Patriots hope to avoid distractions

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FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP) - So much for a quiet bye week.

New England Patriots players, anticipating a restful weekend watching potential playoff opponents, were hit by a key question Friday. Would offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien’s hiring as head coach at Penn State be a distraction even though he’s expected to stay with the team throughout the postseason?

No, wide receiver Julian Edelman said.

“We’re still getting ready for the playoffs so we didn’t change anything,” he said. “We’re going to get back to work here soon and enjoy a couple of days off and rest.”

Backup offensive lineman Nick McDonald agreed. It was business as usual in Foxborough on Friday, he said.

“It’s just another work day,” he said. “Come to work and do our jobs.”

O'Brien wasn’t at practice on Thursday. Instead, he went to Penn State for an interview. Asked if O'Brien was in Foxborough on Friday, Edelman said that was a question for coach Bill Belichick, who did not speak with reporters.

A few hours later, Penn State announced that O'Brien would replace Joe Paterno, who was fired on Nov. 9 after child sex abuse charges were filed against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. O'Brien will be formally announced at a news conference on Saturday in the Nittany Lion Inn ballroom on campus. It begins at 11:30 a.m.

The top-seeded Patriots had team meetings, but did not practice on Friday. Several players declined comment. Tom Brady entered and left quickly without speaking with reporters.

This is not the first time Patriots coordinators have been interviewed for head coaching jobs during the season. It happened twice during the 2004 season and that didn’t distract them from winning their third Super Bowl in four years.

On Dec. 12 of that year, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis coached in a 35-28 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Foxborough, then flew to South Bend, Ind., where he was hired as Notre Dame’s head coach that night.

During that season’s playoff bye week, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was interviewed for the Cleveland Browns head coaching job. Nine days later, his defense held the Indianapolis Colts without a touchdown in a 20-3 divisional round win.

In the AFC championship game, a 41-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Weis’ offense scored three touchdowns of more than 20 yards.

And two weeks later, the Patriots won the Super Bowl, 24-21 over the Philadelphia Eagles. Two days after that, Crennel was introduced as Cleveland’s coach.

“I think it all showed on the field,” Troy Brown, a member of that team said Friday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “Charlie and Romeo were professional about it.”

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