Champs Demand Respect

Times Staff Writer

Everyone around them is talking dynasty and where New England fits in the pantheon of great NFL teams, but the Patriots are clinging to the notion that they don't get their just due.

The buzzword Tuesday during their portion of the media session was "disrespect."

"Everyone wants to be respected," said Coach Bill Belichick, whose team has reached its third Super Bowl in four seasons. "It's kind of human nature. When you feel like it's not there, maybe that's not something that you'd take kindly to. I can imagine that if somebody didn't respect you, that you wouldn't have a real high regard for them. If they did, maybe you'd feel differently. It's kind of a human quality that you can't really put a price tag on, but it's there."

Aside from some fairly innocuous comments by receiver Freddie Mitchell, though, the Eagles have been extremely careful to be respectful of the Patriots, to the point of being bland.

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The Patriots insist they only look forward, never back.

No wonder.

After all, if they looked back too far they'd find a couple of unsettling tidbits. First of all, when Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb was a senior at Syracuse, he led his team to a 38-28 victory over Tom Brady-led Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Three years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1996, McNabb led his team to a 41-0 victory over Clemson in the Gator Bowl at Alltel Stadium, site of Sunday's Super Bowl. McNabb threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns.

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Patriot linebacker Tedy Bruschi was added to the Pro Bowl roster for the first time, replacing injured Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis. Bruschi is the fifth Patriot player on the AFC roster, joining Brady, Larry Izzo, Richard Seymour and Adam Vinatieri for the Feb. 13 game in Hawaii.

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The New Orleans Saints aren't coming to the Super Bowl, but owner Tom Benson is. For the last two days, his 122-foot yacht has been docked outside the media hotel.

Benson's luxury vessel has been at the center of a debate in Louisiana over the use of public money to fund a private enterprise. The New Orleans Times-Picayune recently discovered Benson was writing checks from his company, Benson Football, to pay the hefty docking fees for his boat. Meanwhile, the state is making payments to Benson Football to keep the Saints in New Orleans.

The yacht is called the "Lady Gayle Marie," after Benson's bride, the former Gayle Marie LaJaunie Bird. His former wife, Grace Marie Trudeau Benson, died 14 months ago.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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