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Do the Patriots need toughening up?

Posted by Albert Breer  May 26, 2010 09:56 AM

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Now, veteran safety Darren Sharper was careful not condone the fight, being politically correct and all. But his words show that he clearly saw an aggression building within the team.

"Being tough is part of it, I don't think we want to take it to the level of fighting because that's going to hurt our team," Sharper told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "But being tough and challenging and being competitive are all things that (Williams) preaches with his defense and being aggressive, also. All those things come along. Something us guys as players take it a little too far and that's when it boils over into ruckuses."

And on the other side of that fight, a togetherness was grown too. One dustup started when Saints DT Rod Coleman took some liberties hitting RB Ryan Moats.

"It doesn’t matter who we are or where we are, what field we’re on, who we’re playing – nobody’s going to take a shot at our running back," Houston FB Vonta Leach said. "Nothing was being said. It was a cheap shot. Our guy came off the blocks, and they started swinging. They tried to push us around, and our team’s not going to be pushed around."

Meanwhile, star Texan linebacker DeMeco Ryans said of his dust-up with Jeremy Shockey: "It was a fast play, and people started pushing and shoving. I told our defensive guys that nobody’s going to come in our house and push us around."

Anyway, that whole approach, for better or worse, transformed the Saints from a perceived soft dome team into a fast, aggressive, attacking bunch. And they had a pretty good year. The Texans, meanwhile, posted their first winning record, and ran over the Patriots (144 rushing yards) in the regular season finale.

The Patriots were once considered the league's toughest team. So maybe these practices are a way of getting some of that nastiness back.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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