Patriots not distracted by O'Brien's flirtation with Penn State Wire Reports
Published: Jan. 6, 2012 at 07:28 p.m.
Updated: Jan. 6, 2012 at 10:27 p.m.

So much for a quiet bye week.

New England Patriots players, anticipating a restful weekend watching potential playoff opponents, were hit by a key question Friday. Would offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien's seemingly imminent hiring as coach at Penn State be a distraction even though he's expected to stay with the team throughout the postseason?

No, wide receiver Julian Edelman said.

"We're still getting ready for the playoffs so we didn't change anything," he said. "We're going to get back to work here soon and enjoy a couple of days off and rest."

Backup offensive lineman Nick McDonald agreed. It was business as usual in Foxborough on Friday, he said.

"It's just another work day," he said. "Come to work and do our jobs."

O'Brien wasn't at practice on Thursday. Instead, he went to Penn State for an interview. Asked if O'Brien was in Foxborough on Friday, Edelman said that was a question for coach Bill Belichick, who did not speak with reporters.

NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported Friday that O'Brien was fully expected to replace fired coach Joe Paterno, and Penn State announced later Friday night that it had hired O'Brien.

The top-seeded Patriots had team meetings, but did not practice Friday. Several players declined comment. Tom Brady left without speaking with reporters.

This is not the first time Patriots coordinators have been interviewed for head-coaching jobs during the season. It happened twice during the 2004 season -- then-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was hired by Notre Dame and then-defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel interviewed with the Cleveland Browns -- and that didn't distract them from winning their third Super Bowl in four years.

Troy Brown, who played both wide receiver and defensive back that season for the Patriots, didn't think there was any distraction.

"I don't think it was a big issue," he said. "I don't think it'll be a big issue now. And that's one of the benefits of having the bye week off. So I'm sure somebody on the offensive side of the ball or Belichick himself can get the things done that he needs to get done there offensively" until O'Brien returns.

"That's just kind of the way it's going to be, especially playing in New England," Brown said. "If those guys don't interview for jobs, before you know it all the jobs will be filled because they're always in the postseason."