Shula, Griese '72 Dolphins salute Patriots' success

Updated: December 30, 2007, 4:53 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The last coach of an unbeaten NFL team on Saturday praised the New England Patriots, who are the first team to finish 16-and-0 in the regular season.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went 14-and-0 and then won three playoff games, are the last team to go undefeated.

Their coach, Don Shula, says "going undefeated during the regular season is a remarkable achievement."

Shula says the Pats "have done a great job concentrating on each week's opponent and not letting any other distractions interrupt that focus. If they go on to complete an undefeated season, I will be the first to congratulate Coach Belichick and the Patriot organization."

Shula was the most prominent of several members of the 72 Dolphins who saluted the perfect Patriots on Saturday.

The best [the Pats] can do is to stand beside us, and in the end, that's not a bad thing. I will welcome them to the neighborhood with my Mr. Rogers sweater on, but first they have to get to the neighborhood.

-- Mercury Morris

Miami quarterback Bob Griese issued a statement to congratulate New England on "going undefeated during the regular season" and compliment Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for one of the "greatest seasons ever by an NFL quarterback."

"I hope he [Brady] continues to play at such a high level in the playoffs, and if he does it will be very difficult to beat them the rest of the way," Shula said.

Defensive tackle Manny Fernandez said he welcomed the Patriots achieving their level of perfection.

"If they finish without a loss," he said about their upcoming playoffs campaign, "it's almost going to be a relief to me. That way, the media will start to call them the first eight or nine games each year whenever a team starts undefeated instead of calling us. That will give us a break."

The only relatively lukewarm voice came from 1972 running back Mercury Morris, a frequently only-grudging admirer of the Patriots.

Morris said: "It doesn't matter to me whether or not they win them all because it doesn't affect anything we've done. When all the dust clears, the best they can do is to stand beside us, and in the end, that's not a bad thing. I will welcome them to the neighborhood with my Mr. Rogers sweater on, but first they have to get to the neighborhood."

The 1972 Dolphins were also divided as to whether the Patriots will finish the season unbeaten.

"I do not believe they'll go 19-0," said 1972 guard Bob Kuechenberg, noting they still have three postseason games to win. Among the teams they may have to beat are the reigning Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts and the NFC champion in the Super Bowl.

"If the Patriots can do all that, my hat is off to them," Kuechenberg said. "They will have earned the right to join us in the ranks of the immortals."

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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