Heading into an early season bye with a 2-0 record, including a win in a rematch of last year's AFC championship game, there could be reason to use the week off as just that, a week off. But that certainly isn't the approach being taken in the locker room at Gillette Stadium. The defending Super Bowl champions know that they are 2-0, but they also realize that there is plenty of room for improvement when they return to the field on Oct. 3 against the Bills in Buffalo.
"We have enough to work on that we should be able find enough things to keep everybody interested," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said heading into the Week Three bye. "I think we are a long way from being a good football team right now. I think we are a little closer than we were last week, but we still have a long way to go. I would like to think that the players think that, too. We all see a lot of room for improvement, playing, coaching, just overall doing things better as a team, taking care of the ball better, keeping the quarterback in the pocket better, punt returns. We can put together a pretty good list here."
The players on New England's veteran-led team have a similar attitude, one that seems to be more of a true belief than just a regurgitation of what their coach is telling them.
"We realize that we can still get better," tight end Christian Fauria said. "Some teams might be satisfied with being 2-0 and that might be as good as it gets. But I think we know that it can get a lot better than that.
"We are either going to get better with time or we are going to get worse or we are going to just stay the same. Teams that stay the same go 8-8. Teams that get better make the playoffs. Teams that don't go 6-10 or something like that and are a few games away from making the playoffs because of the little mistakes that make the difference in the big game. I think that as a team we realize that. The coaches realize that. We put a lot of emphasis on it. We are not going to just be happy with what we have right now. We realize it can be a lot better and we are going to keep working on it."
[30717:right]And while some have questioned the value of the early bye as opposed to a week of recovery later in the season, others believe the bye is a blessing regardless of when it comes.
"We are in a good position right now," tackle Matt Light said. "I don't think we are going to have a problem staying focused. We will use this time to get better and work harder and improve on the two games that we have already played. So in a way this could be a good thing for us."
"The bye week is the bye week," Rodney Harrison agreed with veteran realism. "Everyone has to deal with it. Do I want to play this week? Of course I want to play. I want to play every week. But you have to take advantage of the opportunities that you have. This is a great week to have some rest and improve some things and come back and be full tilt."
Mind your own business
Following Sunday's 23-12 loss in which Arizona quarterback Josh McCown spent most of his afternoon on the run avoiding the New England pass rush, Cardinals head coach Dennis Green pointed to the fact that the damage could have been much worse than the five sacks his team allowed.
"It's hard to do anything when their guy gets a free run at the quarterback," Green said after the game. "Mike Vrabel would probably say he played the worst game of his career. He had at least 10 rushes where no one blocked him and he didn't get there."
[30715:left]Tuesday Vrabel responded to Green's questionable comments when he was asked if he thought they were in fact more of an indictment of Arizona's own level of play.
"I would hope so," Vrabel, who finished the game with three tackles and one sack, said. "I think they have enough problems to worry about that he doesn't have to coach the other team, but I don't know. It is what it is. I came out of control a couple of times and didn't get him. I think it hurt us once and luckily it didn't hurt us much after that."
Coming off the first multi-interception game of his young career, Patriots safety Eugene Wilson isn't letting the success that he has had in his first two seasons go to his head. One of the developing stars on a defense that led the NFL in points allowed a year ago, the humble former second-round pick who has bulked up to 197 pounds to play safety is just trying to fill any role he is asked to play. "I just still consider myself a little guy. I am just somebody trying to help out the team. You are always trying to improve and pick up on little things every day. I am always looking to get better." … The NFL season is often referred to as a marathon, but Fauria compares it to another trying test of human will and conditioning. "I kind of look at it as climbing Mt. Everest. We have a 16-week schedule. It's long. It's hard. I like to think of it like base camp would be our bye week and that would be right after the eighth game. You could kind of regroup and lick your wounds a little bit and figure out what you need to do for that last hard push climbing up that mountain. That's where everyone is trying to get to. But for us [the bye] is coming after our second game of the season. We are just going to have to figure out a way to climb that mountain without any rest."