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SUPER BOWL NOTES

Smith's Future a Hot Topic

January 30, 2002|Sam Farmer and Bill Plaschke

NEW ORLEANS — Some people are suggesting St. Louis Ram defensive coordinator Lovie Smith would be a good fit to fill the Tampa Bay vacancy.

Ram defensive end Chidi Ahanotu isn't one of those people.

"I said, 'Hey, Tampa's going to be knocking on your door,' and he just laughed," said Ahanotu, who played for the Buccaneers when Smith coached linebackers there. "But I don't think Lovie's going to take that job. I know Lovie, and I don't think that's the right fit for him. He's wanted this for a long time, but I don't think he wants to follow that mess that happened down there."

Tony Dungy, the most successful coach in Tampa Bay history, was fired two weeks ago after losing to Philadelphia in a wild-card game.

He compiled a 54-42 record in six seasons, and made the playoffs four of the last five seasons. He was recently hired as coach in Indianapolis.

"Lovie's very loyal," Ahanotu said. "He has love for Tony Dungy. He has love for all the assistant coaches out there. And I don't think he's going to side with the owners, per se, and bail them out of this."

Ahanotu said he was "sick and angry" about the firing of Dungy by the Buccaneers, who most recently interviewed Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis to replace him.

"It was very low class," Ahanotu said. "I'm at a loss for words, because I was there when things were really bad. The new owners [the Glazer family] brought so much promise. They looked like stand-up guys. Tony's a class act, through and through. He just didn't deserve that."

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For the fourth time since 1991, there is only a week between the conference title games and the Super Bowl. Normally, there's a two-week gap.

"It's a little different this year," said Ram safety Kim Herring, who played for the champion Ravens last season. "We had two weeks last year. It took a lot of the pressure off. This year we had one day. It was like, 'OK, guys, we're going to the Super Bowl, and we're leaving tomorrow.' You just have to make all your arrangements in a matter of two days.

"It's a little different, but a lot of these guys played on the '99 team [which got one week]. They understand what's going on, so it's just a matter of getting everyone else up to speed."

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New England kicker Adam Vinatieri on his game-winning field goal against Oakland in a blizzard in the Patriots' divisional playoff game:

"I've dreamed a lot of times about kicking game winners in playoff games and in Super Bowls, but in all of my dreams I'm sure there wasn't three or four inches of snow on the ground."

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Ram quarterback Kurt Warner, who has had to overcome bruised vocal cords, lower-back soreness and an aching ribcage, said he's on the mend.

"Compared to the last three weeks, it's better than it has been," he said. "Really, I'm over everything. The ribs are still a bit sore, having just played two days ago. But they feel better than at any time last week."

Sam Farmer

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Not that this is going to be a bow-wow Super Bowl or anything, but

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The Knee-Slapping Bill Belichick Quote Of The Day:

When asked whether he thought the Patriots' good special teams could decide the game, Belichick elicited a demeaning little laugh and said, "Yeah, if we can ever get them to punt."

Bill Plaschke

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