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It's child's play for Delhomme

The Patriots have a pronounced advantage in experience at the most important position. Jake Delhomme doesn't see it that way.

In his mind, he has been to the Super Bowl many times already.

Delhomme often pretended that he was Joe Montana leading his team to another Super Bowl victory when he and his boyhood friends played in the yard at his Louisiana home. It was one of his favorite fantasies.

"I played this game a great deal," Delhomme said Monday, after the Panthers' first workout of the week. "I can remember playing at halftime of Super Bowls, going out and throwing a couple of touchdown passes and practicing my dance out in the front yard."

New England's Tom Brady has won a Super Bowl and knows exactly what to expect. He threw for 145 yards and a touchdown in New England's 20-17 victory over St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI.

"I think I have somewhat of an idea of what I'm getting myself into this year," Brady said. "A couple of years ago, it was just so chaotic from that third week on. And then being in the Super Bowl, it was almost like, "When is this season going to end?' "

ROLE PLAY: The Panthers not only embrace their role as underdogs, they think it could give them an edge.

"We definitely feel like it," linebacker Dan Morgan said. "We like that role. It fit the past three weeks in the playoffs and why would we want to change it now?

"We like proving people wrong."

Oddsmakers, who made the Patriots a seven-point favorite, have been wrong in recent Super Bowls. Last year, Oakland was a 3{-point choice and was routed 48-21 by Tampa Bay. Two years ago, New England was a 14-point underdog to St. Louis and not only covered, but won 20-17.

Since the 1996 Super Bowl, only two favorites have covered: Denver in 1999 and Baltimore in 2001.

While Carolina has won six straight, including three in the playoffs _ the last two on the road against NFC favorites St. Louis and Philadelphia _ there is no debate the Patriots should be favored. They have won 14 in a row, only the second time in NFL history a team has done that.

"We are the underdogs out of respect," Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. "They've won 14 games straight and beat a lot of good football teams and won under adverse conditions."

NO HARD FEELINGS: As a teenager in Akron, Ohio, Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel watched Bill Belichick come under fire and ultimately fail as Browns coach.

Belichick sparred with the media and ignored fans' chants of "Bill must go!" as the losses piled up. He was fired after the 1995 season, his fifth in Cleveland.

Now, Vrabel is trying to win his second Super Bowl in three years with Belichick.

"I remember seeing him on television and seeing the press conferences and reading the stuff in the papers," Vrabel said, referring to Belichick's rough stay in Cleveland. "That's definitely not the image I think of him now."

MVP GUESTS: Three former Super Bowl MVPs are throwing a tailgate party for the military. Troy Aikman (1993), Terrell Davis (1998) and Marcus Allen (1984) will host the Ultimate Low Carb Tailgate Party on Saturday with 50 members of the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard. The players also will offer zero-carbohydrate cocktails and low-carb food recipes on a Web site (www.lowcarbparties.com).

_ TIMES WIRES

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