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Patriots injury report Friday: Steve Beauharnais (illness) out; Aaron Dobson, Ryan Allen, Kenbrell Thompkins questionable

01.17.14 at 3:03 pm ET
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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

Limited Participation
P Ryan Allen (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE
WR Aaron Dobson (foot) QUESTIONABLE
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) QUESTIONABLE

Full Participation
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

Read More: AFC Championship, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, nfl

Bill Belichick warns his team to avoid a Rocky Mountain high

01.17.14 at 2:15 pm ET
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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. “€œBill 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.

“€œI 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. “€œBut 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.

“€œHopefully [players don’t indulge]. This is a very important game for us and it’€™s a business trip,” Brady said.

Read More: AFC Championship, Denver Broncos, LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots

Peter King on M&M: ‘Silly’ to say AFC championship determines Peyton Manning’s legacy

01.17.14 at 1:21 pm ET
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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.”

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Read More: Champ Bailey, Chris Harris, Peter King, Peyton Manning

Patriots-Broncos predictions: Media prognosticators lean toward Denver taking close game

01.17.14 at 1:17 pm ET
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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 IyerSporting 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 BanksSports 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.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, John Fox, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady

Aaron Dobson: ‘I just have to do what I have to do to help the team’

01.17.14 at 12:32 pm ET
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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.

But the question is: Will Aaron Dobson be ready to play Sunday against Champ Bailey, Quentin Jammer and the Broncos in the AFC championship.

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.”

The Broncos have lost cornerback Chris Harris to an ACL injury but still have Bailey in the secondary.

‘€œIt’€™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.

‘€œI 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.”

Read More: Aaron Dobson, AFC Championship, Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos

Video: ‘4th & Goal’ breaks down AFC title game between Patriots and Broncos

01.17.14 at 12:11 pm ET
By   |   Comments’s Chris Price previews the matchup between the Patriots and the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.

Patriots practice Friday: Steve Beauharnais only player missing

01.17.14 at 11:23 am ET
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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.

Read More: AFC Championship, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, nfl
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