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Originally published January 29, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 29, 2005 at 12:21 AM

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NFL

Notebook: Mitchell irritates Patriots

Let the trash talk begin. The New England secondary, insulted by Philadelphia wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, fired back yesterday with...

Let the trash talk begin.

The New England secondary, insulted by Philadelphia wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, fired back yesterday with some shots of its own — extending a Super Bowl XXXIX battle of words.

It kicked off Thursday night, when Mitchell said in a television interview that he couldn't name any of the Patriots' cornerbacks, only their numbers. Mitchell, in a more visible role since standout receiver Terrell Owens suffered an injury, also said he "has something" for veteran strong safety Rodney Harrison of the Patriots.

Mitchell was referring to the fact New England, without injured starters Ty Law and Tyrone Poole for most of the season, is employing a patchwork secondary that includes a wide receiver (Troy Brown), a rookie free agent (Randall Gay) and a guy who was taking college courses before the playoffs started (Hank Poteat).

The comments didn't sit well with Harrison.

"That's pretty funny coming from a guy who doesn't even start unless someone goes down — a guy that was a former first-round pick and still hasn't broken into the starting lineup," Harrison said of Mitchell, who has been starting for Owens. "That's a lot coming from him.

"Right now is his 30 minutes of fame. There's only one T.O., with the sideshows and antics and stuff like that. T.O. is a great receiver, and I think what Freddie needs to do is just concentrate on getting better and not worrying about what I'm doing over here, because I've been in the league a long time and I'm going to show up on (Super Bowl) Sunday."

Super Bowl XXXIX

Eagles vs. Patriots, Feb. 6,

3:30 p.m., Ch. 13.

Philadelphia and New England play Feb. 6 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest said, "All I can say is, Rodney Harrison is the wrong guy to mention, especially if you're a receiver. He (Mitchell) isn't humble.

"He hasn't done enough in this league to be on TV, talking about that. Philly has a lot more class than that."

Harrison took a shot at the Eagles, saying, "They're a good team without T.O., but they're a great team with him."

Perhaps realizing he had issued some bulletin-board fodder, violating coach Bill Belichick's edict, Harrison tried to backtrack.

"They're still a great team without T.O., but when you have an All-Pro receiver, it makes your team that much better," he said. "That's what I wanted to say."

Of the controversy, Mitchell said, "I was joking. I don't care. It'll all be solved on Sunday."

Mitchell had five catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns, including one on a fumble recovery, in Philadelphia's playoff win over Minnesota. He caught two passes for 20 yards in the NFC Championship Game against Atlanta.

"I want to thank my hands for being so great," Mitchell said after the win against Minnesota.

Mitchell and some other Eagles receivers clearly are tired of hearing about Owens, who had surgery to repair torn ankle ligaments on Dec. 22 and is trying to return for the Super Bowl — contrary to his doctor's advice.

Notes

• The New Orleans Saints hired Willy Robinson, a former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator, for the newly created position of senior defensive assistant.

Robinson, 48, coached Seahawks defensive backs from 1995 to 1998.

Edgar Bennett, a running back for the team from 1992 to 1996, was hired to coach Green Bay's running backs. Bennett, 35, replaces Johnny Roland, who accepted the same job with New Orleans.

• The Tennessee Titans hired Ray Sherman, 53, as receivers coach. Sherman spent the last five seasons as a coach with the Green Bay Packers.

• Dallas fired Jim Jeffcoat, who coached the Cowboys' defensive ends for the past five seasons.

• Buffalo cornerback Nate Clements was added to the AFC Pro Bowl team to replace injured Chris McAlister of Baltimore.

• The prosecution rested its case against Baltimore cornerback Corey Fuller after a marathon session in Tallahassee, Fla., in which it tried to show the player violated Florida's gambling laws

Judge Russell Cole Jr. rejected a defense bid to dismiss the case.

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