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NOTEBOOK | From Houston

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Fox hoping: Carolina Panthers coach John Fox is looking for a new favorite Super Bowl memory. The current No. 1 didn't come three years ago, when he took part in the game for the first time as the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants. As he noted Sunday, "this game is only fun when you win," and the Giants lost that game to the Baltimore Ravens. So what tops his list? "The very first Super Bowl," he said. On Jan. 15, 1967, the Green Bay Packers of the NFL beat the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL 35-10 to win the first title. Fox was 11 and had just finished his first season of organized football. His team was the Plaza Packers, so naturally his favorite NFL team also wore green and gold. "The Green Bay Packers happened to win the world championship that year and the first Super Bowl," he said. "So that is probably my fondest" memory.
Injury report: The two most notable injuries coming into Super Bowl week seem to be healing. Panthers running back Stephen Davis didn't practice last week to rest the left quadriceps he injured in a divisional playoff game against St. Louis. He was scheduled to work out today and probably won't even be listed on the injury report, Fox said. New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi is getting treatment on his injured right leg three or four times a day, and hopes to be able to practice this week. Bruschi, who has scored three touchdowns on defense this season, hurt his calf in the AFC championship game against Indianapolis. "He's a lot better than he was last week," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Sunday. "He's doing everything to get ready. He's a great competitor, a football player, and he will do all he can to be ready to play."
Rings and things: A trio of Panthers players pulled out their most cherished piece of jewelry Sunday. Three players who won Super Bowl rings with other teams had them on their fingers when they headed for Houston, then laughed about how they were thinking alike. "I don't know why we all broke them out," said center Jeff Mitchell, who got his ring with Baltimore. "We just kind of showed up with all of them on." Receiver Ricky Proehl wore his championship ring from St. Louis. Tight end Jermaine Wiggins had on his reminder of New England's title two years ago. Offensive lineman Matt Willig was the only Panther with a Super Bowl ring -- he got his in St. Louis -- who didn't bring it along. Fox also had a ring on his finger -- his NFC championship ring from the 2000 season. He held out his arm and showed it off to reporters Sunday night. "It's about the first time this one's been out of the box," Fox said.
Not so super: The Super Bowl last came to Houston 30 years ago and it was, by almost all accounts, one of the worst ever. The Miami Dolphins defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 in a game that Sports Illustrated writer Tex Maule famously described as having "all the excitement and suspense of a master butcher quartering a steer." On a foggy, cold day at Rice Stadium, Larry Csonka ran for 145 yards and the Dolphins capped their second straight championship season. The good news: The game took only 2 1/2 hours.
Praising Brady: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has heard plenty of praise since he led his team to a Super Bowl victory two years ago. But being compared to Joe Montana? "It's such a stretch," Brady said. "He's the greatest quarterback of all-time." The comparison, however, came from none other than Bill Walsh, who coached Montana to four Super Bowl wins with the San Francisco 49ers. Walsh said Brady has poise like Montana did, which is why Brady is a winner despite lacking the physical gifts of some more classic quarterbacks. "When a guy like Bill Walsh says something like that, you go 'Wow, really?' " Brady said. "But I know there's a long way to go."
Heads or tails: Former Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell and former Raiders offensive lineman Gene Upshaw are among the six Hall of Fame members from Texas who will participate in the pregame coin toss. The others are Ollie Matson, Don Maynard, Y.A. Tittle and Mike Singletary. Texas has produced 24 of the 221 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
-- Associated Press