In spite of Smith's guarantee, Patriots focused on Steelers
Some of them can't even guarantee they'd recognize him.
Aaron Smith is in his ninth season with the Steelers, a standout defensive end who made the 2005 Pro Bowl and will be pressuring Tom Brady on Sunday when the NFL's best team meets the league's top-rated defense.
Anthony Smith is a free safety in his second pro season and starting only because Ryan Clark's season ended in late October with an inflamed spleen that was removed last month.
"I didn't know who he was until we started preparing for them," Brady said.
Smith is a third-round draft choice from Syracuse. He started four of the 16 games he played last season and had two interceptions. This year he's started the last six games, has one interception and is sixth on the Steelers in tackles.
He's also the guy who may be too sure of himself.
"We're going to win," he said Wednesday. "Yeah, I can guarantee a win. As long as we come out and do what we got to do. Both sides of the ball are rolling, and if our special teams come through for us, we've got a good chance to win."
Any Patriots player who said that would be guaranteed one thing: sharp tongue-lashings from his teammates and coach Bill Belichick.
"Well done is better than well said," Brady said. "That's been the motto of the team."
"That wouldn't happen in this locker room. It just wouldn't," Junior Seau said. "We won't allow it. We don't talk. What we try to do is just work every day and build for tomorrow. That's all we do."
Belichick knows teams could use such pronouncements as bulletin-board material to provide extra motivation. But he suggested that wasn't part of his pregame plan.
"We can sit around and put a bunch of stuff up on a board and write stuff down on paper and all of that," he said. "I think in the end it comes down to whether you can outplay the other team on Sunday or not outplay them. On a priority basis, that's what our priority is, trying to prepare well and play well."
As usual, his attitude was the players' attitude. They reacted calmly to Smith's remarks.
"I don't think that prediction's going to have much bearing on the outcome," linebacker Mike Vrabel said.
Running back Heath Evans: "I don't see why anyone's comments outside of our head coaches and our position coaches should affect how we do things."
Smith, though, has reason to be confident. The Steelers (9-3) have allowed the fewest points and fewest yards of any NFL team. The Patriots (12-0) are coming off a pair of three-point wins that came down to the final minutes.
Then Smith made his guarantee.
"I agree with it," Evans said. "If we don't get better, they're going to beat us."
The Patriots have used opponents' remarks to motivate themselves in the past.
Before the 2005 Super Bowl, Philadelphia wide receiver Freddie Mitchell said he knew only the numbers, not the names, of New England's cornerbacks.
"If he doesn't [know the names], he will," Patriots tight end Christian Fauria responded.
The Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21.
Before New England's first playoff game that season, Indianapolis kicker Mike Vanderjagt said of the Patriots, "I think they're ripe for the picking."
At the time, Belichick was asked if he had ever used such remarks to motivate his players.
"Yeah, probably I have," he said before the 20-3 win over the Colts.
Now an opponent has spoken again.
Kyle Brady remembers when he was playing for Penn State and an Illinois player guaranteed a win if his team scored 28 points.
"He was basically guaranteeing that their defense would hold our offense under 28," the tight end said. "They weren't able to do it. We beat them 35-31."
So maybe a guarantee guarantees just one thing: that it will fire up an opponent.
"Does it play a factor in the game? Perhaps it could," said Patriots linebacker Chad Brown, Smith's teammate in Pittsburgh last season. "If someone is confident enough to make a guarantee, maybe you should be a little concerned."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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