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For Patriots, creating game plan for success in Glendale starts with good week of practice in Foxboro

01.22.15 at 4:02 pm ET
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Rob Ninkovich says maximizing practice time is key when it comes to Super Bowl prep. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Rob Ninkovich says maximizing practice time is key when it comes to Super Bowl prep. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — For the Patriots, one of the big points of emphasis this week before they leave for Glendale, Arizona, next Monday is maximizing prep time while at their own facility. While the two teams have been gifted with two weeks between the conference championship and the Super Bowl, the key comes down to using your time wisely.

“You’ve got to be efficient in what you’re doing with your time, especially right now,” defensive end Rob Ninkovich said before practice on Thursday. “Looking at extra tape, looking at yourself, film of yourself and the things that you need to work at are key. Right now, it’s getting better and everyone as a group — defensively, offensively, special teams — working to get better. That’s what it’s all about.”

This will mark the second Super Bowl for Devin McCourty, who indicated that its important to keep a sense of normalcy in the days leading up to departure for the Super Bowl.

“It’s huge — to be in our normal setting, coming in, going to practice and doing what we do on a normal basis,” McCourty said. “That’s kind of the easiest way to prepare and get ready to go. We can really take advantage of this time and get a lot done as far as preparing and having a little edge or a little step ahead once we go down to Arizona.

“It’s a little harder once you get in a new setting. If you can take care of a lot of things and kind of be going over it for a second time once we get into Arizona I think that’ll give us a big advantage going into the game.”

Wide receiver Brandon LaFall, who will be going to his first Super Bowl, echoed McCourty, saying that the four days worth of practice before they leave for Arizona — Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday — are vital to creating a foundation of success.

“It’s very important,” he said. “These four days we are really working on ourselves and [when we] start putting the game plan in and get the basics down. And when we get out there, the goal of everything is [to] just go over your final walkthrough of things to make sure you got everything understood.”

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Brandon LaFell, Devin Harris, Rob Ninkovich

Jonas Gray not worried about Patriots’ image: ‘We all do it the right way here, always’

01.22.15 at 3:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Jonas Gray hasn’t been in New England that long. But the one-hit running back spoke Thursday on his perspective on Deflategate.

Showing that he has his teammates’ backs, the Notre Dame product said he’s not worried in the least about the impact of the fury over the deflated balls this week and its potential impact on Super Bowl preparations.

“That’s the good thing about the guys in this locker room and the coaches, they do a good job of keeping us on task, whatever the task is at hand, just keeping our focus on that,” Gray said. “We haven’t paid too much attention to it. We’ve closed the book on it. We’re more focused on Seattle.

“I think around the league and the guys who play against us, they know we do it the right way. And they know we have a lot of high character guys in this locker room, guys that work hard and put a lot of work in and we earned those wins.”

Is Gray upset about the “cheater” label being placed on the team?

“It doesn’t really frustrate me a whole lot,” Gray said. “We’re going to cooperate any way we can. I think we earned those wins. I haven’t noticed anything different. The ball feels the same to me. I’m always squeezing it tight so I don’t notice a difference.

“It’s a crazy thought but we all do it the right way here,” Gray said. “Always.”

Gray, like many other Patriots, claimed he had never imagined the ball rules could be such a big deal.

“Never heard of anything like this at all,” Gray said. “I didn’t even know there was a certain rule on how the ball needs to be inflated. A lot of the guys in these guys in this locker room have no idea about any of that stuff.

“I have no idea. I think that’s the one thing about this entire team, we really don’t know anything about the balls or inflation. I didn’t even know they checked it beforehand. It’s one of those things where we just go out and play the game.”

Read More: Deflategate, Jonas Gray, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks

Video: Julian Edelman shows ‘Growing Pats’ have got each other

01.22.15 at 3:29 pm ET
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If you think there’s any chance Deflategate is tearing the Patriots apart, Julian Edelman has a message for you.

Edelman recalled the show “Growing Pains” and its theme song about having each other in a video titled “Growing Pats” that he posted to his Youtube page Thursday afternoon. Watch it here:

Read More: Julian Edelman,

Patriots locker room reaction over Deflategate flap: ‘We’re just focusing on Seattle’

01.22.15 at 3:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO — A handful of Patriots players addressed the charges of under-inflated footballs in last Sunday’s AFC title game against the Colts in the locker room Thursday morning:

Special teams captain Matthew Slater: “Certainly that is something we have addressed and will continue to address. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the hoopla. Your families are really excited but we have a job to do. This is not a vacation for us. This is not a celebration. We have a job to do and at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to and that’s where our focus needs to be. As a team, to a man, we need to make sure we have our minds in the right place, our focus in the right place, and that’s playing football. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.”

Slater on any worries about Deflategate? “I feel pretty confident in saying we’re just focusing on Seattle. … We’re all about focusing on what’s going on inside these doors here and there’s always going to be a lot of buzz going outside these doors, and we’ve been trained to ignore that, and we have to. We can’t allow ourselves to get caught up in positive or negative things. We just have to focus on us and doing our jobs.”

Defensive end/long snapper Rob Ninkovich: “I’m not even getting into that, because really I’m focused on what I have to do, and that’s get better today. Practice for the biggest game of my life. I’m moving on from that — I have nothing to say about that. I’m going to focus in on what my job is and that’s to play good football. I’m not even thinking about anything from the past. I’m thinking about the future.

“The only time I touch a football is if I recover it or if I’m snapping it. Or intercept it. Or causing fumbles. I’m past that. I’m looking forward ti another opportunity that you don’t get often. I’m excited — very, very excited to get this week of preparation going, and get gong in the process.”

Cornerback Kyle Arrington: “Well, I’m sure like a lot of guys have said — and I’m no different — that I don’t have anything to do with that process or that nature when it comes to the footballs. I can’t really comment. … We’re only concerned about the guys in this locker room and winning the football game.”

Arrington on whether or not he can tell if its a deflated football: “Well, considering that typically, historically, we all have the worst hands of anyone on the football field, I don’t care what condition it’s in, as long as we can catch it. … I don’t really handle the ball too often. It’s not really my concern.”

Punter Ryan Allen: “I can’t really shed any further light on the whole ball situation. We’re just focused on what we need to do this week and next week to prepare for Seattle.”

Running back Jonas Gray on Deflategate: “I have no idea. I think that’s the one thing about this entire team. We really don’t know anything about the balls and inflation. I didn’t know they even checked it beforehand. It’s one of those things where we just go out and play the game.”

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Deflategate, Jonas Gray, Kyle Arrington

Report: Tom Brady tells teammates behind closed doors he prefers footballs ‘a certain way’

01.22.15 at 2:19 pm ET
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Tom Brady took a season low seconds from snap-to-throw last Sunday. (Getty Images)

Tom Brady reportedly told the Patriots he likes the football “a certain way.” (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Tom Brady is apparently accepting responsibility for Deflategate with his teammates.

According to a report from NBC News, the quarterback addressed his teammates behind closed doors Thursday, telling his team that he prefers the football “a certain way.” The report also indicates Brady told everyone to stay focused on the Super Bowl.

The Patriots quarterback told WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan Monday that talk of the team purposely deflating footballs is “ridiculous.” Apparently the whirlwind of national media focus on the story has changed his mind enough to address it in a team meeting.

Bill Belichick acknowledged Thursday morning that the team would be more diligent in the future to ensure that the footballs they hand the officials are inflated beyond the minimum 12.5 pounds per square inch.

If Brady or someone else had the balls deflated below 12.5 psi intentionally, he and the Patriots were breaking NFL rules.

Read More: Deflategate, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XLIX

Bryan Stork (knee) returns to Patriots practice indoors Thursday

01.22.15 at 1:20 pm ET
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Bryan Stork (center) raises his leg during warmups, prior to Thursday's Patriots practice. (Mike Petraglia/

Bryan Stork (center) raises his leg during warmups, prior to Thursday’s Patriots practice. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — The Patriots finally returned to the practice field Thursday for the first of four practices before they leave for Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale next Monday.

The full pads practice was inside at Dana-Farber Fieldhouse and the team had perfect attendance. The biggest news of the day was the return of center Bryan Stork, who missed the AFC championship with a knee injury suffered against the Ravens.

Stork was listed on a projected injury report Wednesday as not participating, meaning the team reported that he wouldn’t have practiced if the team had worked out.

Also on the indoor turf was Sealver Siliga (foot). The defensive tackle injured his foot in Sunday’s game, but returned to action against the Colts.

The Seahawks did hold practice on Wednesday and had five players not practicing. Marshawn Lynch (not injury related), Clint Gresham (neck), Michael Bennett (not injury related), JR Sweezy (ankle) and Earl Thomas (shoulder) didn’t practice. Justin Britt (knee) and Richard Sherman (elbow) were full participants.

Read More: Bryan Stork, New England Patriots, Sealver Siliga, Seattle Seahawks

Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo shrugs off talk of underinflated footballs

01.22.15 at 1:12 pm ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo says he hasn't heard anything about under-inflated footballs. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jimmy Garoppolo says he hasn’t heard anything about under-inflated footballs. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — When it comes to footballs, Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t sound too fussy.

“I came from Eastern Illinois, where we had about four footballs for the entire year,” the rookie quarterback said before practice on Thursday. “So I’ll use whatever footballs they give me. I’ve used the worst balls you could think of in practice. Wet. Snowy. Muddy. Everything. You get used to all that stuff.

“I’m used to whatever,” he added. “A football is a football. You just have to go out there and throw it.”

Garoppolo, who said he didn’t know anything about manipulating or underinflating footballs, echoed the words of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who said that the footballs get constantly scuffed and worked over during practice in hopes of doing everything possible to get the players ready for every possible circumstance in the game.

“Oh yeah,” he said with a knowing smile. “Yeah — it’s one of those things that when you get in a game and you realize we had way worse in practice. Worse conditions. Worse, whatever it may be. It probably makes the game a little bit easier.”

Garoppolo has a unique challenge this week in that he’s being asked to provide the starting defense with a look that replicates Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. It’s become old hat for Garoppolo., who said he’s looking forward to trying to “get a title active out there” in hopes of giving the New England defense a good look.

“Each week is a different assignment for me. A different quarterback for me. Try and pick up tendencies, things they try and do. And I try and do my best impression of the guy.”

“It’s part of the job. There’s no real trick to it. You just have to put in the time. Put in the effort and have both mentalities ready to go.”

It’s been an interesting year for Garoppolo, who had never been to an NFL game before this season, is now headed for the Super Bowl in his first year in the league.

“Come a long way, huh? It’s pretty crazy,” he laughed. “It’s exciting. A dream come true. Just have to take advantage of it.”

Read More: Deflategate, Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XLIX
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