|01.16.14 at 10:29 pm ET|
FOXBORO — One of the underplayed storylines lost this week in the 15th meeting between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning is the return of Josh McDaniels to Denver for the first time with the Patriots since being fired 12 games into the 2010 season.
But as Brady explained Thursday, there’s good reason for that: McDaniels has been too busy worrying about winning this weekend to think about bitter feeling from the end of his head coaching stint in Denver, a run that saw him lose 17 of his final 22 games.
McDaniels started out his career in Denver in spectacular fashion. The former Patriots offensive coordinator won his first game miraculously, as Brandon Stokley grabbed a deflected pass and raced 87 yards for a touchdown in the final seconds to beat the Bengals, 12-7, on opening day. Four games later, McDaniels was dancing all over the field after his Broncos beat his mentor, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots, 20-17, in overtime. The Broncos won their next game to improve to 6-0. They then lost eight of their final 10 games to finish 8-8 and missed the playoffs. He started 2010 with a 3-9 mark and was fired.
Brady downplayed any visible motivation for McDaniels this week during practice.
“He’s always been very focused,” Brady said. “We haven’t talked ever too long about his situation there. I know it’s something he dealt with and that’s in the past for him. He’s always got great focus this week. There’s no really motivation for our team other than trying to go and win a game and certainly win the biggest game of the year that we’ve played to this point. That’s all the motivation that we’re going to need.
“He’s always focused like he is every week. He’s one of the best coaches that I’ve ever been around and why I love being coached by him because he brings it every day. He has great enthusiasm. He has a great understanding of what they’re trying to defensively, he has a great understanding of our skill set offensively, what we’re trying to build toward. He’s a great motivator. He’s fired up, as we all are.”
As for Brady’s own preparation, the quarterback says he’s been able to overcome missing Wednesday practices before. Part of that comes from work in the classroom and taking “mental reps” in practice but Brady admits the clock is ticking this week.
“Everything is important at this point,” Brady said. “You have six and-a-half days to prepare and you’re on the clock. It’s really a matter of us focusing on all the details, attention to the meetings and the walkthroughs. Certainly when you get onto the field, the execution has to be really good.
“The guys are focused and Coach Belichick certainly challenges us every week. When you play against one of the best teams in the league, you realize there’s very little margin of error. You can’t go out there and turn it over and not be good on third down, not be good in the red area and think you’re going to go in and beat one of the best football teams on the road. There’s a reason that they’re at this point; there’s a reason why we’re at this point. We have to be ready to go out and play our very best to hopefully advance.”
|01.16.14 at 5:20 pm ET|
Before catching 73 passes for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns from Manning this season, Welker earned his reputation as the best slot receiver in the game hauling in passes from Tom Brady between 2007 and 2012.
On Thursday in Colorado, Welker said it’s practically impossible to compare the two future hall of fame quarterbacks.
“It’s like comparing Picasso and Michelangelo,” Welker said. “It’s hard to compare the two.”
A reporter followed up by wondering if Welker actually preferred either Michelangelo or Picasso. Welker said he had heard the comparison once before and thought it appropriate.
“I couldn’t even tell you. Somebody threw those names at me one time and I thought it sounded pretty good,” Welker said.
With Manning, Welker is seeing a renaissance, much like the one in 2007 when the Patriots brought in Randy Moss and Welker to rejuvenate the New England passing attack around Brady.
“There aren’t too many differences,” Welker said. “They are great quarterbacks. They do a great job of keeping guys accountable, and their leadership skills and everything else. They are two guys you want quarterbacking your team. It’s a toss-up between those two.”
|01.16.14 at 4:48 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tom Brady was not only back at practice Thursday, he was removed from the injury report altogether along with two other players as the Patriots continued their on-field preparations for the Denver Broncos this Sunday in the AFC championship.
Brady, who missed Wednesday with an illness, has also been listed in recent injury reports with a shoulder issue. Brady fully participated Thursday and was taken off the list completely, along with long snapper Danny Aiken (illness) and defensive back Kyle Arrington (groin).
Five players were listed as limited for a second straight day, including punter Ryan Allen and receiver Danny Amendola.
Here is Thursday’s complete report:
P Ryan Allen (shoulder)
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
LB Dont’a Hightower (ankle)
OT Will Svitek (ankle)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip)
|01.16.14 at 3:58 pm ET|
In honor of the 20th anniversary of Robert Kraft‘s ownership of the Patriots, the team announced Thursday that Willie McGinest — the first draft pick of the Kraft Era — will serve as the honorary captain for Sunday’s AFC title game in Denver.
McGinest was a cornerstone of New England’s Super Bowl titles in 2001, 2003 and 2004, after being selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft out of Southern California. He played 11 of his 15 NFL seasons with the Patriots, seeing action in 18 playoff games, four AFC Championship games and four Super Bowls.
McGinest eclipsed two NFL postseason records during his time with the Patriots — most sacks in a game with 4.5 in a Wild Card game vs. Jacksonville and career postseason sacks with 16.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|01.16.14 at 2:09 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tom Brady assured fans and reporters Thursday that he “feels great” and will be ready to go for Sunday’s AFC championship against the Denver Broncos Sunday in Denver. Brady said “he hopes” there’s no reason for fans to be concerned.
“Doing very well, thank you,” Brady said after returning to practice Thursday, a day after an illness forced him to miss Wednesday’s workout. “Good to be out there with the guys. had a good day of practice. Get back on track.”
What’s changed that allowed him to return Thursday?
“It was nothing,” Brady said. “I feel great. It was nothing at all.”
Brady dismissed the significance of missing a practice the Wednesday before the AFC championship, as he also did in Jan. 2012.
“Well, we’ve been at it for a while now,” Brady said. “There’s days where I’ve missed days of practice and you just deal with them. I’ve played a lot football over the whole season and I got back out there today and it felt good. It was good to be out there. We were moving around good, the team was practicing good and that’s the biggest positive for us. We need to practice good and we need to go out and play good. That’s going to be the most important thing.
“They’re going to challenge us in a lot of ways. They challenged us the last time we played them here. Going on the road to a great environment like this where the crowd is going to really be into it. It’s going to be an excited challenge for us so I’m excited.”
Brady was reminded that he had one of the worst games of his postseason career against the Ravens that Sunday with a 57.5 passer rating, no touchdowns and two interceptions. The Patriots managed to win the game, 23-20, when Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal at the end.
“That was bad,” Brady said. “It needs to be better than 57 this week. I hope they shouldn’t be worried but this team is going to test us. I’m going to go out there and do my best. Hopefully, I go out there and play my very best.”
But Brady also played one of his best postseason games hours after an IV. Brady had a fever of 103 degrees the night before the Patriots’ 41-27 win over the Steelers in the 2004 AFC championship.
He also responded to a survey that rated him as the most disliked QB in the NFL and the suggestion that it’s because he has a supermodel wife in Gisele Bundchen.
“There’s probably a lot of reasons,” Brady chuckled. “I don’t know. That’s a great question.”
Jealously of being married to a supermodel, perhaps?
“What kind of life do I have off the field that everyone knows so well,” Brady said. “I live a great life, I do. I’m not sure. I’m not sure. There’s nothing I rather do than play football for the New England Patriots. And yes, I have a great family. Thank you.”
|01.16.14 at 12:11 pm ET|
More details have emerged regarding investigators’ suspicions about Aaron Hernandez‘s involvement in a 2012 double homicide in Boston, and the court documents indicate police have been zeroing in on the former Patriots tight end.
“There is also probable cause to believe that Aaron Hernandez was operating the suspect vehicle used in the shooting homicides of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, and may have been the shooter,” a detective wrote in a search warrant affidavit filed in late June.
The warrant allowed investigators to examine a Toyota 4Runner that was parked in Hernandez’s uncle’s garage in Bristol, Conn.
Hernandez remains imprisoned while awaiting trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd along with weapons charges. Police already were curious about a possible connection between the two murders when they received a tip that the same individual was involved.
Upon checking surveillance video, police spotted Hernandez at the Cure Lounge at the same time as the two victims, and they have video of what appears to be the 4Runner circling the block as the victims walked to their car upon leaving the club. Shortly thereafter, the men were murdered a few blocks away when a vehicle matching that description pulled up and the shooter got out and fired.
Three other men were in the back seat of the car and survived the shooting.
|01.16.14 at 12:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots will be getting a head start on getting acclimated to the Mile High City.
The Patriots will fly out to Denver Friday after practice as they prepare to get ready for the Broncos in Sunday’s AFC championship.
This isn’t unusual as the Patriots and other NFL teams have frequently traveled two or three days before a game when making a cross-country trip.
Weather shouldn’t be a big factor Sunday as the forecast calls for partly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 50s for the 1 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) kickoff.
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