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Patriots won't fan any flames

Jackson remarks are brushed off

FOXBOROUGH -- Is an NFL team ever "normal"? Probably not. There are always issues, and the Patriots will continue to have their share. The current one isn't about cutting a star player at the last minute or coming out on opening day against the Buffalo Bills in a daze. One win over Philadelphia has cured some of that, and whether or not ESPN's Tom Jackson is correct in his assessment that the Patriots players "hate the coach," it was clear Sunday that they haven't quit on him. And that is far more significant than any interpersonal problems between the coach and his players.

In the days to come, the Patriots will have to deal with injury issues. Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin is the largest concern right now. He has a left hip injury, the severity of which the team was keeping under wraps. Another linebacker, Ted Johnson, is already out for at least half the season with a broken foot.

The team's depth was evident, however, with Willie McGinest drawing rave reviews from Belichick for his play in place of Colvin, and Roman Phifer, who played well at inside linebacker, though he too was limping a tad yesterday.

"I just think it's important as a team that we just don't get too high when we win or too low when we lose," said defensive cocaptain Richard Seymour. "If we avoid that, we'll be fine."

Certainly nothing could have been worse than Week 1, and Jackson's comments, made during ESPN's preview show Sunday, seemed to be based in large part on that. Yesterday, even the usually unflappable Belichick appeared upset by the comments.

"I really wouldn't dignify those comments with any type of response," Belichick said.

Belichick coached Jackson as an assistant with the Denver Broncos and said he had spoken to the former linebacker recently. But when asked again how surprised he was at the comments, Belichick replied, "I am not going to dignify the comments with any type of response."

The players' reactions were predictable, as they do not want to create another firestorm.

Rodney Harrison, for instance, said, "That's stupid. How could they hate the coach that brought them to the Super Bowl? The team doesn't hate Belichick. The team is just what I said, a team.

"Everybody wants to panic after the first week and make a big deal out of it and act like we're on a 10-game or a five-game losing streak. It's one game. It's just like we came back and won one game in Philly. It's one game. We still have 14 games left."

Seymour said, "It's just one outside opinion and one outside source. He picked Philly to win the game and that didn't happen. Everybody has their own opinion, but it's important that as a team we're focusing on our job at hand."

Compared with the Lawyer Milloy fallout, this latest "controversy" was a mere blip on the radar screen.

One player said, "We won a game. We're back even. We've got our heads on straight again, so comments like that aren't going to disrupt us. Who in here would give that issue a second thought? It's only talked about because reporters ask about it.

"It's not distracting. It's just somebody's opinion. If we ever let something like that distract us, we wouldn't be a very strong team, would we?

"The Milloy situation was different. He had a lot of friends in here and a lot of people he went to football battle with.

"How many players like their coach? What's important is the guy gets you ready to play every Sunday. That's what players look for."

The bottom line is that the Patriots are moving in a positive direction as they prepare for a divisional game against the Jets. The strong emotions after losing Milloy -- and losing the opener, 31-0 -- have calmed. When the Patriots face the Jets, it will come down to performance on the field, injuries, and all the "normal" things.

It's been one bad game, one good one -- too early, said Belichick, to spot trends.

"That is kind of like the story about the guy who has one foot in a bucket of boiling water and the other foot in a bucket of ice water and you feel like he should be perfectly comfortable, you know?" he said. "I think each week is its own entity."

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