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Bill Belichick sort of weighs in on the Pro Bowl

02.01.12 at 12:45 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — The Pro Bowl is a joke.

What used to be a semi-serious event has turned into a parody of a parody, with the most recent example being the 59-41 AFC win over the NFC last Sunday. Aaron Rodgers ripped (though did not call out by name) the effort of some NFC players on ESPN Tuesday, calling it “embarrassing” and “disappointing.”

Bill Belichick was asked on Wednesday for his thoughts.

“What I’m going to say wouldn’t be probably what I should say,” Belichick said.

OK. Care to elaborate?

“I’ll just let that one go.”

Last chance, Bill. Won’t be much Death of the Pro Bowl talk between now and Sunday night.

“What it was and what it is now is a lot different.”

We’ll leave it at that.

Chad Ochocinco on ‘dating Tom Brady’ and the first ‘rough year of marriage’ with Patriots

02.01.12 at 12:35 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — While he spoke for over 20 minutes at Tuesday’s Super Bowl “Media Day,” Chad Ochocinco was intent Wednesday on setting the record straight on how he feels about his first year with the Patriots, a year he hope won’t be his last.

He made no secret about his desire to come back to the Patriots next season for the second year of his three-year, $11.5 million contract, which includes a $4.5 million signing bonus agreed to in July.

“You [expletive] right. Can I curse? Don’t bleep it, I’m just being me. [Expletive] right,” Ochocinco told reporters Wednesday morning.

“Let me address this, the New England Patriots is an elite organization where everything is in house and always stays in house, it’s like Fort Knox. There are no leaks, no sources, so claimed, going around the league. There’s no such thing. So, with the media, with the fans, with everyone else, is their public opinion on what they feel might be the problem. They don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Nobody does,” he said.

Ochocinco caught just 15 passes and one touchdown this season, his first with Patriots after a late summer trade from Cincinnati landed him in Foxboro.

Is the system difficult, Ochocinco was asked.

“No, there’s no system [problem],” he said “I’m extremely intelligent, extremely intelligent. Football sense, life, the way I carry myself, the things I do, we can all see I have sense, I’m smart. It’s just that it didn’t play out the way it was supposed to play out.”

Ochocinco was also asked about his relationship with quarterback Tom Brady.

“We’re dating,” he joked with a straight face. “First year of a marriage is always rough, always rough. I’ve always had the chip on my shoulder, that’s my style, it’s the way I am. If I don’t have the chip, I’m going to create it by saying something to someone who had to deal with me that week. I’m just going to be quiet.”

Brady praised Ocho’s work ethic on Wednesday once again.

‘€œThis playoff run, this Super Bowl is very meaningful. Many would say it didn’€™t go the way I would like it, not up to my expectations. Everybody can see that, but I don’€™t think this season negates a career of what I consider greatness, worth of fun. To get to this point quietly, most people call it bittersweet, but it’€™s a blessing. People will play this game for years, for years and many names, many greats without having a chance to sniff the Super Bowl. To be able to be here, regardless of how this season went is a blessing, period. Especially where I’€™ve come from, what I’€™ve been through. To get to this, not just this stage, but the NFL in general. I’€™m happy, it could be my last one. There’€™s no reason to hang my head, there’€™s no reason to be upset. It is what it is and I’€™m still smiling. I’€™ve been smiling all year.’€

Would it be hard for him to watch the Patriots win the Super Bowl if he doesn’t play?

‘€œWhy would it be hard? When you’€™re part of a team, I mean there’€™s nothing hard about it at all,” he said. “There’s always a way to be yourself in the ‘Patriot Way.’ Look at Aaron Hernandez. Aaron Hernandez is nothing but me in the ‘Patriot Way.'”

While conforming to the “Patriot Way,” Ocho insisted he is still enjoying his first Super Bowl week as a participant.

‘€œYeah, most definitely. I can still have fun,” Ochocinco said. “I sort of have to feel my way through it first. This season’€™s been, it’€™s more of a feel my way through it. It’€™s a learning process. You just can’€™t come into something new and just bust the door down and say, ‘€˜Hey, I’€™m here.’€™’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals, Marvin Lewis

Kurt Warner believes Patriots-Rams Super Bowl might have been different if played today

02.01.12 at 12:23 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€“ Evidently, Super Bowl XXXVI still sticks in the craw of Kurt Warner.

The former Rams’€™ quarterback, whose team suffered a 20-17 defeat to the Patriots in one of the biggest upsets in professional sports history, told a small group of reporters while visiting the Giants‘€™ hotel that things might have been different if the two teams played in this era of the NFL.

Warner surmised that the defensive strategy used by the Patriots on Feb. 3, 2002 would not have worked in this day and age of officials cracking down on teams defending the passing game.

‘€œNo. No,’€ said Warner when asked if the Patriots’€™ physical style of defense during that Super Bowl could be used in the present-day NFL. ‘€œWith the rules now ‘€¦ I say no, but, again, it would have come down to the officials having to make the calls. But even with what they did then I don’€™t know if it was, quote-unquote, legal from the standpoint of the rulebook. But they were pushing the envelope, but, again, I give them credit because you knew if you were going to beat us that’€™s what you had to do, you had to push the envelope. You had to say, ‘€˜We’€™re going to beat them until somebody tells us it’€™s illegal and throws a flag and if they don’€™t, keep doing it.’€™

‘€œI think it would have been more difficult because there’s more emphasis on that part of things. I look at plays now and I say, ‘Really? That’s pass interference?’ It still surprises me when a guy gets banged, or a little hand on him here. But that’s the nature of where the game has come. I think it would have been much more difficult in this day and age to play that way, or play that way as long as they did. But, again, I give them because it was the right plan against us and it worked in their favor.’€

Warner did go out of his way to applaud how the Patriots’€™ managed to slow down one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history.

‘€œThe Patriots, I give them credit,’€ he said. ‘€œI think they went into that game saying ‘We’re going to beat those guys up. We’re going to hold them. We’re going to scratch. We’re going to claw. We’re going to do everything we can until the officials force us not to.’ I think the one we all know is that the officials do not want to dictate the Super Bowl. The officials do now want to throw a bunch of flags in the Super Bowl that will change complexion of the game. And that’s what they did. We knew if you were going to stop us that’s what you were gong to have to do. You were going to have to knock our timing off. They did a tremendous job of doing that and it wasn’t until later in the game where we started getting a few calls and they had to loosen up a little bit and we started success. There’s no question in what they did in their game plan was key, especially early in that game, to get us out of rhythm and make the plays they needed to win.’€

Rich Gannon on M&M: Patriots over Giants by a field goal

02.01.12 at 12:13 pm ET
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Former NFL quarterback and current CBS Sports analyst Rich Gannon, during an appearance on Mut & Merloni Wednesday, said he thinks the Patriots will win Super Bowl XLVI.

Said Gannon: “I think it’s going to be a close game and a very physical game. … I think the [Patriots] win by a field goal. I’m not going to change now, I picked them in August.”

Gannon was asked about how the Patriots offense has transformed since the last time the Giants and Patriots played in Super Bowl XLII.

“They’re a different football team offensively in terms of what they want to do and how they want to attack,” Gannon said. “They want to attack the middle of the football field with the two great tight ends — [Rob] Gronkowski and [Aaron] Hernandez — and Wes Welker, who does all his dirty work in the middle of the field.”

Although Gannon talked about the advantages of the Patriots’ new-look attack, he said the lack of a deep threat, and particularly Chad Ochocinco‘s struggles, could hurt New England Sunday.

“They don’t really have the guy who scares you on the edge,” he said. “I don’t know if [Tom] Brady really feels comfortable with [Ochocinco]. I don’t know if Brady feels comfortable with him in the no-huddle [offense]. I don’t know if he feels comfortable that he’ll be at the right depth, run the right route, make the right adjustment. And from a quarterback’s perspective that’s a very unsettling feeling. I think that’s why you haven’t seen a lot of production out of Ochocinco. Deion [Branch] is a productive guy. He’s not a burner anymore and not going to run by somebody. He doesn’t really scare you in the outside lanes. So when you look at Gronkowski’s injury, it’s a huge issue this week. Whether or not he is healthy. When you look at his production, particularly in the red zone, that has to be a concern for the Patriots.”

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Read More: Chad Ochocinco, Rich Gannon, Tom Brady, Wes Welker

Pepper Johnson sees lots of his game in Brandon Spikes

02.01.12 at 11:43 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots defensive line coach Pepper Johnson laughed.

Told that coach Bill Belichick compared him to second-year linebacker Brandon Spikes earlier this season, he waited a beat and responded with a smile.

‘€œThat’€™s a shame,’€ he said. ‘€œThat’€™s a shame Brandon went down that far.’€

Last month, Belichick made the connection between the two, saying Spikes’€™ length and playing style reminded him of Johnson, the former New York linebacker who has become the New England defensive line coach. Spikes is 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, while as a player, Johnson was 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds.

‘€œYou don’€™t see a lot of inside linebackers with that kind of height, that 6-foot-4ish height,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œMost guys are a little more compact than that. He’€™s a pretty powerful guy for being that tall like Pepper was, but a lot of those explosive hitters are 6 feet, 6-foot-1, that type of guy.

‘€œI’€™m just saying there aren’€™t a lot of them, and I think that’€™s a problem for the quarterback in terms of the passing game because of their length, their height, their range. They get their hands on a lot of balls, but again, kind of like Pepper, Brandon has power. He’€™ll go up and strikes with a good thump, whether it’€™s tackling or taking on blockers, that kind of thing.’€

‘€œYou know what? My guys and some of my friends noticed that when he was playing at the University of Florida. They reminded him of me. I see it,’€ Johnson said.

While traditional thinking dictates that on third down and other passing situations, you need to remove one of your linebackers in favor of an extra defensive back (or a speedy linebacker), Johnson believes Spikes is doing a great job discrediting the idea that a big thumper can’€™t be on the field in those situations.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Brandon Spikes, Dick Butkus

Bill Romanowski on D&C: Giants momentum tough to stop

02.01.12 at 11:08 am ET
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Former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski appeared on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to talk about Super Bowl XLVI. Although he never made a prediction, Romanowski said the Giants have obtained a great deal of momentum through their playoff run.

“I do believe that the momentum of what the Giants have done is pretty tough to stop,” Romanowski said. “I believe in when the momentum picks up and you ride that wave. What they have done is unbelievable. It’s almost no different than what they did, what was it, 2007, when they beat the Patriots. It feels so much the same.”

The former Boston College star also talked about the impact of Rob Gronkowski‘s high ankle sprain suffered in the AFC championship game. “He’s absolutely going to play. The nice thing about ankles is that you can inject them and they’re very safe. He’ll make an impact in this football game. I just hope they can block the four [defensive linemen]. That, to me, is going to be where this game is won.”

While Romanowski said that the Giants have momentum and advantages on the defensive line, he didn’t discount the success of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady over the last decade.

“Baltimore, I think, showed [the Giants] how you can beat New England,” he said. “But I tell you what: You can never count Brady out, you can never count Belichick out. And that’s what makes this great.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Romanowski, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady

Patriots owner Robert Kraft speaks to SI about the lockout, team-building and making the tough decisions

02.01.12 at 11:06 am ET
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft is on the cover of this week’€™s edition of Sports Illustrated, and is the subject of an extensive feature inside.

Celebrated as one of the men who helped save football in the wake of the lockout, Kraft speaks with SI writer Peter King about a variety of topics, including the fact that the Patriots success over the years is due to the unorthodox decisions he has made including spending too much to buy the team, hiring Bill Belichick and trading Drew Bledsoe.

‘€œThe key to life is you try to see things other people can’€™t see,’€ said Kraft. ‘€œThis league is set up for everyone to go 8-8. How do you differentiate? You have to be bold in any business and do things you take a lot of criticism for but you believe are right.’€

There’€™s also a full Super Bowl preview from Jim Trotter, as well as a look back at Super Bowl XLII by Tim Layden.

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