|01.24.12 at 4:56 pm ET|
With the understanding that Rob Gronkowski‘s injury situation was already covered earlier in the day, here are five takeaways from Tuesday afternoon’s conference call with Patriots coach Bill Belichick:
1. The Patriots have given the players Tuesday and Wednesday off, with the instructions being that they should use those two days to take care of logistics and come back Thursday ready to work. New England will hold practices Thursday and Friday (Saturday’s schedule is still up in the air), and the Patriots will leave for Indy after a sendoff rally at Gillette Stadium on Sunday (more details on that will come later in the week).
Belichick talked about the sort of things they’ll have to focus on before leaving for Indianapolis.
‘I think there are a lot of things, but the logistics and all that, that’s part of it,” Belichick said. ‘That’s something that we have to deal with on any away trip. This is an extended away trip so it has some elements of that, but there are additional things. But that’s part of it. The health of the team is always important. That’s what a team is: the healthy players that you can put out there on the field. That’s always something that we try to be mindful of and do everything we can to get it to the highest level. We can get started on our opponent and understanding what they do and what we need to do against them and how those things match up and what adjustments we can anticipate or we’ve seen them make. I’d say it’s all those things.’
‘I have a lot of respect for Tom. I think he’s definitely stood the test of time in a couple organizations: in Jacksonville and at the Giants,’ Belichick said. ‘He’s tough; his teams are disciplined. They play with great competitiveness and play smart. They’re a good situational football team. They force you to go out there and beat them. They do a lot of things well. That’s kind of the way Tom is: Tom is tough, he’s very detailed, he has a lot of experience, he’s an intense coach and I think that’s reflected in the way his teams play. He’s a good friend of mine that I’ve been with a long time as I’ve mentioned before.
‘When I was the secondary coach and Tom was the receivers coach at the Giants, we worked against each other daily and we also had great rapport off the field of helping each other out, talking about the different techniques and players of our upcoming opponents and suggestions of how to cover them or run routes, helping each other out on things like that as well as working with each other on the practice field. Of all the coaches I’ve worked with, it was as good as any.’
3. Belichick also continued to lavish praise on veteran defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who was immense in the Patriots 23-20 win over the Ravens in the AFC championship game.
Read the rest of this entry »
|01.24.12 at 11:10 am ET|
Although the Super Bowl is still 12 days away, some writers have already decided that Eli Manning is the greatest quarterback currently playing in the NFL. According to the numbers, Manning does not quite top the list. He finished the regular season 13th in completion percentage (61.0), fourth in total yards (4,933), fifth in yards-per-game (308.3), and sixth in touchdown passes (29), but those numbers did not tell the whole story for some New York-based columnists.
Steve Serby of the New York Post limited his praise of Manning to “The Greatest Quarterback in Giants History”. Serby compared Manning to former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who Serby said deserves recognition for his leadership, toughness, longevity and his play in Super Bowl XXI. But Manning, now in his eighth pro season, has surpassed Simms in Serby’s book. He compares Manning and Simms’ numbers, and Manning is indeed better than Simms in almost every category.
But then Serby delves into the rhetoric and intangibles. Manning, Serby said, did not have to overcome the pressures of just being a first-overall draft pick. He is also had to fight his way out of the shadow of his father and brother, two of the most famous and revered NFL quarterbacks in history. Manning has never missed a game since taking over the starting job in November of 2004, Serby says. Manning’s devotion to film study is commendable and his leadership style is one that his teammates never hesitate to follow. For those reasons, Serby claims, Manning leaves the New York area confident headed into the Super Bowl.
“It was Peyton [Manning], remember, who predicted after Super Bowl XLII that Eli would win multiple Super Bowls,” Serby said. “He will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the second time if he beats Tom Brady and the Pats again. And there isn’t a Giants fan who doesn’t think he can’t do it.”
Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News takes Serby’s praise a step farther. Lupica names Manning as the quarterback “playing better than anybody going into this Super Bowl.” Lupica acknowledges that Brady has the better numbers this year than Manning, but says Manning is better when it counts as he points to Manning’s NFL-record 15 fourth quarter touchdown passes as a stat that separates the two quarterbacks.
Lupica also argues that Manning’s path to the Super Bowl was tougher than Brady’s, since Manning had to beat the Packers and 49ers on the road while Brady only had to go through the Broncos and Ravens on home turf.
“Nobody better than him right now, not Brady or anybody else,” Lupica claims. Read the rest of this entry »
|01.24.12 at 10:47 am ET|
Patriots director of pro scouting Jason Licht is one of two finalists for the vacant Chicago GM job, according to the Chicago Tribune. Licht and Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery are expected to get second interviews later this week.
In his 16th NFL season, Licht is in the second of two stints with the Patriots. He rejoined the New England personnel department in 2009 after previously spending four seasons (1999-2002) with the Patriots. In 2008, Licht served as a personnel executive for Arizona after spending five seasons with Philadelphia as vice president of player personnel (2006-07) and assistant director of player personnel (2003-05).
Licht first joined the Patriots personnel department in 1999 as a college scout, and in June 2001 he became the team’s national scout. The following year, he was promoted to assistant director of player personnel, a position he held through the 2002 season.
It’s interesting that both Licht and Emery have ties to the Patriots. Emery has worked for Scott Pioli in Kansas City as well as for former Patriots director of college scouting Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta.
|01.24.12 at 10:20 am ET|
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning conducted a wide-ranging interview with the Indianapolis Star about a variety of topics, including his plans for next season and his thoughts on the recent turnover on the Indianapolis coaching staff and front office.
One thing that stood out for us was when he talked about whether or not he’ll be able to help little brother Eli when it comes to preparing for Super Bowl XLVI against the Patriots. Peyton deferred, saying that he doesn’t think that Eli needs much help, considering the fact that he beat New England earlier this season, as well as in Super Bowl XLII.
“Well, I’ve already gone to work for him, getting all my teammates, trying to get their two-ticket allotments,” Peyton said of his brother. “That’s what he did for me two years ago and I did that for him four years ago. And I’m helping any way I can, getting him restaurant reservations around town for him and his teammates. Jim (Irsay) called after the game and offered any kind of help he could give, which was generous.
‘As far as helping him with the Patriots, really, he doesn’t need to talk to me. He played them seven weeks ago. We’ll talk about things they do when you face them a second time in the same year, but he knows them better than I do right now.
“It was fun Sunday, we talked about third and long situations, the defense San Francisco likes to play. They’ve got (former Colts defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio, and we were saying, ‘In this situation, they run this particular coverage, three rushing and eight in coverage, and there are only certain places you can throw it.’ I didn’t tell him to throw that post route on the touchdown, but that was the kind of defense he was seeing. So it’s kind of fun to talk about that stuff.’”
|01.24.12 at 10:20 am ET|
Remember “fourth-and-2,” the infamous play that essentially cost the Patriots a game against the Colts in 2009?
If there’s a similar situation in the Super Bowl at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, the Patriots might want to think twice. Not only is the game being played in the same city, the official who ruled that Kevin Faulk did not gain possession of the ball past the first-down marker — a ruling questioned by Bill Belichick but one that appeared to be correct — is working the Super Bowl.
Tom Stabile, in his 17th season making calls in the NFL, is part of the crew that will be headed by 12th-year official John Parry. Stabile was the head linesman on Nov. 15, 2009, and he ruled that Faulk did not demonstrate control until after he was pushed behind the first-down marker. The Colts took possession at the New England 29 with just over two minutes left and scored the game-winning touchdown three plays later for a 35-34 victory.
Parry, who by day works as a financial adviser in his home state of Ohio, was named crew chief after leading the group that oversaw the Saints-49ers NFC divisional playoff game, a classic that ended with both teams scoring in the final two minutes.
Along with Stabile, who will server as the head linesman, Parry’s assistants include umpire Carl Paganelli (13 years of experience), line judge Gary Arthur (15 years), field judge Gary Cavaletto (9), side judge Laird Hayes (17) and back judge Tony Steratore (12).
|01.24.12 at 1:04 am ET|
Bob Costas on Giants-Patriots: ‘No matter how they got there, this would be a bold-faced matchup: Patriots-Giants, a rematch of one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever with the key principals still in place ‘ the coaches and the quarterbacks. When you think of how they got here and how good the games were today with the Patriots almost going to overtime and the Giants in fact going to overtime.
‘The Giants trip to the Super Bowl closely mirrors what happened last time. The Patriots are not the juggernaut they were then, but the Giants had to go on the road and beat the Packers and beat San Francisco. It certainly feels like what happened four years ago. And there’s an irony that I am sure will be repeated a thousand times between now and two weeks from now that Brady meets Manning in Indianapolis, but its Eli, not Peyton.’
Al Michaels on the Giants: ‘Much as it was the case four years ago, the Giants were almost given up for dead in early December, and stayed alive with a tremendous comeback on that Sunday night in Dallas, which set them up for this post-season run.’
Michaels on the quarterbacks and coaches: ‘Despite that fact that Tom Brady was very critical of himself after today’s game, he is one of the greatest of all time, obviously. And Eli is an elite quarterback as well, there’s no doubt about that. So you have two great quarterbacks and two really outstanding coaches. Bill Belichick is clearly one of the best of all time and I think Tom Coughlin will finally get some of the respect that I felt he has deserved for a long, long time.’
Michaels on the matchup: ‘An extremely attractive matchup. The Patriots offense against the Giants defense that is playing a heck of a lot better than it was playing earlier in the season. The Patriots defense of late has played better, too. So it’s a great chess match with two elite quarterbacks and two teams with great traditions and great histories. It should be a terrific matchup.’
Cris Collinsworth on the Giants’ season: ‘It reminds me so much of what happed in 2007, the lowest of expectations going into the playoffs, and were they going to even make the playoffs. It’s really a credit to the resiliency of Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning. Somehow this team just finds a way in the most unlikely of circumstances to come together and to play great football. What Eli has done with his come-from-behind wins this year has been remarkable.’
Collinsworth on the Patriots’ defense: ‘The story for the Patriots, a defense that did not put up good statistics all season long, came together and played their best football in the playoffs. Based on Brady’s comments at the end of the game, he wasn’t too happy with his game and yet the defense was good enough, with a little help from a missed field goal at the end of the game, to carry them through.’
Collinsworth on Tom Brady’s postgame comments:: ‘It’s not often that Tom Brady needs help from anybody to make his way to the Super Bowl, but you know that he is going to be inspired in a way that he hasn’t been, maybe ever. Hearing his post-game self-critique, you know that he has a little chip on his shoulder going into the Super Bowl.’
Collinsworth on the Super Bowl rematch: ‘This is a rematch of a game that probably bothers the New England Patriots the most. They had the chance to stake their claim to be the greatest team of all time and the Giants beat them in major underdog fashion. The conditions are going to be perfect for both teams in this one, and I expect greatness from the game.’
|01.23.12 at 9:20 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have celebrated the efforts of community service workers and volunteers all season.
Now, they’re taking it to a whole new level.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Monday announced the opening of a ‘Super Bowl for Super People’ online sweepstakes to recognize outstanding individuals in the public service sector as an extension of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation’s season-long ‘Celebrate Volunteerism’ campaign.
Ten winners will be randomly selected from a pool of police officers, firefighters, teachers, military personnel and nurses in New England who have been identified as ‘Super People’ by their superiors.
Two winners from each category will receive the ‘Super Bowl for Super People’ package, an all-expenses paid, one-day trip to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis for them and a guest, including game tickets, round-trip airfare, transportation to and from the game and tickets to the Patriots’ postgame party.
It’s appropriate that the team reached the ultimate game this season to reward the volunteers, since giving back to the community was the heart and soul of the lifetime of work of the late Myra Kraft.
‘Throughout a season dedicated to my sweetheart, we recognized outstanding individuals for their many contributions to our community through ‘Celebrate Volunteerism,’’ Kraft said of his late wife. ‘In New England, we’re all part of the same community and part of the same family, and we all benefit from the dedication of hard-working public servants. We’re glad that through this sweepstakes we can reward those who have chosen a career in public service and through their commitment to giving back have earned the recognition of their superiors. We’re excited to have them in our day-of-game travel party as representatives of their professional communities.’ Read the rest of this entry »