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Brown, who played both wide receiver and defensive back that season, didn’t think there was any distraction.

“I don’t think it was a big issue,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll be a big issue now. And that’s one of the benefits of having the bye week off. So I’m sure somebody on the offensive side of the ball or Belichick himself can get the things done that he needs to get done there offensively” until O'Brien returns.

“I’m sure he’s professional enough to stay focused on what he needs to be doing here in New England. It’s not a big distraction for this team.”

Two other former Belichick assistants left to become NFL head coaches. But defensive coordinator Eric Mangini went to the New York Jets after the 2006 season and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels went to the Denver Broncos after the Patriots missed the playoffs in 2008.

McDaniels, still under contract as offensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams after the firing of head coach Steve Spagnuolo, is considered a possible replacement for O'Brien.

The Patriots annual success _ this is the ninth time in 11 seasons they’ve reached the playoffs _ provides opportunities for assistants.

“That’s just kind of the way it’s going to be, especially playing in New England,” Brown said. “If those guys don’t interview for jobs, before you know it, all the jobs will be filled because they’re always in the postseason.”

That outside interest is fine with Edelman. In fact, he called O'Brien, in his fifth season with the Patriots and first as offensive coordinator, “passionate” and “charismatic.”

“You’re always happy to see a guy succeed and get opportunities,” he said. “When guys go different directions, that just gives opportunity for other people.”

For now, Edelman plans to spend the weekend resting and watching playoff games on television. The Patriots will be home on Jan. 14 against Denver, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.

“You’re watching your position group or you’re watching the opposite position group,” he said, “and just relaxing, probably eat some pizza or something.”