|The Big Nickel: Don’t expect bulletin-board material from the Patriots, Tom Brady is a dork and Wednesday will be ‘snow problem’ for practice||01.11.11 at 3:19 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Tuesday:
1. Alge Crumpler knew what was coming. He was just surprised it took the media until the fourth question into his press conference.
“Here we go — I thought we would get a few days before some of the banter started, but it is what it is,” Crumpler said with a smile after he was asked about his “personal reaction” to what he’d heard coming out of New York.
“Like I said the last time we played, that team takes after their coach. We take after ours,” he said. “It all boils down to what you do on the field.”
The first day of media availability with New England players was Tuesday morning, and Crumpler’s comments were echoed by his teammates. While New York has spent the last few days making bold statements about what’s going to happen, New England players made it clear on Tuesday morning they have no plans on getting into a war of words with Rex Ryan and the Jets.
“It’s just the philosophy of our team. We’re just … we’re here to work,” said safety Jarrad Page. “When it’s game time, that’s when you’ve got to come out. You can do your talking then. You either win or lose — that’s the most important thing. We’ll let people talk about that instead of what we’re talking about during the week.”
“They’re just comments,” shrugged wide receiver Deion Branch. “Coach [Ryan] says and does what he does and we do what we do over here. Whatever he has to do to get his team motivated, I think that’s what he’s going to do.”
Linebackers Jerod Mayo and Tracy White say New England’s philosophy of well done is better than well said comes directly from the head coach.
“I also don’t think you have too many guys who talk trash on this team. They let their game do their talking,” White said. “I know coach preaches it to us every day, so we got used to not saying things, letting our game plan [speak] for ourselves instead of talking. You don’t need too many distractions.”
Apparently, Patriots coach Bill Belichick issued a reminder to players about potential bulletin-board material this week. His advice?
“Just to let him handle it,” Mayo said. “He does a good job of doing it.”
2. Tom Brady’s study habits were called into question by Ryan over the last couple of weeks, who first suggested Peyton Manning studies more than he does, and then gently tweaked the Patriots quarterback on Monday after he was informed Brady was at “Lombardi” on Broadway last Saturday night instead of watching the Colts-Jets game.
“Peyton Manning would have been watching our game,” Ryan said with a smile.
(For what it’s worth, in his interview with WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan on Monday, Brady did say he caught the second half of the game. “I saw the second half of the game — I got home and watched the second half,” he said. “You know what happens to me is I get very anxious watching those games. I was watching the second half and I was actually kind of pissed that I watched it because I didn’t go to sleep ‘til 3 in the morning. You just get riled up as I watch them, and then I start rooting for a team to win, and that’s not really what I want to be doing. I figure I’ll get enough, I’ll see the game. I’ve seen that game [on tape]. You know, it’s just something I wanted to do with my wife.)
However, in the wake of Ryan’s comments on Monday, Brady’s teammates were more than happy to talk about the quarterbacks’ study habits.
“He said he was watching ‘Lombardi.’ I believe him. He hasn’t steered me wrong,” said Crumpler. “I’m sure he’s watched every ounce of film going back to a lot of different games, as we all have.
“I think Tom does a great job, not only in his personal preparation, but in his delivery to what he wants to get across to, not only the coaches, but to us as players,” added Crumpler. “He has a real good, keen sense of what’s going on throughout the ball game and he gets his point across, whether it’s quietly or animated or whatever way you want to do it, he’s going to get his point across. And that really translates to us as players in terms of trying to be perfect in our execution on the field.”
“Tom studies a lot,” added Branch. “We get the bulk of it in the meeting rooms with just the players when we sit down to go over the things that he’s been looking at. It carries over to the practice field as well. Tom is a dork when it comes to that, so I’m going to leave that alone, but Tom is a dork in that meeting room.”
3. The Patriots were only missing two players at the start of practice on Tuesday — linebacker Jermaine Cunningham and defensive lineman Myron Pryor. No great surprise on either one of those two guys. Cunningham has struggled with a calf injury as of late, and Pryor has had had a back problem on and off throughout the second half of the regular season. (The loss of Pryor would be another blow to the depth of New England’s defensive line, which has taken a hit over the last few weeks with season-ending injuries to Mike Wright and Ron Brace. Those who are left are expected to be tested by New York’s running game.) The Patriots don’t need to submit an injury report until tomorrow, so more should be known about their conditions then.
The list of players who were present was interesting. Offensive lineman Dan Connolly and running back Danny Woodhead — both of whom were wearing red non-contact jerseys during practice last week — shed those red jerseys for Tuesday’s practice. In addition, a handful of players who were injury question marks over the last week of the regular season and the bye week (like rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez) were all present and accounted for on Tuesday afternoon.
4. Despite the promise of a big snowstorm on Wednesday, the Patriots plan on working throughout the day at Gillette Stadium. That might even include an outdoor practice, according to Crumpler.
“I haven’t checked the schedule, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be outside,” Crumpler said. “Our bubble is just for naming rights — it’s not for us to practice in.”
It’s just over a year since the infamous “Late Gate” incident that saw four players — Adalius Thomas, Randy Moss, Derrick Burgess and Gary Guyton — sent home for being late to a Wednesday meeting, ostensibly for a freak snowstorm. That led to a memorable Q&A with Thomas held in front of his locker the following day where he complained about what happened, saying, “I didn’t try to be late. That’s basically it. I don’t know anything else to say. Cars sitting in the road, you’re sitting there. What can you do? It’s not the Jetsons. I can’t jump up into the sky. What the hell am I supposed to do?”
Branch said that even with the anticipated heavy snowfall, that wouldn’t be an issue this season.
“We’ll be here on time, and I think all the guys may need to leave their homes a little early this year,” Branch said. “I heard about the thing that happened in the past, so we don’t need that to show up. This is not the time for that.”
5. The Jets used three different guys as kick returners Saturday against the Colts: Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson and Brad Smith. Of the three, Cromartie had the best evening, taking two back for a combined 88 yards, including a 47-yarder late in the fourth quarter that set up the game-winning field goal from Nick Folk.
At this point, it’s unclear who will be returning kicks for the Jets — Ryan said Smith is likely to play despite tweaking his groin, but Cromartie’s impact on Saturday’s game cannot be overlooked. Tracy White, a special teams ace for the Patriots, was impressed with Cromartie’s performance, but says they’re ready for whomever New York has back there.
“We don’t really know who will be back there — they have three or four guys who could be back there,” White said. “You can make it tough, but it doesn’t have to be tough. You just have to do the assignment that the coach set out for you. Whoever makes the least amount of mistakes — which I think Indy made a couple of mistakes on that big return that I saw on the film — is going to come out on top. Lane assignments and being disciplined is what you have to make sure you do.”
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