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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Weis chooses not to make pickoff

Assistants stay, at least for now

FOXBOROUGH -- Bill Belichick won't have to worry about Charlie Weis raiding his coaching staff for Notre Dame. But we'll have to see whether new Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban has an eye on any of his former assistants.

Saban once employed wide receivers coach Brian Daboll, quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels, and linebackers coach Dean Pees at Michigan State. All are under contract beyond this season.

Only defensive backs coach Eric Mangini and tight ends/assistant offensive line coach Jeff Davidson have contracts that expire at the end of the season.

The Patriots would have to grant permission for any assistants under contract to interview elsewhere.

Weis named his staff at Notre Dame yesterday, and University of Texas assistant Mike Haywood, a former Irish player, will be his offensive coordinator and running backs coach. Rick Minter will be Notre Dame's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. He formerly was defensive coordinator with the Irish and with South Carolina (this season) and was a head coach at Cincinnati.

David Cutcliffe, the former coach at Mississippi, will join Weis as assistant head coach for offense and quarterbacks coach, and former Mississippi offensive coordinator John Latina is the offensive line coach.

Dolphins nickel backs coach Bill Lewis will be assistant head coach for defense and defensive backs coach.

Weis also has hired Wisconsin recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Rob Ianello (receivers and recruiting coordinator), Central Florida running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Brian Polian (assistant defensive backs and special teams), former South Carolina defensive line coach Jerome "Jappy" Oliver (defensive line), and ex-Dolphin Bernie Parmalee (tight ends and special teams).

Davidson, meanwhile, appears to be the front-runner to be Weis's successor in New England. Belichick spoke at length yesterday about the importance of keeping the same system intact.

Weis, who said he will leave Foxborough at the end of the week to greet the families of some of his top recruits, said he didn't raid the New England staff "out of respect to Bill Belichick."

Since accepting the Notre Dame job, Weis said, he hasn't cut back on the time he devotes to Patriots duty. Belichick said Weis has done "an outstanding job" all season and he had no issues with Weis's dedication.

Weis made it clear to Notre Dame he wanted to finish the season strongly with New England.

"When I went through the interview process, I said, `I can't take that job if I can't finish the one I have now,' " said Weis, "because I felt I owed it to the organization. I think I also felt it [in regards] to New England in general. If it cost me the job, I wasn't taking it."

Friend and foe
With Saban now in the same division, the friendship between Saban and Belichick will be different. "It definitely changes a little bit of the dynamics," said Belichick. "I think fundamentally, just as people and our friendship and our relationship, it goes back. Two Croatians in the same division, you don't see that every day. But I'm sure it will put a little different perspective on it." . . . Asked how much he'll miss the NFL, Weis said, "I think the first time it will really slap me in the face is when I am sitting in my office on a Sunday after we have just played on Saturday and all of a sudden there on DirecTV I am saying, `What was Brady thinking of?' I have been here for the last five years and the majority of my NFL coaching experience has been in New England. Both of my kids were born here. I have a lot of fond memories of being here. I think that, as I watch the Patriots, the good thing is being able to second-guess all those guys now that have been second-guessing me all that time."

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