|Devin McCourty: As a safety, my mentality has changed||01.17.13 at 2:20 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s been a transitional year for Devin McCourty.
He played some safety in college, as well as last season, but with the midseason addition of cornerback Aqib Talib, the Rutgers product is now putting ‘safety’ on his W-2 instead of just ‘cornerback,’ as it appears he’s made the full-time switch — for now — to the back end of the defense. He said Thursday morning it’s meant an occasional change to his preparation.
‘I’ll always watch film and prepare,’ he said. ‘I think my mentality has changed a little bit as far as trying to be the head communication guy back there with [fellow safety] Steve [Gregory]. So not just being able to watch and see how the play affects me or how I’m going to play something, but just to be able to watch things and see if I can get any type of keys or pre-snap reads that I can let everybody else on the defense know.’
McCourty has learned about the need to be more vocal in his approach.
‘Vocally, I’ve really thought about speaking more; as soon as I see something, trying to yell it out to the defense. So I think the biggest thing I’ve changed is my mentality and how I approach it,’ he said.
‘Playing a little safety in college, you had to do it, but what I’ve got here is totally different, communicating in the NFL and letting guys know what’s around them. I’ve just kind of been learning on the job and each week has gotten better and I’ve gotten more conformable. So I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.’
As Talib said on Wednesday, the biggest thing for the Patriots defensive backs to keep in mind this week — particularly the safeties — is the arm strength of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco, who has been one of the best in the league when it comes to completing passes of 20 yards or more, was able to connect on several deep throws last Sunday in a divisional playoff win over the Broncos.
‘I think you have to be aware of it,’ McCourty said of Flacco’s arm strength and big play ability. ‘You have to know, just like any other team we play, that week you scout them, you watch film and you understand what they do well and you have to know those things. You can’t just go out on the field and play everybody the same. I think it will be key just watching film and understanding what Flacco does really well.
‘I think he does a good job of handling their team and making the right decisions,’ McCourty added. ‘I think playing quarterback puts a lot on you. I think he does a good job of not turning the ball over. When you see a guy make the plays he made last week, with I think a little over a minute left it was 70, 80 yards — to make that play down the field is big. I think he’s clutch and he makes plays for them.’
‘[Smith is] a fast guy; he moves. That’s not to say he’s not physical at all, but I think one of his biggest strengths is his speed, and if you give him a step or two, it will turn into three or four. You just have to be aware of how fast he is,’ McCourty said. ‘[Boldin is] a very physical guy. I mean, you can tell, I think, by his size and his strength. He really uses that to his advantage of how physical he can be out there in routes and in blocking.’
|Logan Mankins: Spygate taunts don’t get under my skin||01.17.13 at 1:47 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Logan Mankins has never been one to mince words, and so when a reporter asked him Thursday morning if Spygate taunts from opposing players — like the one from Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo earlier this week that came via Twitter — ever get annoying, Mankins was quick to respond.
‘Nah, that was a long time ago,’ responded Mankins.
The reporter followed up, asking if it got under his skin at all.
‘No, but you are,’ responded Mankins with a smile.
The retort is par for the course for Mankins, who always plays with an edge. (Quarterback Tom Brady once said with a grin that the occasionally feisty Mankins ‘plays until the echo of the whistle.’) The first time the Patriots and Ravens met this season, there was plenty of pushing and shoving between the two teams, and Mankins talked about why that was on Thursday.
‘I think we’re two emotional teams, so stuff happens out there,’ he said. ‘You just always have to be smart about it. A penalty just hurts your team, so you can take it a little ways — you just have to make sure you never take it too far.
‘That’s the only way I know how to play and I’m going to keep doing it until they tell us we can’t.’
Following are more highlights from his Thursday morning Q&A with the media.
|Gronkowski only one missing from Pats practice||01.17.13 at 1:20 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski was the only player missing from the start of Patriots practice Thursday afternoon as the team went through a session on he lower fields behind Gillette in sweats and shells. (Gronkowski, who suffered an arm injury in last Sunday’s divisional playoff win over the Texans, is expected to be sidelined for the rest of the postseason.) The only player who returned to practice was cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who missed Wednesday practice because he was attending a required pretrial hearing in Nebraska related to his felony arrest last April for allegedly assaulting a police officer.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots. WEEI-FM 93.7 will broadcast the AFC championship game between the Patriots and Ravens on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
|Read My Lips: Check out this twisted take on the NFL||01.17.13 at 12:14 am ET|
This has been floating around the Internet the last few days. It has absolutely no connection to this weekend’s AFC title game between the Patriots and the Ravens — it’s just very funny, and it (sort of) involves New England. Enjoy.
|Brandon Lloyd: When it comes to playoffs, Tom Brady is all about work||01.16.13 at 9:51 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Brandon Lloyd has been around Tom Brady for a relatively short time — especially when it comes to the postseason — but the veteran wide receiver has come away impressed at the way the quarterback prepares for the postseason.
Lloyd, who finished his first full season with the Patriots with 74 catches for 911 yards and four touchdowns, said that when it comes to prep work, the quarterback treats each game the same.
‘It’s the same preparation, the same commitment, the same commitment to developing relationships with the pass catchers, with the offensive line,’ Lloyd said Wednesday afternoon. ‘We still get our one-on-one time and routes and one-on-one time in film study. So he does that with all of the players and he spends a lot of time with us. You get that during the regular season and he is still doing that now. So it is the same.’
When it comes to what has surprised Lloyd the most about Brady, he said it all comes back to the work.
‘I think how detailed his work ethic is,’ Lloyd said. ‘We all work hard and we all say that we do work hard. We like to think that the best players are the hardest workers and Tom proved that when I got here.’
Like fellow veteran Aqib Talib, Lloyd is going through his first postseason experience. Even though he said there were ‘no nerves, no jitters’ when it came to his first career playoff game, he said Wednesday he takes a page out of Brady’s book and uses the same ‘one-game-at-a-time’ approach that got him through his first full season in New England.
‘That’s how I have been approaching it,’ said Lloyd, who had five catches for 32 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s divisional playoff win over the Texans. ‘It seems like ever since Thanksgiving there have been the biggest games of my career, and it’s not changing now in the playoffs. The approach that I’ve always taken in my career, regardless of the magnitude of the game, is to approach it like it is a regular game, and that’s been helpful for me.’
|Patriots won’t answer Anquan Boldin’s guarantee of a victory||01.16.13 at 9:19 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin said Wednesday that the difference between last year’s AFC title game and this year’s contest was that the Ravens were going to win. When he was informed of Boldin’s boast later Wednesday afternoon, Patriots center Ryan Wendell simply shrugged.
“The difference between this year’s AFC championship and last year’s AFC championship is that they’re different teams,” he said. “We’ve got new players and some of the same players that were in that game; they’ve got new players and some of the same players as well.
“Nothing matters that happened in the regular season. Nothing matters that happened last week. We’re two good teams that are going to squaring off in this game. All that really matters is who goes out and performs.”
That was the tone that Wendell’s teammates took when informed of Boldin’s statements. The Patriots were able to stay on message and not rise to the bait, which is pretty much business as usual around Gillette Stadium.
“I guess it is just the way we do things — we’ll see on Sunday what happens,” said right tackle Sebastian Vollmer said. “I don’t think we take too much into consideration from what happened last year. It was a different team for both of us. I think both teams deserve to be in that game on Sunday and we will see what happens.
“We think it is going to be a tough game and we respect Baltimore, so we know how tough it is going to be. We still have to bring our best and just go from there, I guess.”
Earlier in the week, Baltimore linebacker Brendon Ayanbedejo took a shot at the Patriots on Twitter, ripping the Patriots’ no-huddle offense and lobbing insults referring to ‘Spygate’ and the 18-1 season of 2007. He later apologized.
|Aaron Hernandez knows he’ll have to pick up where Rob Gronkowski left off||01.16.13 at 9:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Aaron Hernandez will have more on his plate going forward.
Without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup for the rest of the postseason, Hernandez will draw more targets. But he said Wednesday that when you’re talking big picture, it’s going to take a total team effort to try and pick up the slack for his fallen teammate — like they did when Gronkowski missed a sizable portion of regular-season games down the stretch.
‘You can’t replace him, but we all have to step up,’ he said Wednesday afternoon. ‘It’s a huge loss and everyone knows that, but we still have games to win. Everyone has to step it up and we have to do as much as we can do individually to fill his void.’
Hernandez, who struggled with injuries of his own over the course of the 2012 season (he missed the Patriots-Ravens matchup during the regular season because of an ankle injury), has been able to rebound nicely from his time on the shelf — the Florida product had 24 catches over the final four games of the regular season, including a season-high 10 receptions in a Dec. 16 loss to the Niners in Foxboro. He ended the season with 51 catches on 84 targets for 483 yards and five touchdowns.
However, he knows that with Gronkowski on the sidelines, he’ll draw more attention from the Ravens than ever before.
‘It makes it a little bit more difficult, but we have a great quarterback that is going to get us in the right play,’ he said. ‘When you have a quarterback and great offensive coordinators, they put us in the right situation to make plays, and it’s our job to make a play.’
Hernandez will have an opportunity in Sunday’s divisional playoff game to go up against a linebacker in Ray Lewis who has carved out a rep as one of the finest in the history of the game. Although he’s not what he once was, Hernandez knows that you still have to be mindful of what he can bring to the field.
‘He’s a great player and known for being one of the best linebackers to play the game. And yes, you are aware of him when he is on the field,’ Hernandez said. ‘But like I said, we just have to play our game and do what we have to do. We have to focus on our play and not really the other defensive players. He is a hitter and a great player. He reads offenses and catches calls. You have to know where he is on the field.’
In the end, Hernandez said that if the Patriots want to advance to their second Super Bowl in as many years, it’s going to come down to execution.
‘They have a good defense and we’ve played against a lot of good defenses,’ he said. ‘We just have to play our game and keep doing what we do.’
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