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Rob Gronkowski explains why this healthy playoff run means so much: ‘I can’t take it for granted’

01.06.15 at 10:41 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski could be a scary sight for the Ravens Saturday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Rob Gronkowski could be a scary sight for the Ravens Saturday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski doesn’t take this time of year for granted. There’s good reason for that.

In Jan. 2012, he caught five passes on eight targets for 87 yards before badly turning his ankle against the Ravens in the AFC championship. That was a game the Patriots held on to win, 23-20 and advance to the Super Bowl. A week earlier he caught 10 passes on 12 targets and three touchdowns in a 45-10 romp over the Broncos. In the Super Bowl, a limited Gronk caught just two passes for 26 yards and no touchdowns.

A year later, he broke his forearm against the Colts in November and came back against Houston in the divisional round, only to break it again. He missed the AFC championship against the Ravens, a 28-13 loss to Baltimore.

Then last year, he was on the road back when he had his knee taken out by T.J. Ward. He missed the playoffs as the Patriots fell short against the Broncos in the AFC championship.

Now, Gronk, who got Week 17 off just to be sure he’s 100 percent, is back in the playoffs for the first time in two years and is ready to contribute.

“It’€™s always special just being in the playoffs overall,” said Gronkowski, who caught 82 balls for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. “It’€™s a very difficult season throughout the whole NFL, and it’€™s just awesome being part of it. I can’€™t take it for granted. You’€™ve got to work your tail off and keep preparing hard and go out there and play to the best of my ability.”

When Gronkowski spoke Tuesday, it was after a full pads practice in bitter cold. He was grunting and groaning at the start of the workout as he tried to warm up.

“It feels good,” Gronkowski said. “It feels good just to be back out there on the practice field, practicing hard as a team, practicing together as a team. We’€™ve just got to keep working hard.

“It’€™s just like any other week. We’€™re trying to go out there and we’€™re trying to execute on the practice field. We’€™re trying to stick together as one, execute, everybody on the same page, all the chemistry the same between the receivers, quarterbacks, tight ends, linemen, running backs ‘€“ whatever it is. So, just going out at practice and practicing hard and preparing.”

Gronkowski is finally looking to take on the Ravens at full strength for 60 minutes, something he missed in 2012 and 2013.

“They’€™re a very challenging, tough team,” Gronkowski said. “They’€™ve got a lot of good players, they’€™re fast, they’€™re physical, and they’€™re always prepared and they’€™re always ready. So, we’€™ve got to keep practicing hard and preparing mentally and physically, and we’€™ve got to be ready. They’€™re always challenging and they’€™re always very tough.

“They’€™re a very physical team. Their front line is very big and very physical, and you just can’€™t go out there and be soft. They’€™ve got very good players. They’€™re always physically and mentally ready. It’€™s going to be a challenge and it’€™s going to be tough, no doubt. We’€™ve got to go out there and execute and be prepared.”

They’€™re a very good team, no doubt about that. They bring it. That’€™s what impresses [me] the most is that they bring it. It’€™s not just one play or two plays. They bring it every play. I’€™ve got to be ready and be prepared.’€

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Baltimore Ravens, Gronk, New England Patriots

Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on what to expect in another Patriots-Ravens war

01.06.15 at 9:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview the Patriots and Ravens AFC divisional showdown Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. The Ravens have won two of the previous meetings in the playoffs, including a 28-13 decision in the Jan. 2013 AFC championship at Gillette Stadium. The Ravens also beat the Patriots in the 2009 wild card round at Gillette. The Patriots beat the Ravens in the 2011 AFC championship.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Baltimore Ravens, Chris Price, Mike Petraglia

Terrell Suggs on Tom Brady complimenting him: ‘Say what?’

01.06.15 at 9:11 pm ET
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Terrell Suggs and Tom Brady will meet against on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Terrell Suggs and Tom Brady will meet against on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

It’s become clear over the years Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs doesn’t like Tom Brady and the Patriots. Suggs won’t even refer to Brady by his name, and that continued Tuesday.

During Suggs’ meeting with the media in Baltimore, the first question was if he would say the name of the Patriots’ quarterback — Suggs wouldn’t.

“He’€™s the quarterback for the New England Patriots,”€ Suggs said to reporters.

Brady had nothing but positive things to say about Suggs on Tuesday when he was asked about the 12-year veteran — even calling him a “phenomenal player.”

“Say what?,” Suggs said when being told of the comments. “Did they record him? Like, they had a camera? I would love to see his face. But whatever, it is what it is now.”€

In five regular-season games against the Patriots, Suggs is 0-5, but has sacked Brady five times. In the playoffs, Suggs is 2-1 and has sacked Brady once. In the three playoff games, he’s recorded two tackles in every game.

“It’€™s the same that all defensive players have with quarterbacks,” Suggs said of his interaction with Brady. “He’€™s a quarterback, I’€™m a defender. He has a job to do, and so do I. Naturally, there are going to be some disagreements there.”

The Patriots and Ravens are no strangers to each other in the postseason, as they have met in four of the last six postseasons, with the Ravens winning two of the last three — with all three games being played at Gillette Stadium. Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots are 12-3 at home, but two of those three losses have come against the Ravens.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Terrell Suggs, Tom Brady,

Tom Brady has nothing but love for Terrell Suggs: ‘He’s phenomenal [and] always right’

01.06.15 at 8:51 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Forget the past. Tom Brady has nothing but love and respect for Terrell Suggs.

At least, that’s what the Patriots quarterback would have you believe listening to him talk about the challenge of facing a defense that is hoping to pressure Brady off the spot Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

For the last four years, ever since voting for Ryan Fitzpatrick over Tom Brady (36 TDs, 4 INTs) for the Pro Bowl in 2010, Suggs has had a feud with Brady, mostly fueled by the Ravens linebacker. On Saturday night, after the Ravens beat the Steelers to set up another rematch with Brady, Suggs poured more gas on the fire.

“We all know the matchup the NFL wants to see. Something for the TV. Something for the sponsors,”€ Suggs told NFL.com, referencing of course a potential Brady-Peyton Manning AFC Championship game. “€œBut we have faith in ourselves and Ravens Nation, and we’€™ll see if we can disrupt some people’€™s plans.”

Suggs famously said of his 2010 omission of Brady: “He [Brady] probably didn’€™t vote for me either.”

There was no joking, only vitriol, after the Ravens beat the Patriots in Jan. 2013 in the AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium.

“Those are the most arrogant p—ks in the world, starting with coach Belichick on down,” said Suggs. “That’€™s funny, ever since Spy Gate they haven’€™t been able to win.

Whether it’s Spy Gate or the “Tuck Rule,” Suggs has always called into question the legitimacy of Brady’s three Super Bowl rings, terming them “questionable.”

Two years ago, following the Ravens’ win over San Francisco in the Super Bowl, Suggs told ESPN that he didn’€™t think the Patriots “respected anybody,” adding, “the other 31 teams hate the New England Patriots.”

With all of that as a backdrop, Brady tried to kill the 32-year-old Ravens bodacious linebacker with kindness.

“He’€™s phenomenal,” Brady said. “He’€™s [in his] 12th year; it looks like it’€™s his third year out there. He’€™s the leader of that defense, he makes great plays. I think there’€™s the play that’€™s called, and then what he actually does. So even though he has a certain responsibility, if he sniffs it out he takes a shot and goes for it. He may have contain, but he may rip inside and try to make a play in the backfield. He’€™s just a smart player. We’€™ve played against him a bunch of times; he takes away a lot of stuff. I have a lot of respect for his ability to play the game at a high level; he’€™s phenomenal.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, T-Sizzle

Patriots have perfect practice attendance as they begin prep for Ravens

01.06.15 at 12:58 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There was perfect attendance Tuesday on the lower grass field as the Patriots returned to practice to get ready for the Ravens on Saturday in the AFC divisional round at Gillette Stadium.

Light snow and bitter cold greeted the players, many of whom had sweats on over their pads as the team held a full pads practice.

Brandon LaFell was in attendance after missing last week.

The team is not required to issue an injury report for Saturday’s game until Wednesday.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots,

Rodney Harrison on MFB: ‘I don’t think Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback’

01.06.15 at 12:33 pm ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Tuesday to preview this Saturday’s Patriots-Ravens divisional round game. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has excelled in the postseason, as in his last seven postseason games he has thrown 17 touchdowns and just one interception. Even with those numbers, Harrison doesn’t think Flacco is an elite quarterback.

“I think it is a special circumstance for Joe Flacco,” said Harrison. “This is a team, in my estimation, they got into the playoffs — they got lucky. They don’t view it that way. They feel like they won 10 games and felt like they earned the opportunity to be in the playoffs and feel like they can beat anyone, especially going up to Pittsburgh and beating them.

“Joe Flacco is a very confident guy, this whole argument of is this guy elite, is he not elite? I don’t think Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback. It’s nothing that I would be afraid of, but Joe Flacco, he’s perfect for that system. He plays extremely well in that system. He’s very smart. He throws the best deep ball that I’ve seen the National Football League and he is very confident guy.”

Even though Harrison doesn’t think Flacco is elite, he still thinks the Ravens have a shot of upsetting the Patriots Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

“You top [Flacco] with their ability to run and their front-seven, and this team has the potential of knocking off the Patriots, no question about it,” said Harrison. “They have that veteran coaching staff. This is a very confident bunch coming into Foxboro. They’ve had success in the past. They feel like yes, we don’t have Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but we still have some of those core guys that went in there and beat them and we feel very confident.”

Harrison noted how much of an advantage the Patriots have with Rob Gronkowski, as Baltimore doesn’t have anyone that can cover the powerful New England tight end, who will be playing in his first postseason game since Jan. 13, 2012.

“They can’t cover him, they can’t,” said Harrison. “They flat out can’t over him. I don’t care if they put Lardarius Webb on him, he’s too small — cornerback, their best cover guy. They just don’t have the guys. They might try Will Hill. I think he had a couple of big hits last week, but there is no one on that team that can cover Rob Gronkowski, so I expect him to get a lot of work.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, joe flacco, Rob Gronkowski, Rodney Harrison

Report: Bill Vinovich will work as referee for Patriots-Ravens

01.06.15 at 12:12 pm ET
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Bill Vinovich will work his first Patriots game since January 2007 Sunday in Foxboro. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Bill Vinovich will work as the referee for Saturday’s game. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Bill Vinovich will work as the referee for Saturday’s divisional playoff contest between the Patriots and Ravens, according to FootballZebras.com.

Vinovich is in his ninth year as an NFL official and sixth as a referee. According to Football Zebras, this marks his sixth postseason assignment (two Wild Card Playoffs, three Divisional Playoffs and one Conference Championship). This marks Vinovich’s second Patriots game of the year. He was the lead official for a December contest at Gillette between the Patriots and Dolphins.

(For what it’s worth, Broncos fans are probably thrilled about the fact that Vinovich wasn’t assigned to the Denver-Indy contest. There are some in Colorado who believe that Vinovich has it in for the Broncos.)

Here’s a look at who has worked as the lead official for each New England game this year, and the corresponding penalties for each game, not counting the flags that were offset or declined.

Sept. 7 at Miami: Walt Anderson — 9 penalties, 100 yards (Dolphins — 4 penalties, 26 yards)
Sept. 14 at Minnesota: Tony Corrente — 15 penalties, 163 yards (Vikings — 7 penalties, 58 yards)
Sept. 21 vs. Oakland: Pete Morelli — 6 penalties, 59 yards (Raiders — 6 penalties, 49 yards)
Sept. 29 at Kansas City: John Parry — 3 penalties, 30 yards (Chiefs — 4 penalties, 35 yards)
Oct. 5 vs. Cincinnati: Jerome Boger — 12 penalties, 114 yards (Bengals — 4 penalties, 37 yards)
Oct. 12 at Buffalo: Walt Coleman — 9 penalties, 60 yards (Bills — 8 penalties, 107 yards)
Oct. 16 vs. Jets: Bill Leavy — 9 penalties, 64 yards (Jets — 7 penalties, 70 yards)
Oct. 23 vs. Chicago: Brad Allen — 7 penalties, 38 yards (Bears — 5 penalties, 41 yards)
Nov. 2 vs. Denver: Walt Anderson — 9 penalties, 71 yards (Broncos — 10 penalties, 72 yards)
Nov. 16 at Indy: Pete Morelli — 5 penalties, 53 yards (Colts — 4 penalties, 27 yards)
Nov. 23 vs. Detroit: Tony Corrente — 11 penalties, 89 yards (Lions — 9 penalties, 54 yards)
Nov. 30 at Green Bay: Ed Hochuli — 4 penalties, 25 yards (Packers — 4 penalties, 22 yards)
Dec. 7 at San Diego: Bill Leavy — 6 penalties, 70 yards (Chargers — 8 penalties, 61 yards)
Dec. 14 vs. Miami: Bill Vinovich — 5 penalties, 51 yards (Dolphins — 5 penalties, 35 yards)
Dec. 21 at Jets: Brad Allen — 5 penalties, 38 yards (Jets — 2 penalties, 14 yards)
Dec. 28 vs. Bills: Terry McAulay — 5 penalties, 55 yards (Bills — 5 penalties, 44 yards)

For more on Vinovich’s work as a referee, check out his page at Pro Football Reference. For more information on this week’s assignments, click through to the always reliable Football Zebras. And for more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Bill Vinovich,

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