Multimedia: Patriots Super Stories Part 4: Super Bowl XXXVI
This is the fourth edition in a six-part series by sports columnist Jim Donaldson. Jim, who has covered each of the Patriots' five Super Bowl appearances to date for The Journal (he'll make it six next weekend) looks back in these audio slideshows at each of the games, and his thoughts are accompanied by pictures from Bob Breidenbach, who has photographed each of the games. Today's presentation focuses on Super Bowl XXXVI, when the Patriots became world champions for the first time, thanks to a stunning upset of the St. Louis Rams.
Mike Vrabel was asked about Bill Belichick's now-iconic grey hooded sweatshirt today, and offered...
"That is his little 'woobie.' That's his little security blanket. He has got that pouch and he keeps all his stuff in it. You would like to see what's inside that pouch, I bet."
We googled 'woobie' and found a website dedicated to Golden Retrievers that defines it as: "a beloved object, often carried in the mouth for extended periods of time; constant companion, sometimes revered and sometimes abused."
Given that Belichick is so frequently sporting the grey hoodie, its sleeves cut to his elbows, the definition seems to fit.
For the record, the coach was wearing a blue pullover Pats' shirt, jeans and sandals today.
Journal photo / Bob Breidenbach
Brown graduate Zak DeOssie, right, and Giants teammate Reggie Torbor.
Journal photo / Bob Breidenbach
Journal photo / Bob Breidenbach
A mysterious "reporter" who offered predictions.
Journal photo / Bob Breidenbach
Adalius Thomas, left, and Pierre Woods with BET's Toccaia. She asked if they had a prediction for the game, and they answered in unison, "Someone's gonna win and someone's gonna lose."
Journal photo / Bob Breidenbach
Jason Rader, left, and Kyle Bissinger with former Miss USA-Rhode Island Claudia Jordan, who was working the event for ET.
AP photo / The Arizona Republic / Rob Schumacher
Madison Hedgecock of the Giants sports red high-heeled shoes as he poses with former American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler.
AP photo / Stephan Savoia
Bam Childress with reporter Marisol Gonzalez.
AP photo / Stephan Savoia
Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
Tedy Bruschi, while not an Arizona native, is a legend in the state thanks to his exploits while playing for the Wildcats' football team. The All-American tied the NCAA record for sacks, with 52, and was a two-time finalist for the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's best collegiate lineman.
But when he sat down at his podium today at Media Day, in his return to the state where he enjoyed so much success, Bruschi was greeted by a nameplate which said:
A few days ago, the Giants' wideout stirred the pot when he said New York's wide receiver contingent was better than that of the Patriots'.
But now he's stepped into Anthony Smith territory by predicting that New York will beat New England by a score of 23-17 in Super Bowl XLII on Sunday.
Today he said he came up with that score because his high school basketball number was 23; he wears 17 currently with the Giants. He also stood by his word.
"Are predictions guarantees?," he said. "We want to win this game. As far as professional sports and playing in this game, it's OK to want to win, think big and dream. We're going to take this thing back to New York City."
Burress, who did not practice for much of the season due to an ankle injury, also said he'd like to see the G-Men be even bigger underdogs than they already are: "why not make it 21 or 28?," he wondered. (New York is currently 12-point underdogs.)
"We are a confident bunch. Why not be? We were a 10-6 regular-season team and now we're in the Super Bowl. We got here the hard way," he said. "We had three road (playoff) games. We played against the No. 1 defense in Tampa Bay. We played against the Dallas Cowboys, who had their whole offense and defense make the Pro Bowl. Then we played the Green Bay Packers. Look at us."
Burress' teammate Osi Umenyiora, who has had a few things to say about the Pats himself in recent weeks, basically supported his claim.
"He's a confident guy. If that's what he says, hopefully we will go out there and prove him right, but I'm not going to make any predictions or guarantees."
For their part, the Patriots weren't really biting on Burress' words.
"I didn't hear that. Good for him," Asante Samuel said.
"I always feel like talk is cheap," Richard Seymour said. "Someone can get out here and talk about it all day. But Sunday, I think the team that plays the best is going to be the champion. You can't talk about winning the game, you have to go out and execute and get it done when it's time to get it done.
"Talk is cheap. You need to put some actions behind that."
Donte Stallworth was so upset when he heard that Randy Moss said that Moss, not Stallworth, was the fastest wide receiver that the Patriots have, that he interrupted Moss’s Media Day session to see if Moss would say it again.
“Who is the fastest receiver on the team,” Stallworth yelled out.
“I say the quickest receiver on the Patriots team is Randy Moss,” Moss said.
“Whose the strongest receiver,” Stallworth asked.
“The strongest receiver on our team is Bam Childress or Randy Moss,” Moss said. “Next question. Get out of here Stallworth.”
Throughout his entire career, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been perceived by many NFL experts as a bust.
He grew up in the long shadows of his father Archie and his older brother Peyton and he hasn’t lived up to many of the expectations that were put on him after he refused to play for San Diego, who drafted him with the first pick in the 2004 Draft, and was then traded to New York for Philip Rivers (the fourth pick), a 2004 third-round pick, and a 2005 first and fifth round selection.
Manning was winless in the playoffs prior to this season. But he has been nearly flawless this postseason.
After throwing 20 interceptions in the regular season, Manning has yet to throw a pick in the postseason and he has completed 62.4 percent of his passes along with four TDs and 599 yards for a 99.1 quarterback rating.
The Patriots certainly respect his turnaround.
“He’s playing very well,” Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel said. “Starting from the last game we played them, he’s just been outstanding. We’ve got to go out there and rattle him a little bit so he can’t be at the best that he’s at right now.”
“He is playing great,” Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel said. “…This is a young guy that still has a lot to prove. He has been playing under the shadows of his brother for a lot of years, and now it is his time and we are going to have to play well.”
“I think he’s a guy that doesn’t get rattled easily,” Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. “He’s an elite player. He’s shown that he can lead his football team…From a mental standpoint, I think he’s on the right page. I think he has the right mentality to play in the league, especially at that position.
When the Patriots played the Giants in the final game of the regular season, Manning torched New England’s secondary for 251 yards and four touchdowns. He only threw 10 incompletions (22-for-32, 68.8 percent) in that game.
"Eli Manning is a guy that if given the opportunity, he can put points on the board," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said.
Maybe it’s for future Hall of Famers like Randy Moss and Junior Seau who have never won a Super Bowl.
Whatever the case, the Patriots are going for their fourth Super Bowl title in the last seven years and many of them are just as excited to play in this one as they were in all of the other ones.
“It doesn’t get old,” Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said. “Every time we come it is almost like our post-game party; we plan it like we might not be here ever again. It is very special. Actually each trip is sort of like a different child. Those of us who are blessed to have more than one child know that each child is special and unique. This trip is pretty special coming here 18-0 and doing something that we wouldn’t have believed would be possible in today’s modern age. It is pretty special.”
“It’s fun to be back,” Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel said. “It’s fun to enjoy this and the excitement around this and we can’t lose the sight of football on Sunday.”
“You cherish the moments and enjoy the festivities because this is one of the biggest events in the world,” Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel said.
“I just think that there’s a lot of excitement around this game,” Vrabel said. “They wouldn’t call it `Super’ if it wasn’t the best.”
GLENDALE -- Stephen Neal, the Patriots' starting right guard, was sporting a flowing moustache that extended down to his chin at Media Day.
"I'm trying to do something to take attention away from my belly," he joked.
"I'd rather have people look at this (pointing to his moustache), instead of this (pointing to his bulging waistline.)
Neal, who did not play college football -- he was a standout wrestler at Cal State-Bakersfield -- is 6-foot-4 and weighs 305 pounds.
Bothered by a shoulder injury, he started just eight regular season games, but has returned to the lineup in the postseason, helping to clear the way for Laurence Maroney to rush for 122 yards against both the Jaguars and Chargers.
Not surprisingly, the first question Tom Brady heard at today's Media Day was about his sprained right ankle, which he practiced on yesterday.
"My ankle feels good. My ankle feels great," he said. "I practiced a full day yesterday. I think we had one incompletion in practice. It feels great."
The NFL MVP said the bye week definitely helped.
"I'm glad we had the week off and I had the chance to rest a little bit. I really feel that by the game it's going to feel great, and there will be no issues. Not that I can run anyway, but hopefully I'll be able to skirt around some of those guys who are trying to tear my head off."
Randy Moss said he isn't worried about having his quarterback out there come Sunday afternoon.
"Me, personally, no," Moss said. "Tom is a warrior. I don't think that a high ankle sprain can keep him out of the game. Hopefully he's ready and I look forward to seeing him out there on Sunday."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Former Patriots tight end Don Hasselbeck says his son, Tim, is surprised more free agents don't sign with the Arizona Cardinals.
"He said to me: 'You think anyone else in the league knows you can play golf every day after practice?' "
The younger brother of Seattle Seahawks starting QB Matt Hasselbeck, Tim has bounced around the NFL as a backup since graduating from Boston College.
He started five games for the Redskins in 2003, coming off the bench after Patrick Ramsey was injured. He had the best game of his undistinguished career in a 20-7 victory over the Giants, when he completed 13 of 19 passes for two touchdowns, without an interception. The following week, however, he had a quarterback rating of 0.0 in a 27-0 loss to the Cowboys in which he completed just 6 of 26 passes, for only 57 yards, and threw four interceptions. He hasn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since that season.
Tim spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons with the Giants, as the backup to Eli Manning. Released by the Giants prior to the start of this season, he signed with the Cardinals in October after Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner were injured.
He is married to the former Elisabeth Filarski of Cranston. They met at Boston College. After appearing as a contestant on Survivor, she has become a television star, and now is co-host of The View.
Tim's mother, Betsy, also may be seen on TV, appearing in a commercial for Campbell's Soup. She's doing some promotional work for Campbell's this week in Phoenix.
Matt Hasselbeck played in the Super Bowl two years ago, when the Seahawks lost to the Steelers.
Don, who was a tight end for the Patriots from 1977-83, has long been an executive with Reebok.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Tedy Bruschi has three Super Bowl Championship rings, plus an AFC championship ring from his rookie year in 1996, when the Patriots lost to the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. He says he wears them a lot more in the offseason than he does during the season.
''That's when I make more personal appearances,'' he said. ''When I go to things like that, people always ask me: 'Where's the ring?'
''I like to show them. Sometimes, I'll let a little kid hold it.
''But,'' Bruschi added with a smile, ''I don't let them go very far away with it.''
As Pats look forward to the game, Pioli looks forward to next year
BY JIM DONALDSON
Journal Sports Writer
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- While Bill Belichick, his coaching staff, and the Patriots players are totally focused on winning Super Bowl XLII, Scott Pioli and his people are planning on how best to position the Pats for Super Bowl XLIII.
''The reason I was late coming down here,'' Pioli said Tuesday morning while seated in the stands at the University of Phoenix Stadium during the Patriots' portion of Media Day, ''is that I spent Sunday with the college scouts, preparing for the draft, and then spent Monday with the pro scouts, preparing for free agency.''
As New England's V.P. for Player Personnel, Pioli combines with Belichick to give the Patriots a 1-2 front office punch that's second to none.
''This is wonderful,'' said Pioli, looking at the wild and wacky scene along the sidelines at the site of Sunday's game. ''But we're six weeks behind now. On the flight home, I guarantee you we're going to spend some time talking about our plans for the draft and free agency.''
Journal photos / Bob Breidenbach
NIne-year-old Brock Domann of Colorado Springs, Colo., working for Scholastic News, interviews Patriots punter Chris Hanson.
Laurence Maroney shares a laugh with a teammate.
Tom Brady answers a question from 10-year-old Jason Krause, of Chicago, who was at the event for ESPN.
Brady says hello to former player and current analyst Deion Sanders.
Tedy Bruschi answers a question.
AP photo / Arizona Republic / Michael Chow
Ines Gomez Mont, a reporter from TV Azteca in Mexico, wears a wedding dress as she is carried by center Lonie Paxton while interviewing him during media day for the Super Bowl XLII football game Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008, in Glendale, Ariz, Gomez Mont was in a wedding dress to ask Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to marry her.
We're here at the amazing University of Phoenix Stadium and have just wrapped the Patriots' portion of the circus known as Super Bowl media day.
Any kind of character you can imagine is here, and most of them were in front of Tom Brady's booth. A woman in some sort of R-rated wedding getup asked Brady to marry her; former American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler was doing interviews for The Tonight Show; one guy had a hand puppet to talk to players and there was some dude in a gold turban.
With media from all over the world and every type of outlet, every player gets a microphone stuck under his nose at some point, even though some would rather not say much.
The Giants' session starts at noon local time (2pm EST).