'72 Dolphins hardly sounding grumpy about perfect Patriots

MIAMI -- Some of the 1972 Miami Dolphins swapped stories Friday about their perfect season, praised the New England Patriots, laughed about today's NFL paparazzi and playfully debated the myth of their annual champagne celebrations.

They hardly came across as grumpy old men. But they didn't deny they'll be pleased if the New York Giants upset the unbeaten Patriots in the Super Bowl.

"I'll be jumping up and down," said Don Shula, who plans to attend the game.

Don Shula revisited Spygate on Friday, saying his earlier criticism of the New England Patriots was ill-advised.

"I'm probably not the guy that should have said it," he said.

In November, Shula said the Patriots' success was diminished by the spying scandal that prompted stiff punishment from the NFL early in the season. More ...

Shula coached the 1972 Dolphins to a 17-0 record, still the only perfect season in NFL history. The Patriots can finish 19-0 if they beat the Giants next week.

New England is a 12 1/2-point favorite, and the perfect-season Dolphins acknowledge it's likely their unique achievement will finally be matched.

"It has been 35 years. This record is old enough to be president," 1972 running back Mercury Morris said. "These guys are the first guys who have actually come close. I take my hat off to them."

The Patriots' remarkable run has put the '72 Dolphins back in the spotlight this season. Morris, four of his teammates and Shula spoke on a national conference call about the possibility of their 17-0 record being surpassed.

"Records are made to be broken, and eventually it is going to happen," said Dick Anderson, a safety in 1972. "It hasn't happened yet. They have a very good chance to do so. We can't do anything about it. All we can do is, if they're undefeated through the season, congratulate them and say they're the second team to do it."

The perfect-season Dolphins are perceived by some as being jealously protective of their unique achievement, in part because of stories that each year they hold a champagne celebration when the NFL's last unbeaten team loses.

But it's not an annual ritual, '72 running back Jim Kiick said.

"Number one, I prefer Jack Daniel's. I don't like champagne," Kiick said to laughter from his teammates. "We don't sit around waiting with a bottle of champagne, waiting for that last team to lose a game. What we are celebrating is our accomplishment, something we're proud of."

It's unclear whether the champagne celebration ever happened.

"I don't think any champagne glasses have ever been clicked by any of the Dolphins," '72 quarterback Bob Griese said. "That was something that was mentioned in jest, and I think the media ..."

Anderson interrupted with a chuckle.

"Bob, you weren't home when we started it," he said.

The boys of '72 said the game was much different when they played, with rules making passing more difficult. But the media spotlight was less intense, as this week's scrutiny of the boot on Tom Brady's right foot shows.

Griese started in the Super Bowl after missing much of the 1972 season with a broken leg, but he said photographers paid little attention.

"That's one of the ways things have changed in 35 years," Griese said. "The paparazzi are chasing down athletes all over the place. I don't know who the hot chicks and movie actresses were back then that we were supposed to be running around with. I had a boot on my leg, but no paparazzi came around with me."

There are similarities to 1972, too. The perfect-season Dolphins said New England coach Bill Belichick reminds them of Shula in his ability to make adjustments, shrug off setbacks and coax consistent, error-free play from his team.

With the Patriots bidding for their fourth Super Bowl title in seven years, Shula said they're on the verge of becoming a Yankees-type dynasty. But he said the Giants have a shot at an upset.

"This is a team that is capable of giving New England a good game," Shula said. "What I want to see more than anything else is a good, hard-fought Super Bowl, and then let the best team win. And if New England does it, you give them credit for 19-0, something nobody else has ever done."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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