett Favre has been doing it forever. There are many more football games left. Those comparisons, hopefully they are done at the end of my career."
Just as Brady idolized Montana growing, so do today's young football players look up to the Patriots No. 12. The irony - and reality - isn't lost on the 27-year-old Brady.
"It is really neat, Brady acknowledged with a grin. "That is the reality. Troy Brown tells me that I'm his little kids' favorite player. When you hear stuff like that from your own teammates, you get just the biggest kick out of it. It is really neat. Even on Halloween when you see those jerseys. I had a little kid come up to my door with a number 12 jersey on. I've come such a long way."
From The Bulletin Board
The first bulletin board material of the Super Bowl was supplied by Philadelphia wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, who had some interesting comments regarding the Patriots secondary during an ESPN segment with Dan Patrick Thursday night. The fourth-year receiver wasn't able to name the Patriots starting cornerbacks, and after successfully listing some of their numbers, went on to say he "had something" for veteran safety Rodney Harrison. While Mitchell's comments were arguably made with a joking undertone, they didn't gain him any popularity in the Patriots locker room, leading Harrison to say it was a sign of disrespect.
"Obviously if you have opposing receivers talking smack and really just calling us out," Harrison said. "It's part of the game to a certain degree, but you expect it from immature guys who haven't really experienced much success on the pro level. He just wants some more attention drawn to himself.
I've seen the things he said. I really don't have to worry about it. If I was on his team, I'd retire."
Harrison didn't think Mitchell's comments were any added motivation for the Patriots, saying "Are you kidding me? I don't need any added motivation. You look at it, and it just shows lack of respect. The only way you get respect is to go out and earn it. When it comes time to play, I'm sure he'll be ready, and you best believe we'll be ready."
The latest from Philadelphia is that Terrell Owens is a go. ESPN.com is reporting the Eagles wide receiver made more progress from his ankle injury on Thursday, running inside the team's indoor practice facility and proclaiming himself set to play barring any unforeseen setbacks.
"They're a good team without T.O., but they're a great team with him, Harrison said. "They're still a great team without T.O., but of course when you have an All-Pro receiver, it makes your team that much better. We'll be prepared for him. The only way you can respect is to go out there and earn it."
Thank You In Order
Perhaps the NFL has Title IX partly to thank for Bill Belichick's coaching career. Belichick, in his 30th year of coaching in the NFL, re-told the story Friday about how he was set to accept a graduate assistantship to work for Lou Holtz at North Carolina State University in 1975 before the funding for his position was taken away and put into women's athletics.
"I was going to college," Belichick began. "When I left college I was going to N.C. State with Lou Holtz as a graduate assistant down there. It was all set. I was signed, sealed and delivered. I think he had six graduate assistant positions on his staff. Three of them turned over. He had three openings. I was in. I was all set to go. And then in the early part of June that year in 1975, Title IX was just being kind of administrated differently. Well, it had gone through the courts and administration was coming out and so some of the budget cuts in men's sports were taking place. That money was now being allocated to the women's sports. So, those positions ended up not getting filled. He called me back and said, 'Look, I know I committed to this and I want to do it, but it is just not available anymore'. So, that was it. I was out. Fired."
Belichick held a 10:45 a.m. press conference Friday, followed by an open locker room access period from 11:15 - 11:55 a.m. ... Belichick spoke at length during Friday's press conference on the influence of Paul Brown on coaching in the NFL. ... Harrison, linebackers Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinest, tight end Christian Fauria and cornerback Asante Samuel were among the players who drew large media crowds. ... Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour was not present in the locker room. ... There is no media availability Saturday as the team prepares to travel to Jacksonville on Sunday. ... The Patriots first official press conference of the Super Bowl with Belichick is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. EST on Sunday. That press conference can be heard live on Patriots.com. ... The NFL announced that Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch and kicker Adam Vinatieri were named the NFL Offensive and Special Teams Players of the Week for their performance in the AFC Championship Game. Branch finished with three receptions for 116 yards and scored two touchdowns, one on a 60-yard reception and another on 23-yard reverse. Vinatieri connected on field goals of 31 and 48 yards and made all five extra point attempts.