It's not that anyone expected success to go to Bill Belichick's head. The New England Patriots coach is all business almost all the time.
So it is no surprise that the satisfactory smile he wore last February, as he held the Vince Lombardi Trophy amid falling red, white and blue confetti, has turned into a concentrated look of someone who hardly remembers the past but can't stop thinking about the future.
"We have to rebuild and re-establish everything that we do," he said matter of factly. "We are not taking anything for granted, and we know there is great competition out there. We are going to be tested every week. We are going to have to rebuild everything that we do fundamentally, schematically.
"There is really no shortcut to it. You have to build a foundation and just lay it brick by brick, put in the plays, practice them on the field and correct them."
Teams aren't supposed to win back-to-back Super Bowls in today's NFL, what with hard salary caps, loose free agency and a schedule stacked against the previous season's first-place teams.
But then again, not a lot of people thought New England was supposed to win the Super Bowl last year – or after the 2001 season for that matter. That is why watching the stern face of Belichick and his disciplined players, who seem at least as hungry as they were before becoming champs, is striking.
If there ever were a team that should carry a what-us-worry attitude, it is New England. Winners of 15 consecutive games (second longest in NFL history to the perfect 1972 Dolphins) and two of the last three Super Bowls, the Patriots have earned that.
They also don't want it.
What's won is won, what's done is done and a long, hard, potentially history-making season awaits. You don't get a single extra point for being defending champs. You do get a brutal schedule.
Besides, New England went through this dare-to-repeat thing in 2002 and finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs.
Listen to the players and they sound determined to make certain that doesn't happen again. The coach, however, rightfully figures so many things will happen between now and February that to spend a moment considering it is to waste that moment.
"[Are we] better prepared?" Belichick said. "I don't know. You're right; a lot of guys have been through some of those experiences before, so there may be some benefit to that.
"Ultimately, I don't really think that is what it is about. I think it's about what the team is able to accomplish collectively as a unit to prepare itself to face the different challenges it faces during the season. Then, when those challenges present themselves, [it is about] how the team performs under pressure and how it reacts to them, and there will be hundreds of them."
No nonsense. No defeats.
The Patriots have not lost since Sept. 28, 2003, to Steve Spurrier's Washington Redskins of all teams. Since then they have been perfect in almost every way.
They won out to capture the Super Bowl. They retained coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. They had a strong draft. They picked up running back Corey Dillon in free agency. They sailed through some turbulent Ty Law waters.
Just about every key contributor (save Ted Washington) is back and in camp healthy, happy and ready to find out whether this is one of the greatest teams in NFL history.
If they win three Super Bowls in four years in this day and age, the Pats – a team that never has shaken doubters who do not believe they are that great – deserve to be mentioned among the all-time best.
But that is out of Belichick's control. The old-school coach cares only about getting the details straight. It is that mindset that will give New England a chance.
He seems to remember losing in 2002 more vividly than winning in 2001 and 2003.
"We executed to a 9-7 level in 2002," he said. "What our level will be this year, I don't think anybody knows and it would be hard to predict. You have to go through the same process to get to that point, and then you have to play well when you have your opportunity in the regular season.
"I don't see the process changing too much."
And if it doesn't change much, then perhaps neither will the results.
- Bill Belichick
- New England