JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Jan. 30 -- The New England Patriots generally pride themselves in not talking trash the week before a big game, but not long after the team touched down here to begin final preparations for Super Bowl XXXIX, several players said they were not happy with comments made earlier in the week by Philadelphia wide receiver Freddie Mitchell.
In interviews during the week, Mitchell, who replaced the injured Terrell Owens as the team's go-to receiver at the end of the season, referred to several Patriots defensive backs by their numbers instead of their names, indicated he didn't think New England's secondary was all that good and said he had something special planned for Sunday at Alltel Stadium.
"When he says something like that," linebacker Willie McGinest said of Mitchell, "he's disrespecting our whole defense. Not only Rodney [Harrison], but me and Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel and all the rest of us."
"Maybe he was drinking before he started talking," Harrison said, "because that was clearly a mistake. No one in this league would attack somebody a week before the Super Bowl. I'm not really surprised because you're always going to find one jerk out of the bunch, just like [Mike] Vanderjagt [the Indianapolis kicker who made controversial comments during the playoffs]. You're always going to find one guy like that who wants some attention and wants to do something to try and stir up the emotions of the game. I don't need any extra motivation; I need something to calm me down."
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb tried to play down Mitchell's comments.
"They were meaningless," he said. "Freddie didn't mean anything by them. It's sad that people have to blow them up to make them into a story. Freddie apologized to the team. If someone needs those comments to get up for a game like this, they don't need to be here.
"This is the Super Bowl, this is the ultimate."
Pro Bowl for Westbrook
Philadelphia running back Brian Westbrook, a Washington native who grew up and still lives in Fort Washington and is a former DeMatha football and basketball standout, was named to the NFC squad for the Pro Bowl on Sunday, replacing injured Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander.
Westbrook learned about his selection to the team before the Eagles took off for Jacksonville, and he said it made the trip south for his first Super Bowl even that much more enjoyable. His selection also may have saved McNabb some money.
McNabb said he had already planned to fly Westbrook to Hawaii to attend the game and was going to pay for his room and board as well because he thought he deserved to have made the NFC squad in the first place.
"This is going to definitely save me a few dollars," McNabb said.
Crennel Is Leading Man
Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is still expected to be named the Cleveland Browns' coach as soon as the Patriots' season ends. Crennel interviewed for the job two weeks ago with owner Randy Lerner and new general manager Phil Savage, and is considered the leading candidate, even if the Patriots were to lose to the Eagles.
Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress also interviewed for the vacancy, as did former Redskins offensive guard Russ Grimm and Terry Robiskie, who finished the 2004 season as the Browns' interim head coach after Butch Davis stepped down.
Robiskie also served as the Redskins' interim head coach at the end of the 2000 season.
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick was asked about Crennel being named as soon as Sunday night and said all he was concerned about was that Crennel stay focused on the Super Bowl game.