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Championship chase continues after winning AFC title

January 13, 1997

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) _ Outside, it was dark. Inside the offices of the new AFC champions the lights blazed. It was 3 a.m. Monday, and Patriots coach Bill Parcells was back at work.

All that tape of Sunday’s 20-6 win over Jacksonville to look at. All that preparation for that 9:30 team meeting when he would lay out the path he already has traveled twice to Super Bowl Sunday.

He knows the way so well, and now he had to ease his players’ minds about matters like tickets and transportation for relatives.

``I just want everything settled in their mind so that once we hit New Orleans, I can get them in a routine,″ Parcells said.

After the meeting, Parcells held a running drill for his players on the same field where, 12 hours earlier, New England beat the Jaguars to win the AFC title and advance to the NFL championship game Jan. 26 against the Green Bay Packers.

He already had put in a long day, so his lack of sympathy was understandable when some players didn’t seem thrilled to be running 22 wind sprints.

``They’re looking at me a little bit: `how many we doing?‴ Parcells said.

His response: ``Just get your clicker out. Every time you run one, push it. Then you’ll know when we’re done.″

Soreness or no soreness, they ran their wind sprints because they know Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, has the plan to get them ready for the biggest game of their lives.

``We’re a young group of guys,″ linebacker Ted Johnson said, ``so we’re just going to trust that he knows what he’s talking about and go with his word.″

``I’m fairly comfortable with it,″ said Parcells, who admits being more relaxed than in his first two Super Bowls. ``I’ve been through it. I’m not going to be distracted by it. I know where I’ve got to go and what I’ve got to do to get the team ready.″

Some preparations were done last week when Daniel Kraft, a team vice president and son of owner Robert Kraft, went to New Orleans for preliminary work in case the Patriots beat Jacksonville.

Now the players have two days off, then practice at home for three days before flying to New Orleans on Sunday. The game plan will be done before then.

``You want to get your work done in the environment that’s comfortable for you and then just be able to refine it,″ Parcells said.

The Patriots will resume practices Monday in New Orleans and take Tuesday off before the final push.

``By a week from Thursday, they’ll be ready for the game to get there,″ Parcells said. ``They will have had enough of Green Bay, enough of film, enough of the practices, enough of the coaches’ reminders and, quite frankly, probably enough of you (media) people to satisfy everybody.″

He wants his players to enjoy the experience. There will be curfews, but not every night. He’s made them aware of some pitfalls once they reach that lively city where the Patriots played in their only Super Bowl 11 years ago.

``There’s a couple of things that could get them right out of New Orleans before the game starts,″ he said. ``They know what they are.″

Parcells wouldn’t want them to miss a minute of it.

``There’s no feeling like standing in that tunnel at the Super Bowl. You’re getting ready to come out,″ he said. ``I told my kids here in New England a couple of years ago that I wish I could just share it with them and now I get to do it. Perfect.″

But first there are the phone calls, dozens of them.

There are the ones from people he hasn’t heard from in five years, perhaps seeking tickets, and the more welcome ones like the one Monday from Lawrence Taylor, a linebacker from Parcells’ two championship teams.

Parcells said he was happy for the fans of New England, some of whom got ``a life’s worth of memories″ from the home playoff victories over Pittsburgh and Jacksonville the past two Sundays.

A few fans were outside the stadium early Monday afternoon. Most players already had left, but Drew Bledsoe was inside an office, looking out the window and wondering how to get to his car without being delayed by well-wishers and autograph-seekers.

Meanwhile, he relaxed by playing a solitaire on the computer screen in front of him.

The quarterback has been mediocre in the playoff wins, but ``you’ve got to judge the player by where his team is,″ Parcells said. ``You know my old saying: `you judge a trapper by his furs,′ and he’s got a couple of furs now. He doesn’t have the biggest fur.″

If Parcells’ plans work out, that will come in less than two weeks.

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