|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.”
|01.17.14 at 12:11 pm ET|
WEEI.com’s Chris Price previews the matchup between the Patriots and the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
|01.17.14 at 11:23 am ET|
FOXBORO — Rookie linebacker Steve Beauharnais was the only player missing from Patriots practice Friday as the team wrapped up on-field preparations for the Broncos in Sunday’s AFC championship at Sports Authority Field in Denver.
Beauharnais had not been on the injury report this week but a bug had been making its way around the Patriots locker room. Tom Brady and long snapper Danny Aiken both missed practice on Wednesday, out sick with with unspecified illnesses.
The team worked out in sweats and shells on the lower grass field Friday, in advance of leaving later in the afternoon for the direct flight from Boston to Denver.
The Patriots will have their walkthrough in Denver on Saturday before taking on the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.
|01.17.14 at 9:08 am ET|
What if Brady couldn’t go on Sunday or what if Mallett had to fill in for the starting QB, how would the Patriots fare against the Broncos in Mile High air.
Brady heard Mallett talk confidently about taking first-team snaps on Wednesday and he liked what he heard. Then Brady attempted to provide some historical perspective.
“He told me about it. It was good for him,” Brady said. “I’m happy he did. He deserves it. He’s worked really hard over a long period of time. You never know when you’re going to get your opportunity. I think there was an AFC championship game that I didn’t get to finish in 2001 and Drew [Bledsoe] came in in the second half and threw a touchdown pass, led us to that win in order to get us to the Super Bowl.”
The big difference, obviously, is that Bledsoe was hardly a newbie to the pressure of the AFC championship game. In fact, he led the 1996 Patriots under Bill Parcells to the Super Bowl, beating the Jaguars on the way to Super Bowl XXXI. And, of course, Bledsoe started that 2001 season as the team’s No. 1 quarterback before Mo Lewis intervened. So, stepping in for Brady and his injured ankle was not as big of a deal as it might be for Mallett, who has exactly four attempted passes in three NFL seasons.
That doesn’t worry Brady.
“Everyone has to be prepared,” Brady said. “You never know when your number is going to be called. Whenever it is the guy who has to step in and do the job has to do it. We have a locker room full of guys who are able to do those things. I certainly believe if Ryan gets his opportunity he can do that too.”
As for his own stats, Brady was reminded that he’s thrown for less than 200 yards in each of his last three games. Does that bother him?
“I think it’s just about winning,” Brady said. “I’m glad we won and that’s what we need to do. If we need to throw for 500 yards, hopefully we can do that. If we need to throw for 50 yards, I’ll throw for 50 yards as long as we win and whatever it takes for us to score more points than the other team, that’s what we have to do.”
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Dion Lewis Injury: Updates on Patriots RB's Recovery from Surgery
- Should Patriots Give Brissett Chance to Start Week 1?
- Robert Kraft Releases Statement on Brady Not Continuing Deflategate...
- Tom Brady Accepts Deflategate Suspension, Won't Appeal to Supreme Court
- Excited by Absence of Brady, Pats' Rivals Likely to Be Disappointed Again
- Simmons Accuses Stephen A. of Blasting Brady for the NFL
- Twitter Reacts to Brady's Denied Appeal