|01.13.11 at 3:44 pm ET|
As was the case on Wednesday, the Patriots had just one player ‘ defensive lineman Myron Pryor ‘ miss practice. Here’s the complete injury report:
Did Not Participate
DE Myron Pryor (back)
|01.13.11 at 3:03 pm ET|
Harrison certainly was opinionated but – unlike Cromartie and Ellis – didn’t make a habit of talking all the time. He chose his words carefully when he called someone out. But more often that not, he would call out his own teammates on the field before calling out an opponent. Harrison wanted his teammates to do the right thing at the right time when it counted.
When Wilfork was a rookie on the 2004 Super Bowl champs, Harrison showed him the ropes. Later on – Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs – that leadership is defined by what you do in planning and execution more than what you say. To Wilfork, that was the best kind of leadership.
“I think the one guy that stands out in my mind is Rodney Harrison,” Wilfork said. “He played this game to a whole other level. I’ve never seen a guy who played this many years in the league and he goes out on the scout team for offense or he goes out on the scout team for a special teams period, just to give a look. It was easy when I saw that guy doing it.
“It was like, ‘You know what? He didn’t talk much, he came to work.’ He came to work and you know what? He’s probably one of the best safeties to ever play the game and it’s because of that, not from his playing. His playing speaks for itself, but the person that he was in this locker room and on the practice field means a lot to me.”
A safety himself, Patrick Chung never had the chance to play with Harrison but he has spoken with him and those conversations certainly made an impression.
“He’s intense, he’s intense,” Chung said Thursday. “He’s flying around full speed and he’s not going to stop. Every single play, he’s going hard. Every single time. You have to give a guy like that credit. To go hard for so many years, every practice, every game, a lot of guys can’t do that.”
“When I came here it was Seymour of course on the defensive line, Willie McGinest, [Mike] Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Ty Law, Tyrone Poole, the list goes on and on, Rodney Harrison. It goes on and on. So, it was easy for me to come in and pick those guys’ brains. I was never the shy type. I always wanted to know why we were doing that and where did I need to be and what can I do to get better.
“All those guys taught me how to be a profession. They taught me what it takes to be a leader. A lot of people may think that you have to talk all the time to be a leader. That’s not what it’s all about. If you come to work every day and everybody sees you working your tail off, you have no choice but to lead by example.”
Words to live and lead by. So naturally, with rookies Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes and Devin McCourty on the team, Wilfork was asked if he is now the leader that every young player comes up to for advice on how to handle the pressure of the playoffs.
“I don’t know if I’m a player, I’m a coach, I’m a mentor ‘ you name it. Being a leader and being around this team for seven years, I kind of understand it to a point where if a guy has a question and Bill [Belichick], your coaches and staff are in meetings, they can easily turn around and ask any of these guys who have been around. It’s been kind of fun, though, because a lot of years you don’t this.”
Wilfork says he’s seen cases in the locker room where young Patriots players have been almost scared to ask questions of the big-time leaders on their side of the ball. But Wilfork says thankfully, that’s not the case with his group.
“People will be shy to come up and ask a Tom Brady, Deion Branch or Matt Light who have been playing this game for so long, to ask them questions. But, I don’t think these guys are shy at all. They come up and they ask questions because they want to get it right because they know how important it is to us. So, they ask questions. I’m always talking, and teaching, and coaching and mentoring, watching film, we do it. I’m proud to be someone like that that they can actually look up and ask me for questions and I can give them the right advice. It’s been kind of fun.”
And – as Wilfork knows from his rookie season – winning in the playoffs is best kind of fun and losing can be a painful, humbling teacher.
|01.13.11 at 2:12 pm ET|
The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Thursday:
1. The New England run defense took its fair share of criticism over the first half of the season ‘ five of the first eight games, they allowed at least 99 yards per game, culminating with an alarming 230 rushing yards allowed in an ugly loss to Cleveland on Nov. 7.
Since the midway point, those numbers have improved. In four of the final eight games, opponents haven’t topped 80 rushing yards a game, as Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Chicago and Miami all struggled to formulate a sustained running attack against New England. The Patriots finished the regular season 11th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (108) and total rushing yards allowed with 1,728.
The drop in the rushing numbers has been due to many things, including good complementary football ‘ the fact that the Patriots’ offense has put up big numbers early in the game has forced opponents to try and throw the ball to get back into the contest. But according to Vince Wilfork, a good portion of it is also due to the fact that things have started to come together when it comes to stopping the run.
‘I think everybody’s just been doing their job ‘ focusing [on it], preparing a little bit more, watching more film,’ Wilfork said on Thursday. ‘The more you play, the better you get. I’m a believer in the more reps you get in practice or in the game, the better you’ll be. And I think some of it came with that.
‘Early on in the year, our run phase was kind of crazy. [I was] just seeing guys not understand the defense the way it needed to be played. So, as time went on, we got better and better and better. I think now, we’re sitting back and can say, ‘OK, we’ve gotten better, we have to continue to get better.’ We just can’t sit back and say, ‘Oh, we’re good.’ I think it’s just everyone knowing their role, knowing exactly where they need to be and when they need to be there and preparation.’
It’ll be another challenge for the Patriots’ run defense this week, as the Jets’ running attack was able to pile up big numbers throughout the regular season (sparked by the tandem of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, New York was third in the league in the regular season with 2,374 rushing yards and 148.4 yards per game), and added 169 rushing yards in their wild card win over Indianapolis.
‘One of the best,’ said Wilfork when asked about the New York running game. ‘You’ve got two great backs. They’re known for powering the rock. The offensive line is known for being physical. The New York Jets are known for having a great running attack.
‘They are built for playoff games. They are pretty tough when it comes down to LT and Shonn Greene on top of that.’
2. A year ago, Wes Welker sat and watched as his teammates endured one of the most humiliating playoff defeats in franchise history. The receiver, who suffered a devastating knee injury in the regular-season finale against the Texans, was in a luxury box watching the loss to the Ravens.
Now, Welker is preparing for his first playoff action in three seasons.
‘It was tough. It was definitely hard to watch, especially the way the game went last year,’ said Welker. ‘I’m definitely excited to be out there. These are the type of games you play for, and this is what you spend all year getting ready for. You just want to go out there and put your best foot forward.’
Welker, who has 27 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns in three postseason games (all of them with the 2007 Patriots), says that very little needs to be said when it comes to telling rookies how much the game changes in the postseason.
‘You’re just definitely excited about the opportunity to get out there and have some fun and get in a playoff atmosphere,’ he said. ‘This is what it’s all about. This is where you want to get to.’
The Patriots appear to present a lot of matchup challenges for the Jets in the passing game, with questions about how New York is going to deploy Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. Welker said Thursday he saw ‘quite a bit’ of Revis when the Patriots and Jets faced each other last month, especially when New York went to man coverage, and it sounds like he wouldn’t be surprised to see him again on Sunday afternoon.
‘You have to bring it every play, because he’s a great player. He’s got great feet. He moves around real well and does some good things out there,’ Welker said of Revis. ‘He gets his hands on you pretty well and understands what you’re trying to do to him. He’s definitely a tough guy to set up and get open against. You have to be on top of your game and make sure that you’re doing everything possible to get open against him.’
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|01.13.11 at 1:02 pm ET|
“We’ve got to expect their best and we have to be prepared for everything,” Wilfork said Thursday. “With it being a one-game season, we’re liable to see anything, things we haven’t seen, things we’ve seen. We kind of know what they like to do but on top of that, with it being a one-game season, you never know.
“We’re trying just to make sure we have everything covered that we think may happen, that may occur. If it happens, it happens. If it don’t happen, oh well. But we have to do a good job of preparing for these guys.”
Wilfork also said he hasn’t given much thought to last year’s playoff game when Ray Rice gashed the Patriots for an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. The Patriots never recovered and lost 33-14 at Gillette.
“The emphasis has been all this time just remember what we’re here for,” Wilfork added. “We lose this game we can’t go back and say next week we have to get ready for this because next week it’ll be over. So, I think everybody understands that and I think everybody is trying and they understand what we’re here for.
“We can’t do anything but take it one day at a time, get better each day and each day we step on that practice field, we want to walk away knowing we’ve gotten better. And when Sunday comes, we’ve got to be ready to play.”
|01.13.11 at 12:59 pm ET|
‘I think he’s going to unleash hell on them,’ Dilfer responded. ‘I do. Early in the week, I felt like the Jets had a chance in this game. I looked for every reason why this thing could be an epic battle. That the Jets could redeem themselves from the 45-3 [game last month]. Then I started to look at more film, and realized the Patriots are just smarter than everyone else.
‘And then I look at how they’re handling [the trash talk], and yeah, I do think it festers in a good way. They have the ability to use all this stuff, and hold it inside, and use it to their advantage come game time. I don’t see how this strategy works against the Patriots that the Jets are using. I can see it working against somebody else. I just can’t see it working against the Patriots. I think Tom, already with a razor-sharp focus, finds even another level to his focus and his preparation. I can just see him playing one of those flawless football games.’
Dilfer said Brady might put together a performance like the one in the 2006 playoffs against the Jaguars, when he completed 26-of-28 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
Said Dilfer: “I can see him nearly perfect in this game.”
|01.13.11 at 12:17 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots nearly had perfect attendance at practice on Thursday as the team continued on-field preparations for the Jets Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
Only defensive lineman Myron Pryor (back injury) was missing from the workout in sweats and shells on the lower practice field. The field had been cleared following Wednesday’s blizzard that hit New England.
Rookie linebacker Jermaine Cunningham has returned after dealing with a calf injury. With the return of Cunningham from injury and fellow rookie Brandon Spikes from an NFL-mandated suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, the Patriots have their full compliment of linebackers in place.
|01.13.11 at 12:00 pm ET|
Former Patriot Troy Brown checked in with the Dale & Holley show Thursday morning and weighed in on the controversy regarding the Jets’ trash-talking leading up to Sunday’s AFC semifinal game in Foxboro. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Brown said comments from players such as Antonio Cromartie criticizing Tom Brady are likely to come back to haunt the Jets. “I guess the whole thing now is about how un-classy and unprofessional Tom Brady is,” Brown said. “I feed off of that. I’m sure the guys around [Brady] feed off of it, especially this young football team. So, I don’t know what the whole big deal is. Like I said a couple of minutes ago, it’s football. You knock people’s head off for a living. It’s not golf. I know you make us tuck our shirts in and keep our socks pulled up. But it’s still football at the end of the day. So, this whole thing about being un-classy and unprofessional is just ridiculous.”
Brown, who predicts a Patriots-Ravens AFC championship game, speculated that the Jets are desperately trying to build up their confidence after last month’s embarrassing loss. Said Brown: “I think deep down inside they don’t believe that they have what it takes to beat this football team, and they’re coming up with every reason they can come up with right now to make themselves believe they can come in here and win this football game. Really? After you take a loss to this team, 45-3? At a part of the season when you’re supposed to be peaking, and you go out there and you lay an egg. You talked all week about how you wanted to come in here and beat this football team and this was your thing. We’re hearing the same thing from the coach, Rex Ryan, that we heard the last time they played the Patriots. And the same thing from the players. I believe they’re all trying to psyche themselves up.
“And don’t get me wrong. I may seem pro-Patriot here and all this stuff. But I’m giving my honest opinion about what I feel on either side of this thing, Patriots or Jets. I just feel like the Jets are searching for reasons to believe they can win this football game.”
Brown acknowledged that Brady is an emotional player who likes to get in his teammates faces and celebrate with them, “but that’s what you have to do as a leader. If you want to stop those kinds of things from happening during the course of a game, if you’re the opposing team, play better. Then you won’t have to worry about the finger-pointing and the swagger and the hip jiggles and all that stuff and the looking at your bench. Just play better. That’s the bottom line.”
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