- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Terrell Owens practiced. Freddie Mitchell’s mouth was kept under wraps. And the war of words between the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles took a hiatus, at least until today’s Media Day.

Yesterday was the mild prelude to that annual free-for-all. It was business as usual for the Patriots, who have only 12 players who haven’t appeared in a Super Bowl, while the Eagles, with only five Super Bowl veterans, are still working through those “pinch me, I’m really here” feelings.

“That really hit us when we were on the plane to head down here,” Eagles defensive tackle Corey Simon said. “Everyone was getting really giddy, and everybody had their cameras.”

Still, the Eagles aren’t uptight about their first Super Bowl in 24 years.

“Just because we have camcorders doesn’t mean that we’re caught up in it,” quarterback Donovan McNabb said, a tad defensively. “This [videotape] is something we can show our grandkids. When you’ve been to a couple of Super Bowls, obviously it’s kind of a thing that you are used to.”

For the Patriots, preparing for their third Super Bowl in four years, this is nothing new.

“You still try to keep yourself calm a little bit and do your mental preparation because … you don’t want to get yourself worked up before you get into Media Day,” said linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who has been through this routine four times in nine seasons with the Patriots.

Even a newcomer like running back Corey Dillon, who never played on a winning team in his seven years in Cincinnati, has bought into coach Bill Belichick’s no-nonsense mentality.

“It’s exciting, but I’m going to treat it like a regular-season game and remain focused,” Dillon said.

Belichick is so focused on the Eagles that his team’s past success is not even on his radar screen.

“We’re not defending anything,” said Belichick, whose team could become just the second in the 11-year salary cap era to repeat. “We started the season with the same record that everybody else did. We were trying to get to the same point that everybody else was. That flag would fly over our stadium as champions last year if we had gone 0-16 this year. It’s not about last year. This is about what we do this year.”

The Patriots will find that easier if they have Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour, who missed the last three games with a knee injury and only took light work yesterday. That left Belichick noncommittal about his status for Sunday.

And it goes without saying that the underdog Eagles will be better if they can get Owens, their most dangerous weapon, back from a four-game absence following surgery to repair a broken fibula. Owens took some drills yesterday for the first time in 43 days.

“Terrell looked good with the work he did,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “We took it nice and slow, and we’ll see how he is tomorrow. The plan is to keep increasing [his workload] every day.”

As for Mitchell, who has been filling in for Owens and who caused a fuss last week when he said he didn’t even know the names of New England’s young defensive backs, don’t expect further bulletin board material from him today. Mitchell was not one of the six players Reid chose to make available yesterday.

“We have communicated,” Reid said tersely.

Patriots receiver David Givens veered only so far from Belichick-speak to allow that his team has some added confidence thanks to its extensive Super Bowl experience.

“There is some confidence,” Givens said. “We’ve been through the media hype and know how to deal with it.”

The Eagles are about to face that hype for the first time today, but they don’t feel like the underdogs.

“We’re playing a heck of a team that obviously has been here, [but] I don’t feel like we’re at a disadvantage,” Reid said.

“We’re not just happy to be here,” center Hank Fraley said. “We’re here to win the game.”

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