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Patriots will coach AFC in Pro Bowl

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Owners of the best record among AFC Divisional playoff losers this weekend, the season isn't quite over for the Patriots' coaching staff.

By NFL rules established after the Pro Bowl was moved to before the Super Bowl last season, the Patriots will coach the AFC for the 2011 Pro Bowl, held in Hawaii on Jan. 30. Likewise, the NFC will be coached by the Falcons and head coach Mike Smith.

In his 11 seasons in New England, Belichick has coached the AFC once before, in the Feb. 2007 Pro Bowl. As losers in the AFC Championship to the Colts, the Patriots' coaches were required to make the trip to Hawaii after Super Bowl XLI.

It was Belichick's interaction with then-Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas during that week of Pro Bowl practices that helped bring Thomas to the Patriots as a free agent weeks later.

Belichick also used the opportunity to build relationships with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, and Saints head coach Sean Payton, who coached the NFC in that game.