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Brady, McCourty don’t practice for Patriots

12.15.10 at 4:12 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Quarterback Tom Brady, cornerback Devin McCourty and defensive linemen Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Mike Wright and Ron Brace all did not practice for the Patriots on a chilly Wednesday. Here’s the complete injury report as issued by the team:

Did Not Practice
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot)
DL Myron Pryor (back)
DL Mike Wright (concussion)
DL Ron Brace (head)
CB Devin McCourty (rib)
DL Gerard Warren (knee)

Limited Participation
WR Deion Branch (knee)

Full Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (elbow)

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The Big Nickel: Patriots’ offensive line preps for new challenge, the team chills out and more Aaron Rodgers speculation

12.15.10 at 3:22 pm ET
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The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Wednesday.

1. The New England offensive line has yielded 21 sacks through 13 games, tied for sixth-lowest in the league. Circumstances have forced the Patriots to use different combinations along their front ‘€” Logan Mankins‘€™ contract dispute at the start of the season forced New England to use Dan Connolly at left guard, but not soon after Mankins’€™ return, right guard Stephen Neal went on season-ending injured reserve with a shoulder problem, which allowed Connolly to step back into the starting lineup at the other guard spot.

However, they have managed to keep quarterback Tom Brady mostly clean against some of the better pass defenses in the league ‘€” the Patriots have gone against five of the league’€™s Top 10 defenses in terms of total passing yards allowed, and will face the Packers on Sunday night, the No. 3 pass defense in the NFL. (Don’€™t sleep on Green Bay’€™s run defense, either ‘€” they allow only 117.3 rushing yards a game, 19th in the league.)

It’€™ll be another challenge for a group that continues to play at a high level.

‘€œIt’€™s been pretty solid. There’€™s always things we can do better, there’€™s do doubt about that,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the offensive line. ‘€œThey’€™ve consistently done a good job ‘€” we haven’€™t had a lot of missed assignments. You don’€™t see a lot of guys running through the line of scrimmage unblocked bearing down on the quarterback. Usually, we have everybody; usually we have a hat on everybody and have everybody picked up.

‘€œSometimes, technique-wise we get beat, but haven’€™t had a lot of missed assignments, and that’€™s really a credit to those guys individually preparing but also working together and making sure they’€™re all seeing the same picture and making the same reads. Dante does a great job with that group, and gets all five guys to play as one. That’€™s really what offensive line play is about.’€

The senior member of the offensive line ‘€” a starter for three Super Bowl teams ‘€” left tackle Matt Light said there’€™s been some good and some bad over the course of the season.

‘€œHonestly, I never rate what we do and how we do it from week-to-week,’€ Light said. ‘€œI think individually, you rate yourself and what you do, and I think collectively, there are things we have to improve on. I think there are things we’€™ve done OK. There are some things we haven’€™t done so well. But I think overall, we’€™re playing pretty well together. I think we all trust each other and the guys next to us.’€

2. The following players were absent from the start of Wednesday’€™s practice, which was held on the lower fields behind Gillette Stadium: Brady, cornerback Devin McCourty and four defensive linemen ‘€” Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Mike Wright and Ron Brace. Brady’€™s absence is consistent with the way he’€™s been utilized in previous weeks, while McCourty (ribs), Pryor (back) Brace (head) and Wright (concussion) have all sustained recent injuries. Warren’€™s absence should be explained when the injury report is released at 4 p.m.

The fact that the players were outside ‘€” in freezing temperatures ‘€” was no surprise to wide receiver Deion Branch, who joked that they never seem to use the practice bubble.

‘€œMr. Kraft had that bubble built, which we don’€™t use,’€ Branch said with a smile. ‘€œI don’€™t know how much it cost him, but I think Coach Belichick cares more … it’€™s over to the side of us and we look at it, but he don’€™t care. The thing is, we have to play in it, so we practice in this type of weather.’€

On that same topic, before practice, Belichick was informed that his team was 10-0 in the snow since he started coaching the Patriots in 2000.

‘€œHonestly, I didn’€™t even know that. That’€™s great. We’€™ll get the snow-making machines out there; start firing it up,’€ he said. ‘€œI wasn’€™t even aware of it. Those aren’€™t the kind of records I keep track of.

‘€œLook, our team has to be ready to play in whatever the elements are every week. They practice in them. They play in them. They’€™re the ones that are out there trying to throw, catch, kick in those conditions, tackle, block, whatever it is. We’€™ve got some good football players. Those guys prepare for not only the opponent they have to play, but also the conditions they have to play in, whether it’€™s 90 degrees against Cincinnati or zero against Chicago. That’€™s their job and they do a good job of it. They’€™re the ones that deserve the credit. They’€™re out there playing.’€
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Read More: aaron rodgers, Bill Belichick, Bill Brasky, Clay matthews

Welcome back to your nightmare Charles Woodson

12.15.10 at 3:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO — While every Patriots fan remembers the last game at old Foxboro Stadium as a snowy dream, Charles Woodson has nightmares all the time about it. Who can blame him?

The player who hit Tom Brady – forcing the ball loose during the legendary “Tuck Rule” game in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff – believes Brady “stole” his chance at a Super Bowl ring. Woodson will be returning to Foxboro Sunday night for just the second time since that classic game and for the first time as a member of the Green Bay Packers.

“Yeah, he did steal my ring and I’m still waiting around to get mine,” Woodson said tongue-in-cheek during a conference call Wednesday to the New England media. “In college he’s a guy that worked hard. You knew he’d be good but who knew he’d be where he is now?”

Woodson was Brady’s teammate when the two were at the University of Michigan in the late 90s. Woodson played for Oakland when the Raiders visited old Foxboro Stadium during a snow storm in Jan. 2002 and appeared to be on the brink of making the AFC Championship before the strip sack and loose ball was awarded back to the Patriots in the famous ruling made by referee by Walt Coleman.

“I’ve had that flashback more times than I would like,” Woodson continued. “I catch that game on classic football channels. That’s a bad memory for me but it is what it is. This week, we’re just going to concentrate on trying to get this win, whether it snows or not.”

Here’s the kicker: Snow, heavy at times, is the early forecast for kick-off Sunday night at Gillette, just something else to cause more sleepless nights between now and then for Woodson.

Read More: Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, nfl

Mike McCarthy: Aaron Rodgers only has ‘slim chance’ to practice this week

12.15.10 at 2:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — During his conference call with the New England media, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that he believes there’s only a “slim chance” starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers will practice this week after sustaining a concussion in Sunday’s 7-3 loss to the Lions in Detroit.

“Aaron Rodgers did not practice today,” McCarthy said. “He won’t [Thursday] and there’s a slim chance Friday. He’s going through all the tests right now. We’ll probably make a decision on Saturday if he’s cleared.”

Bill Belichick: No one does the ‘little things’ like Tom Brady

12.15.10 at 2:29 pm ET
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FOXBORO — If Tom Brady thinks Bill Belichick is the best coach and teacher in football history, then Belichick believes Brady may be his best student – at least if you read between the lines Wednesday at Gillette Stadium.

Both sides of the coach-quarterback mutual admiration society were very apparent Wednesday and about an hour after Brady called Belichick the best of all time, Belichick said that Brady works as hard at his craft as anyone he’s ever coached.

“Tom works hard on all the little things,” Belchick began. “I think that’s one of the things you really respect and admire about Tom. He’s always working on the little things. It might be on one thing that comes up on one play and that one play might happen twice a season. Who knows?”

“He continually prepares at a very high level, both the opponent, the opponent’s scheme  and their personnel. He tries to have a better understanding of our offense, what options there are on certain plays, certain situations, the way a team plays it. You learn something every week, or every practice, or every game on that. He’s always striving to get better. He does a lot of things well but he knows there are things he can improve on and he’s always working to get better at those.”

And it’s that attention to detail that has paid off bigtime in the last month, as Brady has captured a pair of AFC Player of the Week honors after his performances against the Colts and Lions. He has led the team on a five-game winning streak. And he hasn’t thrown an interception since Oct. 17 against Baltimore.

“Sooner or later, you’ll see one come up in a game that maybe hasn’t come up in a month, six weeks or a year and then he’ll be able to make a play on that. And I think that’s a very satisfying thing for him. ‘This happened a year ago or whenever, and here we had a chance to get it and we got it.’ You feel good about that.

“I think that’s kind of what Tom Brady does, he does all the things you expect him to do and a lot of the little things and somewhere along the line, those little things help him make a play. It might be a long way back in the history books where you find it but there was a teaching lesson somewhere there that he picked up on.”

But if you think the 59-yard hitch-and-go to Deion Branch down the left sideline as time expired in the first half was one of those cases, think again.

“It’s a pretty basic play,” Belichick said. “Anytime you have a defensive in a split-safety coverage, I think probably every quarterback in the league has either looked outside to try and throw inside or looked inside to throw outside. It was a good play, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think we’re talking about anything that’s changed the game of football. I think that’s probably what every quarterback, every quarterback coach and every team teaches on plays like that.

“You’re looking off one guy to throw to somewhere else, it’s basically a 2-on-1 fast break and try to get the ball to whichever guy you can move the defender away from. It was good play, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t put it down as like the greatest read in the history of football. I think that’s a bit of a stretch.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Deion Branch, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots

Tom Brady, Devin McCourty 4 others miss Pats practice

12.15.10 at 1:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady was given another Wednesday off from on-field practice with the Patriots as the team began on-field preparations for the Green Bay Packers this Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

Cornerback Devin McCourty and four defensive linemen - Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Mike Wright and Ron Brace - were also absent from the open portion of practice on the lower practice fields at Gillette. The workout was held in sweats and shells.

McCourty is new to the list this week with a rib injury suffered Sunday in Chicago. Brace was also nicked up in the game with a head injury. Pryor (back) and Wright (concussion) have missed the last several weeks with their injuries.

Tom Brady explains why Bill Belichick best [teacher] ‘of all-time’

12.15.10 at 12:09 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady has always called it a thrill to play for Bill Belichick.

On Wednesday, the Patriots quarterback said he’s the best teacher he’s ever had.

“I just think our coaches hold us accountable and the players respond. I think there’s a good mix of players in here that are really listening to what our coaches are teaching. He wants us to be a smart, tough, physical football team that plays well under pressure. He preaches that to us.

“Every day that we come in, that’s what we’re trying to be. Guys take to coaching and you listen to the best coach of all-time, hopefully you learn something.”

Brady said that Belichick has about ’50 questions’ for the team every Wednesday morning before the team begins its formal preparations for the upcoming opponent.

“It’s just on a day-to-day basis with him,” Brady said. “Basically, when we don’t do things right, he lets us know. There’s nobody that’s off the hook. He holds us accountable on every single play and every single day. We come into a meeting at 8 o’clock on Wednesday morning and he’s got questions, 50 questions about the team that we’re going to play.

“Now, we haven’t had a meeting about the Packers or the Bears but he’s got questions. And basically he’s trying to make sure on Monday and Tuesday we’re doing what we need to do to be prepared for Wednesday morning.”

And just like in school, if a teacher asks you a question, and you’re unprepared, you feel and look silly in front of your classmates – or teammates as the case may be.

“And it’s pretty embarrassing if everybody is getting their questions right that he’s asking them and he asks you and you really don’t know the answer. So, everyone prepares pretty hard on Monday and Tuesday for his meetings on Wednesday and that’s the way it goes on Thursday and ultimately on Sunday and that’s our test for the week.”

And just like a pop quiz is designed to make sure that you know your stuff when the real test comes along, it’s the same with Belichick.

“When we come in Monday morning, he puts the tape on and if you’re not playing the way he expects you to play, you’re held accountable,” Brady continued. “And I think that’s the greatest thing about playing here is when you’re a player, you don’t have to ever have to hold your teammates accountable, the coach does that and I think that’s why everyone respects so much that he coaches an 11-year veteran quarterback the way he coaches a rookie tight end.”

Belichick, for his part, reciprocated about an hour later in his Wednesday presser.

“Tom works hard on all the little things, and I think that’s one thing as a coach, you really respect about Tom,” Belichick said.

“I think we give him plenty of ammunition. We give him plenty of reasons [to criticize]. I don’t think he makes anything up. He just tells us the truth.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, nfl
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