|Patriots' approach attracts veterans seeking championships|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 31 January 2008 21:22|
Adalius Thomas played with some of the NFL's best defenders on a fearsome unit in Baltimore.
Kyle Brady has been a journeyman tight end, more a blocker than a receiver, for more than a decade.
Randy Moss once was the most dominant receiver in the game, but had lost his way and much of his desire.
All four wound up with the Patriots, in search of their first championship. Each will have found what he was looking for with a win Sunday against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
``The journey along the way is tough. It is a long journey,'' Seau said. ``There are so many intangibles that play a part in it and we're here today.''
That all four wound up playing for Bill Belichick's team hardly is surprising. The Patriots have won three Super Bowls in the last six years. While Belichick is a humorless taskmaster, he's also a highly accomplished coach who rewards hard work and talent with, well, seasons that extend into February.
Not even trading for Moss, who was a flop in Oakland after establishing his stardom in Minnesota, should have been a surprise. Like all NFL head coaches, Belichick believes he can handle anyone, including problem cases like Moss. Unlike many of his peers, Belichick has a tremendous success rate with reclamation projects, from Rodney Harrison to Corey Dillon to Moss.
``I don't think it's something that Bill necessarily has to try to push,'' said All-Pro linebacker Mike Vrabel, who joined the Patriots in 2001 after four seasons in Pittsburgh. ``It's a proven system and a proven method that works.
``You look at science and anything that has a formula that proves to work, it's easy to follow it. With a recipe, when it tastes good, people want to follow the recipe. They don't want to change it. Guys see that it's successful, and it may not be the popular way of doing things, but it works.''
It worked for Moss.
This season, he caught 23 TD passes, breaking Jerry Rice's single-season record. There were questions whether he would play harder in New England than he ever did in Oakland; whether he was on the downside of his career; and whether Belichick would put up with any shenanigans at all from the talented but unpredictable receiver.
Not only has Moss been a sensation on the field, but he's been a leader away from it.
``One great thing for Randy is everybody gets to see his personality,'' league MVP Tom Brady said. ``He talks to the media a lot (this week) and we all have to. It's obvious he's such a fun guy to be around. He's very authentic as a person. What you see is what you get with Randy. He's incredibly gifted physically, and mentally he's as smart as anybody I've ever been around. He's a great teammate and takes a lot of pride in what he does.''
Those are words you'd expect to hear about Seau, who was talked out of retirement by Belichick and might mark his final game Sunday with a championship.
``One of the things that I came in here with was obviously a track record,'' he said. ``Knowing that they already had leaders in the locker room, I didn't want to step on any toes. Asserting my personality into this locker room took time.
``As a result along the journey, especially last year, it got to a point where I was able to kind of share in my experiences, and obviously in words of wisdom.''
Not to mention his remaining playmaking abilities, which are substantial.
So are Thomas' skills. Coming off some superb years in Baltimore, Thomas could have gone elsewhere and been the man at his position. He chose the Patriots, where he is one of many standouts.
``I just wanted to fit in,'' Thomas said. ``We have a very experienced linebacking corps and our entire defense is a very experienced group. I didn't feel any pressure to perform or anything like that, but I did just want to play to my responsibility and have people know that I was contributing to a solid group.''
So it's been all for one and one for the ages: a perfect record.
``Whatever it is that needs to be done to bring focus to the task at hand, we are willing to do, no matter what it is,'' Thomas said. ``We just channel all of our focus on our opponent.''
Unfortunately for their opponents, the Patriots have so many strengths and are so entrenched in their ways that winning has become a natural extension. That, in turn, entices players to join the Patriots when given the opportunity.
They don't just join the team, though; they embrace its philosophy.
``It's everything that the organization stands for,'' said Moss, once among the most rebellious of athletes. ``It's not just football, but out in the community, getting to know the people, getting to know the fans, the administration. I think the whole concept of being a team, and not just on the field, is really what makes guys very enthused and appreciative to wear a Patriots helmet.''