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After an epic attempt to bait him to take on Roger Goodell, Tom Brady takes high road 01.27.17 at 3:17 pm ET
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Tom Brady speaks Friday at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Friday provided a potential glimpse into what Tom Brady might be facing Super Bowl week in Houston.

A TV reporter from Providence, Mark Dondero of WPRI-TV, wanted badly to get the Patriots quarterback to admit he really wants to exact revenge on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his four-game suspension from Deflategate.

The exchange went as follows:

Dondero: “Tom, we’ve all heard what you’ve said over the last year-plus at the podium and on the radio. I respect what you’ve said, but this commissioner and this league via a four-game suspension tried to disgrace you. People called you a cheater. People on TV cried. People lied. People threw trash at your name. Are you telling us none of that factors into any of the motivation that you have to go out there and win this game so you can grab the trophy, hold it high, stand at the top of the mountain and howl at the moon?”

Brady: “I mean I am motivated by my teammates. I said that after the game. I think they are all the motivation I need. It takes a lot of work to get to this point and nothing that has happened in the past is going to help us win this game. What is going to help us win this game is going through that process that we talked about and being ready to go. That’s my motivation.”

Why does he feel so strongly about that?

“Well, I’m a positive person. I just focus on all the positives,” Brady added. “I don’t get caught in negativity and bashing other people. I’m very blessed. I get to do something I love to do, show up to work every day, play football in the National Football League and play for the Patriots.

“I grew up watching Joe Montana and Steve Young in the Bay Area at a great time. I’ve got support from my family and some great support from my friends. I love playing for this team. I’m very blessed. I try to keep a positive outlook and try to influence people in a positive way. I try to be an encouraging person in other people’s lives. Hopefully, that wears off on my teammates. It’s a tough game. There’s a lot of challenges you face. I think always focusing on what’s positive has worked for me.”

Brady’s answered basically echoed his response from a week earlier, leading up to the AFC Championship game against the Steelers.

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, roger goodell, Super Bowl LI
Patriots finalize Super Bowl LI “One More” rally plans at Gillette Stadium to send team off to Houston 01.26.17 at 9:11 pm ET
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Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; A New England Patriots fan holds a sign in the stands against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots fans will have a chance to send off their team to Super Bowl LI Monday morning at Gillette Stadium. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — From NRG Plaza to NRG Stadium for Super Bowl LI.

That’ll be the story Monday morning as Patriots fans come together to send their heroes off to Houston to get ready for their march to a hopeful fifth Vince Lombardi trophy.

The Patriots are inviting fans to a special Super Bowl send-off rally Monday morning, Jan. 30 at 9:00 a.m., on NRG Plaza outside The Hall at Patriot Place. Super Bowl LI will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston on Feb. 5.

Patriots in-stadium announcer John Rooke will kick things off at 9:00 a.m. The rally, which is free and open to the public, will include a performance by the New England Patriots Cheerleaders, t-shirt tosses and giveaways. Patriot Radio Network play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci and color analyst Scott Zolak will talk about Super Bowl LI and the Patriots showdown with the Atlanta Falcons.

Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and team captains Tom Brady, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower and Matthew Slater will address the crowd before the buses roll out of Foxborough and head to Boston’s Logan International Airport. The rally is expected to conclude shortly after 10 a.m. and the team is expected to arrive in Houston around 3 p.m. local time. More details on the rally to be announced.

The Patriots captured their ninth conference championship and eighth since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994 with a 36-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 22 at Gillette Stadium. Kraft told Patriots Nation during the Lamar Hunt Trophy presentation following the win over the Steelers that while the conference championship victory was “big,” there’s still two more weeks left in the journey.

Kraft concluded his remarks by saying, “We have to go to Houston and win One …” pausing to allow the capacity crowd to enthusiastically finish the sentence by yelling “More!”

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI,
Bill Belichick aims to have most of Super Bowl LI game plan installed before leaving for Houston at 7:26 pm ET
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Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the fourth quarter in the 2017 AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick will be focused on game planning until the team leaves Monday for Houston. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — A day after beating the Steelers in the AFC Championship, the Patriots announced they would be leaving for Houston on the same day as media night at Minute Maid Park.

Then listening to Bill Belichick Thursday it became pretty clear why. The Patriots are hoping to use every moment back in Foxboro trying to install as much of their game plan against the high-powered Falcons as possible before taking on the distractions of Super Bowl week.

Thursday was the first of four practices before moving all operations down to the Lone Star State. How much of the game plan will have been prepared after that time?

“It’s somewhere between 50 and 100 [percent], somewhere in there,” Belichick said. “We’ll be certainly more than halfway there, but there will be some things that will be, particularly some situations, that we’ll be covering in Houston. How exactly that will break up, we’ll just have to kind of see how it goes.

“I don’t think we need to go to something until we have what we’re doing right just to be moving. We’ll just kind of see how these days go as to how far we get, but we won’t get all the way. We won’t try to do that, but hopefully we’ll have a good chunk of it in and feel confident about what we’re doing so that we can kind of keep that part of it tuned up, and then go into some new areas down there and make sure that we have those tied up, too.”

Since the Patriots have started making Super Bowl trips with Belichick in Jan. 2002, they have followed different protocols each time. After beating the Steelers in Jan. 2002, they had only a week to get ready for the Super Bowl against the Rams because of 9/11. In Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX, XLII and XLVI they went down on a Sunday after a rally. For Super Bowl XLIX, they went down on the Monday before Media Day Tuesday, the last time Media Day was held on a Tuesday.

Last year, Media Day was changed to Monday night, and that will continue this year.

“Yeah, we’ve done it a couple of different ways. We’ve traveled on different days,” Belichick said. “Now it’s a little different schedule down there than what it was. We’ve had one week Super Bowls. I think each one is a little bit different and each team is a little bit different, so what’s right for this team may or may not have been right for some other team. There’s not like a set grid that we just match up to. We try to do what’s best for the particular situation – the team we’re playing, what areas we need to emphasize maybe more in this game than possibly another game like this where just the emphasis points are different.

The reason for the intensive work this week is, in part, because they’re learning a new team and coach since last the Patriots played the Falcons in 2013.

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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl
Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable detail Patriots’ preparations for Falcons in Super Bowl LI at 11:52 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots have officially started on-field preparations for Super Bowl 51 in Houston against Atlanta. Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable have your report inside Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots, nfl
Bill Belichick, the art of preparing for Super Bowl trick play and why Mohamed Sanu is on the radar at 11:19 am ET
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Jan 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (12) scores a touchdown ahead of Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Joe Thomas (48) during the first quarter in the 2017 NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mohamed Sanu found plenty of open space against the Packers defense in the NFC Championship. (Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — When it comes to game planning for the Super Bowl, the two teams have to be ready for anything and everything at anytime.

The Patriots know that one aspect of the Falcons high-powered offense that could be a challenge are the different looks they could see, including a wildcat snap to either one of their running backs in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Matt Ryan could go off on a naked bootleg.

And then there’s Mohamed Sanu. With Cincinnati from 2012-15, the wide receiver out of Rutgers threw five passes and completed them all in various formations. He threw for a pair of touchdowns, including a 73-yarder against Washington in 2012. Sanu has been resting his arm the last two seasons, not having thrown a pass since 2014, when he went 3-for-3 for 79 yards and a touchdown. As the numbers would suggest, Sanu has a perfect career quarterback rating of 158.3. Even though he hasn’t shown off that arm in the last two seasons, Bill Belichick will certainly be prepared for it in the biggest of games.

“Yeah, but we know he can do it,” Belichick said Thursday. “Look, this is the kind of game where a team could be working on a play like that all year and running out of games. It could be a lot of other plays, too. A reverse, a pass, a double-pass, some kind of gadget play. Absolutely.

“The longer the season goes, I think the more you have to prepared for those kind of plays. If a team’s been working on it, at some point, they’re probably going to use it [and] the fewer games there are to call it. So, if you’ve been working on a play all year, a lot of coordinators will [say], ‘Might as well call it.’

Of course, Sanu was not brought to Atlanta to supplant Matt Ryan. He was brought in from Cincinnati to complement Julio Jones. And with 59 catches, an 11.1 yards per catch average and four touchdowns, he’s fit the bill nicely. In two playoff games, he has added nine catches for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“He’s big, he’s tough, he’s got great hands, tremendous hands,” Belichick said. “He has a great catch radius. He catches everything. He’s a tough blocker and he’s hard to tackle. He’s an explosive player. Sanu would help any team. There’s not a team in the league he wouldn’t help.”

As for the trick play possibility, Belichick went in depth.

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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, Mohamed Sanu, New England Patriots
Nate Ebner dealing with concussion, Patriots list 7 limited on first Super Bowl injury report 01.25.17 at 5:48 pm ET
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Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates (14) runs past New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (31) and defensive back Nate Ebner (43) during the first half in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Ebner (43) hits the deck during the first half in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots don’t begin practice for Super Bowl LI until Thursday in Foxboro but they were mandated by the NFL to produce a projected practice report with injuries on Wednesday.

The most notable item on the report was appearance of special teams star Nate Ebner, who is dealing with a concussion suffered in the first half of Sunday’s AFC championship against the Steelers.

He did not return to the sidelines for the second half and was marked officially as “did not participate” on Wednesday’s initial Super Bowl report.

Ebner plays a vital role on kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return units.

There were seven other Patriots listed as limited with nagging injuries that they have been dealing with for some time.

The Patriots will practice Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday before leaving for Houston on Monday.

Here is the complete report from both teams:

Patriots

DID NOT PARTICIPATE

ST Nate Ebner (concussion)

LIMITED

WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder)
DE Jabaal Sheard (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)

Falcons

LIMITED

WR Julio Jones (toe)
DE Dwight Freeney (not injury related)
C Alex Mack (fibula)

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Nate Ebner, New England Patriots, nfl
How Alan Branch has turned into a beast in the middle of Patriots defensive line, and what it means in Super Bowl LI 01.24.17 at 2:41 pm ET
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Jan 14, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Alan Branch (97) and teammates on the field against the Houston Texans in the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Alan Branch (97) has been the anchor of a dominating defensive line in the second half of the season. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

One of the biggest reasons that the Patriots were able to contain the Steelers run game – and their offense overall – Sunday night was a groin injury to Le’Veon Bell that he had been dealing with for some time.

But right there with Bell’s injury was the work of Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch.

It’s hard to think that, at 6-foot-6 and 350 pounds, a man like Branch could be overlooked. But on Sunday, as NFL expert Michael Lombardi noted on Monday, he took on Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and won several battles, pushing him backwards and containing him at the line so the rest of the line could get up field.

When Branch had his four-game suspension rescinded by the NFL at the beginning of December, it kept one of the best and most productive players on the field for the stretch run. Branch and his celebratory dance were alive and well on the Patriots defense.

Branch played 48 of 69 snaps with four tackles Sunday in the 36-17 win over the Steelers. Only defensive end Trey Flowers (58) played more on the defensive line. On the game-turning red zone stop late in the second quarter, he was on the field on first and second down, when the Patriots hit DeAngelo Williams for losses of 1 and 3 yards before coming off the field on the third down incomplete pass by Ben Roethlisberger.

What Bill Belichick noted Tuesday in his conference call is how much more stamina Branch is playing with this year. He has played a career-high 626 snaps on defense (60 percent) and 153 on special teams. By comparison, Branch played just 432 defensive snaps in 2015.

“Yeah, Alan has done a great job for us, and along with his play which is certainly significant, one of the things that’s really been impressive about him has been his play time,” Belichick said. “So, in addition to his overall production he’s played a lot more than he has in quite a while in terms of number of plays. From a production standpoint he’s got, again, quite a few tackles, tackles for loss. It’s hard to measure the disruptive plays but he’s certainly got his share of those.”

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Read More: Alan Branch, Atlanta Falcons, Maurkice Pouncey, New England Patriots
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