While the media hype for this Sunday night's matchup between the 7-2 Patriots and 7-2 Cowboys at Gillette Stadium has already begun, don't look for the players to buy into the ferocious frenzy of media attention that will engulf the game in the coming days. Yes, New England head coach Bill Belichick and Dallas head coach Bill Parcells are meeting for the first time since their well-publized parting following the 1999 season with the New York Jets. But for the players the nationally televised primetime battle is simply about two quality NFL teams facing off, a chance for the Patriots to return to the winning ways of a five-game winning streak that led up to last weekend's bye.
"We don't really care about it," guard Damien Woody said of the overwhelming storyline of the game. "It's just another game to us. We are just going to go out there and just try and get another victory against a good opponent. They are a good team and that's for the media to hype up, the Bill vs. Bill thing. But as far as players, we are just going to go out there and try to execute the game plan and come away with a victory."
For many of these players part of that dissociation with the Parcells/Belichick drama stems from a lack of intimate knowledge of the two coaches. Only 11 current Patriots played for the current Dallas coach, with only six of those guys playing for him in New England.
"I don't pay attention to it because I only know one coach," third-year left tackle Matt Light said. "So I really wouldn't have any other angle for that story. I mean obviously [Parcells] has a great history in the NFL and obviously he is a great coach. But I think most of the teams that we play against, we can say the same thing. I know our coach and I know what we are going to do and hopefully that is going to be win the game. Obviously that is going to take a lot of hard work and it is going to be a good one to play here at home."
"Honestly I don't look at it at all," Christian Fauria said of the theatre surrounding the game. "I haven't had enough time to really think about it. I really have never even met Bill Parcells. So I really don't know anything about it. And being around here, at least I know our guy is a smart guy. I am just going to have to take the advice of the guys who were here about when Parcells was here."
But in the end whether they have played for either Parcells or Belichick, both or neither, the players seem to be doing a good job of putting the real meaning of the game in perspective. Roman Phifer, a guy who played for Parcells and Belichick when the pair was with the Jets, knows he and his teammates must focus on the present and the task that is at hand.
"I am really not trying to get caught up in the past," Phifer said. This is another game that is a big game. It's a good team that we have to face and that's what we are focused on, just trying to get out and get a win."
The players do know though that when the game does roll around the intensity level in Gillette Stadium will be high, filled with fans who have witnessed firsthand the history of the Belichick and Parcells story.
"It's going to be electric out there," Richard Seymour said. "The atmosphere is set. Both teams are 7-2. It's going to be a big, nationally televised game. The coaches coached with each other and players played with each other. It's going to be exciting."
Exciting maybe, but according to Belichick, one of the key players in the drama, the excitement stems from the meeting of two good teams and nothing more.
"It is all about one-week match-ups," Belichick said referencing life in the NFL and this week's game against the Cowboys. "It is not about anything more than that, or anything less than that. It is how the Patriots match up against the Cowboys, how the Cowboys match up against the Patriots. No more, no less. I know you don't want to hear that, but that is what it is about."
And so far his players have done a good job of spreading the company line on the first day of hype building toward Sunday night's made-for-TV matchup.