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Harrison fires back

Page 2 of 2 -- Mitchell's response to the Patriots' reaction?

"I was joking. I don't care. It'll all be solved on Sunday," he said.

A first-round pick in 2001, Mitchell hasn't lived up to his potential in four seasons with the Eagles. He had five catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns, including one on a fumble recovery, in Philadelphia's second-round playoff win against Minnesota. But he caught just two passes for 20 yards in the NFC Championship game against Atlanta.

Mitchell and the rest of the Eagles' receivers clearly are tired of hearing about Owens, who had surgery to repair torn ankle ligaments on Dec. 22. and is trying to return for the Super Bowl despite his doctor's orders.

"We got there without T.O.," Mitchell said. "He's going to be a great addition if he comes, but we're going to stick with our guns. When he comes back, he'll be a huge help for us because he's one of the best receivers in the game. Until then, let's talk about Greg Lewis, Todd Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell, the receivers who are here and won the NFC championship."

Mitchell later grabbed a reporter's microphone and bombarded Lewis with questions in a mock voice.

"What about T.O.? Is he 80 percent? When is he coming back? How do the receivers get it done without T.O.?" Mitchell said.

Lewis replied: "Everybody said we weren't capable of winning without T.O., but we proved them wrong."

Mitchell has something to prove to the Patriots.

University road not taken
A few football pundits this week, including CBS Sports' Jim Nantz, wondered if after winning his third Super Bowl next week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick might hang up his whistle and retire to the front office. That's not going to happen, but when the topic of football on the college level was reached with the coach at his press briefing today, one reporter asked him if he would consider taking the new challenge of coaching at the NCAA level.

"Not this week," Belichick said.

There was, however, a time when Belichick, who has spent his entire professional coaching career in the NFL, was headed to college. In 1975, he was invited by Lou Holtz to join the staff at North Carolina State. "I was all set to go," Belichick said.

But in June of that same year, Title IX came into prominence, and that led to budget cuts for other programs in college sports, which in the end, made Belichick's presence expendable.

"He called me back and said, 'Look I know I've committed to it, but we just can't do it.' So, I was out. Fired."

Many of the years that followed in the NFL came side-by-side with former New England coach Bill Parcells, but when Belichick was asked about how the current Dallas Cowboys coach influenced him, he did nothing to dispel the general consensus that there has been a falling out between the two.

"I don't know. I really don't know," he said. "I've been influenced by a lot of people. I grew up in a football environment," he said. "I spent a lot of years with Bill and we won a lot of football games, but I've won a lot of games with other people."

Third and short of it
New England worked on first and second down situations yesterday that the Patriots coaching staff anticipates to see defensively from the Eagles, where Philadelphia boasts five of its nine Pro Bowlers.

"[Defensive coordinator] Jimmy Johnson has a great third down package," Belichick said. "It's very difficult to deal with. They're pretty good on those situations, so we'll have to do a good job when we have the ball on third down."

Belichick said the team would prepare for third and fourth down situations today.

Information from Boston.com's Eric Wilbur and the Associated Press was used in this report. 

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