FOXBORO, Mass. - There are many commuters in the Boston-Providence area who cringe as they make their daily drive to work because of the traffic congestion. According to Jerod Mayo, few Patriots players have such problems.
Mayo and his teammates do not receive special treatment. They just travel at different hours.
"If you want to be a good football team, you'll never be stuck in rush-hour traffic," the Pats co-captain said Wednesday. "You want to be the first one here, and one of the last guys to leave."
It was Mayo's way of explaining "The Patriot Way," the method the team uses in going about its work every day.
New England fans long have become accustomed to the Pats doing things differently than other organizations. It has helped the franchise compile its extended run of success.
The national media moved into town Wednesday as preparations for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against Baltimore kicked into high gear and "The Patriot Way" became one of the big topics of conversation.
New England will be playing in the AFC title game for the seventh time in 12 years. The team has won the AFC East title every year but one (the 2008 season when Tom Brady was injured) in the past decade. In a league in which parity is the goal, the Patriots more than any other franchise, have been the standard of excellence.
So, the question of the day was, how do they do it?
"The Patriot Way, to me, starts at the top with the Kraft family," Mayo said. "(It's about) not only being a good football player, but being a good person and falling in line. ... I think guys really buy into that. Guys that come from other teams, I think they follow the lead of the bulk of this team. It has worked well here."
Tom Brady recalled how he learned what is expected. He said he was not necessarily in tune with the way things are done when he arrived in New England.
"I think I was one of those guys that had to learn that," he said. "Tedy Bruschi took me aside and Willie McGinest took me aside and Lawyer Milloy took me aside. I think that's part of the responsibility as a veteran player, that you learn from these experiences and you try to convey the message to some of the younger players, so they don't have to learn the hard way. A lot of times you have to learn the hard way in life.
"Coach always talks about doing your job. You do your job so that everyone around you can do their job. When people trust each other, then you can play with anticipation and confidence and ultimately go out there and play aggressively. There's no really no secret to it," Brady said.
Vince Wilfork, another of the veterans, spoke about how he went through the same process. Like Brady, he has gone from listening to others to now teaching the younger players.
"I learned a long time ago, with Tedy Bruschi, (Mike) Vrabel, Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, (Richard) Seymour," he said. "I learned from some of the best that played around here. And the first thing that comes to your mind is you can't be selfish. It's not about you, it's (about) team, and if you buy into it, you'll be very successful."
One aspect is "the next man up" system the team uses. When someone is hurt, the next man in line is expected to step right in and keep the team moving forward
"I think that's the way our entire team has to look at this game," head coach Bill Belichick said of Sunday's title game with the Ravens. "It's the way we look at every game, but especially when you're in a one-game season like we are now. Everybody's got to be ready. Everybody's got to be ready to go. You're one play away from doing different things that you thought you'd be doing.
The Patriots first dramatized their team-first attitude 11 years ago on the way to their first Super Bowl title. They declined to be introduced individually, as teams usually are, before the game against St. Louis in New Orleans. Everyone ran out together. It is a practice that the team continues to this day.
The practice is in stark contrast to the way Baltimore is playing this season. The Ravens have one of the game's true individualists in linebacker Ray Lewis. No one involved with the Ravens seems to have a problem with Lewis receiving so much attention. Rather, the team seems to prefer it. It works for Baltimore. The Patriots simply have a different way of going about their work.
"That's 'The Patriot Way.' We put team first," Wilfork said. "We win as a team and we lose as a team. I've won a lot of games in my career here and I wouldn't trade it for anything."
(Contact Paul Kenyon at email@example.com.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com.)