March 18, 2010

1972 Dolphins preparing for company

MIKE LOWE

— By

Staff Writer

PHOENIX — The sign was very simple, much like any that you would see as you enter a new town:

''Welcome to Perfectville, Pop. 1, Founded 1972''

Mercury Morris, the former great running back for the Miami Dolphins, stood next to the sign and pointed to the ''1,'' as cameras clicked away.

''Get a shot of this,'' he said, ''You may not see it again.''

Morris and three of his teammates from the 1972 Miami Dolphins team that went undefeated at 17-0 -- the only team in NFL history to complete an undefeated championship season -- met with the press Friday afternoon to discuss the New England Patriots and their chance to make history on Sunday.

That's when the Patriots (18-0) meet the New York Giants in the Super Bowl with a chance to complete the first 19-0 season.

Morris, running back Jim Kiick, Hall of Fame right guard Larry Little and kicker Garo Yepremian were all present to hold up the honor of that Dolphins team -- and to let the Patriots know they'll be watching.

Reebok, which set up the press conference, has made two ''Perfectville'' commercials to be shown after the Super Bowl is completed -- one if the Pats win, the other if they lose. The commercials were filmed Monday in Florida.

Morris said there were many similarities between the Patriots and the '72 Dolphins, the most obvious being that their success was fueled by failure: Miami by its loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI; the Patriots by their loss to Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC championship game.

''The whole message that (Coach Don) Shula gave us after that game was that we needed to go back and redeem ourselves,'' said Morris, speaking passionately. ''What mattered was not to go undefeated, but to get back to the Super Bowl and redeem ourselves.''

Both teams dominated their respective eras, the Dolphins through defense and a punishing running game that featured two 1,000-yard runners, the Patriots through a pass-oriented offense that features Tom Brady and Randy Moss. The coaches, Shula and New England's Bill Belichick, each kept their players focused at all times on the next task, never allowing celebrations to last too long.

The former Dolphins were asked who they were rooting for, and not surprisingly, they were unanimous in their choice of the Giants.

Morris was the dominant voice of the four, and he noted that the Patriots have made the '72 Dolphins relevant again.

''The reason why the Patriots are getting this, the reason why we're here right now, is the exact same reason,'' he said. ''We live in the state of perfection and they're trying to get it on their license plate. And we'll find out, on Sunday, when all the talking stops, whether or not they'll be riding around in our neighborhood, or whether or not they'll be able to park.''

Little said if the Patriots win, they'll be welcome in the neighborhood.

''We'll be 1-A, they'll be 1-B,'' he said. ''They'll be like our little brother.''

BOTH COACHES met with the media for one final time before the game. Belichick was his usual stoic self, while Tom Coughlin had a little fun with the media, sharing some laughs.

There was one other big difference:

While they spoke, the Vince Lombardi Trophy that is presented to the winning team was stationed about three feet to their right. Belichick left without even looking at it. Coughlin stood by it, held a Giants helmet and posed for photos.

PLAXICO BURRESS, the Giants' big-play wide receiver, was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report with knee and ankle injuries. That means he has a 50-50 chance to play. The ankle has been a problem all season for Burress, who didn't practice regularly until the last four weeks. The knee swelled up Tuesday.

Burress did run a few pass routes Friday, the first time this week he's been able to participate in practice.

''He's improved,'' said Coughlin. ''He's done it all year under all kinds of circumstances. We've just got to be hopeful he can do it one more time.''

Giants cornerback Kevin Dockery (hip flexor), guard Rich Seubert (knee) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (thigh) were listed as probable.

The Patriots' injury report listed, as always, quarterback Tom Brady as probable with a right shoulder injury.

Wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, who was limited in practice the previous two days because of a shoulder injury, was not listed on the report.

THE PATRIOTS practiced for 80 minutes in shorts and shells. Afterward, Belichick said, ''We're ready to roll. We're as ready as we're going to be.''

Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, who made the rounds of Radio Row earlier in the day, spoke to the team before practice at Belichick's request. Belichick got to know Brown while coaching the Cleveland Browns in the early '90s.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

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