It is inevitable that Patriots' players will face questions about the 2009 playoffs, when they lost in the Wild Card round, at home, to Baltimore. Ravens running back Ray Rice took the first snap of the game for a touchdown and New England never recovered.
But those who were asked today were careful to emphasize that things are different now, that this Patriots team is different than the '09 squad.
"I really haven't given it much thought, because it's a different season, a different team. They have different players, we have different players," said special teams ace and co-captain Matthew Slater. "You do remember the sting of getting embarrassed at home and those guys beat us from the opening snap all the way through. So we've got to try and avoid that."
Rob Ninkovich was mostly a special-teamer himself in '09, and also brought up avoiding big plays on defense.
"It was unfortunate. We didn’t start that game off the way we wanted to on defense. A team that potent and tough, you can’t give up a big run for a touchdown to start the game off like that," he said. "Obviously, that’s something that we really need to focus on, is not letting up any big plays like that, especially to start the game off. The momentum they gained from that obviously just snowballed for the rest of the game [and] they were able to go out there and play well. Obviously, no big plays like that."
And then there's Wes Welker, who watched the game, crutches by his side, in Robert Kraft's box at Gillette Stadium thanks to the torn ACL he suffered a week earlier.
"it’s always tough when your team is out there playing and you’re not able to, especially in the playoffs. We had such a good year that year and wanting to help my team and things like that. I’m just glad it’s behind me. I’m glad it’s over and I’m in the position I’m in to be able to play in this game and hopefully make the most of my opportunity," Welker said.