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No time for Madonna: Patriots thinking outside the box when it comes to dealing with longer halftime

02.03.12 at 9:03 pm ET

INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been forced to try and get creative when it comes to dealing with the logistics regarding the lengthier halftime New England will face in Sunday’s Super Bowl. It’ll be twice as long as a usual regular-season break, and Belichick tried to get his team used to it on Wednesday by essentially splitting practice into three parts: The team practiced, took a half-hour break, and then restarted again.

“Normally our halftime is 12 minutes and this halftime will be closer to 30,” Belichick said during Friday’s press conference. “It gets into a whole restarting mentality. It’s not like taking a break and coming out in the second half. It’s like starting the game all over again. It’s like playing a game, stopping, and then playing a second game, a doubleheader in baseball if you will. I think that makes it a little bit different.

“We tried to simulate that in practice on Wednesday. We had the players go through that process of restarting. You can have a meeting about it, you can talk about this is what it’s going to be like. I just felt that it was beneficial for our team, this year, to actually put them through that—go out there and warm up, practice, take a break, shut it down for a half hour, go into the locker room, simulate what a halftime would be, in terms of corrections, adjustments, and re-starting our bodies both mentally and physically to restart the game.”

One player who might be adversely affected by the longer halftime is tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC championship game but returned to practice this week in a limited capacity, will be sitting for a longer-than-usual stretch between the second and third quarters in the locker room. The Patriots want to avoid a repeat of what happened to Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney two years ago — Freeney tore a ligament in his ankle in the AFC title game, and while he played well in the first half, he stiffened up at halftime, and was ineffective down the stretch.

“Once it gets stiff, it’s tough to bring it back,” said Freeney afterward.

After the Patriots walkthrough on Friday, Belichick sounded an optimistic note about Gronkowski’s ankle.

“He practiced yesterday. He didn’t do anything today,” Belichick said of Gronkowski. “We’ll see where he’s at on Sunday, but hopefully (he’ll play). I saw no setbacks. He’s still making progress.”

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