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Weis Is Working Overtime

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 4, 2005; 3:41 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Charlie Weis was trying to go to sleep in his room at the New England Patriots' hotel around 10:15 p.m. Wednesday when the phone rang. Heaven knows he needed the rest, having worked two grueling jobs for nearly two months. But it was his favorite pupil, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, calling, wanting the offensive coordinator to come by and go over the game plan. Again. Just to make sure Brady had everything down.

The thing is, the same thing had happened Tuesday night, when Weis spent an hour with Brady going over the game plan, just to make sure he had everything down. But such eagerness by a player is never going to be ignored by the sport's most diligent coaching staff, even for some much-needed shut-eye. So Weis crawled out of bed and spent another nighttime hour with Brady cramming for Sunday's Super Bowl game against with the Philadelphia Eagles.

_____More NFL Insider_____
Thomason Settles Into Role With Eagles (washingtonpost.com, Feb 3, 2005)
E. Smith Retirement May Come as Cowboy (washingtonpost.com, Feb 2, 2005)
Owens Understands Risks, Says He'll Play (washingtonpost.com, Feb 1, 2005)

The episode says plenty about Brady. "It's actually getting to the point where his preparation is getting to be so good, he's getting to be a pain in the butt," Weis said with a chuckle.

But it also says plenty about Weis. He has been working practically around the clock since he was hired Dec. 11 as the head coach at Notre Dame but agreed to remain with the Patriots through the end of their season. Some wondered initially whether Weis's double duty would derail the Patriots' bid for another Super Bowl title. But here they are, one victory from joining the 1990s Dallas Cowboys as the only teams ever to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span, and Weis says that he and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who is apparently about to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, have and will do everything they can to make their Patriots farewell a fond one.

"Everyone talks about us not being here, but we're here now," Weis said Thursday. "I'm sitting right here. Tell me I'm not here when I'm sitting in Brady's room at 10:30 [Wednesday] night. Everyone else is worrying about bed check, and we're going over the game plan. They haven't lost me yet. I'm here. . . . I can promise you that within our team, nothing has been made about us not being here. And nothing will be made of it until Monday."

Weis said that when he accepted the Notre Dame job, he told his family he was going into training-camp mode, replicating the time of the year when Coach Bill Belichick's staff works days that last from 5:30 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. He was right. Since then, he hadn't slept six hours any night until this week, he said.

He had two cell phones in his pocket this week, one for his Patriots calls and one for his Notre Dame calls. He plans to take three days off after the Super Bowl and then start full-time at Notre Dame on Thursday. It's been quite a grind. But he isn't complaining. Far from it. Weis loves it, and he says he won't take the time to reflect on his pending departure from the Patriots until after the game.

"I haven't had a lot of time to think about it because it's been so hectic," Weis said. "We need to make sure with the game plan that we dot all the Is and cross all the Ts{lcub}hellip{rcub}. It'll be Monday or Tuesday when it hits me. When I walk in that office in South Bend, they'll get all the energy I've been devoting to two jobs. . . . I've got a lot of adrenaline going right now. . . . I'm just trying to get through Sunday right."

He has told his players on the New England offense that their performance Sunday will determine the outcome of the game, but adds: "I can't tell a lie: I say the same thing every week."

The toughest goodbye will be the one that Weis will have to say to Brady.

"I told him just to make sure he invites me to Canton [when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame]," Weis said. "I'll miss him because he's an even better person than he is a player. . . . The only bad thing about Tommy is that he went to Michigan. If he's rooting for Michigan when we play them, I'm going to be a little upset. . . . Sunday night, it'll be tough."

Brady On Track

Brady's parents and three sisters were scheduled to arrive Thursday night. The family is mourning the death Wednesday of the quarterback's 94-year-old grandmother, Margaret Brady, two weeks after she suffered a stroke. Patriots officials said that Brady was emotional but had made no changes to his routine for readying for the game. "Tommy's shown no signs of anything affecting his preparation," Weis said. . . .

Weis isn't suffering from a shortage of confidence as he prepares to coach his alma mater. He said Thursday of opposing college coaches: "They've had the advantage in recruiting because I came in late. Now it's Xs and Os. Let's see who has the advantage now."

He even is looking forward to recruiting, he said.

"You have to have a passion for Notre Dame," Weis said. "I have a product that I believe in. . . . It depends on your personality. Some people don't like doing it. I like doing it. But I'm going to turn some people off. If I go into a living room and see a kid not treating his parents with respect, I'm going to say some choice words and say, 'You're not for me.'" . . .

The Patriots went back to their routine Thursday, with meetings in the morning and practice in the afternoon, after flip-flopping things Wednesday to avoid practicing in the rain. . . .

One Eagles official said that Thursday's practice was among the club's best of the season. Wide receiver Terrell Owens stepped up his activity level as he readies to return from his ankle injury to play Sunday.

It's clear to just about everyone that Owens will play Sunday, as he has vowed to do, but Eagles Coach Andy Reid again refused to fully commit to that this morning during his final news conference of the week.

"He practiced harder [Thursday] than he did the day before. . . . [but] we'll see how he does today," Reid said at the convention center that serves as the Super Bowl media headquarters. "I'm going to be saying that all the way up till game day. . . . Up to this point, he's done very well."

Reid said it's "irrelevant" whether Owens starts Sunday, adding that the Eagles have a package of plays in which they'd like to use Owens if he's able to play, and Owens could start if one of those plays is on tap for Philadelphia's initial offensive snap.

Belichick tired during his news conference this morning of answering questions about how his team will defend Owens, indicating that the Patriots will adjust according to Owens's effectiveness and finally saying: "Listen, they're not going to put the guy out there in a wheelchair." . . .

The Patriots, who have had a vacant spot on their 53-man roster, plan to promote guard Billy Yates from their practice squad. But the move is almost certain to be merely ceremonial, as he's probably headed to the inactive list Sunday. . . .

The Patriots have a package of about 15 offensive plays suited to the skills of their strong-armed but unpolished backup quarterback, Rohan Davey, that they work on in practice and would use if Brady were to get hurt during a game and they'd have to put Davey in. They call the package their "Six Pack" because Davey wears No. 6. . . .

Belichick was asked Thursday how these Patriots teams eventually will be remembered. "I don't know," Belichick said. "I think it'll have a lot to do with what happens Sunday night." . . .

According to Weis, Belichick's behind-the-scenes personality -- the one that he uses to motivate his players -- is far livelier than the one he projects publicly.

"You don't know Bill," Weis said. "He'll never let you see. He's never going to be a rah-rah, 'Win one for the Gipper' type. He's got a cerebral approach. But there are some off-color comments in there. Let's leave it at that."

Friendly Rivals In Owners' Boxes

The owners of the two Super Bowl teams, the Eagles' Jeffrey Lurie and the Patriots' Robert Kraft, are close friends. Lurie is a Boston native and grew up a Patriots fan. His uncle played tennis regularly with Kraft, and he bid against Kraft before Kraft purchased the Patriots from James Orthwein in January 1994.

"We had a friendly rivalry," Kraft said this week. "But in the end, we're good friends, and we talked about it being pretty cool if the two of us could be in this game together, both being Patriot fans and growing up within five miles of one another. And it's finally happened. . . . I love him on every [NFL owners'] committee I'm on because he and I think the same way and we vote the same way. We forged a good friendship and he's a terrific guy, and I thank him for having the second-best team in the NFL."

Lurie attended the first game in Patriots history on the day after his ninth birthday, watching them lose to Denver on Sept. 9, 1960. He switched his football allegiance after he bought the Eagles from Norman Braman about three months after losing out to Kraft in his attempt to buy the Patriots. But the object of his baseball passion didn't transfer from Boston: He remains a die-hard Red Sox fan. He attended Game 7 of last year's American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, and took Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb with him to Game 2 of the World Series at Fenway Park.

"I might have converted [McNabb] into a Red Sox fan," Lurie said.

Kraft, Belichick and Patriots front-office chief Scott Pioli have navigated the salary cap and free agency better than anyone else in the NFL in recent seasons. But the Eagles' decision-making triumvirate of Lurie, club president Joe Banner and Reid isn't far behind.

"I'd like to think that they run their organization the way we do," Kraft said. "I think there are a lot of similarities in the way we do things. And the success they've had, going to four [straight NFC] championship games, that's really quite spectacular. We [he and Lurie] have had a number of conversations and shared our thoughts on a lot of issues. But in the end, you have to hire the right people who know how to execute and go get the players. In the end, this is about the players and getting people of good character who perform the way we want."

Said Lurie: "There are a lot of similar lines, similar value systems for each team. We each place a high value on the quality of people in our organizations. And it's not just high character. It's intelligence, people who like to think outside the box and people willing to make controversial and unpopular decisions. We both understand that decisions need to be made that sustain the long-term excellence of the franchise."

Smith Denies He's Joining Fowler's Bid

During the news conference Thursday in which he announced his retirement as a player, career rushing leader Emmitt Smith said he's interested in investing in an NFL team but denied a report that he's joining the group headed by Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler that's attempting to purchase the Minnesota Vikings from Red McCombs. . . .

McNabb will become only the third African-American quarterback to start a Super Bowl, following Doug Williams and Steve McNair. Only Williams has won, and McNabb says his experience this week has given him a deeper appreciation of what Williams accomplished.

"I can't imagine the questions he received," McNabb said this week " . . . Obviously things have calmed down, and it's not as big an issue as it was then." . . .

The Eagles have decided to start Keith Adams ahead of Mark Simoneau at one outside linebacker spot. Simoneau is available to play Sunday after missing both of the Eagles' wins in the NFC playoffs because of an ankle injury suffered in the regular-season finale. But the coaches opted to stick with Adams, who played well during the playoffs as the fill-in starter. . . .

Atlanta Falcons tailback Warrick Dunn was named the winner of the Walter Payton NFL man of the year award this morning, signifying accomplishments on and off the field.

Childress's Revenge?

Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress interviewed for the Browns' head-coaching job but apparently will be passed over in favor of Crennel. He gets a chance to exact his revenge Sunday by matching wits with the Patriots' defensive boss, but he said this week that's not his focus.

"You don't feel like you're attacking Bill Belichick or Romeo Crennel," Childress said. "You feel like you're attacking their scheme. We're more into the Xs and Os. It's about the players out there, not the coaches."

Childress said he was able to turn his focus immediately back to the Eagles and the postseason after his interview with the Browns on Jan. 4. "You have to switch gears immediately," he said.

He has managed to get himself into the loop of coaches who are regarded league-wide as head-coaching candidates, and those in the Eagles organization believe that Childress's time will come soon on that front. Childress said he's content this week with appreciating the opportunity to coach on the Super Bowl stage.

"There are a lot of guys who work hard," Childress said. "It's nice to be able to reach the pinnacle."

Childress said he is an admirer of what Belichick and Crennel do. The Patriots' ability to disguise their defensive coverages effectively, making an offense think they're doing one thing and then actually doing another by shifting just before the snap, will put the burden Sunday on McNabb to quickly decipher what's happening and react accordingly.

The Patriots have become slightly less aggressive in the secondary, Childress said, since losing starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole to injuries. New England plays man-to-man coverages less frequently, opting for more zones. But the Patriots have continued to be effective, and Childress said he still expects to see plenty of wrinkles, particularly after Belichick and Crennel had two weeks to prepare for this game.

"Their personality as a defense has changed through their injuries . . . [but] they have a system they play to," Childress said. "If someone gets hurt, they have an expectation that the next guy will step in and be a very adequate replacement. Everyone gets paid."

The Eagles perhaps will see the same defensive approach by the Patriots that Belichick and Crennel utilized against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC playoffs, when they regularly dropped eight defenders into pass coverage and sent only three rushers after quarterback Peyton Manning.

"They don't have any problem rushing three and dropping eight," Childress said, "even on first down. . . . In a two-week game plan, you can expect anything." . . .

Childress once was Reid's boss in the college coaching ranks. In 1986, Childress was the offensive coordinator at Northern Arizona, and hired Reid from San Francisco State to be his offensive line coach.

"I don't know if you could ever have a crystal ball and say, 'He's going to be a head coach in the NFL,' " Childress said. "But he was obviously a very good coach." . . .

The Browns reportedly are poised to hire Maurice Carthon as offensive coordinator under Crennel. Carthon was Dallas's offensive coordinator and running backs coach this season. There had been speculation that Terry Robiskie, Cleveland's offensive coordinator this season under Butch Davis who served as the club's interim coach following Davis's exit, could be Crennel's offensive coordinator. He perhaps still could stay with the team as the wide receivers coach. . . .

USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow is scheduled to interview today for the Tennessee Titans' offensive-coordinator job left vacant by Mike Heimerdinger's departure for the New York Jets. Titans Coach Jeff Fisher is a USC alum, and Chow's work in overseeing an offense that has helped the Trojans to the last two collegiate national championships has become increasingly intriguing to NFL people. . . .

NFL Players Association chief Gene Upshaw said he spoke recently to Maurice Clarett, the former Ohio State tailback whose unsuccessful attempt to change the league's draft-eligibility rules last year through litigation was not supported by the union. Clarett is eligible for this year's draft after sitting out the last two seasons, and Upshaw said Thursday: "I tried to get him in the right frame of mind for where he needs to be." . . .

Next season's tentative salary cap of $85.5 million per team, up from $80.6 million this season, is about what executives around the league had been expecting. . . .

There was a surprise in the franchise-player figures announced Thursday by the union. If a team wants to use its franchise tag on a cornerback this offseason, it would have to pay him $8.816 million next season. That's the highest figure of any position. Quarterback is second at $8.078 million.

Hall Of Fame Vote Saturday

Voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame takes place here Saturday morning. The media members who serve as electors are scheduled to meet and select three to six inductees from a list of 15 finalists. Quarterbacks Dan Marino and Steve Young appear to be virtually certain choices.

Former New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson informed Hall of Fame officials that he wanted to be removed from consideration because of his displeasure with the selection process, but he remains among the finalists because the institution's bylaws have no provisions for a candidate to withdraw. The group of finalists also includes former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin and two former Washington Redskins teammates, wideout Art Monk and guard Russ Grimm. Enshrinement ceremonies are scheduled for Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio{hellip}.

Seattle hired Mike Reinfeldt, a former senior vice president for the Seahawks, as a front-office consultant. The club needed some at-least-temporary help in its front office after the dismissal of team president Bob Whitsitt and the departure of vice president of football operations Ted Thompson to become the general manager in Green Bay. Reinfeldt appears to be among the candidates under consideration to replace Whitsitt.

Tagliabue Has Global View

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said during his annual state-of-the-sport news conference today that it's possible the league will continue its push to expand its global appeal by playing a regular-season game outside the U.S. in the next year or two. Tagliabue said he also is entering into discussions with the Chinese government about possibly playing a preseason game there before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Tagliabue made those comments in response to a question by a Canadian reporter who asked whether there would be an NFL franchise north of the border in "our lifetime." Tagliabue said, "It depends on how long you expect to live," then added it was possible.

On other subjects, Tagliabue said:

*The league and the union are far from completing an extension of their labor agreement because the revenue-sharing issue that they're trying to resolve remains highly divisive.

The union and many team owners want to revamp the system so that high-revenue franchises share a greater portion of their locally generated revenues with low-revenue clubs. Upshaw said Thursday that the negotiations are difficult but he remains hopeful of eventually reaching a compromise to complete a deal that would extend the collective bargaining agreement through the 2011 season and maintain the sport's longstanding labor peace.

Tagliabue said today: "I don't know whether I'm optimistic or pessimistic because I think we have a long way to go."

*The much-criticized choice to put the Super Bowl in small-market Jacksonville is "already a success."

He said the criticism is inconsistent because the league often is assailed for the lavishness of its Super Bowl-related festivities, and added: "Some of us become a little too highfalutin. The fans are having a great time here."

*The league will continue its negotiations with the Walt Disney-owned ESPN and ABC networks about extending their deals for the Sunday night and Monday night television packages.

The current contracts run through the 2005 season. "We have a disagreement about what the rights fees should be," Tagliabue said.

The league already has extended its TV deals with Fox and CBS for the Sunday afternoon packages.

*That he believes the emphasis on having game officials strictly enforce the rule prohibiting defensive backs from impeding receivers more than five yards downfield enhanced the game this season without being overly intrusive.

*The league must work to build its pool of qualified minority candidates for team executive positions before considering extending the so-called "Rooney Rule" -- which requires each club with a head-coaching vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate -- to apply to front-office positions.

*The league is making progress in its efforts to place a franchise in the vacant Los Angeles market. "It is a top priority and has been for some time," Tagliabue said.

© 2005 washingtonpost.com