|01.29.12 at 11:12 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Bill Belichick has been to the Super Bowl twice as an assistant with the New York Giants, once as an assistant to Bill Parcells on the 1996 Patriots and now, five times with the Patriots as the head coach.
Never in the previous seven trips before Sunday’s arrival on the scene here in Indianapolis has he ever looked so calm or at ease.
‘We wonder about that all of the time,” Wes Welker told reporters just after Belichick’s insightful, chatty and downright happy-go-lucky 15-minute session with reporters. “I don’t know if it’s a lady in his life or what the deal is, but he definitely smiles a little more than he used to. But trust me, he is just as hard on us as what he’s been since day one, at least with me. He is on all of the time. He works very hard and tries to put us in the best position to win.’
There were no reported sightings of Belichick’s girl friend, Linda Holliday, on Sunday and she was not with him as he took the stage but he certainly spoke as if he had a spring in his step.
‘It’s nice to be in Indianapolis,” Belichick opened his address at the IUPUI Conference center inside the team hotel. “It’s about the nicest I’ve seen it here in February. It’s an honor to represent the AFC and New England in this game. A tremendous challenge here with the Giants. The Giants are a great football team. They’ve done an outstanding job all year, particularly here at the end of the season. (Giants president and CEO) John Mara and his family ‘ I have a close relationship with them ‘ a lot of respect for their organization. (Giants head coach) Tom (Tom Coughlin) and I are good friends, and we go back quite a ways. He and his staff have done a great job with his football team.”
Belichick was only just beginning.
“They have a lot of good football players, they are well-coached, disciplined and tough,” Belichick continued. “They have played very well over the last five weeks and during the course of the season as well, which we saw plenty of that during the regular season. Looking forward to a good week of work here, a good opportunity to play against another great football team. Hopefully, we will be ready to go on Sunday night. We have a lot of work in front of us. I think our players are obviously excited to be here, looking forward to the challenge and we get to work tomorrow out on the field.”
Asked about the hospitality provided by the City of Indianapolis, Belichick had the line of the day.
‘I never had too much hospitality here until I went for it on fourth-and-2, and since then, I’ve been greeted in a lot more friendly manner than I have in the past,’ Belichick quipped, causing stunned reporters to laugh out loud, their form of applause at a truly witty line and evidence that Belichick is entirely capable of self-depricating humor, even on the sport’s biggest stage. Read the rest of this entry »
|01.29.12 at 8:04 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots receiver Wes Welker spoke Sunday evening like a teammate who was hedging his bet just a little when asked what impact he would feel if Rob Gronkowski were unable to go in Super Bowl XLVI against the Giants, or was significantly limited due to his left ankle injury.
“I know I need to make some plays with those guys out of the game so, they’re definitely an integral part of our offense with everything they do,” Welker said. “If one of them is not in, other guys have to step up and do some things out there. They’ve been great players for us all year and we’re going to continue to lean on them.”
But Welker also made it sound like he and the Patriots fully expect Gronkowski to take the field with his other star tight end teammate Aaron Hernandez next Sunday.
“If he’s out there, he’s a tough kid,” Welker said. “I’m not really too worried about it changing anything we’re going to do offensively. We’re going to have him out there and he’s always a force and I don’t think it’s going to change… what their game plan is going to be.”
|01.29.12 at 7:36 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Speaking at Sunday’s media availability at University Place on the campus of IUPUI, Wes Welker was asked if a victory over the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI would “make up” for the Super Bowl loss four years ago.
“The only thing I’m focused on is winning this game,” Welker said. “Does it take care of what happened? I don’t think so, no, but at the same time I’m not worried about that. What happened, happened and we’ve moved on. The only thing I’m worried about is this game and what we need to do to win this game.”
Welker, who matched a Super Bowl record with 11 receptions in the loss to the Giants, was asked if Bill Belichick has spoken to the team about Super Bowl XLII, a 17-14 Giants win that spoiled New England’s shot at a perfect 19-0 season.
“We haven’t talked about it, this year is this year and we’ve had plenty of games this year to talk about. We’ve had plenty of those,” Welker said.
|01.29.12 at 7:33 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Speaking during Sunday’s media availability at University Place on the campus of IUPUI, Patriots receiver Wes Welker didn’t wish to discuss his future with the Patriots, only to say he expects to return to New England after the current season.
“I expect to be back,” said Welker, who is making $2.15 million in this, the final year of his current contract. “I’m not too worried about that right now. I’m fully concentrated on this game and what we have to do. This is all stuff we can address at another point and it can be a story when the season’s over, but right now we’re just concentrating on this game and what we have to do to win this game. We win this game and all the other stuff takes care of itself.”
Since joining the Patriots prior to the 2007 season, Welker has more catches (554) than any player in the NFL, totaling 80 more than the next closest receiver, Brandon Marshall. The Pats‘ wideout led the NFL in receptions in ’11, hauling in 122 during the regular season.
During his meeting with the media Sunday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke glowingly of Welker, referencing how the wide receiver came to be a member of New England.
“The whole Wes Welker thing started when he was in Miami and he was a very frustrating player to coach against because he really couldn’t handle him,” Belichick said. “He caught passes, he returned kicks, and when [Kicker Olindo] Mare got hurt he even when in and kicked extra points, field goals and kicked off against us, and that was annoying too. We doubled him and we played him in a lot of different combinations. He was always the guy we were trying to game-plan for and still couldn’t stop. When we had an opportunity to trade for him we did that and we felt like he would be a good addition to our team, and he has been. We have just as much trouble covering him in practice, and Tom has just as much confidence throwing to him as the quarterbacks in Miami did when we were trying to defend him. We don’t defend him any better in practice than we did trying to defend him when he was with the Dolphins and Coach [Nick] Saban had him down there. That’s really the Wes Welker story.”
|01.29.12 at 7:30 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Less than an hour after Rob Gronkowski deplaned the Patriots charter and walked onto the tarmac in Indianapolis wearing a dark black walking boot on his left foot, coach Bill Belichick said Sunday evening that the team considers the Pro Bowl tight end “day-to-day” and would not make any projections about his availability this week during practice.
Gronkowski missed both practices last week as the team began preparation for the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI next Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadum. Gronkowski’s father told a Buffalo TV station on Friday that his son suffered a high ankle sprain, adding that he believes Gronkowksi will be “fine” and ready to play in the biggest game of his career. Gronkowski was projected as “questionable” on Friday’s injury report as mandated by the league.
The Patriots will hold team meetings on Monday, take part in Super Bowl media day on Tuesday before resuming on-field practice on Wednesday. The Patriots will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before Saturday’s walkthrough.
|01.28.12 at 12:53 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Chad Ochocinco has battled through a long, arduous season.
He lost his father the week before the AFC championship, attending his funeral and returning too late to be active for the game.
But say this for Ocho, he is still beloved by his teammates and he has returned that love with a symbol of something he holds near and dear to his heart – his music.
Every teammate received a pair of the Beats by Dre, courtesy of Ocho, a story first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and confirmed by Patriots offensive lineman Nick McDonald, who tweeted his appreciation Saturday morning.
@NMcDonald65 tweeted: Thanks ocho.. You the man
Ochocinco bought the 70 headphones for each of his teammates to have during the team flight to Indianapolis on Sunday for Super Bowl XLVI.
Beats By Dre, created by legendary hip-hop producer Dr. Dre, start at $100 each. Ocho owns a pair of custom gold-plated “Beats” valued at $2,400.
Ochocinco signed a three-year, $11.5 million deal with the Patriots on July 29, after being acquired in a trade with Cincinnati. The deal included a $4.5 million signing bonus. Clearly, Ocho is enjoying his first successful playoff run after first-round exits with the Bengals in 2005 and 2009.
|01.28.12 at 11:47 am ET|
But then again, Hernandez did grow up right on the border of Giants and Patriots territory in Connecticut.
Some thing he admitted Friday still plays a factor in allegiances as the two team square off in Super Bowl XLVI.
‘My uncle is a Giants fan,” Hernandez said. “I have a few Giants fans in the family. D.J. [Hernandez, Aaron’s older brother] hopefully now is a Patriots fan.”
Hernandez played in the national championship in 2008, as the Gators beat Oklahoma and a year later, played in the Sugar Bowl, helping Tim Tebow and company destroy undefeated Cincinnati, 51-24.
“Yeah, big-game experience helps because you know what’s at stake and you know how to go about getting ready,” Hernandez said.
D.J. Hernandez played quarterback and wide receiver for the UConn Huskies before Aaron decided on a change of heart and attended Florida.
But Aaron has been a loyal Patriots fan from the get-go, which makes his first trip to the biggest of big games that much sweeter, though Hernandez said he did have allegiances to another team.
‘I think Detroit Lions because of Barry Sanders but both of us kind of liked all teams,” Hernandez said. “I was a fan of the Patriots just because the first jersey I had was [Drew Bledsoe] and his first jersey was Barry Sanders.’
Fan loyalties aside, Hernandez will be ready to put aside family obligations for the week and concentrate on the task at hand when the team arrives in Indianapolis this weekend.
‘I don’t think you have to worry about distractions coming into a game like this because if you can’t stay focused for the Super Bowl you probably got a problem but I heard there are a lot of distractions but I’m sure I’ll be fine,” Hernandez said, adding there’s a little more juice in preparations for this game.
‘I would say a little more intense but you still have to approach it like it’s just another game and you can’t get too worked up or too excited just got to take it like a regular game and get mentally prepared and come mentally prepared and be ready to play,” he said.