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Pats SB notebook: four years, two SB trips

Tuesday is the four-year anniversary of Bill Belichick's hiring in New England.

Tuesday, Jan. 27 represents the four-year anniversary of Bill Belichick's hiring in New England. He took over an 8-8 team on the way down, plummeted to 5-11 in his first season before winning the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl in 2001.

Now, a year after losing a divisional tiebreaker and missing the playoffs, Belichick has his team back in the Super Bowl on the heels of its best ever 14-2 regular season. In four years, Belichick has captured a Super Bowl and two AFC Championships while compiling a 44-25 record (including the postseason) that gives him the best winning percentage among the 14 men who have led the Patriots in their 44-year history.

Hiring Belichick wasn't easy. He was contractually obligated to take over the Jets when Bill Parcells retired in New York, but walked away from that job without regrets, sensing the situation wasn't right for him. And if he was going to take over his second franchise, he needed stability and the ability to do it his way. Not many guys get three chances to be an NFL head coach, so he had to get it right in his second go-around.

The Patriots ended up forking over a first round draft choice for Belichick after Patriots owner Robert Kraft brokered a deal with Parcells to release Belichick from his contract in New York. Four years later, that price is chump change.

"I certainly appreciate the opportunity Mr. Kraft gave to me. He gave up a significant draft choice to bring me here and has given me the opportunity to work in an environment that's conducive to winning," Belichick said. "He's provided great facilities and great financial support in terms of the salary cap. We have a great staff in scouting and in coaching. The support system is awesome.

"As a coach, there's nothing more you could ask for than what Mr. Kraft has provided for me. It's a great situation to work in and to coach in. It's fun to come to work every day. We have a great group of players that work hard. They're here early and stay late. It's a tremendous situation. I'm very fortunate to be in it. It's fun. It beats working. I've always enjoyed the area. I went to school and spent summers in the area. It's great for me to have the opportunity to coach the New England Patriots and I'm grateful to Mr. Kraft for giving me the opportunity."

It's a good bet that Robert Kraft is grateful in return. …

Light Seymour could get used to this
Three years in the league and two Super Bowl trips. And all these veterans like Larry Centers and Christian Fauria and Rodney Harrison talk about how hard it is to reach the Super Bowl. Phooey.

Let's analyze this … if Light and Seymour play nine seasons in the league, they will play in six Super Bowls or five more than all-time great Dan Marino. At least that's the pace they're on.

"You're a math major too. That surprises me," Light said to this PFW reporter. "I didn't know that about you.

"I honestly have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that this is my second Super Bowl and that this is all happening right now. I think after the first one, it hit me a week later. I got a chance to sit down and relax and soak it all in. It's a great experience. It doesn't happen a whole lot. I'm extremely proud of how well this team has come together and how everybody's worked well and made this happen."

Seymour, despite his youth and two trips to the big game in three years, doesn't plan on taking this kind of success for granted any time soon. He understands that it's not as easy as it seems.

"It's been a lot of hard work," Seymour noted. "We talk all the time that there is no substitute for hard work. You can't cut corners. There's no magic formula to get it done. If you want to be on this level, you have to pay the price and that's what we've been doing. That's why we're here."

Ted and Tedy medical update
Ted Johnson missed eight games in the nine weeks he was sidelined this season with a broken foot that he suffered Week One in Buffalo. Tedy Bruschi started all 18 games in 2003, but is battling a reported calf injury that he suffered with 1:51 left in the AFC Championship Game.

It looks like Bruschi will likely be ready to go Sunday night, and Belichick's Monday update on his status was encouraging. "Tedy's coming along well. He was out there and did some work today."

If Bruschi is unable to fill his normal workload inside, Johnson expects to step in and assume a greater role, perhaps even the role he hoped to fill when the season started, but one he never had the chance to because of the all-too-familiar injury bug.

"I'm preparing as if I'm going to play the whole game," Johnson said. "But that's how I prepare every week. You don't want to get to the game and realize you're gong to be called on more than you thought and be unprepared."

The nine-week layoff left Johnson behind his teammates and he's found it hard to catch up in limited work.

"Missing nine weeks, trying to get back to game speed, I think I'm about as good as I can be. Your reps are limited. Getting the opportunity to play at full speed is always key. But
if it ain't broke, why fix it? Tedy Bruschi and Roman Phifer have done a heck of a job.

"I give credit to my coaches for allowing me to get in there and play a little bit. I didn't know if I was going to get put on injured reserve so I'm thankful that they believed in me enough not to put me on IR."

Practice report
The teams' practices are closed to the public and media while they are in Houston with the exception of one reporter, called a pool reporter, assigned to cover each team's practice and compile a brief summary for the rest of the media throng. The Houston Chronicle's John McClain is the AFC pool reporter. Here is his update from the Patriots Monday practice:

After leaving the single-digit temperatures of New England yesterday, the New England Patriots took the practice field for the first time today enjoying temperatures in the high 60s at Rice University. The players wore helmets, shells and shorts and practiced on the grass practice fields behind the university's stadium. Every player participated; beginning with a pre-practice walkthrough at 1:45 p.m. Practice officially began after a brief stretching period at 2:15 p.m. Just 10 minutes into practice, a little comic relief was provided after a passing truck backfired. The loud blast startled some and gave cause for others to jokingly "hit the deck" and yell for security.
"We reviewed some of the things we worked on last week and went over some of the situational things that we didn't cover back in New England," said Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick after the afternoon practice.
Steady winds were a factor throughout the practice, causing the team to make a few directional adjustments in both the kicking and passing preparations. "It would have been tough kicking into that wind today," said Coach Belichick. "We pretty much threw with the wind, too."
The practice session concluded with a few final field goals by Adam Vinatieri at 3:20 p.m. Following practice, every player lined up on the goal line for a positional conditioning run that concluded when the coach called the team up for some final comments just before 3:30 p.m.

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