Super Bowl Notebook for Monday, January 28

Jan 29, 2008 - 3:17 AM By Jim Ralabate and Tom Torrisi PA SportsTicker Staff Writers

PHOENIX (Ticker) - Super Bowl XLII does not kick off for another six days. But the underdog New York Giants already are behind the New England Patriots.

The Giants arrived in the Phoenix area Monday at approximately 5:35 p.m. local time, nearly one hour behind schedule.

The Patriots touched down Sunday afternoon and held a brief practice Monday afternoon. But Giants coach Tom Coughlin opted to leave for the desert a day later than the Patriots, choosing to complete a few preliminary tasks in New Jersey rather than Arizona.

Better late than never, according to Coughlin, who claimed that the delayed flight did nothing to curb his team's excitement level.

"Excited - the stewardess on the plane mentioned that a couple times, that the guys were excited, really looking forward to it," Coughlin said. "They were trying to capture the moment, if you will, and tried to continue to do that as we arrived."

Many Giants players, first-timers to the Super Bowl, recorded the plane ride on hand-held video cameras. The flight also included a showing of the film, "Michael Clayton."

Still, most of the players admitted they were restless during the cross-country trip.

"Guys got restless because it's a five-hour flight," linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "It was a long flight. Once we landed, everybody brought out those cameras and were ready to go."

PRACTICE: The Patriots held their first practice of Super Bowl week Monday at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

Quarterback Tom Brady was a full participant in the workout after missing three practices last week with an injured right ankle.

According to a pool report submitted by Dan Pompei, the only reporter allowed to watch the practice, Brady was included in all phases of the workout. Although he was limping slightly, the reigning league MVP even jogged the length of the Arizona State practice facility twice.

"It's always nice to see Tom, whether it's in practice, in the locker room or walking the streets," Patriots linebacker Junior Seau said. "We have a lot of love for a lot of players in that locker room - and a lot of respect - so it was nice to see Tom and the rest of the boys."

Brady was not available to the media Monday, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick was tight-lipped regarding the two-time Super Bowl MVP's status, revealing only that he practiced.

"He was out there along with everybody else," Belichick said.

BIGGER, BETTER? If the Patriots win Sunday to complete a perfect season, it won't be the only record set in the Super Bowl.

This year's game features the largest media contingent in the event's 42-year history.

A record 4,786 credentials have been issued to the media for Sunday's matchup - undoubtedly helped by the inclusion of two of the country's biggest media markets.

The number surpasses the record 4,516 credentials issued last season for Super Bowl XLI in South Florida. It includes U.S. and international media and is comprised of print, television, radio and internet outlets.

"The media has a job to do and it is the connection between our football team, our fans and the people who have an interest in the game," Belichick said. "The media is the conduit of information from the team to the fans, and the fans are what drive the game."

REMATCH NO SURPRISE: Players and coaches alike for New England are not surprised to be gearing up for a rematch with the Giants.

"We felt they were as good as any team we had played and they have gone on to play even better than that in the playoffs," Belichick said. "I clearly feel now they are the best team we have played all year."

In the regular-season finale, the Giants bolted to a 28-16 lead early in the third quarter - the largest deficit faced by the Patriots this season.

Locked in as the No. 5 seed in the NFC and with nothing to play for, the Giants came out in an attacking mode. On the second play from scrimmage in the game, Eli Manning hit Plaxico Burress with a 52-yard pass to set up New York's first touchdown just 4:01 into the game.

"They started off, threw the deep ball and really set the tone for the game," Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said.

Of course, Harrison said New England had a helping hand in how well the Giants played that night.

"We actually played terrible. We have nowhere to go but up," he said.

BACK IN BLACK: An overwhelming majority of the Giants donned black-on-black suits for their arrival Monday.

Pierce, Burress and defensive end Michael Strahan were among the more noticeable members of the "all-black club."

"I think it was (Pierce's) idea," Burress said. "This is what our team is all about. It is about everybody being together all the time - not just when we are out on the football field."

"I was wearing black anyway," Strahan added. "I don't know where everybody else got theirs from. They always follow my style anyway."

PAYING TRIBUTE: The Patriots are honoring the memory of the late Marquise Hill by keeping his locker intact through this season.

Hill, a backup defensive tackle, drowned during a jet ski accident on Memorial Day weekend in New Orleans.

"Anything we receive from sponsors ... or anything that gets sent to the team, we put it into his locker like he was there," defensive tackle Ty Warren said. "Everybody always pays homage when he walks by his locker."

Hill, who played collegiately at Louisiana State, was with the Patriots for three seasons (2004-06)."

"He was a young guy, 23 of 24 years old, and he was tragically lost," Harrison said. "So for me, and I think most of my teammates, we really honor him by just looking at his locker and working every day and appreciating things in this life."

LITTLE BIG MAN: When the Patriots overhauled their receiving corps in the offseason, the draft-day trade that netted Randy Moss was by far the most ballyhooed acquisition.

Belichick also reeled in Donte' Stallworth, who was expected to provide a major impact, and Kelley Washington, who served as a backup in Cincinnati.

Generating considerably less hype was the offseason trade with the Miami Dolphins for Wes Welker, who on paper figured to serve as a punt and kick returner and reserve wide receiver.

Acquired for a second- and seventh-round draft picks, Welker has turned out to be among the steals of the season.

The 5-9, 185-pounder tied for the NFL lead with 112 receptions and also ranked fifth in the league, averaging 10.0 on punt returns.

"In playing against us, he killed us every time we played them," said Belichick of Welker. "The only way we could handle him was double cover him. In fact, in one game he even kicked off and kicked field goals against us and killed us there too.

"I think that speaks to Wes' competitiveness, his versatility and his total skill set."

WEATHER: Partly cloudy with temperatures in the upper 50s.






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