The New England Patriots aren’t exactly playing the disrespect card.
They’re letting Freddie Mitchell play it for them.
The Patriots were edgy Sunday about the comments made by Mitchell, a former UCLA standout and current Philadelphia Eagle receiver who last week made some mildly disparaging remarks about New England’s patchwork, no-name secondary.
“We’re all human,” linebacker Willie McGinest said. “We take a lot of stuff personal here. We don’t feel the players get the recognition they deserve as athletes, or the organizations. When we watch -- if we watch -- the media on TV and you see guys waving towels and going against you, or you hear players speaking out, kind of saying what they’re going to do to you, it motivates you.
“We’re a world-class organization. We don’t have a bunch of clowns running around disrespecting other teams or their players. We try to handle ourselves with class, and we play that way. It may be kind of hard for guys to bite our lips sometimes because we’re competitors. But we do it and do our talking on the field.”
Mitchell, starting in place of the injured Terrell Owens, essentially said he’ll be on the lookout for Rodney Harrison and “has something” for the hard-hitting Pro Bowl safety. That was enough to catch Harrison’s attention.
“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,” added Harrison, who also had a verbal showdown with the Indianapolis Colt kicker during the playoffs. “You’re always going to find one guy like that who wants some attention.”
Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb downplayed the tiff.
“They were meaningless comments,” McNabb 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. 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.”
Spotted on the freeway rumbling toward the Patriot hotel was a sport utility vehicle with New England flags fluttering from each window. Written on the back of the truck: “Hey, Eagles! Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.