The NFL is set up for parity. The salary cap, draft, even the game clock — teams have fewer possessions during a game than at the college level — are designed to create close games and bunch teams near the 8-8 mark.
So how have the New England Patriots dominated?
“You try to build a team using all the vehicles available,” general manager Scott Pioli said on Tuesday, pointing to the draft, free agency and waiver wire. “You have to figure out a way to build a team with the way the rules are.”
In searching for players, Pioli said, “We know what we’re looking for.
“There’s a certain type of person that Bill (Belichick) wants to coach and who wants to be coached by Bill. It comes down to that.”
Belichick, the general manager said, he “likes smart players” who are professional and “committed to being the best at whatever their job is. It’s a sport, but it’s also a job.”
The Patriots favor disciplined players, but this has “nothing to do” with such externals as hair length or how much jewelry a player wears, Pioli said.
“It has everything to do with being disciplined about your job and being committed to your job, showing up on time, paying attention, working hard and being accountable to the people you work with.”
Once a winning environment is established, Pioli said, players promote the success by talking up the Patriots to other players — including potential free agents — around the league.
SHOW THE MONEY
Cornerback Asante Samuel has developed a reputation as one of the best cover guys in the league, a valuable designation as he becomes a free agent. A year ago, the San Francisco 49ers signed cornerback Nate Clements to an $80-million deal, which figures to set the money bar high for him.
“Seeing that makes you smile,” said Samuel, whose six interceptions in 2007 led the team. “But I’m not worried about that. When the time comes, if I’m here or I’m not, we can talk about it then.”
Quarterback Tom Brady, on his gimpy right ankle: “It feels good. I practiced a full day (on Monday). I think we had one incompletion.”
The Patriots resume practice today at Sun Devil Stadium.
Linebacker Junior Seau played at Southern California in 1988 and ’89 under coach Larry Smith, who died on Monday at age 68.
Smith, who led the Trojans to Rose Bowl berths in his first three seasons (1987-89) at USC, also coached at Arizona from 1980-86.
“He was an integral part of my career,” Seau said. “He has left his legacy, and I’m a witness to that. Larry was a disciplinarian. He was old school.”