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Sidwell to Seattle

Patriots defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell is off to Seattle to assume the same job under Mike Holmgren with the Seahawks. Sidwell will leave for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Today and is expected to be in Seattle to assume his new job by the middle of next week.

Sidwell, 55, was the Patriots defensive coordinator for the last three seasons under Pete Carroll, and the team's defense was often the heart and soul of the club during that time. In 1999, Sidwell's defense ranked eighth in the NFL despite losing star middle linebacker Ted Johnson for 12 games as well as dealing with injuries to starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Steve Israel. In 1998, the Patriots defense ranked 20th under Sidwell, but again fought through injuries to players like Johnson, defensive end Willie McGinest and linebacker Chris Slade. In 1997, the Patriots defense ranked 19th in the league, but fifth against the run.

All total, Sidwell has spent 14 years as an NFL defensive coordinator with New England, Houston and New Orleans and also spent time as an assistant in Indianapolis and New England back in the early '80s.

He actually worked briefly under Holmgren in 1995 when he was the Packers linebacker coach, but left before the season to become the Oilers defensive coordinator.

Sidwell replaces Fritz Shurmur as Seattle's defensive coordinator. Shurmur died of cancer back on Aug. 30 and the Seahawks did not hire a replacement during the season.

Today also is a big day in the Patriots search for a new head coach. Bill Belichick, believed to be the team's top choice, will have his appeal heard today by NFL lead counsel Jeff Pash. Belichick is hoping to be freed from the remaining three years of his contract with the New York Jets. If he is freed, which is unlikely, he will be able to interview with the Patriots immediately. If not, the Patriots and Jets would have to negotiate a compensation package if the Patriots are still interested in Belichick's services and are willing to give up draft picks for them. Be sure to check back to www.patriots.com for the latest as soon as it's available.

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