|01.18.14 at 1:58 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have never really publicly cared what the rest of the world thinks of them. And they certainly don’t care what the rest of the NFL thinks. The only image they care about is the one associated with winning.
Still, that didn’t keep Dan Hausle of WHDH-TV (7News) of from peppering Brady for a second straight day with a poll question. On Friday, Hausle wanted to know what Brady thought of a midseason poll of current NFL players that had his head coach ranked as the second-least liked coach to play for.
“I don’t talk to many players around the league about Coach Belichick so I wouldn’t know that one either,” Brady said, referring to Thursday’s poll question about why he was the least liked quarterback.
Does it surprise Brady that players wouldn’t want to play for a coach as successful as Belichick?
“That’s a good question,” Brady conceded. “I like playing for a successful coach. That means we’re successful and winning and ultimately that’s hopefully what we’re here for.”
Certainly, that’s what the Patriots have achieved together under Belichick and Brady. They’ve won three Super Bowls, been to two others, more than any coach-quarterback combination in NFL history. The two are a combined 18-7 in the playoffs. If Belichick wins the Super Bowl this year, he would match Chuck Noll with four, Don Shula with six Super Bowl appearances and surpass Tom Landry with 21 career postseason wins.
“I think success is the most important thing, no question,” Brady said. “There’s nothing that’s better than winning games as far as I’m concerned.”
|01.17.14 at 6:08 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Before leaving on a cross-country trip to play in the AFC championship game, running back Stevan Ridley was informed by the NFL that his decision to wear red shoes in last Saturday’s 43-22 win over the Colts resulted in a fine of $5,250.
If wearing red shoes results in running for a pair of touchdowns in the playoffs, Ridley would likely gladly pay the fine every week.
But there’s another angle at play. Brandon Spikes was placed on season-ending injured reserve the Monday before the playoff game against the Colts, allegedly in part because he was late for a team meeting the previous Friday. Spikes was fined over $18,000 over two games for wearing his red cleats.
The NFL uniform code prohibits players from wearing cleats of a different color than the rest of his team.
The late L.C. Greenwood, with his gold-colored high heels, would stand up and applaud both Spikes and Ridley.
|01.17.14 at 3:03 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The illness that circulated around the Patriots locker room this week has knocked rookie linebacker Steve Beauharnais out of Sunday’s AFC championship. The linebacker was not at practice on Friday and did not make the trip to Denver on the team’s flight Friday afternoon.
Aside from Beauharnais, only three players are questionable for the game. Receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were limited for a third straight day, as was punter Ryan Allen.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (ankle) and receiver Danny Amendola (groin) were both upgraded to full participation for the first time all week and are probable for the game.
Here is Friday’s complete report:
Did Not Participate
LB Steve Beauharnais (illness) OUT
P Ryan Allen (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE
WR Aaron Dobson (foot) QUESTIONABLE
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (groin) PROBABLE
LB Dont’a Hightower (ankle) PROBABLE
OL Logan Mankins (ankle) PROBABLE
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder) PROBABLE
LB Dane Fletcher (groin) PROBABLE
RB Shane Vereen (groin) PROBABLE
|01.17.14 at 2:15 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Bill Belichick wants to keep the high times limited to football in the mile high air Sunday.
The Patriots coach, aware of Colorado’s new law legalizing recreational use of marijuana, specifically warned his players against getting high in the Rockies.
“It’s a business trip. Nobody is going to care about that,” running back LeGarrette Blount said Friday morning. “Bill told us about it, he basically told us, ‘Don’t go out there and be stupid.’ [That’s] really good advice.”
Asked directly if he planned to address his team, Belichick was less forthcoming, only passing along the NFL policy on illegal use of recreational drugs and directing the question to the league.
“I think we know what the NFL policy is on that,” Belichick said.
Pressed on it, Belichick referred the matter to the NFL, “I think that’s something you ought to take up with the NFL. I think you have any more questions about it, you should talk to the league about it. They’re the ones that have the policy.”
The use of marijuana is explicitly illegal under the NFL CBA and the league has advised the Broncos and Seahawks, teams that play in states where it’s legal, that any use would be a violation of NFL policy.
“I don’t know what’s going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or help deal with injuries,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said recently in New York City when asked about marijuana, medicinal and otherwise. “But we will continue to support the evolution of medicine.”
There would seem to be a larger window of opportunity for players to indulge, if so inclined. The team moved up its departure time to Friday afternoon, getting out to Denver a day earlier than normal to get acclimated to the higher altitude.
Tom Brady was more light-hearted about the press conference question Friday morning about weed.
“Hopefully [players don’t indulge]. This is a very important game for us and it’s a business trip,” Brady said.
|01.17.14 at 1:21 pm ET|
Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni Friday to talk about his AFC and NFC championship predictions and Peyton Manning. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
While they have different stories, King compared the legacies of Jerry Rice and Manning to prove his point that one game should not completely define Manning’s career.
“When I think of Jerry Rice, I don’t think that he couldn’t do it when he was 42,” King said. “The Manning story is different, but not altogether so. I think we place so much emphasis on how a guy does in very, very big games, and rightfully so if you’re talking about the greatest of all time, if you’re making that argument.
“I think it’s silly to say what happens in one game, this one game 20 years from now, is going to put Peyton Manning 18th on the mental all-time quarterback list, however you’d rank it, or fourth.”
For King, the argument against decreasing the value of Manning’s legacy on one game includes the potential for a worst-case scenario during Sunday’s game.
“Suppose that Manning puts up — take a number — 35 points,” King said. “And the Denver D just totally disintegrates and [Tom Brady] scores 45, and it’s a shootout and Brady wins.
“I just don’t think you can judge Peyton Manning based on you telling me, ‘Well if he loses this game he is here in NFL history or he is there.’ … Whether he wins another Super Bowl or not, I will consider him among the top five who ever played, but I won’t consider him the greatest, because you’re right, a quarterback does have to win championships.”
|01.17.14 at 1:17 pm ET|
One thing is clear about the predictions coming in for Sunday’s AFC championship game between the Patriots and the Broncos — most believe it’ll be a close game. Both local and national media favor Denver, but, like the score predictions, neither team has a blowout lead.
On WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan, Gery Callahan was the only one to favor the Patriots. While Callahan thinks Tom Brady will lead New England to a 31-28 win, John Dennis (37-24) and Kirk Minihane (31-24) believe Denver will win it behind a Peyton Manning MVP effort. Minihane and Callahan predict the 49ers will take the NFC title, while Dennis projects the Seahawks will pick up the game on their own turf.
On Mut & Merloni, Mike Mutnansky is going with the Broncos, 35-28. Lou Merloni has the Patriots emerging victorious, 31-27. The two are split on the NFC game as well, with Mutnansky taking San Francisco and Merloni tabbing Seattle.
At SB Nation, the Patriots and Broncos split the panel, with Ryan Van Bibber, Jason Chilton and Stephen White leaning toward New England while Joel Thorman, David Fucillo and Matt Ufford predicting a Denver win.
ESPN‘s group of 13 panelists, on the other hand, favor the the Broncos. Merril Hoge, Adam Schefter, Mike Ditka, and Cris Carter project that the Patriots will come out with the win. Meanwhile Eric Allen, Mike Golic, Ron Jaworski, KC Joyner, Chris Mortensen, Mark Schlereth, Seth Wickersham, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson are sticking with Denver.
USA Today‘s panel of seven favors the Broncos 6-1, with Jarrett Bell, Jim Corbett, Lindsay H. Jones, Pete O’Brien, Tom Pelissero and Simon Samano favoring Denver. The lone vote for the Patriots came from Nate Davis.
Following are more predictions from around the country:
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 26, Broncos 23 — “The Patriots didn’t need to play the Bengals, and blew by the Colts. Now that they survived to get to the Broncos, it’s easier to trust them to advance. While the expected hype is around Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, the real matchup is Bill Belichick vs. John Fox.”
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated: Broncos 34, Patriots 31 — “It still sounds quite strange, but I think Tony Dungy had it right when he told me on Monday that this meeting of Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks will likely come down to the running games, and the run defenses.”
|01.17.14 at 12:32 pm ET|
FOXBORO — He is regarded as the Patriots’ best pure deep threat. He could make a big difference, especially deep against an aging and injured Broncos secondary.
Dobson, who re-injured his left foot against the Bills in the first half of the regular season finale on Dec. 29, returned to practice this week and has been officially listed as limited on the team’s injury report.
“I really don’t know right now,” Dobson said Friday morning before the team’s final practice. “I just have to go out there [to practice] and see how it feels and go from there.”
The rookie initially sustained a stress fracture in the left foot the first time the Patriots played the Broncos on Nov. 24. He missed the next three games. He returned against the Ravens on Dec. 22 before pulling up while running a deep post route against the Bills. Dobson missed practice all week during the bye and last week leading up to the Colts game. He missed the divisional playoff before returning to practice on Wednesday.
“It’s frustrating, but I’m trying to improve, keep getting better, keep rehabbing and keep doing what I have to do to go on the trip,” Dobson said.
“It was hard, just to watch my team battle [the Colts] without me but they pulled it out, so I’m glad I get another opportunity hopefully to get back on the field this Sunday.”
In his rookie year out of Marshall, Dobson caught 37 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games.
Dobson admitted to having to shake off some rust but said his work on mental reps in practice has kept him sharp.
“It was just getting a feel for the game and getting back on the field,” Dobson said of his first return on Dec. 22. “Just sitting out for a while, [you have to] just get the timing back right [and] just things of that nature.”
‘It’s football, man. We’re both in the NFL,” Dobson said. “He’s a great player and has been doing it for years, so I’m going to have to go out there and play good.
‘I just try to go out there and do my job. I don’t try to put too much on my shoulders. I just have to go out there and do what I have to do and do what I have to do to help the team.’
Does he think of himself as a potential difference-maker?
“I just try to go out there and do my job, I don’t really try to put too much on my shoulders,” he said. “I’ve got to go out there and do what I have to do and do what I have to do to help the team.”
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