Patriots, Panthers believe in starting with togetherness

HOUSTON — HOUSTON - For a Super Bowl that lacks superstars, it's only fitting that pre-game introductions would reflect that.

The New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers have both informed the NFL that they plan to be introduced as a team and not individually before tomorrow's game at Reliant Stadium.


It's a tradition of sorts for the Patriots, who used the entrance as a psychological ploy in their upset of the St. Louis Rams in the January 2002 Super Bowl.

"We got here together, so we're coming out together," Patriots cornerback Ty Law said. "That's what we did before, and we're going to do it again. We've been doing it all year."


Not to be upstaged by New England, the Panthers will be announced the same way. It's a routine they have followed on all road games.

Panthers punt well

The one decided edge for the Panthers that has not been discussed much is in the punting game.

Carolina's Todd Sauerbrun ranked first in the NFC with a 44.6-yard average and was selected to his third straight Pro Bowl. New England's Ken Walter was second-to-last in the AFC with a 33.6-yard average and was released for a week in December before being re-signed.

"It toughened me up," said Walter, a ballboy for the Ravens in 1996. "I read into too many things and it made me stronger. Nothing surprises me in this game."

Ryan's brother with Pats

One Raven who will have a personal investment in this game is Rex Ryan, the team's defensive line coach.

His twin brother, Rob, is the outside linebackers coach with the Patriots.


"It's a lot of bragging rights," Rob Ryan said. "Rex would be the only one with one Super Bowl ring. So, he's got some work to do."

This marks the sixth time that a member of the Ryan family - which includes Rex and Rob's father, Buddy - has participated in the Super Bowl.

Ex-Panther factor

The Patriots have as many original Panthers as Carolina currently has.

New England cornerback Tyrone Poole was a first-round pick in 1995 by the Panthers. Carolina's only player remaining from that inaugural season is kicker John Kasay.

"I really don't look at who I am playing against and my history with whomever," Poole said. "I'm just looking at the point that I'm in a situation that a lot of guys play their whole career and don't get here."


A long time ago

In the last meeting between the teams, the Patriots routed the Panthers, 38-6, handing Carolina its 15th straight loss in the 2001 season finale.

"That was a totally different team then," New England running back Antowain Smith said. "I don't even want to talk about that team because that's irrelevant. I'll talk about the team we're going to play Sunday, which is a damn good team."

There are 20 players on this season's Panthers' 53-man roster that were on that team.

Jenkins' son to miss game

Efforts to bring the 2-year-old son of Panthers defensive lineman Kris Jenkins to the game broke down yesterday.


The All-Pro lineman from Maryland shares custody of his son and was trying to work a deal with the mother to allow the boy to attend the game.

But the deal was scuttled when the parties couldn't agree on who would accompany Kris Jr. on the flight to Houston.

"He is so upset," attorney Tamela Wallace said of her client, Jenkins.

Wallace said the mother, Shadeeka DeLotch, insisted on accompanying Kris Jr., to the game, and wanted a hotel room, a rental car and a ticket to the game. Jenkins was unable to provide all that, Wallace said, and DeLotch rejected offers to have other family members take the boy to the game.

End zone

Linebacker Tedy Bruschi (calf), tight end Christian Fauria (leg) and fullback Patrick Pass (ankle) all remained probable on yesterday's injury report. Bruschi participated in yesterday's 75-minute practice. The Panthers have had no one on the injury report all week. ... Panthers running back Rod Smart, better known as "He Hate Me" from his XFL days, has drawn quite a following. When asked what his teammates call him, Smart said, "He." ... Former Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa is holding a party in downtown Houston. ... New England coach Bill Belichick is scheduled to enforce a progressively earlier curfew last night and tonight. Bed check was at about midnight Thursday night. The players did not have a curfew Sunday through Tuesday. ... The forecast for tomorrow includes a slight chance of isolated thunderstorms with a high of 66 degrees. If there's no rain, the retractable roof of Reliant Stadium is expected to remain open.


The Associated Press contributed to this article.