Pats face challenge of rebuilding for more success

Updated: February 10, 2005, 9:15 AM ET
By James C. Black | ESPN.com

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- Tom Brady was worn out. He had his mind on a shower and possibly a nap. However, the quarterback was alert enough to provide the right answer when a reporter commented that the Patriots had played in 40-something games over the past two seasons.

"It was 46," Brady said matter-of-factly after the AFC's Pro Bowl practice at Ihilani Resort on Wednesday.

Tom Brady
Brady may have been wiped out by the time he arrived in Hawaii, but he did his best not to show it.
The final of those contests, obviously, was Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, New England's third title in four seasons. After taking part in Tuesday's victory parade, Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Larry Izzo and Richard Seymour flew to Hawaii on owner Bob Kraft's jet. Adam Vinatieri wanted to minimize the traveling time of his pregnant wife and 19-month-old son, so he departed from Jacksonville, Fla. and arrived ahead of his teammates. Running back Corey Dillon missed the trip with an undisclosed injury.

"It's been an emotional roller coaster the past few months, but it's great coming off that win and now we come out here and get to relax a little bit," said Vinatieri, who had a fourth-quarter field goal against the Eagles.

Super Bowl titles and Pro Bowl invites are becoming standard practice for this group of Patriots. Seymour and Izzo have been selected for Pro Bowl spots three times, while Brady and Vinatieri are making their second trips. Bruschi is the only one from this group making his first Pro Bowl appearance.

But while the free trips to Hawaii are great, they pale in comparison to raising the Lombardi Trophy.

"Mr. Kraft said it best: 'Three out of four and we're hungry for more,'" said Seymour, who will not play in Sunday's game because of a knee injury that sidelined him in three contests prior to the Super Bowl.

One trademark of New England's success has been continuity, but the team will have a couple of new faces in prominent roles next season. Charlie Weis, the former offensive coordinator, is Notre Dame's new head coach, while defensive strategist Romeo Crennel was introduced as the Cleveland Browns' new coach on Tuesday.

"For our own selfish reasons, we don't want to see either of those guys leave us," Seymour said. "We have something special, but anytime you have success people grow and move on to higher positions. That's a part of life."

And while the Patriots have to tackle the challenge of dealing with free agency and the NFL draft like every other responsibility, they have to deal with a burden few others faced this offseason.

"That's the biggest challenge of the offseason, losing coaches like that," Bruschi said. "Obviously, Notre Dame and Cleveland wouldn't make them head coaches if they weren't the best in the business."

And while it will be up to head coach Bill Belichick to make the new hires, Bruschi provided insight on how New England could overcome the departures.

"Our assistant coaches have to step up," said Bruschi, who was second on the team with 120 tackles this season. "Players went down and other players came in. Ty Law and Tyrone Poole went down. Randall Gay and Asante Samuel, they stepped up. So our assistants better be ready to get the job done."

James C. Black is an NFL Editor for ESPN.com and may be reached at james.black@espn3.com.