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Willie McGinest will serve as honorary captain for Patriots Sunday

01.16.14 at 3:58 pm ET
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In honor of the 20th anniversary of Robert Kraft‘s ownership of the Patriots, the team announced Thursday that Willie McGinest — the first draft pick of the Kraft Era — will serve as the honorary captain for Sunday’s AFC title game in Denver.

McGinest was a cornerstone of New England’€™s Super Bowl titles in 2001, 2003 and 2004, after being selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft out of Southern California. He played 11 of his 15 NFL seasons with the Patriots, seeing action in 18 playoff games, four AFC Championship games and four Super Bowls.

McGinest eclipsed two NFL postseason records during his time with the Patriots — most sacks in a game with 4.5 in a Wild Card game vs. Jacksonville and career postseason sacks with 16.

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Tom Brady on his illness: ‘It was nothing, I feel great’

01.16.14 at 2:09 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady assured fans and reporters Thursday that he “feels great” and will be ready to go for Sunday’s AFC championship against the Denver Broncos Sunday in Denver. Brady said “he hopes” there’s no reason for fans to be concerned.

“Doing very well, thank you,” Brady said after returning to practice Thursday, a day after an illness forced him to miss Wednesday’s workout. “Good to be out there with the guys. had a good day of practice. Get back on track.”

What’s changed that allowed him to return Thursday?

“It was nothing,” Brady said. “I feel great. It was nothing at all.”

Brady dismissed the significance of missing a practice the Wednesday before the AFC championship, as he also did in Jan. 2012.

“Well, we’ve been at it for a while now,” Brady said. “There’s days where I’ve missed days of practice and you just deal with them. I’ve played a lot football over the whole season and I got back out there today and it felt good. It was good to be out there. We were moving around good, the team was practicing good and that’s the biggest positive for us. We need to practice good and we need to go out and play good. That’s going to be the most important thing.

“They’re going to challenge us in a lot of ways. They challenged us the last time we played them here. Going on the road to a great environment like this where the crowd is going to really be into it. It’s going to be an excited challenge for us so I’m excited.”

Brady was reminded that he had one of the worst games of his postseason career against the Ravens that Sunday with a 57.5 passer rating, no touchdowns and two interceptions. The Patriots managed to win the game, 23-20, when Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal at the end.

“That was bad,” Brady said. “It needs to be better than 57 this week. I hope they shouldn’t be worried but this team is going to test us. I’m going to go out there and do my best. Hopefully, I go out there and play my very best.”

But Brady also played one of his best postseason games hours after an IV. Brady had a fever of 103 degrees the night before the Patriots’ 41-27 win over the Steelers in the 2004 AFC championship.

He also responded to a survey that rated him as the most disliked QB in the NFL and the suggestion that it’s because he has a supermodel wife in Gisele Bundchen.

“There’s probably a lot of reasons,” Brady chuckled. “I don’t know. That’s a great question.”

Jealously of being married to a supermodel, perhaps?

“What kind of life do I have off the field that everyone knows so well,” Brady said. “I live a great life, I do. I’m not sure. I’m not sure. There’s nothing I rather do than play football for the New England Patriots. And yes, I have a great family. Thank you.”

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More documents emerge showing police suspicions that Aaron Hernandez may have been shooter in 2012 double homicide

01.16.14 at 12:11 pm ET
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More details have emerged regarding investigators’ suspicions about Aaron Hernandez‘s involvement in a 2012 double homicide in Boston, and the court documents indicate police have been zeroing in on the former Patriots tight end.

“There is also probable cause to believe that Aaron Hernandez was operating the suspect vehicle used in the shooting homicides of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, and may have been the shooter,” a detective wrote in a search warrant affidavit filed in late June.

The warrant allowed investigators to examine a Toyota 4Runner that was parked in Hernandez’s uncle’s garage in Bristol, Conn.

Hernandez remains imprisoned while awaiting trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd along with weapons charges. Police already were curious about a possible connection between the two murders when they received a tip that the same individual was involved.

Upon checking surveillance video, police spotted Hernandez at the Cure Lounge at the same time as the two victims, and they have video of what appears to be the 4Runner circling the block as the victims walked to their car upon leaving the club. Shortly thereafter, the men were murdered a few blocks away when a vehicle matching that description pulled up and the shooter got out and fired.

Three other men were in the back seat of the car and survived the shooting.

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Patriots to head west Friday to get ready for Sunday’s AFC championship game in Denver

01.16.14 at 12:10 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots will be getting a head start on getting acclimated to the Mile High City.

The Patriots will fly out to Denver Friday after practice as they prepare to get ready for the Broncos in Sunday’s AFC championship.

This isn’t unusual as the Patriots and other NFL teams have frequently traveled two or three days before a game when making a cross-country trip.

Weather shouldn’t be a big factor Sunday as the forecast calls for partly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 50s for the 1 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) kickoff.

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Patriots practice Thursday: Tom Brady, Danny Aiken return to practice as Patriots have perfect attendance

01.16.14 at 11:09 am ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots fans can exhale. Tom Brady was back at practice on Thursday morning on the lower grass fields outside Gillette Stadium.

Brady missed Wednesday’s practice, his first this season, with an illness and left the facility after team meetings Wednesday morning.

This isn’t the first time Brady has missed practice or dealt with serious illness in the postseason. In Jan. 2005, Brady had to receive intravenous fluids after a fever spiked to 102 degrees the night before he beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh, 41-27.

Brady also missed practice the Wednesday before the AFC championship in Jan. 2012. After missing his media obligation on Wednesday, Brady will speak in a press conference at 12:45 p.m. Thursday and again on Friday.

Also returning to practice Thursday was long snapper Danny Aiken, who was also out sick on Wednesday.

Thursday’s perfect attendance was the first of the playoffs as rookie receiver Aaron Dobson was again in attendance.

The Patriots will practice again on Friday before leaving later that day for Denver. The AFC championship between the Patriots and Broncos is set for 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

Read More: AFC Championship, Danny Aiken, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots

Dan Marino on M&M: Peyton Manning ‘doesn’t have to prove another thing to anybody’

01.16.14 at 11:04 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Dan Marino checked in with Mut & Merloni on Thursday to preview Sunday’s AFC championship game and compare Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

“It’s so hard to say that there’s a difference,” Marino said of the two quarterbacks. “I think they have a different style in how they throw the football a little bit. But they’re both guys that can call good no-huddle, run it at the line of scrimmage. Peyton Manning‘s like the coordinator out there, and Brady’s been that way, too. And he’s been able to adjust. Like this year, as far as Tom is concerned, what he’s been able to do with young guys and new receivers and kind of changing the offenses, it’s maybe one of the best [seasons] he’s ever had. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for adapting to the situations over the years.

“They’re both very similar in the same respect. Because they both can do it all. They’re pocket passers, they don’t run around much, very similar to the way I played. I have nothing but respect for both of them.”

Manning is 4-10 all-time against Brady, including 1-2 in the postseason, and has come under criticism for only winning one Super Bowl despite having a number of talented teams. However, Marino said Manning’s legacy is safe.

“The pressure is going to be there regardless,” Marino said. “He’s already won. I personally think he doesn’t have to prove another thing to anybody. Who he’s trying to prove it to is himself. He’s already won a Super Bowl, he’s been in another one, he just broke every single-season passing record there is possible — 55 touchdowns. But the amazing thing to me is that he’s actually doing this at 37 years old, and off four neck surgeries, and he missed the whole year [in 2011]. That’s more impressive I think in some ways than even winning a Super Bowl.”

During a studio discussion this past Sunday involving Marino, CBS panelist Shannon Sharpe said a player can’t be considered one of the best ever if he hasn’t won a championship. Marino is recognized as one of the all-time greats, but he was not able to quarterback the Dolphins to a championship during his 17-year career.

“What does Shannon know?” Marino joked. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about anyway.

“I’m not offended by it, because it’s really the feeling that I would have had,” Marino continued. “That’s the thing. I’ve done every other thing you could possibly do as a quarterback. And for me to walk off the field on a Sunday and know that I had won a championship, what that feels like, that’s what I missed. That’s what I wasn’t able to accomplish.

“And yeah, do I think about it sometimes? Yeah. Especially when I’m watching the Super Bowl. When you watch the Super Bowl you think about it and wonder what that would have felt like. But it’s not going to change my life at all, as far as me personally. But yeah, you do think about that, for sure.”

Added Marino: “That’s part of life. I’ve got to deal with it.”

Bill Belichick, who was interviewed by Marino colleague Bill Cowher last week, has not won a championship since the Patriots were penalized for taping the signals of opposing coaches in 2007.

“That does put a black eye on it a little bit — you’ve got to be honest about it,” Marino said. “They were penalized for it, they moved on. He’s done a lot of great things before that and a lot of great things afterwards.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady

Ex-Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker ready to face his old team again

01.16.14 at 6:00 am ET
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When asked Wednesday about Wes Welker and the impact he’s had on the Denver offense in his first season with the Broncos, coach John Fox and quarterback Peyton Manning didn’t mince words.

‘€œHe’€™s been exactly what we thought we were getting,” Fox said when asked about Welker. “Even people in the New England organization said that we would enjoy coaching him, and we have. He came in, made a pretty big impact. The fact that he was voted captain and just got here is a pretty good indicator of what his peers and teammates think of him. He’€™s fit in in exactly what we thought he would be, and that’€™s important.’€

‘€œLike Coach Fox said, a lot of things that I think a lot of people thought about Wes as an opponent all proved to be true once he joined us as a teammate,” Manning said. “I always assumed that he was an extremely competitive guy that loved football and a guy that loved to work, he loved to practice. The way he played ‘€“ I saw him many a time play Colts versus the Patriots ‘€“ so to have him become a Bronco, all those things checked out.

“He’€™s a gym rat. He loves the game, loves to work after practice [and] loves to talk in meetings about routes that he thinks might have a chance to get open,” Manning added. “He’€™s very knowledgeable of defenses and how teams have played him in the past, whether they’€™ve double-covered him or whatever it may be. So he’€™s been a fun guy to play with, I’€™ll say that.’€

After six seasons in New England, Welker finished his first year with the Broncos with with 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games. After going down with a concussion that caused him to miss the final three weeks of the regular season, he returned to the lineup in last weekend’s divisional playoff win against the Chargers, and had six catches for 38 yards and a touchdown.

Welker said that after his first game against the Patriots — which ended in a loss in his return to Gillette on Nov. 24, a game where he had four catches for 31 yards — he was able to get some of that nostalgia of facing his old team out of the way. Now, heading into this weekend’s AFC title game, the focus is on football.

‘€œIt’€™s still another game,” he said Wednesday when asked about facing the Patriots. “You understand it is the AFC Championship, and everything like that. You want to go out there and prepare as much as possible. At the same time, it is still an opponent and it’€™s a team and you’€™re going out there and playing to the best of your ability and go out there and try to win the game.’€

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