FOXBOROUGH -- At noon today, the Patriots will leave Gillette Stadium for the circus, also known as the Super Bowl. (Fans who wish to attend should enter the P1 gate off Route 1 and park in the Mustang Lot outside the Fleet Plaza in the north end zone.) If the Patriots want to return victorious from the game's 38th edition, they're going to have to limit how much fun they have in Houston.
Nearly half the Patriots (26) have played in at least one Super Bowl, as opposed to eight Panthers. They know all about the media and the parties. So it's up to them to remind those new to the experience of the reason for the trip, and to make certain that coach Bill Belichick's tongue-in-cheek directive not to get arrested doesn't fall on deaf ears. And the Super Bowl veterans must practice what they preach, as well.
For a week, the Patriots have been protected by the confines of Gillette Stadium. It will be a different story where they're going.
"It's crazy," said Roman Phifer, who played in the Super Bowl with the Patriots two years ago. "It can be a distraction if you let it. We're definitely down there to focus on Carolina and win the game. But for guys that it's their first time, you definitely have to talk to them and keep them focused, because we've been down there before and we know how crazy it can get."
Rodney Harrison was a Chargers rookie in 1995 when San Diego lost big to San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIX. His advice: "Don't buy into the media hype, because that's all it is, is media hype. There's a lot of parties and events going on, but you have to remember that you're there on business. There's no worse feeling than to go to the Super Bowl and lose."
It is important, however, to enjoy one's self, just not too much. Ted Johnson, about to play in his third Super Bowl, has told his less-experienced teammates to, "Just have balance in their experience. Make sure you enjoy it, but also it's a lot more memorable if you win the game. We're there to work and there's other weeks to go play. This isn't one of them. Don't let the moment pass you by. Let it kind of wash over you."
That will be no problem for Christian Fauria, playing in the Super Bowl for the first time in his nine-year career. "I want it to go slow," he said. "I want to enjoy it. I want to take it all in. I want to walk slowly and just take in the whole scene. Because it's hard enough getting here. I always said I want to remember everything. I'll probably bring a camera everywhere I go."
Patriots defensive backs coach Eric Mangini, like coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis, may find himself a victim of New England's success.
The New York Daily News, Newsday, and the Newark Star-Ledger reported yesterday that New York Jets coach Herman Edwards was planning to hire Ravens secondary coach Donnie Henderson as his defensive coordinator. The Ledger, citing an unnamed league official, said the move could happen as soon as tomorrow. The other publications said Edwards was "leaning toward" Henderson. Edwards is said to be high on Mangini and interested in interviewing him for the position after the Super Bowl -- if he decides to wait that long.
Edwards said Friday he was in no hurry. If he is in fact waiting to speak with Mangini, an already-exhaustive search could extend to two weeks after the Super Bowl (per league rule) should the Patriots deny Edwards immediate permission to speak with Mangini, who is the final year of his contract.
If Mangini, 33, does not end up in New York, he is said to be content as a position coach under Belichick and Crennel.
The Patriots have been designated as the "home" team for the Super Bowl and will wear their blue jerseys, which they also wore two years ago in New Orleans against the Rams. As the "visiting" team, Carolina will make the call for the opening coin toss . . . Belichick called Carolina running back DeShaun Foster's touchdown run against Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game "one of the best runs of the year. Six guys had a shot at him at the 3-yard line and he ended up getting the ball in the end zone." . . . Harrison, on what has surprised him about Belichick: "I didn't think he was as smart as he was. I mean, I knew he was smart, but he and his coaching staff are really, really well-prepared. They've helped me become more prepared and see things I hadn't really taken notice of. These guys are very intelligent. You can see why they've had success. These guys are smart and they put in the time."