A number of pigskin pundits believe Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli have given their team its best shot at a Super Bowl championship since it won No. XXXIX in Jacksonville.
Dickens authored the original.
Belichick and Pioli have co-authored a sequel.
“Expectations mean nothing,” New England Patriots fullback Heath Evans warned. “We've got to go out there, take what's been given to us and put it in a team atmosphere and see what happens.”
After a rather hectic offseason, a number of pigskin pundits believe Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli have given their team its best shot at a Super Bowl championship since it won No. XXXIX in Jacksonville.
With big-name additions — Randy Moss and Adalius Thomas to name two — to a team that was talented enough to push the eventual Super Bowl XLI champion Indianapolis Colts to the final minute of the AFC Championship Game this past January, there are great expectations in New England this July.
Indeed, with Friday's start to training camp at Gillette Stadium lurking, many have established the Patriots as the team to beat in the NFL this season.
“I think you realize you have high expectations, but you realize what it takes to get to that level, too,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “Coach Belichick, I remember a few years ago, it was one of the best speeches he ever gave us. It was before the '03 AFC championship game when we played the Colts … Their tight end, (Marcus) Pollard, they had played Kansas City and they had played Denver and I guess they didn't punt in two (playoff) games.
“They were coming to play us and Pollard said after the game (with the Chiefs), 'The way we're playing, they're going to just have to give us the ring.'
“Coach Belichick pulled his Super Bowl ring out and said 'You know what? This is from our '01 championship and I know what this is all about. No one gave me this. I earned this every step of the way.'
“I think the players on this team are ready to earn whatever we get. We'll see how that turns out. Really, talk is cheap.”
The Patriots' spending habits over the past several months weren't, however.
Thomas, the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker, was the big-budget item, the unrestricted free agent coming to New England in March with a price tag of $35 million over five years atop his helmet.
“It's been great to add a guy like Adalius, who also brings a different type of attitude to defense,” said Brady.
Better yet for the quarterback could be the addition of Moss, the former Minnesota Vikings-Oakland Raiders wide receiver who can pose problems to opponents on the field, albeit while being problematic to his employers off it.
“I was excited (to learn of Moss' acquisition from the Raiders in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in April),” linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. “He can do a lot of things for us. Around here, we don't care what you did in the past, whether it was good or bad. It depends on what you do once you get here.”
Taking a hands-on approach to what was deemed the team's biggest weakness, the Patriots also dealt second- and seventh-round picks to Miami for wide receiver Wes Welker (and invested $18.1 million over five years in him) and took wideouts Donte' Stallworth (Philadelphia) and Kelley Washington (Cincinnati) off the free-agent market.
The free-agent additions also included running back Sammy Morris from the Dolphins, tight end Kyle Brady from Jacksonville and cornerback Tory James from the Bengals.
“It makes me excited,” Bruschi said in addressing the offseason additions as a whole. “I'm looking forward to seeing them help.”
Which isn't to say Boston mayor Thomas Menino should book the Duck Boats and City Hall Plaza for early February just yet.
Displeased with the prospects of playing this season at the $7.79 million salary he is guaranteed as the team's franchise player at the cornerback position, Asante Samuel is threatening to follow in the footsteps of wide receiver Deion Branch, whose holdout last summer led to his trade from New England to Seattle last September.
The notable difference between the two is that Branch was still under contract when he pulled his no-show.
Moss could have a meltdown. There would be some question as to who would carry the load if second-year running back Laurence Maroney, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, breaks down.
There isn't much question that last season saw Bruschi slow down. And, in the blocking area at least, tight end Daniel Graham's decision to return home to Denver as a free agent could result in a step down.
Still, this team would seem to have far more answers than questions as the start of training camp nears.
“Ultimately, it's up to us regardless of what people say or think,” linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said in assessing the Pats' prospects in 2007. “It all boils down to what we do on the field.”
And then there was one: The Patriots signed two more members of their 2007 draft class on Monday, reaching contractual terms with fourth-round choice Kareem Brown (defensive lineman, Miami) and seventh-round selection Mike Elgin (offensive lineman, Iowa).
The moves leave first-round choice Brandon Meriweather, Brown's teammate in the Hurricanes' secondary, as the Patriots' lone unsigned pick.
Glen Farley is a staff writer for The Enterprise (Brockton, Mass.).