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SB Notebook: Bruschi doing better

HOUSTON -- Two years ago, the hot topic when the Patriots arrived in New Orleans for Super Bowl XXXVI was Tom Brady's health and whether or not he would be recovered from the ankle injury that forced him out of that year's AFC Championship Game in favor of Drew Bledsoe. He was fine, of course, started and went on to capture game MVP honors in the Patriots 20-17 win over the Rams.

This year's health watch focuses its spotlight on big-play linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who limped off the field with 1:51 left in the AFC Championship Game with what was reported in the Boston Herald as a strained right calf muscle.

Head Coach Bill Belichick, in his first Houston-based press conference, gave his typical injury update when asked about his starting inside linebacker, which is to say he offered little on the matter.

"Tedy's doing better than he was last week," he said. "He'll work hard and do everything he can to be there on Sunday. The heavy work starts Wednesday."

Asked for the nature of the injury, which neither Belichick nor Bruschi has officially confirmed on the record, Belichick smirked and said, "He has a sore leg."

He then paused almost dramatically and said enthusiastically, "But he's doing better." ...

The Patriots players were thoroughly impressed with their sendoff back home in frigid Foxborough, where approximately 2,000 loyalists were on hand to watch their favorite team depart for Houston in 1-degree weather. Cars streamed into the stadium and fans were in parking lots along Route 1 and on overpasses on Route 93.

"It was unbelievable to see those people come out," safety Rodney Harrison said. "I mean it was cold out there. Not like it is here with the sun. We want to bring the trophy home for them."

The temperature difference was dramatic. The team landed at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston and deplaned to sun and 72 degrees. ...

In addition to the hype surrounding the Super Bowl, Harrison is dealing with the pressures of pending fatherhood. His wife is due on Feb. 14 and the veteran is hoping things run smoothly between now and then.

"That's the most important thing in my life – my wife and family," he said. "Hopefully there won't be any problems and it won't be any sooner than that." ...

Tight end Christian Fauria compared his first experiences in the spotlight of Houston to the bowl trips he used to take as a member of the Colorado Buffaloes in college.

"The hardest part to deal with is leaving and having people you've never met before calling you all the time looking for tickets and rooms and stuff," Fauria said. "It's almost like planning a wedding."

Fauria added the Patriots won't practice on Monday but will have a walkthrough. The team will practice this week at Rice University and will wear its blue jerseys Sunday night as the home team. The Patriots wore their red jerseys in 1985, their white in 1996 and blue in 2001. ...

Cornerback Ty Law doesn't think that playing in the Super Bowl two years ago is much, if any, advantage for New England. "I don't think it's a big thing. Everybody has played in big games. We're still playing football." ...

Law believes this week will offer a different challenge than he faced last week. While he may not have his specific game assignment yet, last week he chased Marvin Harrison around all afternoon. "All I had to do was study Marvin Harrison," he said. "I've played against him for seven years. This will be tougher mentally because we don't know these guys."

The Patriots last meeting against Carolina came in the final regular season game of 2001 while the Patriots were in the midst of their surprising Super Bowl championship run. ...

Be sure to check back every day throughout the day as Patriots.com overloads you with multi-media coverage that includes video vignettes, nightly Patriots Video News shows, multiple daily text updates covering the Panthers and Patriots along with PFW in Progress, which airs from 2-4 p.m. ET Tuesday through Friday on Patriots.com Radio. Get your pre-mails into the show now at webradio@patriots.com and listen 2-4 p.m. starting Tuesday to listen to the PFW staff answer your questions and comment on your thoughts.

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