PANTHERS Wiggins will be facing home-town team



He's back in the Super Bowl, but with the Panthers, not the Patriots.
HOUSTON (AP) -- Carolina Panthers tight end Jermaine Wiggins is so proud of where he's from that he likes to wear a custom-made coat that proclaims him "Boston's Finest."
He didn't bring it to Houston for the Super Bowl, but his reason had nothing to do with the fact that on Sunday he'll be playing against his hometown team, the New England Patriots.
"It's just not cold enough," he said.
Wiggins grew up in East Boston and still lives there in the off-season. "East" is inscribed on his right forearm, "Boston" on the left.
Having grown up watching the Patriots, he was thrilled when they signed him late in the 2000 season, after he'd been released by the New York Jets.
Back in Super Bowl
A year later, he was on the first New England team to win the Super Bowl. Two years later, he's back in the Super Bowl and so are the Patriots, but this time he's on the Panthers.
The '01 Patriots and '03 Panthers have a lot more in common than having Wiggins on the roster. There's the turnaround from a 1-15 records two years before, strong defenses and unheralded quarterbacks.
"I told guys right from the beginning, 'Hey, listen, I see a lot of similar qualities,' " Wiggins said.
Actually, Wiggins is saying things all the time.
He likes giving his opinion so much that he aspires to have his own talk show. He even had an internship at a Charlotte radio station last year, albeit in the marketing department.
Favorite topic
His favorite topic is the Boston Red Sox. He thinks the world of Pedro Martinez and is against the proposed swap of Manny Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez "just because I like Manny," he said.
As for the Celtics, he'd rather Jim O'Brien was still coaching than have Danny Ainge running the front office. Wiggins also happily passed on the rumor that Shaquille O'Neal recently was looking at homes in the Boston area.
"He never shuts up," said Patriots receiver Troy Brown, who has known Wiggins since college and had a locker next to him in New England. "He's got that strong Boston accent and he's not afraid to use it.
"He trash-talks, jokes, brags -- anything. You can hear him from a mile away and you can tell it's him because of the accent."
When the chatterbox tight end tries teasing quarterback Jake Delhomme about sounding like Bobby Boucher, the Adam Sandler character in the movie "Water Boy," it's easy for Delhomme to fire back that Wiggins has no right to make fun of anyone else's accent.
Used mostly as blocker
The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Wiggins started 11 games this season, mostly when the Panthers opened in a formation using two tight ends. He's mostly used to block, as evidenced by his season totals of eight passes for 80 yards, with one touchdown.
He caught a pass in each of the first two games this postseason. The only time he touched the ball in the NFC championship was an important one -- a fumble recovery that kept alive Carolina's first touchdown drive.
He made a similar lost-in-the-shuffle contribution in the Patriots' Super Bowl win over St. Louis two years ago, making the catch before the catch that set up the winning field goal.
He also played a key role earlier that postseason, making 10 catches for 68 yards in the snowy game against Oakland best known for the "tuck rule." Those numbers were especially memorable considering he had 14 catches for 133 yards that entire season.

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