A comeback route for Brown
’96 team member honorary captain
FOXBOROUGH - Any Patriots fan going through Troy Brown withdrawal will have another chance to cheer for the former receiver on the field before the AFC Championship game.
The Patriots will commemorate the 15-year anniversary of the 1996 team that advanced to the Super Bowl by having Brown and three other members of the squad serve as honorary captains for Sunday’s game against the Ravens. Selected by team owner Robert Kraft, the four honorary captains will be announced on different days this week; the final three names will be unveiled tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday.
Brown, who played in New England from 1993-2007, is the franchise leader in career receptions, and remains a fan favorite, was the first of the four to be recognized. He met yesterday with the media, of which he’s now a member, and opined on a number of topics related to Patriots teams, both this year’s and the ones he played on, winning three Super Bowls in a 15-year career.
“Getting to come back and representing the ’96 team, it’s a great gesture from Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots to have us come back and do that,’’ Brown said. “It will be fun for me to get out there and do the coin toss with them again.
“It’s hard for me to believe so many years have passed by so fast. It will be a special time for us and it will be great to see some of the guys come back and enjoy this game this weekend.’’
Brown’s teams made the playoffs in nine seasons, so he knows what the postseason felt like, and he knows what this year’s Patriots should be feeling.
“I was talking to Deion Branch about the way players should feel this time of year,’’ Brown said. “I was explaining to him that I didn’t get that feeling from this team a couple years ago, that they didn’t really push that button to the next level. They should all be feeling different right now, there should be a sense of urgency and a different type of feeling in the locker room right now.
“I told him I still get those feelings today. When the playoffs start, for whatever reason, I feel different. This is the time of year where I feel like, if I had one more game, this is the time of year I want to play it.’’
The 12th man
Having homefield advantage in the playoffs is important, but playing to a loud crowd takes the advantage to another tier. In broad terms, a Gillette Stadium crowd that has been requested in the past by some Patriots to be heard more and make a difference was getting rave reviews for the noise generated in Saturday’s playoff opener.
“Our fans really got loud,’’ special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “That’s the loudest I’ve heard them since I’ve been here and they really rallied behind us. It enabled us to do some things that we normally wouldn’t be able to do, with the cadence and all that. Just having that 12th man is huge.’’
Safety James Ihedigbo noticed it on defense, too.
“It was loud. We were making checks defensively and we had to double-check with each other because it was loud,’’ Ihedigbo said. “The [fans] were great and we thrive off that energy, so playing at home is going to be unbelievable. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. I’m already excited about it.’’
It’s not often that punter Zoltan Mesko is sought out to talk about quarterback Tom Brady, but it’s also not often that Brady gets to punt in a game. Brady’s surprise pooch punt late in the fourth quarter - on third down, no less - traveled 48 yards and was downed at the 10-yard line.
“It was good,’’ he said. “Good situational play. I’m proud of him.’’
Brady actually finished with a higher average than Mesko (39.0 on two punts), who found no fault with the quarterback’s kicking form: Decent contact, not much hang time.
“Hang time’s not necessary when there’s no returner,’’ Mesko said. “The less the better.’’
Bears interview Licht
According to the Chicago Tribune, Jason Licht, the Patriots director of pro personnel, interviewed with the Bears yesterday for their vacant general manager position. Licht has been with the Patriots for seven seasons, covering two stints: 1999-2002, and since 2009 . . . Denver’s mayor, Michael Hancock, wore a Brady jersey during Sunday’s Nuggets-Jazz NBA game, making good on a bet he made with Boston counterpart Tom Menino. Had the Patriots lost, a Tim Tebow jersey would have been placed on the North End’s Paul Revere statue for a day.