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Can Seahawks gain logistical edge because Super Bowl is in NFC West stadium? 01.29.15 at 5:25 pm ET
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Danny Amendola and the rest of the Patriots will have to get used to the relatively unfamiliar surroundings at University of Phoenix Stadium. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Danny Amendola and the rest of the Patriots will have to get used to the relatively unfamiliar surroundings at University of Phoenix Stadium. (Elsa/Getty Images)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Super Bowl XLIX will mark the first game at University of Phoenix Stadium for several members of the Patriots — it’s the first game for the franchise at the venue since Super Bowl XLII, seven years ago On the flip side, because it’s the home of the Cardinals, the Seahawks make an annual visit to the facility, as they’re NFC West rivals with Arizona.

Does that mean the Seahawks have an advantage because they might be more familiar with the surroundings? Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola — who played in the building every year for four seasons when he was with the Rams — said that it’s “something [he’s] thought about.”

“I got real used to coming here and playing,” Amendola said Thursday. “I talked to some of my teammates that haven’t been here, haven’t played here. I don’t think that’s an issue just because the fields are the same size, really. This stadium kind of resembles Wembley Stadium. It’s a bigger stadium, indoors. It’s going to be good conditions with the grass, with the roof, with whatever it may be. But I think we’ll be all right.”

“We’ll treat it just like any other away game,” said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. “Being able to go see the clocks — where the play-clock is, scoreboards, you name it. And I think guys will take advantage of that. Especially being the Super Bowl, I think you have a lot more guys out there just seeing the whole setup of the Super Bowl, which they should so they won’t get blindsided when they take the field for the first time.”

“We deal with that every year — we go to stadiums that we don’t play at very often all the time,” said kicker Stephen Gostkowski. “There are only a few stadiums we play at every year. You just show up, you find out the conditions that day, and you kick. We practice all the time in so many different conditions. There are only so many different conditions that you can get — weather, turf and wind. No one gets more different weathers and climates and field conditions than we do in New England. It’s hot, it’s cold, it’s windy. You get it all, so you just deal with it. That’s why we’re professionals. We deal with that stuff and I really don’t think too much about it. I have a plan going in and go for it.”

Read More: Danny Amendola, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLIX
Practice makes perfect: Patriots look to avoid same problems that haunted 2007 team with good week of workouts at 2:32 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Julian Edelman stretch before practice. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Julian Edelman stretch before practice. (Elsa/Getty Images)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — One of the things that ended up derailing the 2007 Patriots from finishing the season with a Super Bowl title was the fact that, according to several players on that team, they had a miserable week of practice in Arizona in the days leading up to their title game against the Giants.

And while the 2014 Patriots still have a few practice sessions remaining over the course of the week, they all indicated Thursday morning that their first run-through at the Arizona Cardinals‘ facility on Wednesday was a productive practice session for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact they didn’t have to bundle up to guard against the New England cold.

“It was great not to have to wear two hoodies, sweatpants, thermal tights and all that,” said wide receiver Brandon LaFell. “It felt good to go out there and be in your uniform without all those extra layers. It felt like a day at training camp, really.”

“It was a great practice, honestly,” said wide receiver Danny Amendola. “To be out in this weather and run around and throw the ball. You don’t have to wear too many layers. It was fun.”

“That’s exactly what I was about to say,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said with a smile when informed of Amendola and LaFell’s assessment of the conditions. “It felt good to be out and running around. We had a couple of days off. It felt good to get back out there. Everybody moved well and everybody looked like they were doing pretty well. It was just good to finally get a real sweat going again instead of having to wear eight layers of clothing. It felt good to be back out there.”

Defensive lineman Wilfork is one of a handful of players who were part of that 2007 team that say its dream die in the desert at the hands of the Giants. He’s still reticent to talk about that defeat — “I don’t think about it,” when he was asked about it on Thursday morning — but it sounds like he believes the team is in a better place when it comes to practice and focus in the days leading up to the game.

“It’s good. I’m very happy with where the focus is,” he said. “I’m very happy with where we sit right now as a team. I think we’re ready. We have a couple more days to be sure and sharpen up few things, but for the most part, I think we’ve gotten everything we want to do done. The guys are really excited to play, and hopefully, it’ll show on Sunday.”

While the Patriots will hold two more practices this week — sessions on Thursday and Friday before a final walkthrough on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium — it’s more about fine-tuning at this point.

“We’re pretty much recapping at this point — we put in some red zone and some of the stuff we did last week,” LaFell said. “We’re just taking the final steps now toward where we need to be on Sunday.”

“I feel like that’s the biggest part of execution is kind of getting all the knots out now,” Hightower said. “Come Sunday, everyone knows the game plan. Everybody knows their checks. Everyone knows the game plan. They know their checks. And everybody is playing two or three steps faster than what they might be used to. But these next couple of practices will be key for us.”

Read More: Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Dont'a Hightower, Super Bowl XLIX
Vince Wilfork says Bill Belichick has gotten ‘a little softer’ over the years 01.28.15 at 3:31 pm ET
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Bill Belichick speaks Wednesday at Patriots Super Bowl headquarters. (Mike Petraglia/

Bill Belichick speaks Wednesday at Patriots Super Bowl headquarters. (Mike Petraglia/

CHANDLER, Ariz. — If you think Bill Belichick is cold as ice, Vince Wilfork would like to change your mind.

Wilfork has known Belichick for 12 years. The Patriots coach he knows now is a little different from the taskmaster that drafted him in 2004 out of Miami.

“Yeah, I’€™ve seen the difference in Bill in the 11 years that I have been here and I tell him he is getting soft,” Wilfork said Wednesday. “But this is a different era of football now with how the team is shaped up and how a lot of guys are younger guys. You don’€™t really have that veteran team that he used to have. When I first came in the league, he had a veteran team that didn’€™t take much to get those guys going.”

Those veterans included defensive players like Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Ty Law. What’s impressed Wilfork has been the ability of Belichick to roll with the flow and adapt to a very different NFL from the league Wilfork entered in 2004. Wilfork says Belichick realized he needed to rely more on younger players due to the economics of the league.

“But if I have to say anything, I think over the years he got a soft heart,” Wilfork said. “But he’€™s more understanding now. I think when you get so used to having a certain quality of players and it changes, it’€™s hard for you to adapt to change. And I think Bill had to do a good job of that ever since I’€™ve been in the league because we’€™ve changed so much. We were a veteran team, it was a younger team, at one point we were the youngest team in the league.

“So I think he had to try to find the identity in what works for that team. And I think he’€™s done a great job over the years of doing that. But at the end of the day, he is still Bill. He coaches the same way. He demands everything the same way. But I think he’€™s got a little soft heart now. Over time, he got a little softer though.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XLIX, Vince Wilfork
Vince Wilfork says he would ‘take family over football any day’ at 2:32 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork has his sights set on his second Super Bowl ring. (Mike Petraglia/

Vince Wilfork has his sights set on his second Super Bowl ring. (Mike Petraglia/

CHANDLER, Ariz. — This may be the Super Bowl but Vince Wilfork speaks like a man with perspective.

Asked Wednesday about how he keeps things together in his busy life, Wilfork said finding the right balance is the key to everything.

“It benefits me because it keeps everything in perspective for me,” Wilfork said. “I wouldn’€™t have football if it wasn’€™t for my faith or my family. That’€™s one of the things that I always lean on when things get rough, when things get tired, when I really don’€™t want to practice, have got to do this, when my body is feeling like this. (If) I have a bad day at work, I go home and see my family. My kids, they’€™re so innocent. The only thing they want to do is play, they want to tell me about school.”

Perspective and perseverance is something Wilfork has been through a lot this year, overcoming an Achilles injury from 2013 and pulling a trapped woman from an overturned SUV after the AFC championship.

“It kind of puts everything in perspective when you look at it because no matter what I’€™m going through in life, I can always go home and have that feeling that I’€™m not a loser or that I’€™m not this or I’€™m not that. And that’€™s the luxury of having a good family. That is one thing I cherish the most.

“Everybody who knows me knows how I feel about my family. I would take family over football any day. My family and faith, I would take it over football any day. But I’€™m lucky to be at the level I’€™m at just because of what I’€™ve accomplished just because of my family and my faith and being dedicated to what I do and that’€™s football. Without them, I wouldn’€™t be who I am and I understand that and I cherish those moments with my family and my faith and my friends. I cherish all of that.”

Read More: New England Patriots, Super Bowl XLIX, Vince Wilfork,
Vince Wilfork on Deflategate: ‘We can’t let anything take our excitement away’ 01.23.15 at 8:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — If the NFL thinks it can ruin the Super Bowl experience for the Patriots and their players over Deflategate, Vince Wilfork has a message for them.

“We can’€™t let anything take our excitement away,” the Patriots captain and 11-year veteran said Friday. “We worked hard to get here and everybody in that locker room is excited to play this game, and we need to be, we should be. You’€™re not going to take that away from us. You can’€™t take our joy away from us.”

Wilfork, with his trademark smile, answered reporters Friday wondering if the ongoing controversy might take away from the anticipation for the Super Bowl. Is Wilfork still excited for football’s most important game?

“Very excited,” said Wilfork, who is about to take the field for his fourth Super Bowl. “This is ‘€“ besides coming to training camp when you’€™re away from football the whole offseason ‘€“ I think this is one of the most exciting times of the year, especially if you have a team that’€™s in it. Our job is to be able to prepare well, and hopefully that’€™s good enough to win this ballgame. Everything we put into it to this point, everything we have, we’€™re going to have to leave on the field, and everything energy-wise we have has got to be geared towards getting that accomplished. That’€™s where I’€™m at right now. Hopefully the team feels the same way. You have a locker room full of guys that are happy and excited, and we should be.”

As for the deflated football controversy, Wilfork insists he’s not giving much time to it, while admitting he is preparing himself for more questions and distractions on the subject in the days leading up to the game.

“Here we are with the biggest game of our career, and that’€™s what it’€™s about,” Wilfork said. “It’€™s about going out and being able to play a game you work so hard for and be in the Super Bowl. That’€™s what it’€™s about. [We’€™ve] got to be able to eliminate all distractions right now, and I’€™m pretty sure we’€™ll have more distractions, but at the same time, I think we’€™ve done a great job around here all year of just being so focused on our opponents and what we have to do to win a ballgame. That’€™s where I’€™m at right now, so nothing different for me. [We’€™re] facing a good football team so we have to do everything we can to be able to play well against them this game.”

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Deflategate, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks
Report: Vince Wilfork fined $8,268 for late hit against Colts at 6:05 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork was given a 15-yard penalty for a late hit on Andrew Luck in the second quarter of Sunday’ AFC championship game, but that wasn’t the only slap on the wrist.

According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, the defensive tackle was fined $8,268 for the play. It was on a drive that led to the only touchdown of the game.

Fine aside, Wilfork is looking forward to next weekend’s Super Bowl — his fourth as a member of the Patriots.

“Everything you dreamed, it’€™s about to come true,” Wilfork said Friday. “Enjoy this feeling, enjoy this time, [and] feel proud of yourself because we’€™ve battled a lot, we’€™ve played a lot of football, we’€™ve been grinding for a long, long time, and for it to be here is a special moment for us, so we should all cherish that.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Super Bowl XLVI, Vince Wilfork,
Vince Wilfork has a ton of respect for Marshawn Lynch, an ‘old-school running back that can do everything’ at 4:30 pm ET
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Marshawn Lynch dives into the end zone after a 79-yard TD run against the Cardinals (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Marshawn Lynch dives into the end zone after a 79-yard TD run against the Cardinals (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — As some of the questions finally turned back to football strategy Friday, one of the first subjects addressed to Vince Wilfork is what the Patriots plan to do with Marshawn Lynch.

Wilfork made it perfectly clear that he thinks Lynch is the best running back in the game and the toughest ground game challenge the Patriots defense will face this season.

What comes to mind when Wilfork thinks of Lynch?

“Beast,” Wilfork said in a one-word answer that doubles as the first half of the running back’s “Beastmode” nickname. “I mean, he is an old-school running back that can do everything. There’€™s not one thing he cannot do. He is very, very, very tough. I remember playing him when he was in Buffalo as a rookie, and I went up to him at the end of the game and I said, ‘€˜You have something special. You’€™re a hell of a ball player.’€™ I said, ‘€˜I have to give my hats off to you,’€™ and he kind of smiled and was like, ‘€˜Thank you.’€™ It seems like he’€™s been getting better and better.”

Lynch was drafted by Buffalo in the first round in 2007 out of Cal and promptly ran for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, to go with 15 touchdowns. But after his second season, things started to go south in Buffalo. Following his guilty plea on misdemeanor weapons charges, Lynch met with Commissioner Roger Goodell for a disciplinary hearing. Lynch had been arrested in Culver City, Calif., for having a gun in his backpack in the trunk of a car he was in.

The NFL announced that Lynch would be suspended for the Bills’ first three games for violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Lynch appealed the league’s suspension on May 14 in an attempt to have it reduced or nullified, only to have it upheld by Goodell later on August 3. When interviewed on the topic, Lynch has said that he was not surprised when the suspension was upheld, and that he loves playing too much and will try to keep himself out of situations in which there is a risk of being suspended.

He suffered a sprained ankle in 2010 and was traded in October to Seattle, where’s he’s been in “Beastmode” ever since. He has rushed for over 1,200 yards in each of his last four seasons in Seattle, including 1,306 yards with a career high 13 touchdowns this season. His season was defined by a spectacular 79-yard touchdown run on Dec. 21 against the Cardinals, on the same field he’ll be playing the Patriots on Feb. 1. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Beastmode, Marshawn Lynch, New England Patriots
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