Pats quiet on distractions

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Pats quiet on distractions

FOXBORO -- It came from the empty spaces in front of Patriots lockers, through the swinging doors leading into the team's training room, and from the throng of players who whizzed by the media only to vanish a moment later: silence.

Even for the Patriots -- keepers of a particularly quiet locker room -- they seemed hushed on Friday.

The news that offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien had accepted the head coaching job at Penn State broke on Thursday night, and the Patriots weren't talking.

That is, of course, the Patriots way.

Apparently, word was passed down from coach Bill Belichick to leave the subject untouched. The players -- as they so often do -- took heed. Of the scant few who were wrangled by reporters, some admitted that they were instructed not to comment. Some politely declined. Others were mum, promising interviews at a later date. Each had his own way of keeping quiet, but their silence was as uniform as the jerseys they wear on Sundays.

A few strayed from the plan. Julian Edelman spoke (and was thanked profusely by the media). Offensive lineman Nick McDonald spoke, too, but he didn't say much.

"Just another work day," McDonald insisted. "Come to work. Do our jobs."

With that, the hulking 300-pounder disappeared, leaving little more than the muffled sounds of hip-hop music coming from the nearby Patriots weight room to fill the air.

There is a reason for their tightened lips. It is the Patriots way. It is the Patriots staying on task. All season they preached focus on the next game, the next opponent, and they followed that road to a 13-3 record, an AFC East championship and the No. 1 seed throughout the AFC playoffs.

They weren't about to veer off course on Friday. They weren't about get bogged down in questions on O'Brien's impending move.

It's a policy that can be frustrating for media or fans starved for sound bites, but it's not without its benefits at a time of year when distractions can quickly derail a season. It's easy to accuse the Patriots of being dull or uncooperative. But not focused? Not them.

Their concentration -- even if it's an act, the script passed down by Belichick -- always appears to be finely tuned. On Friday, in the face of what could be perceived as a distraction, they pulled the rip cord and deployed the silent treatment. As a team, they made (almost) no comment about their fiery coach undertaking a high-profile gig just before the start of the playoffs.

Crisis averted. Continue on the highlighted route to the Divisional Playoff game.

Today at 11:30 am, O'Brien will be announced as the Penn State head coach. When the Patriots speak with the media next week, they may touch on O'Brien's new job because it will be official. But more importantly to them, by then they will have a definitive opponent -- either Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or Denver -- and that's where their focus will lie. That's what they'll be more likely to comment on, not who's coming or who's going on the coaching staff.

Cincinnati. Pittsburgh. Denver. For better or worse, that's the Patriots way.

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