NEW ORLEANS - It took Roman Phifer 11 seasons, but he finally made it to the postseason this year. As fate would have it, he new team will face the team he began his career with, the Rams, in the Super Bowl.
Phifer spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Rams, dating back to when the team called Los Angeles home. The team was a perennial loser until Phifer moved to the east coast with the New York Jets. He had to watch from a distance as his former team went all the way to the Super Bowl title in 1999, his first year away.
In his first trip to the championship game he'll be looking across the line at the uniform he spent so many years wearing.
"I have a lot of friends over there and it will be a very competitive game," Phifer said. "It's kind of weird, but it's a lot of fun. I was with those guys and I missed the Super Bowl with them their first time around. To be here for my first time and compete against those guys is kind of ironic, but it's exciting too."
While teammate Mike Compton won't be facing his former team this weekend, it also will be his first taste of the Super Bowl. Unlike Phifer, Compton has previous postseason experience from his days in Detroit, but never on this big a stage.
"You always want to play in the big game, but I am a pessimist, and I figured it was never going to have for me," said Compton, who played nine years in the Motor City before coming to New England this season. "It really hasn't sunk in yet."
Maybe the Super Bowl scene hasn't hit Compton yet, but when did he realize the Patriots were starting to turn the corner?
"I'm not sure, but it was probably right before the second Indianapolis game," Compton said. "Things really started to gel. Antowain Smith had better feel for offense and what the blockers were doing, and we with him. That was a big boost of confidence."
Coaches stay home
When Bill Belichick took the podium for his press conference Monday afternoon, his team had only arrived 30 minutes earlier. Well, most of his team.
With all the craziness involved with getting the team ready for the Super Bowl, Belichick wanted his staff in as normal an environment as possible. With that in mind, he elected to leave the assistant coaches home in Foxborough to go over the game plan.
Belichick's staff will arrive in New Orleans Tuesday afternoon in time for a brief meeting with the entire team that night, but not in time for the morning media session.
Leaving it to Coach
Belichick said he will wait until Wednesday to announce his plans for the quarterback spot in the Super Bowl. One guy happy the decision belongs to Belichick is linebacker Tedy Bruschi.
"That's a tough decision that I'm glad I don't have to make," Bruschi said. "Tom has gotten us here, let's get that straight. Tom is the guy who has gotten us here. Then again, Drew won the game the other day. What do you do? I don't know. That's why I'm not the head coach."
As the team has all season, Bruschi said he had confidence regardless of which guy was on the field. While he admitted initially wondering if Brady could take the team all the way, Bruschi said time, and 12 wins with Brady at the helm, has convinced him.
"Some guys come in the league as a No. 1 or No. 2 pick, and right off the bat they are thrown into the starting lineup," Bruschi said. "Guys respect them for what they have done in college and give them breaks to try and get the team going.
"Then there are other guys who are seventh-round picks like Tom or third-round picks like myself who have to earn respect and kind of climb up the ladder. That is what Tom has done this year. With every victory he has climbed up that ladder to become one of the elite quarterbacks in the league."
Bruschi, on what teammate Bryan Cox brought to the Patriots this season: "He makes it a lot louder in the locker room. Some of the conversations I have with him, I just shake my head and can't believe what he says."
Compton, on quarterback Tom Brady's personality on the field: "It is like he is still in college. This is the Rose Bowl for him. He is jumping around, smiling and full of excitement.
Wide receiver Troy Brown, on how to deal with having a week in New Orleans before the Super Bowl: "You have to put everything in focus. You've got your free time, but most of your day is dedicated to St. Louis, and that's' the way you have to approach it. It's fun for everyone else to be here. We're here to entertain them."
While Belichick will hold off on a quarterback announcement until Wednesday, he did disclose that Brady has a sprained ankle… The Patriots will practice at Tulane University during the week… When the team arrived in New Orleans, it was greeted at the airport by a five-man jazz band and a smattering of fans.