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Forget Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, it’s Tom Brady vs. Terrell Suggs in a battle to the death

01.18.12 at 8:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady stood at the podium on Wednesday like a politician on the stump before a big debate.

He wasn’t about to give any ammunition to his opponent.

“They’€™re great players,” Brady said Wednesday of Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. “I’€™ve played against both those guys quite a few times. You always enjoy going up against the best because you can really measure where you’€™re at. You can’€™t take plays off against those guys. You can’€™t take things for granted when you’€™re out there against them. You have to see where they’€™re at on every play because they’€™re guys who change the game. Not only the games that we play them, but every single game that they’€™re in they’€™re making plays.”

It was Lewis and Suggs who didn’t blast Brady per se but how the NFL protects Brady and “babies” the New England quarterback, especially after his season-ending knee injury of Sept. 2008. The next season, there were a couple of crucial roughing the quarterback calls in New England’s 27-21 win over the Ravens at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 4. The Ravens were called for nine penalties for 85 yards, including a pair of crucial 15-yarders.

Lewis ripped the refs after the game, saying they were overcompensating to protect Brady.

“Without totally going off the wall, it is embarrassing to the game,” Lewis said. “Brady is good enough to make his own plays, let him make the play. When you have two great teams that are going at it, let them go at it. Did [penalties] win or lose the game? No, but it got them 14 points.”

Suggs added he thought the NFL was especially interested in protecting “some quarterbacks more than others.” The Ravens were called for a pair of penalties when the Suggs grazed Brady, who fell to the turf.

“They don’t want the quarterbacks getting hurt,” Suggs said after that game. “Maybe next year it’ll be two-hand touch for the sack because we can’t tackle.”

Fast forward to Wednesday. While Suggs was offering to take Brady up on his offer of Uggs in exchange for “Ball So Hard University” shirts, the linebacker made it clear it’s not personal with Brady.

“There’s no beef,” Suggs said. “You grow and mature. I’m not the same guy I was in ’09. I’m 20 pounds lighter. There’s no beef. It’s pretty much over. I respect him.”

Our own Kirk Minihane is in enemy territory this week with the Ravens and had this unique take on The World According to Terrell Suggs.

And remember when the Patriots beat the Ravens, 23-20, in overtime last year? Suggs said Brady ‘€œmade some plays . . . But like I said, he just better hope he don’€™t see us again.’€

Brady replied on Dennis and Callahan the next day, “they talk a lot for only beating us once in nine years.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 playoffs, AFC Championship, Baltimore Ravens, Ed Reed

Ty Law named the second honorary captain for Sunday’s game

01.18.12 at 7:05 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Wednesday that former Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law has been selected as the second of four honorary captains for the team’s AFC Championship Game against the Ravens on Sunday. The club previously announced Monday that former wide receiver Troy Brown was the first of the group, all of which will come from players who were part of the 1996 AFC Championship team, as well as the 2001 team.

Read More: Troy Brown, Ty Law,

The world according to Terrell Suggs

01.18.12 at 4:16 pm ET
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Things are a little different around here.

When one walks into the media work room at Gillette Stadium, there is zero chance that they will find a player eating a slice of pizza while talking to three reporters about a clothing line titled “Ball So Hard.” I’d frankly be stunned if any player on the knows where the media work room is located, save for those who make trips to the podium. Let’s just say fraternizing is not exactly encouraged.

But that’s not the attitude at the Ravens facility, at least at sure wasn’t on Wednesday. Just a very loose scene both inside and out of the locker room, completely in contrast with what goes on in Foxboro. That’s not to suggest that the Patriots are at all wrong, it just goes to show that different approaches can lead to success.

And maybe if Terrell Suggs one day leaves Baltimore and signs with New England he’d keep his head down, say all the right things and keep away from the Papa Gino’s in the media room. Who knows? But on Wednesday the five-time Pro Bowler weighed in on a variety of topics during his six-minute session with local and national reporters (but not Rob Lowe) …

On the criticism of Joe Flacco from teammate Ed Reed: “I don’t have to stick up for Joe, his reputation speaks for itself. That’s all it’s about. This whole team has been anybody’s favorite, and he fits in with our persona, not flashy, but he’s right there in the locker room with us. We’re a different kind of group, we’re some special cats.”

On the Suggs/Tom Brady feud: “What? There’s no beef. I guess the genesis of that — there was the incident in ’09, where I almost hit him below the waist. That’s where it all started. You grow and mature, you can clearly see I’m not the same guy I was in ’09, I’m 20 pounds lighter. Like I said, I’m pretty much over it. Like I said yesterday, when it’s all said and done there are going to speak on three quarterbacks: Johnny [Unitas], Peyton [Manning], and him. There’s really no beef.”

On if he was aware that Brady (on WEEI) offered him a pair of Ugg boots to continue the recent peace between the two: “Yeah, I am. What does he wear, Ugg boots? I hear they are really comfortable. Maybe he can get me some. Tell him I’€™ll take a pair. I’€™ll send him some ‘€˜Ball So Hard’€™ wear.”

On Bill Belichick calling Reed the best player he’s ever coached against: “You know he said that to us before and constantly threw the ball back at him, so … I don’t know. I agree, when it’s all said and done he’s going to go down as one of the best safeties in history. We’ll have to see on Sunday.”

On if the Ravens can win a shootout: “Can we? I think so, I hope so. If that’s what it’s going to take, if we need to win the game 63-60, that’s what it going to take. We don’t really want that, but if it is, it is.”

Read More: AFC Championship, Patriots, Ravens, Rob Lowe

Literally? Rob Lowe tweets: Peyton Manning ‘will retire today’

01.18.12 at 3:47 pm ET
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Actor Rob Lowe tweeted this afternoon that he has learned from friends and sources that Peyton Manning will retire on Wednesday, ending any possible return to the NFL in 2012.

“My people are saying Manning will retire today,” Lowe wrote on his Twitter page. “#Colts fans, let’s hope my info is wrong. Don’t like being wrong but…”

Manning had three surgeries on his neck to repair a serious nerve ending injury following the 2010 season. Lowe, who is friends with Colts owner Jim Irsay, is a star on the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation”, a show that takes place in Pawnee, Indiana.

The Colts didn’t have any immediate response but Peyton’s father – Archie Manning – laughed it off to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen when he heard Lowe said Peyton will retire, “Noooo…he ain’t retiring,” Archie told Mortensen. “I think he would’ve told me.”

Ironicially – just hours before Lowe’s tweet – Tom Brady was asked by a member of the national media for his thoughts on Manning, who missed the entire season while his Colts went 2-14. Brady was asked if Manning’s situation reminded him of his knee injury in 2008 and whether it added to his drive and made him think of his own football mortality.

“He’€™s a great friend of mine,” Brady said. “I’€™m certainly hoping for the best. The NFL is a better place with a guy like Peyton Manning in it. I think we all appreciate the ability to go out there and play every week. Certainly nothing you take for granted because you never know — this could be your last day. To have the opportunity to play in a game like we’€™re playing in this week and prepare for a game like this is something that is exciting for all the players involved. When you don’€™t have that opportunity, it sucks. You sit at home and you watch and listen to every news station and sports station talking about the game. It’€™s great for us to be playing in it.”

Read More: Archie Manning, Breakfast Club, Indianapolis Colts, Jim Irsay

Pure energy: Brandon Spikes delivers jolt for Patriots’ defense

01.18.12 at 3:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When it comes to managing emotions around this weekend’€™s AFC Championship Game against the Ravens, Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes knows he needs a little help.

‘€œWell, that’€™s going to be key,’€ said Spikes, who frequently plays like he’€™s been binging on 5-Hour Energy. ‘€œSome of the guys on the team are just making sure I’€™m … you know, I can get a little crazy out there. It’€™s all fun and games, I just have to make sure throughout the week that I prepare and just be ready, mentally, physically, everything. It’€™s a big game.

‘€œPersonally, it’€™s just something in me,’€ Spikes added. ‘€œThere could be nobody in the stands. I’€™m going to play hard every play, relentless, like it’€™s my last play.’€

After suffering a right knee injury in a Nov. 6 loss to the Giants, the second-year linebacker was on the shelf for seven weeks. But he was able to bring a jolt to the New England defense in the regular-season finale against the Bills, and built on that nicely in the divisional playoff win over the Broncos with six tackles (three solo), a sack, two quarterback hits and one pass defensed.

For the 24-year-old, who finished the regular season with 51 tackles (36 solo), one quarterback hit and one pass defensed, he said the time away from the game ‘€œcut him deep.’€

‘€œI never really dealt with injuries. This was my first one,’€ said the 6-foot-2, 250-pounder who was more known for his Twitter feed than his game while he was out. ‘€œMy teammates kind of had my back and they held me down throughout the whole thing and just kept pushing me. As far as just watching the guys play, it definitely killed me. It was good to be back.’€

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Read More: Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo, Patrick Chung,

The Patriots won’t be burned by Ray Rice this time around

01.18.12 at 3:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It was the singular defining moment of one of the more humiliating losses in Patriots playoff history.

Ray Rice, off left guard, scoots through a hole, pushed Brandon Meriweather aside and motored 83 yards to a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. The Ravens would go on to beat the Patriots, 33-14, two years ago and there are still many on the Patriots who remember that play.

Vince Wilfork was on the nose and watched as No. 27 sped past every Patriot.

“He’€™s tough to bring down,” Wilfork said. “I mean, his lower body is probably like my lower body, with big thighs and he’€™s very strong. Hard runner, low center of gravity, can catch well and can block. When you can put those three things in a running back, you’€™ve got a complete running back and he’€™s been doing it ever since he’€™s been in the league. Tough, tough guy to bring down. Very, very physical runner. To be that small, you wouldn’€™t expect him to be that tough of a runner.

“I’€™ll tell you what, he’€™s probably one of the toughest guys to bring down in this league because he always keeps those wheels spinning. He always comes up with big plays for his team, if it’€™s in the pass game or the running game. When you have a running back like that, you can do anything with him. I think the Ravens do a good job of using him. That’€™s first on our list, we have to slow him down if we want to be successful as a defense.”

Jerod Mayo was in his first NFL playoff game and was left in shock as Rice rambled downfield.

“He’s one of those guys that can do it all,” Mayo said. “He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he’s good in blitz pickup. He’s a small guy, but at the same time he’s strong. He always has his feet going, breaks a lot of tackles, so he’s a dangerous weapon for them. There’€™s a reason why he’s their leading receiver and leading rusher. You rarely see that. He’s a great player.”

But if there’s anyone bound and determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again, it’s coach Bill Belichick.

“Yeah, very, very tough guy to defend,” Belichick said Wednesday. “Similar to problems that we’€™ve had with [C.J.] Spiller, Reggie Bush in Miami, guys like that can run the ball inside, can run the ball outside, can run with power, can take short plays and go for long yardage, can take wheel routes and close routes and routes out of the backfield and out-run the defense and get behind them. He’€™s a tough guy to matchup on and he does so many things that you try to stop one thing and you’€™re vulnerable somewhere else. As usual, it just comes down to team defense, everybody doing their job.”

The Patriots made adjustments in their next meeting, holding him to 88 yards in 28 carries and a long of eight yards, as the Patriots beat the Ravens, 23-20, in overtime on Oct. 17, 2010.

Belichick and the Patriots no doubt paid attention to the Texans defensive scheme last Sunday, a game plan that held Rice to just 60 rushing yards in 21 carries, an average of just 2.9 yards with a fumble. And like Reggie Bush, Roy Helu, Jr, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Rice is a shifty back who can catch the ball as a multi-dimensional back. Sunday, he caught four balls for 20 yards.

“I don’€™t think, obviously, any one person can stop a player of his caliber,” Belichick added. “It takes a great team effort to do that, whether it’€™s running or covering or screen passes. It could be a screen pass for 50 yards, it could be a wheel route out of the backfield for 50 yards. It could be the crossing pattern against the Jets that went for 50 yards, it could be a running play up the middle against Cincinnati or two of them actually in short yardage that go for 60, 70 yards. We’€™ve seen him do it against us, so I have all the respect in the world for Ray Rice. He’€™s a tough football player. He’€™s versatile and he really can kill you in a lot of different ways, including returning kicks. I hope they don’€™t do that with him.”

Read More: 2012 playoffs, AFC Championship, Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez present dual challenge for Baltimore pass defense

01.18.12 at 2:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In the Patriots’€™ locker room, it’€™s the offensive equivalent of the high-rent district.

Three lockers, back-to-back-to-back, have the three leading receivers: Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. And while Welker does his share of damage as an individual receiver, Hernandez and Gronkowski have formed one of the most dynamic tight end combos in the NFL.

Between them, the two young tight ends accounted for 169 of the 402 receptions and 2,237 of the 5,257 passing yards from Patriots pass catchers this year. Small wonder that one NFC scout said they could be the difference makers in Sunday’€™s AFC Championship Game, saying that Baltimore lacks an ‘€œeffective counterpoint’€ to try and slow down the both of them.

‘€œThey use their personnel groups really well, whereas most teams, when they go two tight ends, it’€™s usually a somewhat running formation or at least a balanced formation. They can do anything,’€ said Baltimore coach John Harbaugh. ‘€œThey can go in diesel, which is a two-tight end look, two receivers and a back, and they can spread them all out and make them look like five-wide [receivers] and can be just as efficient if it was five-wide because their guys are so athletic. It’€™s a big predicament for us.’€

But Gronkowski isn’€™t buying into the idea that he and Hernandez are going to be what sets the Patriots apart from the Ravens.

‘€œI mean, (we’€™re) definitely not what’€™s going to make the game won or lost,’€ Gronkowski said. ‘€œIt’€™s a team game, and that’€™s all that matters. We have to make sure we go out as a team and we all play together as a team, and whoever makes the plays, makes the plays. Just basically go out, have a good run game and a good pass game and the defense plays well. That’€™s what matters — the whole team.’€

While Gronkowski has set numerous records this season playing more of a traditional tight end role with 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns, Hernandez has been used like a chess piece, shuffled around the field. He’€™s lined up flush against the tackle, in the slot and split wide, and on Saturday against the Broncos, he was in the backfield and rushed for 61 yards in the divisional playoff victory over Denver. (On the season, he has 79 catches for 910 yards and seven touchdowns.)
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, John Harbaugh, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker
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