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Pool report: Nate Ebner (concussion) expected to play Sunday, Patriots using 2 players to simulate Julio Jones 02.02.17 at 8:11 pm ET
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Nate Ebner is expected to play in Super Bowl Li. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

Nate Ebner is expected to play in Super Bowl Li. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

HOUSTON — It appears Nate Ebner (concussion) will be good to go Sunday against the Falcons.

The special teams ace again worked in a red, non-contact jersey on Thursday, but all signs are pointing to him play Sunday in Super Bowl LI.

“I expect him to be ready to play in the game,” Bill Belichick said to pool reporter Jarrett Bell.

Another thing worth noting is the team is using two players to simulate Falcons receiver Julio Jones in Matthew Slater and Michael Floyd.

“That’s such a key guy for us, the routes and all that,” Belichick said. “We have two guys doing it so we won’t wear one guy out.”

Added Belichick: “You’ve got to know where he is on every play.”

The team is putting extra work in conditioning this week given the length of the game, especially factoring in the long halftime.

“You’re taking a game that’s three hours and it’s going to be closer to four” Belichick said. “You’ve got to sustain that a lot longer. Mentally, you just understand how slow the game is, how long the halftime is, what breaks are in between. It’s going to take a lot more staying power in this game than in a normal game. With pregame warmups and all that, you’re looking at 5.5 hours. It just makes for a long day.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Julio Jones, Matthew Slater, Michael Floyd
Vincent Valentine (back) added to Patriots Super Bowl LI injury report, 7 Patriots limited at 7:49 pm ET
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Vincent Valentine

Vincent Valentine

HOUSTON — Wednesday it was Alan Branch who turned up on the injury report during Super Bowl week. On Thursday, another Patriots defensive tackle appeared on the list.

Vincent Valentine, the rookie out of Nebraska who has played a bigger and bigger role as the season wore on, was listed as limited, along with the same six Patriots limited from Wednesday.

The Patriots will conduct their final practice on Friday at the University of Houston before going through a light walkthrough and meetings on Saturday.

As for Branch, he told reporters that the toe that was stepped on Wednesday in practice is “a little sore” but he expects to be fully ready to go come Sunday.

Nate Ebner (concussion) was again limited participation. Danny Amendola, Jabaal Sheard and Brandon Bolden were all removed from the report on Wednesday.

Here is the complete Patriots injury report for Thursday.

LIMITED PARTICIPATION

ST Nate Ebner (concussion)
DT Alan Branch (toe)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
DT Vincent Valentine (back)

Read More: Alan Branch, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI
Marshall Faulk still believes Patriots taped Rams’ walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI at 3:50 pm ET
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Marshall Faulk has some very definite thoughts on the Patriots. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Marshall Faulk has some very definite thoughts on the Patriots. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

HOUSTON — Former Rams running back Marshall Faulk said Thursday he still believes the Patriots taped the St. Louis walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI.

Faulk, and analyst for the NFL Nework, reiterated his long-held belief on Thursday as part of a media availability session with analysts from the NFL Network.

“[The practice] before the Super Bowl. The guy who worked for the Patriots. If you remember, that was someone mysteriously living in Hawaii, who made his way back to the states and delivered the tapes. [Roger] Goodell then watched those tapes and said there wasn’t enough there to deem anything being done.

“Now, I didn’t see what was on the tapes, because we didn’t get to see that. The only thing I could say is that they taped our practice. That was wrong.”

Faulk was asked if he “believed” that was the case.

“I don’t believe anything. I’m just telling you the facts.”

Faulk was asked if he thought that played a role in New England’s 20-17 win.

“I could care less,” Faulk said. “I don’t care about that. Now, what do you want me to say?”

Faulk disputed the idea that he’s been highly critical of the Patriots in the past.

“You can’t criticize facts,” he said. “The only think I’ve criticized them is the things they have been penalized for. That’s it. Other than that. what have I been critical of? I think Tom Brady is awesome. I never said he has a weak arm. Can’t throw. Doesn’t do this. Does more with less.

“I don’t think any one of [his receivers] will touch the Hall of Fame. Gronk might be the only Hall of Fame player outside of Randy Moss that Tom Brady played with in terms of skill guys. defensively, Bill [Belichick] has done a great job of committing 11 guys to do one thing, which is stop the team, and not care about how many tackles, sacks. Am I making the Pro Bowl? Am I going to get paid?”

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE COMPLETE AUDIO.

Read More: Bill Belichick, marshall faulk, Super Bowl LI, Super Bowl XXXVI
LaDainian Tomlinson appears to have changed his opinion of Patriots fans at 3:39 pm ET
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LaDainian Tomlinson said Patriots fans have reason to be upset with some things that have happened to the team of late. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

LaDainian Tomlinson said Patriots fans have reason to be upset with some things that have happened to the team of late. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

HOUSTON — Last year after the AFC championship game, LaDainian Tomlinson called out Patriots fans for overreacting to the loss against the Broncos.

“Let me just give you some stats what you guys have done over the years, for crying out loud,” Tomlinson said last January. “Obviously you won the Super Bowl last year. Six Super Bowl appearances, four Super Bowl wins, 10 AFC championship games, 13 division titles, for crying out loud. Over the last — what, since 2001?

“Boston fans, you have more championships than anyone in the freaking United States. And you’re crying over one loss? Come on, quit acting like a petulant child.”

A year later, Tomlinson appears to have changed his mind on them, acknowledging they have a right to be upset with some of the things that have happened to the team over the last two seasons.

“I think they have their — obviously, the Patriots are a great team and their hearts are in it,” he said Thursday at the NFL Network Media availability at the Super Bowl. “Obviously they are going to be mad about anything that goes against the Patriots, obviously. I think they are just passionate fans. I’ve always appreciated going to Gillette Stadium and the fans being loud and all the things that they do throughout the game to kind of get the opposing team off their game. I think some of it they have a right to be [upset]. Some of it.”

Tomlinson was also asked what is worse — deflating footballs, or pumping crowd noise into a stadium?

“Honestly, I don’t think any of them is more advantageous because both of them are misdemeanors,” he said. “As football players we deal with crowd noise all the time in practice. Coaches pump in crowd noise, so we’re used to that. Every team does something with the footballs. Every team — quarterbacks like the footballs [the way] they like them. They do extra things to do try and get a little advantage in gripping the ball. I don’t think one of the other.”

Read More: LaDanian Tomlinson, Super Bowl LI,
Lady Gaga on Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime wardrobe malfunction: ‘Are you going to blame that on the Patriots?’ at 2:34 pm ET
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HOUSTON — The last time the Patriots played a Super Bowl in Houston there was the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction during the halftime show.

This year Lady Gaga will be the halftime act and at her press conference on Thursday, she was asked if there were any concerns about one happening this year?

“Are you going to blame that on the Patriots?” she said. “Everything is going to be nice and tight for the game, so I wouldn’t worry about that, unfortunately. Some of you might have been excited for that.”

Bill Belichick actually reminded everyone of it happening Monday night when he was asked about Lady Gaga.

“We’ll be inside at halftime so it doesn’t really matter,” he said. “Last time we were here, it was what’s her face — [Janet Jackson]. That was a great performance.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Lady Gaga, Super Bowl LI,
Robert Kraft knows how much longer Bill Belichick wants to coach at 12:46 pm ET
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Bill Belichick doesn't appear to be retiring soon. (Thomas J. Russo/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick doesn’t appear to be retiring soon. (Thomas J. Russo/USA Today Sports)

HOUSTON — One of the biggest mysteries of the Patriots franchise is Bill Belichick’s contract and how much longer he wants to coach for.

Apparently, owner Robert Kraft knows, but he’s not going to tell anyone.

“We have a pact that we don’t talk about that,” Kraft said, via Mark Maske of the Washington Post. “He knows and I know. But he won’t be done this year.”

Belichick has been the Patriots coach since 2000 and is 64 years old, but doesn’t sound like he’s in any rush to call it quits.

“I don’t really see it as work,” he said this week. “It’s actually beach working. You get to do what you love to do dealing with a lot of great people. I have a great staff. Players work hard and are very cooperative and compliant. They have a great attitude about teamwork, playing unselfishly and working unselfishly.

“Really doesn’t feel like work. Try and give everyone the opportunity to do their job. We have a lot of people that do it very well. A great coaching staff and a great group of players. I have a lot of respect for all of them. I try and stay out of the way and let them do their job. They all do it pretty well.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, Super Bowl LI,
Steve Belichick: ‘I wouldn’t be happy being a head coach today’ at 10:43 am ET
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Steve Belichick had some interesting comments on being a NFL head coach. (WEEI.com)

Steve Belichick had some interesting comments on being a NFL head coach. (WEEI.com)

HOUSTON — There’s been a lot of attention on Patriots safeties coach Steve Belichick, the son of Bill, this week.

Since Patriots assistant coaches are rarely made available during the season, getting access to Steve all week is something that has never happened before.

On Wednesday, Steve was asked if he would be happy being a NFL head coach?

“Not today. No. I wouldn’t,” he said. “It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of responsibility and I don’t know that you really have control of everything under you. I’d want to have control. I like being able to have control on my little safety group. Yeah, I wouldn’t be happy being a head coach today.”

It was an interesting answer, especially coming from a 29-year-old, who is in his first full season as safeties coach. The previous four he was a coaching assistant.

Perhaps he could change his mind with more experience, but for now it seems like he enjoys leading the safeties.

“They’re an extremely hard working group and that they want to learn,” he said.

As for getting into coaching, obviously he learned a lot from his dad, but also his grandfather, who was the one who got Bill into coaching.

“I can’t even put into words how much my grandfather has meant to me,” he said. “He was just an extraordinary example for me. I’m honored to be named after him. He was a tremendous man and just can’t say enough good things about my grandfather. I really miss him.”

So why exactly did Steve get into coaching? It was all about being part of a team.

“I don’t really look at it as I wanted to be a coach,” he said. “It’s just I love being on a team. Football is the ultimate team game. There’s nothing like it. I’m not good enough to play, so I guess I had to coach.”

Bill has talked numerous times of late how special this season has been with both his sons on staff (Brian is a scouting assistant), and it would only make sense for the special season to end with a family picture with the Lombardi Trophy.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Steve Belichick, Super Bowl LI,

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