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Bill O’Brien set to call his final game as Patriots offensive coordinator

01.31.12 at 5:36 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — What does Bill O’€™Brien have planned for his final act as the Patriots offensive coordinator? Fumblerooski? Statue of Liberty play?

Not likely. On Tuesday, he did talk a lot about his new gig at Penn State, but New England’€™s outgoing offensive coordinator touched on a number of other topics as well, including how the Patriots’€™ game plan might be altered because of the injury to tight end Rob Gronkowski, what it’€™s been like working with incoming offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the bittersweet nature of calling his final game with New England.

First and foremost, it’€™s the Giants: O’€™Brien said New York has a ‘€œreally good front four,’€ but that’€™s only a small part of the challenge that awaits the New England offense.

‘€œ[Giants defensive coordinator] Perry Fewell has really done a good job of getting them to play good team defense,’€ O’€™Brien said. ‘€œThe front four, the linebackers and the secondary really work well together. A lot of those guys have played a lot of football together, so it’€™ll be our toughest game of the year against the best opponent we’€™ve played all year.’€

As for questions about Gronkowski’€™s status, it certainly appears that the big tight end will be ready to go Sunday. (The walking boot which he was sporting last week is now off … or at least, it was off at Tuesday’€™s Media Day.) O’€™Brien said the fact that New England is a game-plan offense means they have some flexibility when it comes to preparing for the Giants, Gronkowski or no Gronkowski.

‘€œWe’€™ve gone through the practice week this week, and we’€™re a game-plan offense, so we’€™re putting together a very strong game plan and we feel good about it to this point,’€ O’€™Brien said. ‘€œThese guys have not only bought into their individual roles, but are instinctive and smart enough to change it up every week, change their position. ‘€˜I’€™m an ‘€˜F’€™ one week, I’€™m an ‘€˜X’€™ the next week.’€™ Things like that. That’€™s really been the key.’€

Over the last three weeks, O’€™Brien has had the chance to work with old friend Josh McDaniels, who came on board as an offensive assistant and will become offensive coordinator in 2012. He counts himself as ‘€œlucky’€ for having the chance to work with an old friend again, even if it was for just three weeks.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Josh McDaniels, Perry Fewell

Dante Scarnecchia: Sebastian Vollmer will play Sunday against the Giants

01.31.12 at 3:18 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said Tuesday that veteran tackle Sebastian Vollmer will play some sort of role on Sunday against the Giants. Vollmer, who has been on the shelf for the better part of the last two months because of back and foot problems, has been practicing for the last two weeks, and looks like he’€™ll be good to go.

‘€œHe’€™s very, very strong. He’€™s got great experience, and is not afraid of anyone. He’€™s a great alternative,’€ Scarnecchia said on Tuesday. ‘€œHe’€™ll play. He’€™ll play in this game at some point, whether we have Nate [Solder] outside or him at tackle. He’€™s going to be out there, and thank God we’€™ve got him too.

‘€œHe’€™s had a good two weeks of practice,’€ Scarnecchia added. ‘€œHe practiced a lot yesterday. Sebastian has been a starting tackle for us for two years and he’€™s started on the left and he’€™s started on the right. We think he’€™s an immensely talented guy. He’€™s an unselfish guy. How can that every hurt you? Whether he plays ‘€˜X’€™ number of plays, or plays here or plays there, I’€™m glad we’€™ve got him going into this game.’€

If Vollmer is able to go, that would give the Patriots some positional versatility at the tackle spot, an area where they have been lacking depth for the last month or so because of injuries to Vollmer and veteran left tackle Matt Light and a key position against a fierce pass rushing team like the Giants. With the inclusion of Vollmer, the Patriots can flex Solder out as an extra tight end and a blocker to try and slow down the New York pass defense (as they did in the first game against the Giants — in that one, Solder played 23 snaps as a tight end in the November loss to New York).

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Read More: Brian Waters, Dante Scarnecchia, Matt Light, Nate Solder

Zak DeOssie couldn’t be happier to be following in the footsteps of his ‘old man’

01.31.12 at 2:55 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — For Zak and Steve DeOssie, the similarities are eerie.

The father snapped the ball that Matt Bahr hit for the winning field goal in the 1990 NFC championship in San Francisco. Twenty-one years later, on the same Candlestick Park field in the same end, the son snapped the ball that Steve Weatherford held for Lawrence Tynes to kick for the winning field goal in the 2011 NFC title game, sending the Giants onto the Super Bowl.

‘€œIt’€™s ironic,” Deossie said Tuesday during “Media Day” at Lucas Oil Stadium. “My old man finished his career with the Patriots and I grew up in New England was a ball boy there for two years. It’€™s funny when you look back at it. To be here playing them in the Super Bowl is incredible.’€

What’s also incredible is that dad was there Tuesday to share the stories of 1990, 2007 and this season.

“It’s one of my favorite pictures,” Steve DeOssie said of the picture of the two on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium, celebrating when Zak won his first Super Bowl with the ’07 Giants.

Zak DeOssie grew up with his parents in North Andover, Mass. and attended Phillips Academy before matriculating to Brown University, where he played football.

“I take Massachusetts with me wherever I go,” Zak said Tuesday.

What’s been the key to his career as a long-snapper after graduating from Brown University?

‘€œRepetition,” Deossie said. “They say you do something 10,000 times in a row you become a professional at it. I always long snapped in college and finally did it my senior year and sort of fell into this position at long snapper here with the Giants and fine-tuned it with the help of my coach and hard work.’€

And what about having good old dad as a resource? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: New England Patriots, New York Giants, nfl, Steve DeOssie

Eli Manning recalls Peyton Manning’s brotherly school of hard knocks

01.31.12 at 1:39 pm ET
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One of the more interesting story lines of this year’s Super Bowl is the idea of Eli Manning playing on brother Peyton‘s home turf in Indianapolis. Since winning the NFC Championship, Eli has downplayed that particular storyline, understandably preferring to talk about his own team than any aspect Peyton adds to the game and atmosphere.

After landing in Indianapolis, however, Eli opened up about his relationship with his brother, humorously recalling ways his brother picked on him as a child. Eli claimed Peyton would quiz him forcefully on different trivia.

‘€œI probably have quite a few of them,’€ Manning said when asked for an example of how Peyton teased him as a child. ‘€œTo limit to one, his most popular move, he would pin me down and take his knuckles and knock on my chest and make me name the 12 schools in the SEC. I didn’€™t know them all at the time, I was six or seven, but I quickly learned them.

‘€œIt was a great learning technique. I don’€™t suggest anyone else try it out but it definitely made me learn the schools of the SEC. Once I figured those out, he moved on to all 28 teams in the NFL at that point. So it was all teams in the NFL so I had to get my studying on for that. Then once I figured that out, the one I never got was the 10 brands of cigarettes. When he really wanted to torture me and knew I had no shot of getting it, that’€™s when I just started screaming for my mom or dad to come save me or maybe [oldest brother] Cooper. That was his go-to move.’€

But life as Peyton Manning’s younger brother was not all that bad, Eli acknowledged by the end of his press conference.

“He has supported me and given me any tips he could think of,” Eli said. “For a Christmas present, he bought me a computer that stores all our software to watch film at home. He would want to do anything for me to be a better quarterback.

“We’ve had a very close relationship. I thank him for all that he’€™s provided me and helping me become a better quarterback.”

In his last statement, Eli offered a tantalizing tidbit on Peyton’s status with the Colts. When asked about specifically about playing on Peyton’s home turf, Eli stumbled over his words in an attempt to figure out how to phrase his response.

“We’ll look back on the fact that I’m playing the Super Bowl in Peyton’s … in the town where he played his NFL ‘€¦ uh, you know plays for the Colts. So we’ll look on that later.”

Peyton’s status with the Colts is unknown following a lost season in which he was recovering from neck surgery. With his health still uncertain and the Colts in possession of the No. 1 pick in the draft this season, it remains to be seen whether Peyton will ever take the field as the Colts’ starting quarterback again. But on Sunday, a Manning will be front and center in pursuit of a Super Bowl.

Read More: Eli Manning, Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning,

Rob Gronkowski: ‘No more boot’

01.31.12 at 12:40 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — On Monday, Rob Gronkowski took off the boot that is protecting his left ankle.

On Tuesday at Super Bowl “Media Day” at Lucas Oil Stadium, he said he’s not putting it back on.

“It’s off, no more boot,” Gronkowski told reporters.

Gronkowski will spend Tuesday’s “off day” with Patriots trainers and medical staff.

‘€œI don’€™t know yet,’€ Gronkowski said in answering the question everyone wants the answer to: Will he play Sunday in Super Bowl XLVI?

“We’€™re going day by day,” Gronkowski added. “Making new steps every day, feeling better every day. That’€™s a positive sign and you just want to keep going in the right direction. I want to be out there with the team obviously. I want to help out the team obviously. Just taking it step by step, getting better every single day.’€

Gronkowski repeated the credo of Bill Belichick several times, indicating he is day to day for the game.

Read More: New England Patriots, New York Giants, nfl, Rob Gronkowski

Victor Cruz: ‘Excited’ about exploiting Julian Edelman, Patriots secondary

01.31.12 at 12:22 pm ET
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Giants receiver Victor Cruz, on a podium at Super Bowl Media Day, acknowledged in response to a question from Deion Sanders that he has indeed cracked a smile while watching film of the Patriots secondary. He referred to Patriots receiver/cornerback Julian Edelman in suggesting why the Giants are looking forward to facing the Patriots.

“A little bit,” said Cruz. “You’re watching film, just naturally, when you see one of their defensive backs is a wide receiver and he’s going to be potentially covering you, you automatically get excited and just understand that it’s not his natural position and you want to exploit that. So obviously, as a receiver and as a competitor in general, when you see a matchup that you think you can exploit, you want to take advantage of it.”

Giants defense end Osi Umenyiora, who recently acknowledged that Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light “gets under [his] skin,” was crestfallen to hear that Light was not available during Media Day, reportedly due to illness.

“Matt Light, please get well soon,” Umenyiora said at Media Day. “I hope to see you on Sunday. You are one of my greatest friends.”

Read More: Julian Edelman, Matt Light, Media Day, Osi Umenyiora

Bill O’Brien: This week is about the Patriots in the Super Bowl, not Penn State

01.31.12 at 12:15 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — On the eve of national college football signing day, Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien maintained that his focus is on the Patriots for one more game, not on his future job as Penn State head coach.

“This is a week about the Patriots and really not about Penn State,” O’Brien said on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I’m trying to do the best I can to put together with the staff a great game plan for Sunday.

“I’ll be in Penn State on Monday or Tuesday after game and we’ll go from there. We’ve got a lot of great people in place up at Penn State that are doing a great job up there seeing that through.”

O’Brien was very relaxed and open, answering questions about the Patriots offense, his competitive respect for Tom Brady and his career move.

Speaking of Brady, he complimented Brady as one of the best quarterbacks ever to run the quarterback sneak, scoring twice against the Dolphins on Christmas Eve and the game-winning score against the Ravens in the AFC championship.

“He’s probably one of the best quarterback sneak guys in the history of the game,” O’Brien said. “He just does a really good job, he’s got a knack for it, understands when to do it and really does a good job with it.”

“I don’t coach that. that was all him. He made a great play and that’s why he’s a great teammate because he knew that was a big play for us in that game.”

Read More: Bill O'Brien, Joe Paterno, New England Patriots, New York Giants

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