SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the Patriots arrived nearly an hour late to the news conference at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa on Sunday night, the team began to write the first page of the final chapter in its storybook season.
The Patriots' hotel in Scottsdale is 45 minutes from the media center in downtown Phoenix, and reporters packed into buses like summer campers for the trip, with a police escort clearing the way.
One exuberant Patriots fan, seeing the convoy, jumped out of his blue Hummer parked at a gas station and waved and hollered as he videotaped what he thought was the team bus running a red light in a driving rain.
In the hotel ballroom, white fabric lined the ceiling walls, making the space feel like it was more suited to Barnum & Bailey than Belichick and Brady. A huge black curtain stretched across the room, but this circus only had two rings: one for coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady, and the other for Tedy Bruschi, Dan Koppen, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel and Kevin Faulk, whose interview tables lined the room.
The media poured into the tent at 5 p.m. local time, and old colleagues, veterans of the "hurry up and wait" game, had an opportunity to get caught up.
As the rain pelted the windows, and the room started to take on the undeniable stench of a lockerroom, Belichick stepped through the curtain, and the room quieted in an instant.
NFL staffers scurried to get microphones to anyone with a question for Belichick, who took to the podium in a grey suit and tie. The League's media relations specialist directed microphone distribution with hand signals, eye contact and facial gestures.
The only time the clicks of the cameras were able to drown out the sound of the rain, though, was when Brady snuck into the room.
Belichick continued to talk, but all the lenses were turned on the QB in the corner, who smiled broadly and walked without a limp to the podium when his turn came.
Having endured two previous super-hyped Super Bowl media weeks (the Patriots' first Super Bowl was played without the extra week), Brady acknowledged that this week -- leading up to the game that could give him as many rings as his idol Joe Montana and secure his undefeated team's place in history -- was a little special.
"I told everyone that whatever you may think may be important this next week it is really not that important," Brady said, "because this week will have an impact on the rest of your life."
As soon as Brady finished, the press corps poured through the curtain and descended on the guys on the other side of the room. The room once again swelled with conversation and the sounds of reporters peppering Bruschi with questions. It was clear Bruschi had been there before, too, as he answered calmly despite six cameras and a dozen microphones shoved within 18 inches of his face.
Bruschi echoed Brady's sentiment, "It's going to be a very fast week."
One day down. Six to go.