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No time for Madonna: Patriots thinking outside the box when it comes to dealing with longer halftime

02.03.12 at 9:03 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been forced to try and get creative when it comes to dealing with the logistics regarding the lengthier halftime New England will face in Sunday’€™s Super Bowl. It’€™ll be twice as long as a usual regular-season break, and Belichick tried to get his team used to it on Wednesday by essentially splitting practice into three parts: The team practiced, took a half-hour break, and then restarted again.

‘€œNormally our halftime is 12 minutes and this halftime will be closer to 30,’€ Belichick said during Friday’€™s press conference. ‘€œIt gets into a whole restarting mentality. It’€™s not like taking a break and coming out in the second half. It’€™s like starting the game all over again. It’€™s like playing a game, stopping, and then playing a second game, a doubleheader in baseball if you will. I think that makes it a little bit different.

‘€œWe tried to simulate that in practice on Wednesday. We had the players go through that process of restarting. You can have a meeting about it, you can talk about this is what it’€™s going to be like. I just felt that it was beneficial for our team, this year, to actually put them through that’€”go out there and warm up, practice, take a break, shut it down for a half hour, go into the locker room, simulate what a halftime would be, in terms of corrections, adjustments, and re-starting our bodies both mentally and physically to restart the game.’€

One player who might be adversely affected by the longer halftime is tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC championship game but returned to practice this week in a limited capacity, will be sitting for a longer-than-usual stretch between the second and third quarters in the locker room. The Patriots want to avoid a repeat of what happened to Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney two years ago — Freeney tore a ligament in his ankle in the AFC title game, and while he played well in the first half, he stiffened up at halftime, and was ineffective down the stretch.

‘€œOnce it gets stiff, it’€™s tough to bring it back,’€ said Freeney afterward.

After the Patriots walkthrough on Friday, Belichick sounded an optimistic note about Gronkowski’€™s ankle.

‘€œHe practiced yesterday. He didn’€™t do anything today,’€ Belichick said of Gronkowski. ‘€œWe’€™ll see where he’€™s at on Sunday, but hopefully (he’€™ll play). I saw no setbacks. He’€™s still making progress.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, dwight freeney, Rob Gronkowski,

Robert Kraft on The Big Show: ‘I hope for something special’

02.03.12 at 6:59 pm ET
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Days before his teams fifth Super Bowl appearance in the last 11 seasons, Patriots owner Robert Kraft joined The Big Show for his annual pre-Super Bowl radio appearance.

Mr. Kraft used the opportunity to touch on a number of subjects, the most notable among them being the Patriots’ performance as a team this season and the impact that the memory of his deceased wife Myra Kraft has had on this team.

When asked about his preseason expectations for the Patriots, Mr. Kraft acknowledged that he didn’t think his team would have made it as far as they did, but that playing in honor of Mrs. Kraft has given this season a whole new meaning and purpose.

“I had a chance to say what values were important to her ‘€“ the mental toughness, the honesty, the sense of teamwork, letting other people get the credit, but doing acts of kindness and being a team player,” Mr. Kraft said of meeting with his team before the season. “She represented everything that a good football player represents and she was very intelligent. We just hoped that the players would conduct themselves in a certain way on and off the field in honor of her.”

Based on feedback he received from fans across New England after the Patriots’ win over the Ravens in the AFC Championship, the legacy of Mrs. Kraft has continued to help the team on the run to the Super Bowl.

“I’€™ve gotten tons of letters and emails from people suggesting she was smiling down with that kick, blowing it left,” Mr. Kraft said. “I want to thank the fans, really, for the great emotional support they’€™ve given to our family this whole year. It’€™s been very kind.”

It was noted in the interview that Mr. Kraft, upon buying the team in 1994, had said that he wanted to model his franchise after the San Francisco 49ers. He wanted the Patriots to always be among the teams in championship contention on an annual basis and with that goal realized in the last decade, Mr. Kraft said that the key for the Patriots has been putting good, skilled and knowledgeable people in the right positions.

“It’€™s always important in every business to know what you’€™re don’€™t know and then get the smartest people you can to do the job, and smart people attract other smart people,” Mr. Kraft said. “Then give them autonomy, encourage them to be bold and then when they do things in the best interest of the franchise, even if it’€™s a mistake, don’€™t Monday Morning Quarterback. Support them.”

Now one win away from the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl championship, all of which have come under his ownership, Mr. Kraft is optimistic his team can capture another title, all while exhibiting the franchise’s core ethos and team-oriented principles.

“I hope for something special,” Mr. Kraft said. “I’€™ve learned that great players go to the Pro Bowl, great teams go to the Super Bowl and that doesn’€™t mean you don’€™t have to have the most talented players. It’€™s about team.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Drew Bledsoe, Myra Kraft

Adam Vinatieri on The Big Show: ‘I couldn’t wish for anything more’ with career

02.03.12 at 6:57 pm ET
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With the Super Bowl just two days away for the Patriots, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who was a part of all three Patriots Super Bowl-winning teams, joined The Big Show Friday afternoon to talk about his career, the role kicking will play Sunday and the future of the Colts franchise.

Having made game-winning field goals in both Super Bowl XXXVI and Super Bowl XXXIII for the Patriots in wins over the Rams and Panthers, respectively, Vinatieri is all-too-familiar with the game’s biggest moments and is thankful he was able to be a part of NFL history on so many different occasions.

“You’€™ve got really good kickers across the league that never got opportunities that I’€™ve had the pleasure of being a part of,” Vinatieri said. “I’€™m very, very fortunate not only to have a nice long career that I’€™ve had up to this point, but to be able to be placed in key positions and been fortunate to make most of those kicks that helped our team win championships and Super Bowls.

“Having guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, you’€™re going to have opportunities to win games,” he added. “You just never know when your time is going to be called and hopefully you’€™re ready and prepared for it when it happens.”

With the Super Bowl taking place in climate-controlled Lucas Oil Stadium, Vinatieri noted that coaches will plan accordingly for a game with very favorable kicking conditions.

“They absolutely should make decisions differently — it’€™s going to be 75 and sunny on Sunday, if you know what I mean,” Vinatieri said. “There’€™s going to be no wind, no rain, field conditions are going to be perfect. The kickers should be able to perform well, they should be able to kick longer than they normally would.

“If they were in New England and it’€™s 32 degrees, your range isn’€™t as far,” he added. “It’€™s going to be a good place to kick ‘€“ get the ball on line and it’€™s going to go where you’€™ve kicked it.”

Already immortalized as one of the great clutch kickers in NFL history, Vinatieri is content with the way his career has played out and is grateful to even be in the discussion for a place in the Hall of Fame.

“To have people even mention me in those kinds of talks is a tremendous honor for me, but I try not to think about it at all,” Vinatieri said. “If I’€™m fortunate enough to have that happen, that would be unbelievable, and if it never happens, I still feel honored to be in those conversations. For me, having those rings, to have the career that I’€™ve been blessed with, I couldn’€™t wish for anything more.”

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Read More: Adam Vinatieri, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady

Poll: Who wins Super Bowl XLVI?

02.03.12 at 3:16 pm ET
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What will happen in Super Bowl XLVI?

  • Patriots by 8-14 points (39%, 157 Votes)
  • Patriots by a touchdown or less (38%, 150 Votes)
  • Patriots in a rout (10%, 39 Votes)
  • Giants by a touchdown or less (9%, 34 Votes)
  • Giants by 8-14 points (4%, 15 Votes)
  • Giants in a rout (0%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 399

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National experts favor Giants in Super Bowl XLVI

02.03.12 at 3:05 pm ET
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With Super Bowl XLVI just a few days away many experts are making their game pick. The momentum from the Giants playoff run seems to have many predicting the same outcome as Super Bowl XLII: Giants over Patriots.

Out of the eight ESPN experts only Adam Schefter and Mark Schlereth picked the Patriots to prevail on Sunday.

Additionally, all five of the experts picked New York to win. Pete Prisco thinks the Giants will win by a touchdown, 31-24, on the strength of Eli Manning‘s arm.

Wrote Prisco: This Giants team is on a roll and getting better. They handled Tom Brady for most of the first meeting, and I think they do a good job slowing him again. Eli Manning lights up the New England secondary.

Following are more picks from several national writers.

Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 31, Giants 27

Dan Connolly, Baltimore Sun: Giants 28, Patriots 24

Peter Schrager, Giants 30, Patriots 21

WEEI hosts are more optimistic than national writers that New England will win its fourth championship on Sunday. The hosts of WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan morning show presented their predictions Friday morning. Gerry Callahan said he arrived in Indianapolis expecting to pick the Giants but now is going with the Patriots, predicting that Tom Brady will rise to the occasion and lead New England to a 26-24 victory. John Dennis predicts a 31-24 victory for the Patriots and an MVP for Rob GronkowskiJon Meterparel predicts a 31-27 victory for the Patriots, with Jerod Mayo earning MVP honors.

CBS Sports NFL analyst and New York radio host Boomer Esiason sided with the Patriots during his Friday appearance on D&C, predicting a 30-27 final. But Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, on Mut & Merloni, went with the Giants, 23-20.

WEEI midday show hosts Lou Merloni and Mike Mutnansky were split. Merloni said the Giants have too much for the Patriots to handle, and it will lead to a 34-30 victory for New York. Mutnansky went with the Patriots, 33-27.

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Read More: adam schefter, Bobby Valentine, Paul Pierce, Pete Prisco

Super Bowl roundup: Tom Coughlin says it’s ‘still us against the world’

02.03.12 at 2:21 pm ET
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Giants coach Tom Coughlin has made it known to football fans everywhere that despite numerous predictions of a New York victory, the Giants “are still the underdogs and we still have a lot to prove” heading into Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday.

“[It’s] still us against the world,’€ Coughlin said.”

It’s all about reinvention for the Giants if they expect to defeat Tom Brady and the Pats in the Super Bowl for a second time. For four Giants in particular — Deon Grant, Rocky Bernard, Antrel Rolle and Tony Ugoh — the losing end of a Super Bowl is not an option this year. All four players, prior to playing for the Giants, were members of teams that were on the losing end in the NFL’s ultimate game.

‘€œI don’€™t think people understand how draining, how much work it’€™s been, for us just to get to this point,’€ said Rolle, a safety who joined the Giants in 2010. ‘€œBut we’€™re here and we’€™re using that as our mindset, that we won’€™t be denied after all that work. We’€™re not worried about destiny. We’€™ve made our own path.”

For Rolle especially, Sunday’s game holds a sense of promise and great significance in terms of personal motivation and potential gain. He experienced a tough loss as a member of the Cardinals against the Steelers three years ago.

‘€œTo be so close and have a hard-fought game, I think that actually eased the pain a little bit, as opposed to going out there and just getting your butt whooped,’€ Rolle said. ‘€œBut I definitely don’€™t want to feel that again.”

The New York Daily News takes a look at how the Giants defense poses a major threat to New England’s offense.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, antrel rolle, Deon Grant, Rob Gronkowski

The art of asking Madonna a question

02.03.12 at 1:59 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — With hundreds upon hundreds of reporters hoping to be one of the very few to actually get to ask Madonna a question at her Thursday press conference, Doug VB Goudie of Fox 25 Boston showed us all how it’s done …



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