FOXBOROUGH -- Bill Belichick sprinkled in a few smiles during his 29-minute press conference today, which predictably covered a range of topics as the Patriots prepare to hit the practice field for the first time getting ready for Super Bowl XLVI.
The Patriots coach broke into a wide smile and laughed a bit when asked a question about player injuries; he's famous for shedding very little light on who might be available. However, he did comment specifically on right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who hasn't played since Nov. 27 because of foot and back injuries.
"If Sebastian's ready he can help our football team, he's a good football player," Belichick said. "There's no question he would absolutely be on our game-day roster if he's ready."
He wasn't as forthcoming about tight end Rob Gronkowski, who injured his left ankle in the AFC Championship. Gronkowski is not expected at practice today; the Patriots are scheduled to work inside the fieldhouse at roughly 12:20.
Belichick praised the Giants, especially quarterback Eli Manning, the Giants' pass rushers, his days working in New York, the extra week to prepare for the game, and Tom Brady overcoming a bad game, among other topics.
When asked about the run that Manning is on -- he's led the Giants to five straight wins, and thrown 12 touchdowns (just two interceptions) in that stretch -- Belichick said he's been impressed.
"He's had a great end of the season, as has their entire team. They've had a very good stretch," Belichick said. "Eli's done a good job not turning the ball over, hitting big plays, converting on third down; their third-down conversion numbers are significantly up from the regular season, [and they're] playing against better teams, better defenses. He's an outstanding quarterback."
Belichick said the extra week wouldn't make any difference, since the Giants enjoy the same luxury, and trotted out the standard "whoever plays the best will win" approach.
Belichick ended the lengthy press conference by noticing someone wearing sweatshirt from Wesleyan University, his alma mater. "Like that Wesleyan sweatshirt," he said. "Good support."