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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Raiders hire Turner, deciding not to wait

HOUSTON -- Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis decided not to wait a few more days to speak with Patriots coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, feeling his interview with Dolphins offensive coordinator and former Redskins head coach Norv Turner went so well that Turner was hired as head coach yesterday.

The Patriots coordinators did not receive a second look on any of the seven head coaching vacancies throughout the league, all of which have been filled.

Crennel got five interviews with nothing to show for them except a new three-year deal with the Patriots that will pay him less than the $1 million per year that some top coordinators make, according to sources familiar with the contract.

Weis's agent, Bob LaMonte, said he wasn't surprised that his client didn't land the Oakland job or another, because teams feel they can't wait until after the Super Bowl.

"History has shown that if you're going to a lot of Super Bowls, you're not going to get a coaching job in the NFL," LaMonte said.

The NFL allows for a window of opportunity for coaches whose teams are alive in the postseason. They can interview during their bye week. But unless your team has been eliminated before the Super Bowl, you're unlikely to get hired. As one team executive said yesterday, "You've got to get your organization ready. You've got the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine. You've got to get your staff together."

Weis, who has an option year remaining on a three-year contract he signed after the 2002 Super Bowl, is expected to sit down with LaMonte next week to discuss his future.

Patriots players took the developments in stride.

"Honestly, everybody said the same thing -- that if they made it, we'd wish them the best, and if they're here, we just keep doing business as usual," said tackle Matt Light. "So nothing changes from our standpoint. It's great to have those guys. I hope they're here with us for a long time and I look forward to game planning for at least a few more years."

Receiver Troy Brown said of Weis, "He's a motivator, he gets after you. He's been under [Bill] Parcells and [Bill] Belichick, so he's ready. He's been a tight ends, running backs, and receivers coach. He's been around here a long while."

Asked about the NFL policy regarding interviews, Belichick said, "It is what it is. We didn't make [the rules]. We just abide by them. I was in a Super Bowl and wound up coaching the following year in Cleveland, so sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. It's not really for me to determine."

Rice on the menu

The Patriots practiced yesterday at Rice University. With temperatures in the high 60s, they wore helmets, shells, and shorts, using the grass field behind Rice's stadium. Strong winds prompted a few "directional adjustments in both the kicking and passing preparations," according to Belichick. "It would have been tough kicking into that wind today. We pretty much threw with the wind, too." The practice concluded at 3:20 p.m. with a few Adam Vinatieri field goals and a positional conditioning run . . . "It was good to be on the Rice campus," said Belichick. "It took me back a little ways to the Cotton Bowl team. Looking at the names up there in the stadium -- Frank Ryan, King Hill, two quarterbacks drafted from the same team in the same year. I don't know if that has happened in a while." . . . Asked if Belichick ever jokes during meetings, Brown said, "Every once in a while. Like I said, most of it is just about business. He will crack a joke about somebody's playing, but at the same time, you know he is serious about it, too. He doesn't say much that doesn't have much meaning to it."

Bruschi works at it

Belichick's update on Tedy Bruschi, whose injury has been reported -- but not confirmed -- as a strained calf muscle: "Tedy's coming along well. He was out there, did some work today. So he's coming fine." . . . With 22 players 30 or older, Belichick was asked about the balance of youth and veterans on his team. "Last year we had the oldest team in the league, and we tried to supplement some of that with younger players," he said. "I think we have put some youth onto the team. You want to try to maintain some balance. I don't think you want a team full of rookies, but you don't want everyone on your team to be 35 and over either. I understand we have more than most. Whether that will always be the case, I don't know. We felt that was the best combination this year."

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