The Patriots will hold open auditions for their cheerleading squad on Saturday at the Dana Farber Field House at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.Candidates must be 18 and have a high school diploma or GED. Registration begins at 10 a.m.
The final auditions will be held on March 17.
Details on the audition process can be found on the Patriots's cheerleaders web page.
Patriots defensive tackle Kyle Love has changed agents, and is now represented by KLASS Sports and agents Richard Kopelman and Massachusetts native Sean Stellato.
Kopelman and Stellato also represents Patriots Kyle Arrington and Gary Guyton.
Love was previously with Gary Glick.
Coming off a solid second season, the undrafted Love's contract with New England is up, but he is an exclusive-rights free agent, which means he really isn't free at all: he either accepts a deal from the Patriots or he's out of the NFL.
However, it is unlikely that the Patriots won't offer a contract to Love, and given the recent history Kopelman/Stellato have with the team, Love may get a team-friendly multiyear deal. Guyton and Arrington each signed two-year deals with New England when they were ERFAs.
INDIANAPOLIS - One of the great mysteries at this year's scouting combine was solved today when Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly finally appeared in the media room.
Linebackers were supposed to speak on Saturday. Sometimes players get hung up with medical evaluations, which isn't unusual, but they usually appear the next morning.
When it got to be after 4 p.m. today, whispers started about whether there was a medical issue with Kuechly.
But the Butkus Award winner as the top linebacker in college football said the process just took a while.
"Medical stuff yesterday just took forever, we were downstairs for maybe six hours so it kind of took a while to get through with everything and I had some early meetings I had to get to, so they just popped me out today," Kuechly said.
He said nothing unusual came up on his medicals.
"It's just a process to get through, you have to go through different rooms, everything checked out clean," Kuechly said.
That includes his right elbow, which temporarily knocked him out of the Eagles' final home game of the season against N.C. State. A few NFL teams said they would be making sure that checked out.
"It's just one of those things (where) you just get dinged up, take the precautions and you'll be all right with it," Kuechly said.
He made the trip to the combine from Sarasota, Fla., where he's been working out at the IMG Football Academy.
Kuechly measured at 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds, which was up from the 237 he played at for the Eagles.
A lot of teams are curious what Kuechly, who is thought to be a middle first round prospect, will run in drills tomorrow. They already know his instincts are off the charts. He had an astounding 532 tackles in three seasons at Boston College.
"I think that's one thing about the combine, it gives you an opportunity to show how you can move in different scenarios, there's different time drills as well as position drills led by coaches," Kuechly said. "I think it's an opportunity for me tomorrow to show I can move well.''
He was asked to describe himself as a player.
"Instinctual player is something that pops up for a lot of people," Kuechly said. "That, coupled with, I think I'm a smart player. I think I do a pretty good job preparing myself. That's somthing I take pride in. Being prepared, and knowing what each individual guy is responsible for. I can point at different guys, and let them know what they're doing if they have questions. I take pride in having the ability to do that. And doing that, and knowing what everyone is doing, you can play faster. It allows you to be more successful.''
From the time he was 7, Shawn Loiseau has thought of nothing but playing in the NFL. Not getting to play at a Division I – or even I-AA school – didn’t sway him, nor did those individuals who laughed in his face when he told them his dream.
Not many kids from Shrewsbury, Mass., and even fewer kids who play at small (in the football sense) Merrimack College even get the chance to play in the NFL.
But yesterday, Loiseau was among the 35 linebackers who began their Combine process, starting with a 4:30 a.m. drug test, medical tests, and the official weigh in (he came in at 6-0, 244 pounds).
He’s been driven by the slights, saying he constantly has a chip on his shoulder. Left unsaid is that a fight when he was in high school that left Loiseau with 28 stitches and another teen in the hospital with a head injury, is part of the reason why he didn’t get the chance to play at a bigger school.
Loiseau was asked why he thinks even his friends have doubted him.
"Just because a small-school guy, coming from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, not a lot of guys are known to go to the NFL, and even my friends now, they’re like, ‘Shawn do you think you’re going to go and play in the NFL?’ and I’m here at the Indianapolis combine and people still don’t think it because coming from Merrimack College I’m the first guy to ever really get a chance to play in the NFL and actually get looked at and exposure. Not a lot of Division 2 guys are even in the NFL right now; it’s huge for me to represent my school and Division 2," he said.
Loiseau certainly made the best of his shot at Merrimack – after not playing a snap his freshman season, he started every game from his sophomore year on and was twice named Northeast-10 defensive player of the year and received Division II All-America recognition.
He’s received late-round grades from a couple of scouting services for the draft, and knows he has work to do.
“Probably the pass game. Just coming from Division 2, we see a lot of run-oriented teams, a lot of teams that want to run a lot more than they pass, and when we do see pass it’s mainly play-action or just small, short stuff or they’re going deep on third-and-long or something like that,” Loiseau said. “Not teams like Division I where you see teams who are really pass-oriented and really running like NFL offense, that’s something that I’m trying to evolve my game into and get a better understanding for.”
INDIANAPOLIS - Looks like Bill Belichick has the golf bug.
Buoyed by his third-place finish in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am earlier this month, Belichick has committed to playing in the Honda Classic Kenny G Pro-Am on Wednesday at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., according to ESPN760.
That's just a short drive from Belichick's off-season home in Jupiter.
Belichick shot a net 16-under par in four rounds at Pebble Beach with pro partner Ricky Barnes.
Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski received his share of criticism for being caught on camera dancing during the team's post-Super Bowl party (though, oddly, teammate Matt Light, who was right there with him, did not get nearly as much), and today he addressed it.
Via ProFootballTalk.com, Gronkowski was on a Philadelphia radio station today and said this about his post-loss partying:
“It is what it is. We were just having fun with my brothers and stuff . . . family I haven’t seen in a while . . . and the chance of hanging out with LMFAO was pretty cool too. . . . Unfortunately we didn’t win and that was the number 1 goal.”
Gronkowski, who underwent surgery earlier this month to clean up the ligament damage in his left ankle from a high ankle sprain he suffered in the AFC title game, will "spike the puck" at the Worcester Sharks game tonight.
This was touched on last week, but the final draft order for this year was not set until this morning, via two coin flips.
Two sets of teams - the Panthers and Dolphins, and the Chiefs and Seahawks - each finished 2011 with matching win-loss records, matching strength of schedule, and matching opponent won-loss record, leaving the coin flips as the only way to determine which team chose before the other in the first round.
The Dolphins won their toss with Carolina, and will now pick 8th, with the Panthers choosing 9th. Kansas City won its toss and will pick 11th, with Seattle's turn now at 12.
So here is the complete first-round order:
2. St. Louis
5. Tampa Bay
11. Kansas City
16. New York Jets
17. Cincinnati (from Oakland)
18. San Diego
22. Cleveland (from Atlanta)
27. New England (from New Orleans)
28. Green Bay
30. San Francisco
31. New England
32. New York Giants
Adding to the confusion, Miami/Carolina and Kansas City/Seattle will switch picks back and forth by rounds, meaning that Miami will pick the spot before Carolina in the first, third, fifth and seventh rounds, and Carolina will go first in the second, fourth and sixth rounds. The same holds true for the Chiefs (first, third, fifth, seventh rounds) and Seahawks (second, fourth, sixth rounds).
Compensatory picks will be awarded during the annual NFL meetings late next month.
Earlier today, Carl Poston, the agent for soon-to-be free agent Andre Carter, talked about Carter's recovery from a torn left quadriceps and the possibility of the defensive end returning to the Patriots for a second season.
Poston said Carter "absolutely - no doubt about it" wants to play again in 2012. In his first season with the Pats, the 11-year vet registered 52 tackles and 10 sacks in 14-plus games before suffering his season-ending injury in the first half in Denver.
"He’s in good shape. He’s in good shape," Poston said. "He’s ahead on his rehab; that’s not the kind of injury – it’s not like a lower back or a knee, (where) he’s not going to be able to come back. He’ll come back 100 percent, matter of fact, he might come back stronger."
Poston confirmed that Carter, who was previously with the Redskins and 49ers, enjoyed his time with the Patriots.
"It’s a quality organization, it’s a quality team, every player wants to win the Super Bowl ring, every player wants to go to the Pro Bowl if they can, this was his opportunity to do it and he did well," Poston said. "And there’s no reason (not) to try to do it again.
We’ve just got to cross the 'Ts' and dot the 'Is' and we can come to an agreement on something and hope its agreeable to both sides and go from there."
So has he been talking contract with New England?
"Not really. We’re just monitoring and tracking the injury and when it’s time to talk they’re going to let me know," Poston said. "I just called them to see what their plans were, whether they were interested, and I would have been surprised if they said they weren’t interested and obviously they said they were interested but it’s a little premature, a little early, and I understood that. I just, in terms of being professional and doing my job, I just want to call them and see where we stood."
New England director of player personnel Nick Caserio spent several minutes speaking with Boston reporters this afternoon.
Here are some highlights from that chat; we'll have more in tomorrow in the Globe and online.
His thought's on this year's draft class:
As usual, I'd say the underclassmen are a big part of it. This is the most amount of underclassmen, I think, that asked for an evaluation from the league...There's depth at more positions relative to others. I'd say receiver is a position of strength. The offensive line's a position of strength. The front seven is a position of strength. A lot of the players, front seven especially that were down at the Senior Bowl, are some of the better players in this draft. I think it's a good draft. Like every year, each position has a little more depth or balance relative to others.
If the Pats are behind in the scouting process after playing into February:
I'd say yes and no. Our scouting staff -- specifically, the college scouting staff -- the college scouts, the area scouts, regional scout Jon Robinson, has spent a significant amount of time on the road this fall. Since August basically, through November and December, whenever the college season ends. And then our staff was at all the college all-star games, so I would say where we are in terms of the timetable, we're probably about at the same spot. Just as far as maybe as coaches getting involved in the evaluations and some of that process, maybe we're a little bit further behind because of the efforts were geared in another direction. Our scouts have done an outstanding job as far as the preparation goes and the information we have to this point. I think we're still gathering information. Part of the reason that we're all here is because we're gathering information. The interviews and the time you spend with the players is probably more important than -- and I don't want o take away what they do on the field -- but what a guy does in shorts in the end isn't going to be the ultimate determining factor. It's going to be about his performance and then, some of his other dynamics that come into play as well. The makeup and some of the traits that we look for in our players. I think that our staff has done a great job specifically looking for where we are today.
On Wes Welker and whether there's been progress on a new contract for him or a decision on New England franchising him:
I think we’re going through the process and like I said we’ve had conversations with our free agents at different points through the fall, so we’ll continue that dialog. We have until March 13, until free agency begins [to place franchise tag on Welker or another player], so we’ll do our due diligence, we’ll go through the process and we’ll see where we end up.
On Chad Ochocinco's status with the team:
He's under contract, so if he's under contract, he'll be here.
Has 2011 been put to bed?
I think we’re still going through it. We started some of that when we came back from Indianapolis. We’re still going through it. We’ll go through a player by player analysis, with strengths and weaknesses, kind of a summary of what the player is and what the player, in our opinion, his future is moving forward. We’re still going through that. Schematic review, that’s ongoing, the self-scout. We’ll go through and look at all the runs, all the passes, you’ll go through everything. It’s really ongoing. The bulk of the coaches’ time, that’s where it’s going to be allocated – self scout, player evaluation, and then start to get into a little bit of the draft and some of the free agency. I’d say it will be continually ongoing, and by the time we get to the beginning of OTAs, we’ll have a firm grasp of where we are on everything.
Is the Super Bowl mourning period over?
The way I look at it, it’s kind of like another game during the year – win or lose, the next day, ‘here’s what happened’ and then you move on to the next game. We don’t have a next game to move on to. This is the next game, sort of, that’s in town. That’s where we are. We were up and running the following week, in draft meetings with our scouting staff going through these prospects. You have to move on. We’ve moved on and you got to prepare for the next thing that’s in front of you and that’s what we’re going to do.
INDIANAPOLIS - A year ago, Jets coach Rex Ryan caused a stir at the scouting combine when he guaranteed his team would win the Super Bowl.
After finishing 8-8, Ryan said he realized the guarantee was a "big mistake" and he put too much pressure on his team.
"At the time we were coming off two championship games, I really thought it would be a thing that would actually motivate our team, you know to really talk about the Super Bowl, to focus on the Super Bowl," Ryan said. "But in hindsight I think it put undue pressure on our team and we kind of lost focus and really we lost focus on what we do best. So, it's obviously a big mistake. When I go back and I look at it I think it contributed to the season we had. But realistically it was something that I've been thinking about a great deal. Obviously, we had a terrible season. I'll take full responsibility for it. I think part of that guarantee really contributed to that.
"Looking forward, which I can't wait to do, with this upcoming season I think, first off no promises. There's not going to be any promises. But I will say we're going to have a team now that I think is going to have the potential to do great things. I look at our team and we've got a great owner. We've got a great staff. We've got a great organization. More importantly, we've got a great group of players. I think we can accomplish anything we set out to do. With that being said, I think over a 16-game regular season a lot of things can happen. But I will say this – we will be a team. We will play as a team and at the end of the season, we'll know it was a great season."
Ryan also talked about keeping an eye on the Patriots.
"We always look at the moves of every team, especially New England," Ryan said. "This is a team, we have to beat, clearly. The three years I have been here, they have won our division all three years. That’s something we want to do, so there is a chess match going on. Would our team look differently if … would we put so much of our resources, as some people would call them, into corner if we weren’t playing the New England Patriots? I don’t know. We always look at what they are doing, but the main thing is building our team. We have a vision for our team, we’ve got to stay the course, we’ve got to do what we do best, and I think that’s our main focus.
Some other Jets tidbits from Ryan:
- On whether he can really censure himself: "It’s not necessarily self-control. I’m going to have fun. I think sometimes it gets lost, because I have fun with the opponent’s media, I have fun with the opponent’s players, opponent’s coaches. Whatever it is. Now, one thing I am totally serious about is winning and if I think that something that I say, a comment that I’m going to make, that pulls away from us accomplishing that mission, then I’m not going to say it. But will I always be myself, of course. I am going to have a great time, that’s who I am and that’s who I’ll always be.
- On the comments from backup QB Greg McElroy about the Jets having selfish individuals: "I was angry about it. I never agreed with all the statements he made and things. You know, hey, the thing about our football team that separates, that maybe we are different than other teams is we are truly a transparent organization. You're going to know a lot about the New York Jets in the great times but you're also going to know a lot about us in the not so good times. That's part of it. That's just one man's opinion. I'll listen to everything. I don't think it was the way it's portrayed out there that we had a huge problem. There's no question that we had some problems with some individuals. But we're going to fix it. I know I'm the guy for the job to do it. I know our players. We've got the right players and we'll get it fixed."
- On Peyton Manning: "Well, I think first off, Peyton is under contract to a different team so I can’t talk about him specifically. But with our organization, we will look at everybody. There is a list of 10 free agent quarterbacks that I’ve looked at. There’s the draft guys I’ve looked at. In my opinion, we have the best corner in football, in the history of football, along with Deion Sanders and we are still looking at a million corners. We also have Antonio Cromartie. So we have a great group of corners but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to do our due diligence and look at every possibility, regardless of the position."
- On not closing the door on Manning: "We will do always what’s in the best interest of our organization. For us, that means we are going to be prepared. We’re going to look at any possibility that is out there, that, is perceived otherwise, we will look at all the possibilities."
INDIANAPOLIS -- New Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano often talked shop with Patriots coach Bill Belichick when he visited his son Stephen at Rutgers.
Schiano talked about Belichick's influence today.
"Bill has been an incredible person for me, not only professionally but I've gotten to know Bill -- his son Stephen played lacrosse at Rutgers, thus Bill was down there a lot, he'd come to work out some of our players," Schiano said. "Every time we visited I learned a ton, No. 1, and, No. 2, I felt very comfortable with (him). This is a no-nonsense guy, I kind of think that's what I am, and it's fun to be with people that it's just it is what it is, there's no agendas. As these things (NFL job opportunities) began to kind of show their head, I called him and asked him for some advice and he was great.
"I know we're competitors, I know there's 32 teams, we're in different divisions and different conferences, hopefully we'll continue to help each other grow -- certainly he'll help me a heck of a lot more than I'll help him -- but it's been a very good relationship. I know it will change now a little bit, but he's a special coach as we all know and to me a very special person, he and his son Stephen."
INDIANAPOLIS - The NFL scouting combine marked the league-wide debut of Joe Philbin as head coach of the Dolphins, after nine years as an assistant coach with the Packers.
As a native of Longmeadow, Philbin's Massachusetts roots are part of his core, including the one year that he spent at Worcester Academy.
"Worcester Academy was a special time, I only spent one year there," he said. "(Dolphins offensive coordinator) Mike Sherman was an assistant coach on the staff. Ken O'Keefe, my receivers coach (with the Dolphins), was the head coach. (Iowa coach) Kirk Ferentz, who I talked to Saturday, was an assistant coach on the staff. I had a best friend of mine, flew down to my press conference for 20 minutes in Miami and flew back. I was very, very lucky. My dad always said it was the best money he ever spent. It was a great experience. Those guys inspired me to get into the coaching profession, so I'm very lucky to have two of them on my staff right now."
Some quick hits from Philbin's time with the media:
- On getting on the same page with GM Jeff Ireland: "I think it's critical. Obviously we're here for a reason, to identify guys that we feel like can help our football team, that fit the profile that we're talking about, both from a positional standpoint, in terms of height/weight/speed etc. And also from the character standpoint that is so important in today's NFL."
- On what he looks for in a QB: "Looking for a great decision maker, a leader, an accurate passer, a guy that has excellent game management skills, a guy that has pocket presence and awareness, and the leadership skills. Obviously the stronger, the more velocity in the arm the better. But we're looking for a guy that can manage a team, lead a team, make good decisions in critical times, and make some big plays when games are on the line."
- On the AFC East: "I haven't spent a lot of time (on it). Obviously there are some excellent football teams in the AFC East. New England has done a tremendous job for a long, long time, they've build a fantastic program there. The Jets have had excellent success. Buffalo, obviously got off to a good start. So I'm sure it's going to be very challenging but right now, the first month, we've been more focused on our own team, our own players. It's more important that we establish how we're going to operate and function and what kind of football team we're going to be. We haven't spent a lot of time worrying about anybody else yet."
- On the range of emotions with the new job and the loss of his son, Michael: "Yeah, it's been great seeing some familiar faces the last couple of hours, but it's been hard as well. As I said when I got introduced, it's been the best of times, and the worst of times. I feel very fortunate, I have a wonderful family, a lot of tremendous friends that I'm very, very fortunate to have, I'm excited about this opportunity that Mr. Ross and Jeff Ireland have provided me, and I'm anxious to build a program that our fans, our alumnus can be proud of and I'm confident we're going to do that."
Greetings all - Greg Bedard and I have returned to Indianapolis (and Chris Gasper will be joining us) for the 2012 NFL Combine, the once-small event that has turned into a feast for draft-o-philes.
These things are fluid, but here's the schedule of when player groups are supposed to meet with the media on hand:
Today: Offensive linemen, kickers, punters, long snappers, tight ends
Friday: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers
Saturday: Defensive linemen, linebackers
Sunday: Defensive backs
In addition, there are a number of coaches and team executives scheduled to speak today, including Bills' coach Chan Gailey, Miami head coach Joe Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland, and Jets' GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan.
As for the Patriots, Bill Belichick will not meet with reporters this week. Nick Caserio is supposed to meet with Boston reporters here in Indy sometime tomorrow evening.
The Patriots today announced they released offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger and defensive lineman Mike Wright.
Both players spent most of the season on injured reserve. Wright played in the season opener, but then missed four games before going on injured reserve. He suffered concussions in both 2010 and 2011.
Ohrnberger played in five games since being drafted by the Patriots in 2009. His season was also ended by a concussion.
Tom Martinez, the Northern California coaching legend whose most famous pupil is Tom Brady, died yesterday on his 66th birthday.
Brady released a statement on the passing of his longtime mentor and friend, via his Facebook page:
"I am deeply saddened by the passing of my coach, mentor and friend. Coach Martinez's invaluable assistance and support will never be forgotten and will always have a lasting impact on my life. The time we spent together remain some of my fondest memories. His legacy of commitment, toughness and determination will live on forever." Tom
Brady's father first took him to see Martinez when the young quarterback was just 13, and he continued to work with the longtime College of San Mateo coach through this past season.
As Martinez's health began to decline because of diabetes, Brady used his name to try to get Martinez the kidney he needed, posting an appeal on his Facebook page for the MatchingDonors program.
But a match never came. Martinez reportedly suffered a heart attack yesterday during one of his four-times-a-week dialysis treatments.
Sad news to report: the San Jose Mercury News reports that Tom Martinez, a longtime coach at the College of San Mateo in California who gained fame when one of his pupils - Tom Brady - became one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, died today.
It was his 66th birthday.
Martinez, who announced in June that he was given just weeks to live due to complications from diabetes, suffered a heart attack during kidney dialysis, reports the Mercury News. He was waiting for a kidney transplant.
Our Amalie Benjamin visited with Martinez and his wife just a few weeks ago.
He discussed undergoing treatments four days a week, which he called "invasive of your time," but knew that the alternative was that he would die. Martinez and his wife Olivia, who gave up her job to care for him, also knew then that the dialysis machine and medications he was taking would only keep him alive for so long.After coaching Brady from age 13 (they still talked every week, their relationship now familial, not just coach-pupil) as well as hundreds of other athletes at the College of San Mateo, Martinez said the same thing he told them was the same thing that kept him going day after day:
“I always preached as a coach that you never quit, that you battle to the end,’’ Martinez said. “And so I’ve brought that to my own life as it stands now, that I’m not going to give in. I have to keep fighting and at some point my body will probably say, this is it, enough’s enough.
“One thing that I believe is that there’s nothing stamped on your foot when you’re going to go. So you fight as long as it takes and as hard as it takes until it’s over.’’
Last night, Brady’s father, Tom, told Comcast Sports Net New England, “It’s a big loss but he’s been very, very, very sick. I’ve known him for 50 years. He was a terrific coach and terrific mentor to a lot of people.’’
Today is the first day that NFL teams can begin to designate their franchise player for the 2012 season.
For the Patriots, Wes Welker is the most likely candidate to be tagged. The receiver is scheduled to be a free agent, and though the two sides did talk about a contract extension during the season, the feeling is they are not close to coming to an agreement on a deal at this time.
Franchise tender amounts have gotten smaller under the new collective bargaining agreement; as noted on nfl.com in November, the tag amount for receivers is about $9.4 million for the coming season, down from $11.4 million for 2011.
Franchise tenders are a one-year, fully guaranteed contract. But the amounts have gone down because the formula for calculating them has changed: before, it was derived simply by figuring the average of the top five salaries at each position. Now, it is more complicated and involves tag amounts from prior years.
The University of Iowa football team has announced that Brian Ferentz will be the team's new offensive line coach, joining his father Kirk's staff.
Brian was a Patriots' offensive assistant for four years, serving as tight ends coach last season. He guided the growth of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the second season for both, with Gronkowski setting single-season records for touchdowns scored and receiving yards for a tight end.
Though the move is not a step up for Brian, who is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks, it is believed he very much wanted to coach with his father, whom he also played for from 2002-05.
Kirk Ferentz also coached with Bill Belichick, during Belichick's days in Cleveland.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock is one of the two or three most respected draft experts out there, so when he's talking, we're listening.
With the NFL Combine getting underway in a week, the network made Mayock available on a conference call to discuss teams' needs and players.
He was asked a general question about the Patriots' needs, and to Mayock, their opening picks should be focused on one side of the ball.
"They’ve got two picks in the first round, what a surprise," said Mayock, who played at Boston College. "Bill (Belichick) is a master at letting the board come to him, so I don’t even think Bill will know really until that last week prior to the draft what specific players he’s interested in, but the way I look at it is, it’s got to be all about defense.
"You’re sitting there with two picks, with the ability to move up, down or stay at 27 and 31, and in a league where it’s a pass-first league – and we all, I was kind of happy to see the return of defense in the playoffs and the Super Bowl, but let’s be honest about it, there’s a lot of teams, including the Patriots, that want a track meet every week, which means you’ve got to rush the quarterback and you’ve got to defend on the back end and I think those are the two areas of need that cry out for some help in the draft for the Patriots."
Would a back-end player be a cornerback or a safety?
"The way I see it is who’s the best player available in those slots? Because you need help everywhere," he said.
And if New England were to try to bolster its offense, Mayock agrees with many a Patriots fan: stretch-the-field receiver.
"Probably at wide receiver. (Wes) Welker has had career years and those two tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) are exceptional, which has kind of changed the way a lot of people look at offense in this league and I think you have to give Bill and his coaching staff a lot of credit for crafting what they’ve crafted with that offense.
"However, having said that, Welker and the tight ends, they’re based in the middle of the field more than they are vertically and I think a vertical wide receiver could really help them."
Wes Welker was devstated after the Patriots' loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, placing the blame squarely on himself for not catching Tom Brady's fourth-quarter pass on second and 11.
Welker, his eyes red, spoke to reporters after the game but had been silent on his Twitter account in the days since - until today.
The veteran and soon-to-be free agent posted for the first time in nearly three weeks, and did so to thank those who have been showing support to him since the Super Bowl:
I would like to thank all of my fans for your love and support. I looked outside and the sun came out. #vacationtime
Many of the responses to Welker after the post were positive, with most expressing hope that he returns to the Patriots.
Here's some shocking news for you: the Buccaneers have cut DT Albert Haynesworth.
There was a financial reason for the move, as Haynesworth's base salary for 2012 was set to be $6.7 million. Tampa Bay had a great deal of salary cap space even before the move, but Haynesworth's performance did not justify paying him that bloated salary.
That's been the story for Haynesworth since signing his massive free agent deal with Washington in 2009 - he never lived up to the contract he signed with the Redskins.
Traded to New England at the start of training camp last July, Haynesworth said all the right things upon his arrival: he loved New England, had a great friend in Worcester, wishes he had signed with the Patriots in '09 instead of Washington.
In his first day of camp he was dominant. But it was almost all downhill from there, and he was cut after the Patriots' Week 9 game with the Giants. Tampa Bay claimed him off waivers.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Bucs considered cutting him during the season, when it became apparent that "his play and effort level tailed off" toward the end of the season. Sadly, that seems like the story of Haynesworth's career - when motivated, he could be utterly dominant. But that motivation, more often than not, was lacking.
When he was cut by New England, the Patriots had lost two straight games, and the Bucs didn't win a game while he was on the roster, so Haynesworth finished the regular season as part of 10 straight losses.
For the season, Haynesworth played in 13 games, with just 23 tackles and 0 sacks. It would be surprising to see another team give him a chance.
In the latest episode of Globe 10.0, Bob Ryan and Chad Finn debate whether Randy Moss would be a good fit to come back to the Patriots.
With the 2011 NFL season in the books, the draft order for the first round of this year's draft (to be held April 26-28) is set - well, mostly. Two sets of teams - Carolina and Miami, and Kansas City and Seattle - each finished with matching records, matching strength of schedule, and matching opponent won/loss record, so that great arbiter of fairness, the coin flip, will be used.
At the Combine next week, the Panthers and Dolphins will flip for the eighth spot in the draft (loser gets ninth), and the Chiefs and Seahawks will flip for the 11th spot (loser gets 12th).
Everything else has been settled for the first round.
2. St. Louis
5. Tampa Bay
11t. Kansas City
16. New York Jets
17. Cincinnati (from Oakland)
18. San Diego
22. Cleveland (from Atlanta)
27. New England (from New Orleans)
28. Green Bay
30. San Francisco
31. New England
32. New York Giants
In the latest Globe 10.0, Bob Ryan and Kevin Paul Dupont debate whether it's time for the Patriots to go all in as they prepare for next season.
With four draft picks in the first two rounds, plus plenty of options on the free agent market -- apparently including Randy Moss -- New England certainly has the ammo to load up its roster. Watch Ryan and Dupont's opinion, then cast your vote.
Former Patriots receiver Randy Moss took to live video-chat website ustream.tv this morning to celebrate his 35th birthday and make an announcement: he wants to make a comeback.
“I just wanna go to a team and play some football,” Moss said.
Moss' agent announced his retirement last offseason, and today the receiver, who is tied with Terrell Owens for the second-most receiving touchdowns all-time (they have 153; Jerry Rice had 197), said that he had to step away to handle personal matters. He's since spoken to his family, and they've given him the green light to return.
Moss has shaved his trademark cornrows, and had the hair in a brown paper bag that he showed to viewers.
The big question, of course, is what Moss has left. He made his bones as a downfield threat, and if he doesn't have the speed that made him one of the most dangerous wideouts of all time, he may not have a lot of value to many teams.
On a personal level Moss is still liked in New England - he showed up to owner Robert Kraft's house as he sat shiva following the death of Myra Kraft, was in Kevin Faulk's driveway a week ago when the running back returned from Indianapolis, and Bill Belichick still respects Moss as a player. None of that, however, means he'll be making a return appearance on the roster.
Kyle Arrington has already returned back to his native Maryland to start his offseason - and help his fiancee put the finishing touches on their March 17 wedding - but he is back in Massachusetts today to help raise money for the family of fallen Peabody firefighter James Rice.
Almost a week removed from Super Bowl XLVI, Arrington said he hasn't "been thinking about it; you can't think about the past."
He did admit, however, that he replayed the Patriots' loss to the Giants over in his head last Sunday and Monday, thinking about what he could have done better in the game.
After finishing the regular season tied with two other players for the league lead in interceptions with 7, Arrington wishes "I could have had one when it mattered...We had opportunities. We'll have a good shot next year."
The Hofstra product did not take solace in his team advancing to the last game of the season - even though it seemed like that might be a longshot midway through the year.
"That's our goal every year. It's always one step at a time: win our division, get a spot in the playoffs. Anything short of not winning it all - I won't say it wasn't a successful season, but our goal wasn't reached. It wasn't attained."
Arrington is under contract with New England for the coming season.
The first question, since it's the one on many folks' minds when it comes to the 13-year veteran: have you made a decision on your playing future?
"That’s probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in a long time – a very long time. It’s what’s been taking care of me and my family for a long time and I have to make a decision based upon what’s best for me and my family. Right now and with the emotions that are going on and with the game that just happened last week, I know everyone was speculating that I was going to make a decision, probably today or what not; it’s kind of early. I don’t want to tie my emotions into exactly what went on Sunday that passed, what went on the course of the season, I just think it’s something that I have to sit down and talk with my family and my agent, teammates, former teammates that I’ve talked to, people that I really trust, for me to base my decision off of," Faulk said.
During our conversation, which lasted over 20 minutes, there were times when Faulk sounded like a man who has made up his mind - but he stopped short of saying he's retiring, leaving the door open, however slightly, for a possible return with New England for the 2012 season.
"The love of the game," is what makes it so difficult to say he's done, Faulk said. "The love of where I am. It might not have been the best of times this year, but I still love where I am. It’s given me a lot of great memories; a lot of great times. I grew as a person. I grew as a football player. I grew as a father, husband – just because of football. It’s great for me; awesome."
Faulk was told the morning of Super Bowl Sunday by running backs coach Ivan Fears that he wouldn't be active for the game. He went back to his hotel room and cried a bit, then read his Bible until it was time to head to Lucas Oil Stadium. Once he was there, he turned his focus to his teammates and getting them ready for the game they had all spent so much time and effort preparing for.
After returning home from Indianapolis - Randy Moss was waiting for him in his driveway on Monday evening, wanting to give some support to his friend and talk about the game - Faulk was asked about not being in uniform, and spotted a picture of Troy Brown as he answered.
"And I said to myself, ‘if he can do it, I can do it.’ [in terms of being inactive for what was the last game of his career]. Why not? I look up to him. Everything he’s done. And why couldn’t I do it?," Faulk said.
"That morning, when I got the word that I wasn’t going to dress...wow. I went in the room, cried a little bit, because 75 percent of me knew that this could be my last game playing, not playing, just dressing. If I dress there could be that chance that I could play. So that really crushed me a whole lot...
"(I took) my exit physical after the game and the trainers give me a big hug and that’s when I knew, like 'wow, that might be it.' Going through that evening after the game and worrying about the loss and being like, wow, guys have another opportunity to come back next year and do it again. Mine is very slim, and it’s not by my choice this time."
Faulk is slated to be a free agent, so any talk of a 14th season starts with the Patriots offering him a deal.
If he has played his last snap, Faulk retires as the Patriots' all-time leader in all-purpose yards, the leader in receptions by a running back, the leader in kickoff returns and kickoff return yardage, and as a member of the franchise's 50th anniversary team.
There will be more from Faulk in tomorrow's Globe.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had arthroscopic surgery on his injured left ankle today, the Globe has confirmed.
Gronkowski underwent surgery earlier today on his left ankle to repair multiple torn ligaments, a team source confirmed. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Theodore performed the operation at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal first reported Gronkowski had ankle surgery.
Gronkowski suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship game. He played in the Super Bowl, but was limited to two receptions for 26 yards.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is unwinding after the Super Bowl by playing in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament in California. Shown above on the Spyglass Hill course, Belichick and PGA Tour partner Ricky Barnes got off to a solid start, shooting a 6-under par 66 in the first round on Thursday.
They are one shot behind the other marquee pairing involving a PGA pro and NFL star, Tiger Woods and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Leaders Danny Lee/Steve Green and Padraig Harrington/J.P. McManus are at 13-under.
Thanks to our very thorough friends at profootballfocus.com, which is worth the money for those of you into a Sabremetrics-type look at football, here's a look at how many snaps each player played for the Patriots on defense in the 2011 season (count includes all three postseason games).
PFF counted a total of 1,362 defensive snaps for the season
CB Kyle Arrington - 1,177 snaps
DT Vince Wilfork - 1,173
CB Devin McCourty - 1,142
LB Rob Ninkovich - 1,126
LB Jerod Mayo - 1,126
S James Ihedigbo - 917
S Patrick Chung - 773
DL Andre Carter - 753
DT Kyle Love - 697
DL Mark Anderson - 640
LB Brandon Spikes - 542
DL Shaun Ellis - 421
LB Gary Guyton - 405
DL Brandon Deaderick - 383
DL Gerard Warren - 370
DB Sterling Moore - 261
CB Antwaun Molden - 355
S Sergio Brown - 349
LB Dane Fletcher - 304
LB Tracy White - 250
DB Nate Jones - 242
CB Leigh Bodden - 222
S Josh Barrett - 221
DB Phillip Adams - 180
DT Albert Haynesworth - 134
DB/WR Matthew Slater - 111
CB Ras-I Dowling - 93
DL Ron Brace - 62
DB/WR Julian Edelman - 60
LB Jermaine Cunningham - 48
LB Niko Koutouvides - 46
DL Myron Pryor - 36
DB Ross Ventrone - 30
LB Jeff Tarpinian - 22
DL Landon Cohen - 18
DL Mike Wright - 15
DE Alex Silvestro - 12
DL Eric Moore - 11
LB A.J. Edds - 10
What's interesting here is how many players New England tried on defense this year: the 39 listed is by far the most the team has used since 2008, the first year PFF began tracking stats. In 2010, the Pats used 30 players; in 2009 and '08, it was just 27.
And in case you're wondering how that compares to other teams around the league, of the five other teams who made the playoffs in the AFC, the Ravens played 27 players on defense, while the Bengals, Steelers, Texans and Broncos each played 26.
The Giants played 28.
As an observer of Super Bowl XLVI, all 111.3 million viewers out there, you might have wondered how the players on the field thought Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's ankle was perceived from a competitive standpoint Sunday. On the NFL Network's replay of the game that debuted Wednesday night, Sound FX provided the answer insiders were looking for.
"Hey, 87 is a [expletive] decoy," Giants linebacker Michael Boley can be heard saying on the sideline in the second half of the Super Bowl. "He [sic] a decoy. You see him try and run that route? He about to be outta here."
The game's replay offered several gems, including reaction from Tom Brady's safety, some Vince Wilfork banter with NFL umpire Carl Paganelli, and coach Bill Belichick telling his defense to focus on Giants receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
On the latter, Belichick said in the fourth quarter: "This is still a Cruz and Nicks game. I mean, I know we're right on 'em, it's tight. But those are still the guys. Make 'em go to [Mario] Manningham, make 'em go to [Bear] Pascoe."
On the Giants' first possession after Belichick's speech, Eli Manning hit Mario Manningham for a 38-yard reception that led to the game-winning touchdown.
Brady, who was miked up during the game, found himself trying to explain away his first quarter intentional grounding on the sideline after the play resulted in a safety.
"I looked at Gronk, I looked to Wes [Welker], he dropped, then I felt [Justin Tuck]," Brady said to his teammates and coaches. "I had no place to throw it away. I threw it over his head, I didn't want to throw an interception."
After one of Brady's passes was deflected in the first quarter, he said "it's like throwing it in a forest."
In the second quarter, Giants guard Kevin Boothe was flagged for holding Wilfork. The referees struggled with the call before ultimately asking Wilfork his thoughts about it.
"Did that guy hold you and then spin you to the ground? Or did you flop," asked Paganelli.
Wilfork: "No, that was a bad call."
Paganelli: "That was a bad call on me?"
Paganelli: "Why didn't you tell me that before I threw it?"
Wilfork: "Because, as much as you guys miss, I deserve one. I'll let you know when you miss one too now."
Paganelli: "I'm sure you will."
Brady gave some love to receiver Chad Ochocinco after his 21-yard reception to start the third quarter. The Patriots scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez seven plays later.
"Way to get us started. That's what I'm talking about. That's why we got you."
With 9:24 left in the fourth quarter, and the Patriots getting ready to start their first drive of the quarter, Brady was trying to get his teammates revved up for a win.
"Hey, how about a seven minute drive for a touchdown, huh? And end this on our terms."
Patriots backup running back Shane Vereen, who was inactive for the game, can be seen on the sideline saying "this could be the game."
After Welker's drop on on the drive, one referee could be heard saying "oh, that was the game."
On the Giants' last drive, before Ahmad Bradshaw's eventual game-winning touchdown, the Patriots in the defensive huddle called out to let the Giants score.
"We gotta let 'em score, we gotta let 'em score, we gotta let 'em score," Jerod Mayo can be heard saying.
Said Wilfork to his defensive linemates: "Yo, yo, yo, let 'em score."
If you haven't already, check out the Sound FX clips on NFL.com.
Thanks to our very thorough friends at profootballfocus.com, which is worth the money for those of you into a Sabremetrics-type look at football, here's a look at how many snaps each player played for the Patriots on offense in the 2011 season (count includes all three postseason games).
PFF counted a total of 1,362 offensive snaps for the season
QB Tom Brady - 1,350 snaps
RG Brian Waters - 1,340
TE Rob Gronkowski - 1,290
LT Matt Light - 1,260
WR Wes Welker - 1,211
LG Logan Mankins - 1,189
TE Aaron Hernandez - 1,051
OT Nate Solder - 1,044
WR Deion Branch - 1,023
C Dan Connolly - 986
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis - 475
RB Danny Woodhead - 449
RT Sebastian Vollmer - 387
C/G Ryan Wendell - 360
Chad Ochocinco - 354
RB Stevan Ridley - 200
WR Julian Edelman - 188
OL Marcus Cannon - 168
OL Nick McDonald - 106
OL Donald Thomas - 105
WR Tiquan Underwood - 98
RB Kevin Faulk - 90
TE Dan Gronkowski - 56
WR Matthew Slater - 44
OL Thomas Welch - 42
C Dan Koppen - 33
RB Shane Vereen - 26
FB Lousaka Polite - 24
WR Taylor Price - 18
QB Brian Hoyer - 12
FB/LB Dane Fletcher - 3
While Brady played in 99.1 percent of the snaps, ceding late-game snaps to Hoyer in Weeks 12, 13 and 17, it's been a few years since an offensive player was on the field for every snap of the season. Not surprisingly, the last player to do so was Mankins in 2008. In '09 the left guard sat out a handful of snaps at the very end of the finale against Houston, but had played every snap of the season prior to that.
In this morning's story breaking down the Patriots' roster with respect to each player's contract status, I forgot two players: rookie DE Alex Silvestro and DB Bret Lockett.
Silvestro is currently signed through the 2012 season.
Lockett, who spent the entire season on injured reserve and hasn't played a down since 2009, will be a restricted free agent.
The Patriots announced this evening that they have signed seven players to futures contracts:
WR Tiquan Underwood
DB Ross Ventrone
LB Markell Carter
OL Matt Kopa
DE Aaron Lavarias
WR Britt Davis
LB Mike Rivera
Underwood became known nationally on Saturday night when he was released from the 53-man roster by New England on the eve of the Super Bowl in order for DE Alex Silvestri to be promoted for the game. It was believed that Silvestri might play on special teams against the Giants, but he never got into the game.
Ventrone was part of 21 roster transactions during the season, shuffling between the 53-man roster and practice squad. He played in eight regular-season games, mostly on special teams. Under league rules, had he played in a ninth game, Ventrone would no longer be eligible for practice squad.
Carter, a seventh-round draft pick last spring who spent the entire season on practice squad, received a hefty pay raise from the Pats in December, likely an indication that another team tried to sign Carter away from New England.
Kopa, Lavarias, Davis and Rivera also were members of the practice squad.
Quarterback Tom Brady didn’t help matters when he didn’t say anything about how he should have thrown a better ball. Whether he believed that or not, that’s what Brady usually does.
Combine both things, and you have an avalanche of blame being heaped on Welker.
And in my mind, that is totally wrong.
The pass wasn't good enough.
Welker never should have been put in that position.
Because he never was during the season.Welker might have said that’s a catch he’s made a thousand times. And maybe he has in practice or in previous seasons.
But during 2011, Welker did not have to make a leaping back-shoulder catch with the ball way above his head.
Not even close.
I know, because I watched all 195 of Welker’s targets, from the season opener at Miami, until the fateful incompletion in Super Bowl XLVI.
I’ll be writing more about this in tomorrow’s Globe, but here are a few notes on why Brady was more at fault than Welker.
- Difficulty: Brady put a little air under it to give Welker a chance to adjust to the ball. But it’s an incredibly difficult catch to make, going from a full sprint to turning around the other way while trying to make a catch. Even if Welker caught the ball, it’s not even definite that he would have kept possession once he hit the turf hard – which he was going to do because the throw put him so off balance.
- Vertical does not suit Welker: On those 195 routes Welker was targeted on, do you know how many were of the vertical variety on the route tree – a fade, post, corner and a slant-and-go? Twenty eight total. Or 14.3 percent. Only 17 were a version of that fade route (8.7 percent). Those vertical routes are not Welker’s game, which is why the Patriots seldom throw those to him. Welker’s bread-and-butter – 85.7 percent worth – is on the lower end of the route tree: the flat, slant, comeback, curl, out, dig and various quick passes. Vertical receivers have long arms and big hands. Those help when you have to make those circus catches. Welker has neither. The Patriots, better than any team, put their players in the best position to succeed. They know what they have or don’t have. They know Welker is better catching the ball to his body and absorbing contact or running to the boundary.
- Welker is not an acrobatic catcher: Most of the time. He made terrific diving catch to the 1-yard line against the Jets, but he laid out for that ball. Welker was thrown 10 passes before the Super Bowl when he had to leave his feet to make the catch and he caught eight of them. On seven of the passes (six receptions), Welker jumped straight up from a standstill to attempt the catch. Of the other three that were much more difficult, Welker had one against the Eagles that could have been considered a drop (he would have landed on his feet if he did catch it). Against the Steelers, Welker made a tough leaping catch towards the sideline for a minimal, but important 2-yard gain to pick up a first down. Against the Raiders, Welker made perhaps his best catch of the season – the one that probably makes Welker believe he should have caught the ball in the Super Bowl. On third-and-6 late the third quarter, Welker ran a corner route towards the sideline from the right slot. Brady threw a beautiful pass over the trailing cornerback and Welker’s inside shoulder. Welker had to leave his feet and take a brutal shot to the back from the safety. But Welker held on. That was a sensational catch. But it didn’t have to be made running full speed and twisting back over the other shoulder, like Welker was asked to do in the Super Bowl.
- Backshoulder is rare: Brady only threw four back-shoulder throws downfield to Welker all season. Not one was thrown high. They all hit Welker in the stomach, or high in the chest. And receivers don’t expect backshoulder throwns when they’re in space. Back-shoulder is used when the defender is playing tight coverage underneath. The receiver knows the ball is coming, the defender does not. The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings, missed on a very similar play early in their NFC divisional loss to the Giants. The quarterback has to make the right decision. There were a handful of plays that were similar to the Giants play during the season. Almost every time, Brady was fine with exposing Welker to contact and throwing towards a charging safety. We’ll detail those tomorrow.
In closing, it would be foolish to paint Welker as some sort of goat. Brady could have zipped the pass in toward the safety and over Welker’s inside shoulder in stride and connected on perhaps a touchdown.
Instead, Brady lollipopped the throw to the backshoulder while his receiver was in a sprint and made the pass unnecessarily difficult.
Brady should have thrown to Welker’s strength – something he had done all season up until that point.
FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots safety James Ihedigbo came to the defense of wide receiver Wes Welker on Monday, telling reporters at Gillette Stadium that you can't point fingers at anyone for what happened in the Patriots loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
“You can never point fingers at anyone," said Ihedigbo. "You look at the plays that [Welker's] made all year long, how hard he played that game, and how hard he prepared for that game. We wanted it just as bad as [the Giants] did. They just made some key plays at the end and came out on top, so hats off to them.”
"If you look across the board, Wes made amazing plays all year long and even yesterday he did," Ihedigbo continued. "As a team, guys made numerous plays for us to even be in the position we were in last night. So you wear it as a team. You win and you lose as a team and we lost to a good football team.”
Ihedigbo, who started 12 of the Patriots 16 regular season games this year, admitted that the plane ride to Boston was a tough one, especially knowing that it was likely the last time he'd get to see some of the members of this year's team.
“It was very difficult ride," he said. "It’s the National Football League. The group of guys that were on that plane, it’s rare that all those guys are going to be back. We were a very special group, we worked hard. We’re a family, and we played like that, so it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Asked if he thought this team could get back to the Super Bowl next season, Ihedigbo who hails from Northampton, Mass., had this to say:
“Yeah, I think [we're] only going to get better. That’s what should be expected, you know, is this team being back in the Super Bowl. God willing we can get back, but [this loss] makes us have that hunger and desire to get back and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Boston.”
His comments, as provided by the team's media relations staff:
"I want to take this opportunity just to say, first of all, thank you to all the media here who have done such a great job covering us all year and also to the fans. When we dedicated this season to my sweetheart, I met with the players and coaches and asked them to do everything they could do to make this season special in her honor. The fact that we had I believe it was 18 undrafted free agents and we’re changing the team and we started out 5-3. I think our fans were just terrific the way they stayed with us.
I must tell you that the strength of spirit that I saw with this team is unlike any other team I’ve seen in my 18 years in the NFL. I think that that sense of spirit was ignited by our fans – the way they supported our team and also the way they supported our family. That’s something I’m forever going to be grateful for because I think this was a memorable season and one that I won’t forget for a long time. You have a six percent chance of going to the Super Bowl and three percent chance of winning. I think the coaching staff and players really did a remarkable job this year.
I’ve thought back – this is our 18th year of owning the team. In those 18 years, we’ve had two seasons that were losing seasons – in 1995, when we went 6-10 and in 2000, when we went 5-11. The next 16 years we were able to have winning seasons. We went to seven AFC Championship Games and six Super Bowls. I think what’s happened is, we have set a level of expectation here that is high. I’ve very happy with that and it’s the way we run all of our businesses.
I’m actually very excited about the core group of players we have on this team, about the young players that have come in. I’m also excited that we have two [first-round draft picks] and two [second-round draft picks] in this upcoming draft. I really want to say to those fans who supported us all year and who came out even now, even though we arrived early, it’s just unbelievable to me. I’ve felt it all week. It’s the first time I’ve ever spent eight days in Indianapolis and there were a lot of wonderful Patriot fans there and they have continued to support our team and our family. We’re not going to change the way we run things.
Look, we’re all disappointed in what happened. The beauty of the NFL and the reason, I can say this as Chair of the Broadcast Committee, the reason that the networks pay us the large fees that they do is that no one knows what is going to happen in a game – head coach, quarterback, owner, D-linemen – no one knows. It’s two or three plays that make the difference; that makes the game so exciting. I’m very proud of this team and what they accomplished this year. I will forever remember the special effort that the fans have given and the support they have given to my family and to this team. I thank you all for the coverage. Most of you had to travel back I guess pretty late to get here, so thank you.
A small group of fans met the team buses, which Belichick noted.
"It was great to see our fans out there that were here to be here when the buses pulled up. It says a lot about those people and the fan base we have here. It’s much, much appreciated by all of us," he said. "Otherwise, we’ll try to take a little time here, regroup, figure out some of things that we need to do and move forward. The Combine is in two and a half weeks. I’m sure there will be lot of things on the agenda between now and then so we’ll just take them as they come. For right now, we’re just kind of collecting our thoughts and we’ll figure it out in due course."
Over the last several weeks, Belichick frequently praised this team and the effort that he got from these players throughout the season. Despite yesterday's loss in Super Bowl XLVI, he did not waver on that today:
"Real proud of them. I thought they worked hard all year, they competed well all season. We won a lot of games and even the ones we didn’t win, we fought right to the end and played very competitively. We did that last night, just came up a little bit short," Belichick said.
"I have all the respect in the world for the team and all the players and what they’ve done for over six months. It’s not about one game or one play or anything, it’s the whole body of work. I really, really enjoyed coaching this team and have a lot of respect for them."
He was asked what he'll remember most about the season; from his response, the way New England righted the ship after back-to-back losses midway through the schedule made an impression.
"It’s hard to win games in this league so all the games that we won," he said. "I certainly remember all the ones that we didn’t. We made a lot of good plays over the course of the year. I don’t want to single anybody out or single out any one particular thing.
"I’ve talked about the Pittsburgh game. I thought that was a big step for us; to come back off those two losses against Pittsburgh and the Giants, to go down and beat New York in New York, beat the Jets, that was a big game for us where things might have started to go the other way but they didn’t. Then it was nine straight after that. The Denver games, those were both big games for us; didn’t go perfectly but in the end we got things straightened out out there and played well here in the playoffs. There are a lot of good memories this year."
Belichick also publicly acknowledged for the first time that Josh McDaniels was brought back to succeed Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator.
Patriots defensive back Antwaun Molden said Monday the team has learned from its loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl and will be ready to start again next season.
Asked if the team's mood was "down" on the return trip, Molden replied: "No, not really. I mean, you know, last night, it was pretty tough. But today is a new day, a brighter day, just move forward.
"There’s a taste in my mouth, it’s still there, and it’s not going to go away any time soon. So, I’m definitely looking forward to next year."
Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff
FOXBOROUGH – Despite last night’s devastating loss in the Super Bowl, more than 200 devoted fans erupted in cheers when the New England Patriots pulled into Gillette Stadium this afternoon on six team buses.
As players and coaches retrieved their baggage from the buses, fans could be heard shouting words of encouragement, including “Don’t worry, Welker, you did good,” A reference to wide receiver Wes Welker, who dropped a key pass late in the game.
A handful of players and coaches waved to the crowd, including Welker, head coach Bill Belichick, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was not seen coming off the buses.
Many of the fans wore team attire and had waited for the Pats for several hours, including Gabriel Pelletier, 42, of Lunenburg and his wife, Nancy, 40.
The couple arrived in the parking lot at about 9:30 this morning and said that they support the team no matter what.
“They’re the only team I know of that stick together as a team,” said Gabriel, who displayed the Patriots logo that he has tattooed on his right shoulder. “Belichick and Brady, they’re the best coach and quarterback [combination] ever.”
Nancy Pelletier wore a Patriots winter hat with long strings and was also bundled up in a Patriots blanket. She said that while the loss was difficult to take, her enthusiasm for the team was undiminished.
“They’ll try again next year,” she said. “We’ll be here rooting for them again.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- After a night's sleep later -- or perhaps no sleep at all -- Super Bowl XLVI MVP Eli Manning walked through some of the game's top moments, including the game's go-ahead touchdown that spurred the New York Giants to a 21-17 victory over the Patriots.
"Right as I broke the huddle, I kinda had a feeling under the circumstances they were gonna let us score," Manning said. "And it's a tough situation right there as you're thinking about what to do. I think you have to score a touchdown right there. That's the goal; that's the ultimate goal is to score a touchdown. As a quarterback, I have great confidence in Lawrence Tynes and kicking field goals. And obviously he's kicked game winners for us, but you just don't want to leave anything to chance in that situation. We could have kneeled it and run out the clock and kicked a field goal with 10 seconds left. But if we get a bad snap, or if they block it, or something fluky happens and you miss that field goal, you feel terrible. So in that situation, as I was handing the ball off [to Ahmad Bradshaw], I saw their defensive line was just standing up and not rushing.
"I was just yelling 'don't score, don't score,' " Manning continued. "Obviously he heard me, he thought about it. You know it's tough for a running back to see a big hole right there going for a touchdown. I think something almost had to pop in his head like something's up, this is little bit too good to be true. I'm yelling and he obviously heard me, and he thought about it kinda going down. But I think he didn't quite know what to do, but he got a touchdown and I'm glad he did."
On his 38-yard pass to Mario Manningham that put the Giants only yards away from field goal position, Manning said it was a "muscle" throw.
"I'm not good at ranking my throws. Obviously it's a Super Bowl and a tight throw. I didn't have any questions. I felt the safety was inside. I wasn't worried about whether it would be an interception or a dangerous throw of the ball when it was released. I saw a window and I felt confident about it. Didn't think much about it. Just saw where Mario was and I knew the timing. A lot of those throws are muscle movements. You don't think about how far to throw it or what to do. You see the receiver, you step up and make the throw. And hopefully you put it in a good spot where he can catch it and he made a great play."
After the game, Eli Manning spent some time with his brother Peyton.
"He was just proud of me," he said. "He was proud of the team. And a quarterback like Peyton is, he knows the game well, and he asks questions a lot of people want to ask. Like the touchdown to Victor Cruz. He asked if I saw the middle linebacker [Jerod Mayo] running out there and I didn't. He can see there and tell that it looked liked it was single high, some kind of jab to my right a little bit before running left and looking up Victor. You know, under center, they're bringing blitz, it is tough to see that. But luckily [Mayo] never looked back at me [as I] threw it right off his shoulder a little bit and Victor did a good job of concentrating and making the catch.
"And then he talked about the throw to Manningham. He was mad. He said everybody kept talking about what great a catch it was. He said it was a pretty good throw, also. So, it's the brother looking out for me."
An emotional Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker shares his feelings about dropping a ball on a pass he usually catches, and quarterback Tom Brady summarizes his thoughts on the game, and Welker.
INDIANAPOLIS – A somewhat stunning 21-17 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI closed the book on the Patriots’ 2011 season in disappointing fashion.
Let’s take a look back.
WHY DID THE PATRIOTS LOSE?
In my opinion, because the offense didn’t make enough plays. And the entire unit was to blame. From Tom Brady, to an offensive line that got leaky at the end, to a limited receiving corp, it just wasn’t enough. The offense put the defense in a 9-0 hole thanks to a safety, and then the defense held the Giants to two field goals until the final drive. The Patriots had a 17-6 lead and the offense was blanked for the final 26 minutes of the game. That’s not good enough.
- QB Tom Brady (left shoulder) never left the game, but it looked like that troublesome left shoulder was giving him problems. Wouldn’t be surprised if he needs off-season surgery.
- TE Rob Gronkowski (left ankle) played the entire game but was a non-factor. He couldn’t get off the line, which basically left the Patriots with Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead as weapons for Brady. That’s a little light.
- LG Logan Mankins (unknown) was slow to get up at one point. Not sure if it affected him the rest of the game or not.
THREE THINGS TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT
- Patriots came within a minute of winning the Super Bowl: As bad as the loss hurts and as long as it will linger, it was a heck of an accomplishment for the Patriots to make it to the Super Bowl and be so close to winning. That does mean something.
- Defense: Yes, the Patriots lost but I was wrong about the defense. That unit did its job in this game, holding the Giants to 15 points until the final minute – with nine coming on the safety and subsequent drive. The Patriots played very well against a potent offense. The defense did its job.
- The future: A strong core is there on this team. The entire offensive line will be back, along with Brady, the two rookie running backs, Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and a franchised Wes Welker. A couple of more pieces are needed. Defensively, a line of Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick and Myron Pryor has a lot of promise. Jerod Mayo and Brandon
FletcherSpikes anchor the linebackers, with Rob Ninkovich capable on the outside. In the secondary, the Patriots have a potential star in Patrick Chung, Kyle Arrington proved worthy, they need to figure out where Devin McCourty will play, and hopefully get Ras-I Dowling healthy. That’s a very solid core.
THREE THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT
- Offense throwing up goose egg late: Patriots had zero points in the final 26 minutes. That’s beyond disappointing for that group, and they need to find out why it happened.
- Line breaking down: The offensive line had a rough time at the worst time. It looked like 2007 all over again, right down to Logan Mankins having some struggles.
- Opposing good teams are making plays late: When the Patriots were winning Super Bowls, they were the closers. They got it done when it counted. In their four losses this season – the other team was making the plays at the end of the game, and not the Patriots (and you could almost count the Ravens since they blew their field goal). Is there something to be said about that, or is it just a fluky thing? Not really sure.
- QB Tom Brady: He played well for most of the game, but didn’t make the plays when he needed to. Still, the guy set a Super Bowl record with 16 straight completions. Puzzling he couldn’t get them over the hump. We’ll have to watch the film to see what happened.
- TE Aaron Hernandez: With Gronkowski limited, more weight of the offense fell on Hernandez’s shoulders. He did very well except for a big drop. He has a terrific future..
- DE Mark Anderson: Had 1.5 of the three sacks and another quarterback hit, in addition to five tackles. He wasn’t heard from much at the end of the game.
Giants running back Brandon Jacobs was asked after the Super Bowl what it means for the Giants to have derailed the Patriots in two straight Super Bowl meetings. His answer was a bit of salt in New England's open wound.
"We decapitated them. They can't wear that crown no more," Jacobs said during a television interview. "Can't wear that crown any more."
Jacobs was also asked about his confidence level when quarterback Eli Manning led the Giants onto the field for their final possession.
"We're going to win the football game, no question about it," Jacobs said. "Ten (Manning's jersey number) has been clutch for our football team from day one, and he always will be for the rest of his career. With Eli, and his talents, it's an honor to be on this football team with a quarterback like that."
The Patriots' defense took it lumps earlier this year -- particularly in the passing game -- but seemed to make strides as the season progressed.
Patrick Chung and Brandon Spikes got healthy and started hitting. Sterling Moore emerged as a cornerback with a knack for big plays. Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork were steady and sometimes spectacular.
For a time during Super Bowl 46, the Patriots' defense looked like it might be championship-caliber. After all the Giants had just 15 points through the first 58:56, nine came early, including Tom Brady's inexcusable safety and the ensuing momentum-charged drive.
But just as in Super Bowl 42, the Patriots' defense couldn't finish at the end.
Eli Manning led the Giants on a winning final drive that began with a 38-yard bomb to Mario Manningham, moving New York from its own 12 to midfield on a single play.
"He had both feet down,'' safety Patrick Chung said of Manningham's sideline acrobatics. "Good throw, good catch, man.''
Manningham had two more catches on the drive, Hakeem Nicks had two, and the Giants were so methodical in the drive that the Patriots let Ahmad Bradshaw score from 6 yards out with 1:04 remaining just so they'd have enough time on the clock to try to win the game.
"Yeah, we were trying to let them score,'' said Jerod Mayo, who had 11 tackles. "That was the smart play to make. Let them score, and hopefully give the offense the ball. It was situational football.''
Manning won his second Super Bowl MVP award, completing 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards and one touchdown. And once again, he trumped the Patriots defense with the game on the line.
"I still feel like defense wins championships,'' said linebacker Brandon Spikes, who like Mayo had 11 tackles. ''We had our chances. We were right where we wanted to be as a defensive unit. I just felt like I let the guys down myself. There were a few plays I could have made myself and I was just a step late. It just hurts right now. I can't really sum it up with words.''
There were some milestones and big moments for Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI.
He set an NFL record for postseason completions.
At one point, he had completed 20 of 23 passes, with the incompletions being two batted-down throws and a throwaway.
He completed 16 consecutive passes, breaking a single-game Super Bowl record set by his idol, Joe Montana.
Maybe some of that will matter to him someday. But that seems doubtful. Because for whatever went right Sunday night, the ultimate goal -- winning a fourth Lombardi Trophy, just like Montana -- was out of reach.
"We just didn't make enough plays,'' said Brady after the Patriots' 21-17 loss. In the first quarter, we didn't have the ball a ton. The second quarter, we played a little better. Third quarter, we started well and it came down to the fourth quarter. [The Giants] made some plays there at the end. We went out there to win the game. We just didn't make enough plays.
In his fifth Super Bowl, Brady completed 27 of 41 passes for 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
But his one interception was a bad one -- a deep pass to the determined but ailing Rob Gronkowski, who couldn't go up as high as usual and outmuscle the Giants' Chase Blackburn, who picked off the pass at the New York 8.
And he was also called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the Patriots' first play from scrimmage, giving the Giants a safety and a 2-0 lead. The two points proved significant.
"We just came up a little bit short,'' said Brady. "I think we had a couple of missed opportunities out there. Every guy in the locker room wishes he could have done a bit more and maybe the outcome would be a little bit different. It was a very hard fought game and we fought until the end. I'm very proud of that. I'd say we just came up a little short.''
Brady stuck up for Wes Welker, who dropped a key pass on the Patriots' penultimate drive and was taking it hard after the game.
"Welker went up to try to make [the catch], as he always does, and we just couldn't connect. He's a hell of a player. I'll keep throwing the ball to him for as long as I possibly can. He's a phenomenal player and I love that guy.''
There will be plenty of chatter about Brady's legacy this week. Had the Patriots won -- had that last-second Hail Mary not been just out of the reach of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez -- he'd have four titles and a case as the greatest quarterback of all time. He's still in that argument, of course, but he's also lost two Super Bowls to Eli Manning.
"I do hope we get back here again,'' Brady said. "I've been lucky enough to play in this game five times in 10 years. I'd love to keep coming back to this game and taking a shot. It's better than sitting home and not playing in this game, so I hope another opportunity comes.''
Brady lamented that the Patriots offense couldn't make that one pivotal play in the fourth quarter to tilt the game their way. Instead, it was Manning and the Giants scoring last and celebrating in front of the Patriots again, four years after they first did it.
"That is what it comes down to in football,'' Brady said. ''That's one lay. You look at our game four years ago, it was a miracle play that they made. Today we had the chance to make one of those and we couldn't come up with it. It always comes down to one or two plays in this game and if you make it, you're celebrating. If you don't, then you don't sleep for a week.''
INDIANAPOLIS -- Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski caught two passes for 26 yards Sunday in Super Bowl XLVI, just two weeks removed from a high ankle sprain he suffered in the AFC Championship.
Asked about his health, Gronkowski said "I was good. I was 100 percent out there doing everything they asked me to do."
Asked if he took a cortisone shot to help with any pain, he said no.
Despite his assurances, the Patriots' all-pro tight end was not his usually effective self and played limited snaps in the game, a 21-17 loss to the New York Giants. He was targeted three times by quarterback Tom Brady. On his third target, a jump ball that Brady floated 40 yards down field, Giants LB Chase Blackburn intercepted the pass in front of him.
"[Blackburn] just made a good play," Gronkowski said. "He boxed me out pretty well. He went up and got the ball. He made a pretty good play there."
On the final play of the game, a desperation Hail Mary, tight end Aaron Hernandez got a hand on the ball to tip it in his direction, but he couldn't pull it down.
"It was a jump ball play," he said. "Aaron did a good job of tipping the ball [and] deflecting it. We almost had it, but almost isn't enough.
"Our team has been through a lot," Gronkowski continued. "We all stick together. We were grinding all season long, we're all dedicated. Just to come up short, on the very last game, we didn't accomplish the goal. It's definitely hard. But we're a team, we stick together. We all dedicated ourselves. We've got to be proud of ourselves for getting this far, to the Super Bowl."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Wes Welker was targeted eight times by Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI. He caught seven passes.
But it's the one he didn't catch that will stay with him for a long time.
"It's one of those plays I've made a thousand times,'' he said somberly during a postgame press conference after the Giants' 21-17 victory. "Just didn't make it.''
The play he just didn't make occurred with the Patriots leading, 17-15, with 4:06 remaining, facing a second and 11 at the Giants 44.
Convert the first down, and there's a reasonable chance they'd be able to run out the clock since New York just one remaining timeout.
Brady dropped back, and threw to Welker down the numbers on the left side. The pass was slightly behind Welker, but catchable.
Instead, seeming to stumble slightly with his footwork, he dropped it.
"It hit me right in the hands,'' said Welker. "I mean, it's a play I never drop, I always make. Most critical situation and I let the team down.''
A third-and-11 pass to Deion Branch was batted away by Corey Webster, and the Patriots were forced to punt with 3:53 remaining.
A few minutes later and one touchdown of little resistance later, and the Giants had beaten the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.
Welker said the play was executed as designed, right up until he couldn't hold on to the pass.
"You're supposed to get at the numbers. It's usually inside edge of the numbers. Just trying to make an adjustment on the ball and it's a play I've got to bring in."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't do much talking after his Patriots lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17. He gave his respects to the Giants, but was markedly sullen.
"First of all, congratulations [to the] Giants," Belichick said. "Won a championship, they're a good football team and they're well coached. They obviously played well tonight. Very competitive football game, they just made a couple more plays then we did.
"By the way our guys played, fought, fought all year," Belichick continued. "Fought tonight, and we had our chances. Can't fault the effort of any of our players. They played as hard as they could, we could have just played a tiny bit better. It was obviously a very competitive football game."
Asked about the game's first score, a safety in which Tom Brady was pressured in his own end zone before throwing it to the middle of the field and being called for intentional grounding, Belichick turned terse.
"It's not my call."
Asked about what plays the team could have executed better, he said "There was 100 plays you could be talking about and I would take a lot of them [back]."
On one particularly bizarre play, the eventual game-winning touchdown the Patriots allowed Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw to score with 57 seconds left. Bradshaw appeared to stop at the 1-yard line, but with no Patriots around him, he rolled into the end zone practically untouched.
All Belichick could muster to say about it was "right." When pressed on his thoughts, he said "No. [The] ball was inside the 10-yard line, a 90 percent field goal conversion [in that territory."
Does he second guess himself after tonight's performance?
"Sure, could have done a better job in a lot things. There's a lot of plays out there."
INDIANAPOLIS -- On one last Hail Mary try, Tom Brady heaved it up for his two star tight ends in the end zone. Neither Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez, who both got a hand in the play, could come down with it.
The New York Giants beat the New England Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI, the second time the Giants beat the Patriots in the last four years in the NFL's title game.
Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw scored the go-ahead touchdown with 0:57 left in the game.
0:35 4th quarter: Giants 21, Patriots 17 -- Justin Tuck just sacked Tom Brady on third-and-10. The Patriots are facing fourth down with second remaining.
0:57 4th quarter: Giants 21, Patriots 17 -- Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for a 6-yard touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the game. The Patriots kept the Giants' D.J. Ware from getting in the end zone on the 2-point try.
Eli Manning completed five passes on the drive. It's crunch time for Tom Brady and the Patriots.
2:00 4th quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 15 -- With time in consideration, and down and distance to consider (first-and-10 at the Patriots' 18), the Giants are in a prime position to win this game. Eli Manning has completed three passes in the last drive to get the Giants to this point, including a 38-yarder to Mario Manningham down the sideline that was upheld after a Bill Belichick review.
3:53 4th quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 15 -- Tom Brady couldn't connect with a wide open Wes Welker, thorwing behind him before Welker spun around only to drop it. Then on third down, he couldn't hit Deion Branch while he was still open to keep the drive alive. The Giants have the ball with a little less than four minutes remaining.
9:24 4th quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 15 -- The Patriots defense finally got off the field thanks to Sterling Moore. The Patriots CB broke up a pass to Mario Manningham on third-and-10 after a lengthy Giants drive that saw Eli Manning convert three other third downs.
9:35 4th quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 15 -- The Giants are driving and have now blown their second timeout since taking possession. They've faced three third downs on this drive and have converted on them all.
14:17 4th quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 15 -- After getting away from a sack, Tom Brady heaved the ball up for Rob Gronkowski 40 yards down the field and was intercepted by Chase Blackburn who was in coverage.
End of the 3d quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 15 -- We're headed into the final quarter of the NFL season. The Patriots are driving. Tom Brady connected with Deion Branch for an 11-yard pass and BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed up the gut for a seven-yard gain. They'll start in the fourth quarter on 2-and-3 at the Patriots 38-yard line.
0:35 3d quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 15 -- Lawrence Tynes kicked a 33-yard field goal, bringing the Giants within two points. Rob Ninkovich had a huge sack on Eli Manning on third down to force the kick. Ninkovich was one of only three Patriots rushing Manning on the play, as the rest dropped back into coverage.
5:57 3d quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 12 -- Justin Tuck sacked Tom Brady on third down to force a Patriots punt and a three and out.
Brady's streak of completions ended at 16, tying his own postseason record and setting a new Super Bowl record.
6:43 3d quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 12 -- Lawrence Tynes booted a 38-yard field goal as the Patriots' secondary came up with two big plays to hold the Giants.
Patrick Chung delivered a crushing hit to Hakeem Nicks to break up a pass and on the following play Sterling Moore smothered Giants receiver Mario Manningham before he could gain any extra yardage on third down.
11:20 3d quarter: Patriots 17, Giants 9 -- Tom Brady hit Aaron Hernandez for a 12-yard touchdown as the tight end bounced off two Giants defenders before ending up in the end zone upright.
Brady got things going with a 21-yard pass to Chad Ochocinco to open up the second half. Then BenJarvus Green-Ellis busted off a 16-yard run. Wes Welker caught two passes on the drive, including an eight-yard reception that set up Hernandez's touchdown.
15:00 3d quarter: Patriots 10, Giants 9 -- The third quarter is underway with the Giants kicking off to the Patriots.
Halftime: Patriots 10, Giants 9 -- Tom Brady is 15 of 18 for 147 yards and a touchdown at half. He got off to a rocky start, getting flagged for intentional grounding while standing in the end zone, resulting in a safety. But he bounced back, particularly in the second half. He completed 11 passes in the final drive of the first half, including a 4-yard touchdown to Danny Woodhead.
Eli Manning has done his best to put the Giants ahead. He completed his first nine passes, an NFL record, and threw a 2-yard touchdown to UMass alumnus Victor Cruz. Ahmad Bradshaw has been steady for the Giants with 44 yards on nine carries.
End of the 2d quarter: Patriots 10, Giants 9 -- Tom Brady connected with Danny Woodhead for a 4-yard touchdown pass across the middle of the end zone after a rocky 96-yard drive over 14 plays with 8 seconds left in the half.
The drive tied for the longest in Super Bowl history. In completing 11 passes on the drive, Brady passed Brett Favre for most postseason completions in NFL history. Favre had 482 for his record.
2:00 2d quarter: Giants 9, Patriots 3 -- Rob Gronkowski has finally gotten on the board. He registered a 20-yard catch before the two-minute warning, a sign that he's more than a decoy in today's game. He had played in limited snaps up until this drive where he has taken part in the team's hurry up offense.
4:03 2d quarter: Giants 9, Patriots 3 -- Sterling Moore broke up a pass to Mario Manningham on third and 10 to force the Giants to punt.
The Patriots were helped on the drive by a holding call on OL Kevin Boothe that if not caught would have resulted in a first down on a run by Brandon Jacobs.
8:50 2d quarter: Giants 9, Patriots 3 -- Jason Pierre-Paul batted down another Tom Brady pass and a throw to Wes Welker was just shy of a first down as the Patriots went three and out.
Giants tight end Travis Beckum, who was injured on the Giants' previous drive, has a torn ACL and is out for the game.
10:20 2d quarter: Giants 9, Patriots 3 -- The Giants were whistled for 12 men in the huddle and Patrick Chung broke up a pass to Hakeem Nicks, forcing the Giants to punt and giving the Patriots a chance to tie or take the lead in the game.
Eli Manning had another huge throw on the drive though, completing a 17-yard pass to Nicks.
13:48 2d quarter: Giants 9, Patriots 3 -- Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 29-yard field goal as the Patriots couldn't punch it into the end zone after a 9-play drive.
Tom Brady's pass on third down at the 11-yard line was deflected by the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul.
It should be noted that Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski has played a very limited role in the game.
End of the 1st quarter: Giants 9, Patriots 0 -- The Patriots are just warming now as the game heads into the second quarter. A 15-yard pass from Tom Brady to Deion Branch and a 19-yard pass to Wes Welker has got the Patriots into the red zone.
3:24 1st quarter: Giants 9, Patriots 0 -- Two uncharacteristic mistakes by the Patriots have led to an early Giants lead. Giants QB Eli Manning hit WR Victor Cruz on slant for a 2-yard touchdown, as New York capitalized on a Tom Brady intentional grounding that resulted in a safety.
The Patriots appeared to hold the Giants in the red zone with CB Sterling Moore stripping receiver Hakeem Nicks on third down. But the Patriots were flagged for 12 men on the field, resulting in a first down at the Patriots' six-yard line for the Giants. Two plays later, Cruz was salsa dancing in the end zone. Patriots LB Jerod Mayo, who was in coverage on the play, didn't see as Manning's pass went behind his head to Cruz.
8:52 1st quarter: Giants 2, Patriots 0 -- Tom Brady dropped back on a play-action pass on the Patriots' first possession, and before getting hit in the pocket in the end zone, he fired the ball down field to no one in particular. He was called for intentional grounding, thus resulting in a safety for the Giants. The Giants will now receive a Patriots punt.
9:14 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- Mark Anderson sacked Eli Manning on third down and Brandon Deaderick added a sack on first down as the Patriots slowed down a steady attack from the Giants on their first drive of Super Bowl XLVI. Manning connected with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to convert on two third downs for the Giants. After a Giants punt, the Patriots take over at their own 6-yard line.
15:00 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- The Patriots won the toss. They deferred and the Giants will receive to open the game. Game on!
Is all the hoopla over yet? Not quite. But it will be in the next 20 minutes or so. We'll have kickoff and then updates right here like we have had all year.
You can also take part in our fan chat at the Fan Zone on Boston.com and see all of the photos from Globe Staff and the wires right here.
Enjoy the game. And thanks for following along all year, right here.
-- Zuri Berry, Globe Staff
All season long, Alen Dumonjic, an x's and o's football junkie who blogs for The Score, has given us his analysis before each game. Here is his final installment.
BREAKING DOWN THE GIANTS' OFFENSE
The Patriots are in the Super Bowl once again and against a familiar foe: the New York Giants. The last time these two teams faced each other was in Week 9, when the Giants defeated the Patriots in the final minutes of the game, but it’s a different ballgame this time around because the teams are not the same as they were in the last meeting, especially the Giants.
The Giants were without running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. The absences were significant; especially the latter. Nicks significantly affects the way the Giants passed the ball. New York relied heavily on horizontal as well as vertical (at times) stretches that created Hi-Lo -- pass catchers running similar routes at different depths in same area of field -- reads for quarterback Eli Manning.
They were unable to effectively attack the Patriots defense with the deep ball until a couple of plays in the second half, when tight end Jake Ballard ran a route into the middle of the field known as seam-read from Hitch-Seam concept. This is an option route that has Ballard reading the middle of the field and the deep safety or safeties. If there is a single safety, he continues to run vertical while running a post into the middle of the field when there are two deep safeties.
These vertical concepts run by the Giants are much more effective with Nicks in the fold because he draws coverage in his direction. Defensive coordinators have rolled coverage in his direction in the past, which has freed up the other receiving threats underneath or in Ballard’s case, the deep middle. Nicks has the ability to go up and catch the ball at its highest peak as well as pick up yards after contact because of his physicality after the catch. The Giants will often look to throw deep passes, as they did in the regular season with success.
Moreover, New York’s personnel packages mainly consisted of 11, one back and one tight end, and 12 personnel, which features a single back and two tight ends. However, the second tight end, Bear Pascoe, lined up mainly in the backfield in either a traditional fullback alignment or offset to a side, thus serving as an “H-Back“. Their running game, as usual, consisted of multiple concepts that include Lead, Power, Draw, Toss and Inside Trap.
BREAKING DOWN THE GIANTS' DEFENSE
Moving to the defensive side of the ball, the New York Giants defense once again is very impressive despite injuries they suffered early which looked like it could derail their season. The defense is led by their Big Nickel -- three safeties -- package (more on that later) and the fierce front four defenders, which includes strip-sack master Osi Umenyiora, versatile Justin Tuck and a dominant Jason Pierre-Paul.
New York is heavily reliant on their front four to generate a pass rush, rushing them an astounding 82 percent of the time. This is a very impressive statistic, especially considering the fact that they generate a significant amount of pressure on signal callers, generating 15 sacks, which is most among playoff teams.
When they don’t sack the quarterback, they are still often getting to them with pressure that forces the signal callers to get the ball out of their hands quickly. This is important to note because when a quarterback is forced to get rid of the ball quickly, it leads to mistakes or passes to the outlet receivers, which usually don’t get the yardage required to move the chains.
The Giants can get creative with their fronts, occasionally playing three defensive ends in a three-man front as well as in a four-man front. The three-man front was utilized in the last meeting between the two teams, when the Giants slid defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul into a 1-technique (across centers shoulder) nose tackle.
In the four-man front, which his popularly called the “NASCAR package”, the Giants usually slide Pierre-Paul inside to defensive tackle (while other times, Tuck), is also very effective by getting to the quarterback every 8.5 dropbacks.
Pierre-Paul’s versatility is an integral part of the Giants defensive packages because he is able to play various techniques across the defensive line, such as the aforementioned 1-technique (outside shoulder of center), 3-technique (outside shoulder of guard) as well as a shaded 4-technique (inside shoulder of offensive tackle). The shaded 4-technique is one that should be paid special attention because it puts the offensive tackle in conflict by potentially forcing him to account for Pierre-Paul as well as the defensive end in a 5-technique (outside shoulder of tackle) if the guard is occupied by another rusher in the interior.
These various techniques are also important because it allows the Giants defense to play “games”. Games are stunt and twist packages that are put into place to confuse pass protections post-snap.
One of the biggest questions going into this game is, how will the Giants defend the Patriots tight end duo?
If Week 9 is any indication, they will base their keys off of the Patriots tight ends. The Giants set their defense based off of the alignment of the two tight ends by shifting their defensive line in the direction of the tight ends as well as dropping a safety into the box as an extra defender out of their Big Nickel package. By doing this, the Giants accounted for the run play as well as any pass plays by playing tight coverage against the Patriots pass catchers.
In pass defense, the defense played several coverages in Week 9, such as Cover 1 Robber and Cover 3. Although more coverages were played by the Giants, these two were mainly used because they are administered out of 1-high safety shells that allowed the defense to get an extra defender in the box.
Cover 1 Robber is combination coverage that has the cornerbacks play in man coverage while two safeties (or a safety and a linebacker) play zone coverage in the intermediate to deep depths of the field. This coverage was put into place in the gameplan so the defense could “rob” any underneath routes and look to force a turnover.
While Cover 1 Robber is a combination coverage, Cover 3 is a pure zone coverage that has four underneath defenders and three deep ones splitting the field into thirds (hence the 3). There are many variations of Cover 3 but the one that the Giants turned to is known as Cover 3 “Sky”. The word Sky describes the flat defender in Cover 3, which is the Safety in this variation.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
- Pascoe in Motion - TE Bear Pascoe is not the first guy that comes to mind when talking about the Giants offense, but he’s a factor when it comes to identifying tendencies. When Pascoe is in motion, whether it be from a Trips Bunch set to the backfield or offset to offset, it is often a run play. At times, the Giants will keep defenses honest by calling play action, but a lot of the snaps are run calls when he’s in motion.
- Giants Extra Pass Defenders - While the Giants heavily rely on the four man pass rush, they will also only rush three and drop a defensive end in coverage underneath to disrupt the passing lane of Tom Brady. They've done this before, with the versatile Jason Pierre-Paul dropping underneath with his 81” wingspan.
- Patriots DBs vs. Giants WRs - How will the Patriots match up with the Giants pass catchers? The Giants like to work the middle of the field with Nicks and Cruz running Dig (15 yards) routes and deep Shallow crosses (18-22 yards) and then take their deep shots. The Patriots will likely look to bracket Cruz because he’s the most deadly working out of the slot.
- TE Jake Ballard in the Seam - Ballard is not the most athletic nor quick tight end but he does a good job of separating from pass defenders horizontally and getting open vertically. He will get his chance to work in the seam and could prove to be a big factor if he’s matched up against linebacker Brandon Spikes, who is stiff in the hips and ankles.
- S Antrel Rolle in Coverage - Rolle has talked a big game all season but hasn’t played one, getting beaten numerous times in coverage because of his stiff hips. He struggles to change directions and can also be undisciplined at times. The Patriots are known for taking advantage of defensive weak links and I expect them to do the same in this game.
- Giants LBs vs. Patriots HBs & TEs - The Giants did not hesitate to match up in man coverage against the Patriots, especially against the tailbacks and tight ends. If they do the same, the Patriots will likely turn to receiver Wes Welker and tight end Aaron Hernandez to move around the formation, specifically in the backfield. This could prove to be a matchup advantage for the Patriots because linebackers Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka lack foot speed and lateral agility to run with the Patriots skill players.
- No Huddle - New England has had success with the no huddle, up-tempo offense against defenses and did not use it much in the last meeting. When they did, they had some success and it's something that they will look to do again in an effort to run the ball.
- NT Vince Wilfork vs. Giants Interior OL - Wilfork has flat out been dominant in the playoffs and he could be problematic for the Giants interior offensive line that has issues with pad level and technique. They don’t always get their hands up quick enough, thus losing the leverage battle. Wilfork is very sound in his technique and its something that could be a big factor in this game.
- Patriots OL vs. Giants DL - This one is obvious but had to be put on here because of the importance of the matchup. The Giants NASCAR package is dominant and the Patriots will have their work cut out for them.
- Giants CBs vs. Patriots WRs - The Giants cornerbacks were physical at the line at times in Week 9, playing press man coverage and disrupting the rhythm of the passing game. Will they look to do it again? It would not surprise me if they did.
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Thanks to Alen for all his help this season. Make sure you say hit to him and ollow Alen on Twitter at @Dumonjic_Alen.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Giants have announced their inactive players for Super Bowl XLVI and former Boston College standout as well as noted cancer survivor Mark Herzlich was among the players listed.
Also inactive for the Giants today is WR Ramses Barden, RB Da'Rel Scott, OL Jim Cordle, DE Justin Trattou, DT Jimmy Kennedy and OL James Brewer.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Running back Kevin Faulk highlights the list of Patriots inactive players for Super Bowl XLVI.
Faulk, the 13-year pro who started the year on the physically unable to perform list, returned in Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was the most action he saw the entire year, playing out the season in a reserve role behind rookie running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in addition to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. He finished the regular season with 17 carries for 57 yards.
Vereen is also inactive for the Super Bowl. Ridley, who was inactive for the AFC Championship, will presumably back up Green-Ellis and Woodhead.
The other inactives for today's big game include QB Ryan Mallett, LB Gary Guyton, OL Donald Thomas, OL Nick McDonald and DL Ron Brace.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Good afternoon from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. We're just getting settled here in the stadium at the auxiliary press box, Section 632. You can see the view from the Globe table above.
We'll have updates right here throughout the day. Stay tuned.
INDIANAPOLIS -- With legacies on the line in Indianapolis, it's fitting that two teams with so much history, both this season and in the Super Bowl, face each other in the culmination of the 2011-12 season and playoffs.
Tom Brady can join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as only the third quarterback in NFL history to win four Super Bowls if he can lead his New England Patriots to a win over the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium today.
Brady, who has 16 career postseason wins, would also pass Montana for most wins in the playoffs if he wins today.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who is tied with his brother Peyton Manning for NFL titles, can one-up his big brother with a win today, doing so on Peyton's home field.But, even more important, this game gives Brady a chance to right what was wronged in February 2008, and Eli Manning a chance to solidify the serendipity that occurred in the desert that year.
Four years ago, at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Giants robbed the Patriots of a perfect 19-0 record, stealing the team's glory after a sensational 2007 season.
Every New Englander knows how it ended. Eli Manning miraculously escaped the Patriots' pass rush. David Tyree's supernatural helmet grab. Plaxico Burress in the corner of the end zone. The final score, 17-14.
Four years later, while the teams are the same, only some of the players remain. Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick are back. Eli Manning and coach Tom Coughlin are back. And that qualifies this as a "revenge game," a theme that has had its drum beat loudly in the buildup to the 46th Super Bowl.
The Patriots are on a 10-game winning streak to get here, besting the Denver Broncos (45-10) and the Baltimore Ravens ( 23-20) in the divisional playoffs and AFC championship to reach the NFL title game. The last time the Patriots lost this season was to the Giants, 24-20, in Week 9 of the regular season. Brady threw for 342 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in that game, leading the Patriots on a fourth quarter drive that ended with a touchdown pass to TE Rob Gronkowski with 1:40 left in the game. But it was too much time for Manning to work with, and he drove 80 yards down the field in eight plays before hitting tight end Jake Ballard with a 1-yard strike to win the game.
The game eerily resembled Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots' 17-14 loss in Phoenix.
The Patriots are 3-3 in Super Bowls; the Giants are 3-1.
The Giants are on a five-game winning streak, beating the Atlanta Falcons (24-2), Green Bay Packers (37-20) and the San Francisco 49ers (20-17) in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. They finished the regular season 9-7, making them the third team since the introduction of the 16-game regular season to make the Super Bowl after losing seven games.
New York is 3-0 in Super Bowls against teams they faced in the regular season.
Kickoff: 6:29 p.m.
Records: Patriots 15-3 (AFC champions, home); Giants 12-7 (NFC champions, visitor).
TV/Radio info: NBC, WHDH-TV Channel 7 in Boston (Al Michaels, Cris Collinswoth, Michele Tafoya); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti, Scott Zolak); Westwood One Radio Sports (Kevin Harlan, Boomer Esiason, James Lofton, Mark Malone).
Based on information distributed to the media, injuries and the immediate past game's lineups for each team.
Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Matt Light, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Connolly, RG Brian Waters, RT Nate Solder, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Deion Branch, QB Tom Brady, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, TE Aaron Hernandez.
Patriots defense: LDE Vince Wilfork, DT Brandon Deaderick, DT Kyle Love, RDE Mark Anderson, LB Ron Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S James Ihedigbo, S Patrick Chung.
Giants offense: WR Victor Cruz, LT David Diehl, LG Kevin Boothe, C David Baas, RG Chris Snee, RT Kareem McKenzie, TE Jake Ballard, WR Hakeem Nicks, QB Eli Manning, FB Bear Pascoe, RB Ahmad Bradshaw.
Giants defense: LE Justin Tuck, DT Linval Joseph, DT Chris Canty, RE Osi Umenyiora, OLB Mathias Kiwanuka, MLB CHase Blackburn, OLB Michael Boley, CB Corey Webster, CB Aaron Ross, SS Kenny Phillips, FS Antrel Rolle
Guessing game on Rob Gronkowski's ankle: Officially listed as questionable for today's game, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski practiced for the second portion of Thursday's practice with the Patriots, and then joined the team on Friday for its walkthrough. The Patriots did not practice on Saturday. After suffering a high ankle sprain against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship two weeks ago, he's been taking it "day to day" in his rehabilitation. It's anyone's guess as to how effective he might be with the ankle injury. Against the Ravens, he managed to come back to the game despite the injury.
End of the trash talk?: All the chirping will come to an end at 6:29 p.m. The Giants have responded to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's gentle remarks about hoping for a bigger party than the team's sendoff last Sunday with gradually more bold boasts of their own. Giants DT Chris Canty said on Wednesday fans should "get ready for a parade on Tuesday." On the eve of the Super Bowl, the Giants' official website was hawking Giants Super Bowl championship gear. There appears to be enough bulletin board material for both sides, depending on how you spin it.
Columnists Chris Gasper and Chad Finn teamed up for a pregame chat session today at 3 p.m. live from Lucas Oil Stadium, where of course the Patriots will take on the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Click the replay button below to read the transcript.
And don't forget, we'll have a fan chat session at 5:30 p.m. hosted by Obnoxious Boston Fan on our special Super Bowl Fan Zone page. Watch for the link to Fan Zone on the Boston.com homepage and sports page today.
Head over to our reader predictions page to see which way the wind is blowing when it comes to picking a winner, and then submit yours.
We'll also have a gallery of predictions from experts and celebrities later this morning.
For now, here are a few choices to help you make your decisions:
INDIANAPOLIS -- Just 23 hours before Super Bowl XLVI's kickoff, the Patriots released receiver Tiquan Underwood and signed defensive end Alex Silvestro to the 53-man roster.
Silvestro was signed as a rookie free agent out of Rutgers who spent time on the Patriots' practice squad and the 53-man roster throughout the year. He played one game, making two tackles in a December 24 victory over Miami.
Underwood played in five games for the Patriots this year, with three catches for 30 yards. He was signed and released twice. Underwood and Silvestro were teammates at Rutgers.
His release could be an indication that Chad Ochocinco, who was inactive in the AFC Championship game, will be active Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS -- There are few things the Patriots and Jets agree upon, but one for certain is that Curtis Martin belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Today, the fans of AFC East rivals celebrate in unison. Martin, the stylish running back who spent the first three seasons of his career before Bill Parcells brought him to the Jets, is among a six-person class elected to the Hall of Fame.
The others elected as the 2012 class are Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, and Willie Roaf.
"It hasn't been that nerve-wracking,'' said Martin, the NFL's all-time fourth-leading rusher who was elected in his second year of eligibility. "I was one of those guys who didn't get excited for a game until I was walking through the tunnel. But I will say that when I turned [the NFL Network's election show on], as I tweeted, I felt like I was watching a scary movie. I started to feel nervous. And the way I feel about it is, I'm grateful. Grateful for all the players that I played with and coaches who coached me my entire career."
Coincidentally, Parcells, who drafted Martin in the third round in 1995, was not elected.
The former Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys coach was eliminated in the cut down to the five finalists, all of whom will be enshrined along with seniors committee nominee Butler this summer in Canton, Ohio.
"The bittersweet part is Parcells,'' said Martin, who indicated he would ask his former coach and self-described mentor to be his presenter at the induction ceremony. "I think that without him, my career would have been 30 percent of what it was. He helped me be a professional, to be a professional athlete, but he also had a lot to do with teaching me how to be a man.''
Martin played just three seasons for the Patriots before Parcells, who had moved on to the Jets after a tumultuous departure from New England following the 1996 season. But he ran for more than 1,000 yards in each of those seasons, including 1,497 as a rookie, and scored 14 touchdowns, a number he matched in his second season. He ranks fourth in Patriots history in attempts (958), fourth in yards (3,799), and he's tied with Tony Collins for fifth in touchdowns (32).
But in Patriots' lore, ol' No. 28 is the one who got away. Parcells brought him to the Jets with a poison-pill laden contract that would have burdened the Patriots to match. It was reported at the time that the Patriots had questions about his durability -- he was plagued by a stomach injury in '97 and missed the postseason.
Instead, Martin went on to become one of the most durable great running backs in league history, never missing a game from 1999-2004. He ran for 1,000 yards or more in each of his first 10 seasons -- an accomplishment matched only by Barry Sanders -- and he finished his 11-year career with 14,101 yards and 90 rushing touchdowns.
His election, of course, reminds Patriots fans of his first game in New England. After he ran for 102 yards on 19 carries and scored the winning touchdown in his NFL debut during the Patriots' 17-14 victory over the Bill Belichick-coached Cleveland Browns to open the '95 season, Martin was surrounded by reporters after the game when Parcells walked by. Looking at the scene, the coach now famously said, "Don't go putting him in Canton just yet, fellas.''
Today, the day arrived. The irony is that Parcells won't be joining him, just yet.
Here's the practice report for the Patriots today written by pool reporter Tom Curran:
INDIANAPOLIS - Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were the last Patriots to walk off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday afternoon after a 90-minute outing with friends and family that included official team Super Bowl photos.
From just past noon until 1:30 p.m., Patriots players, coaches and staff mingled with family and posed for picture after picture as the clock ticked down to Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants.
Brady and Belichick will be trying Sunday to win their fourth Super Bowl in five appearances.
Leaving their team hotel on the campus of IUPUI at 11:45 a.m., the Patriots traveled through a raw drizzle in a 10-bus caravan.
Asked how many friends and family made the trip to Lucas Oil, Patriots Vice President of Media Relations Stacey James smiled and said, "All of them."
Given the light atmosphere, it was no surprise to see a relaxed, happy group of players.
"It really is (good to see the players enjoy the day)," said Belichick. "These guys have worked hard, they've earned this trip. We know we're here for a job but it's also a fun thing to be part of this game so it's fun to be seeing them enjoying it. This is what we all work for. To be here. You want to be here, you want to enjoy it, there's a job to do but you want to be able to enjoy the trip."
All official team photos were done by 12:30 p.m.
Seventy Patriots players - including all practice squad players and those who'd landed on injured reserve during the year - were in the final team photo taken before position group photos were taken.
Julian Edelman, who played 25 snaps on offense and 25 on defense in the AFC Championship Game, posed with both the wide receivers and defensive backs.
Belichick, wearing tan khakis and a navy blue hooded sweatshirt with three-quarter length sleeves and a Super Bowl XLVI logo on the right sleeve, knelt in the front row of a photo taken of the Patriots coaches.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski showed no trace of a limp for the 75 minutes he was on the field posing first for team photos and then with assorted waves of teammates' family members. Gronkowski, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens, walked briskly from the field and up the tunnel headed for the buses outside. He was listed as "questionable" on Friday's injury report.
"I think he's doing better," Belichick said before the team went on the field to begin the session. "I think he's doing a little better each day. We'll just have to see where things (are) and get through tomorrow."
The Patriots will spend Saturday night at their team hotel on the campus of IUPUI on the edge of downtown Indianapolis. Belichick said there were no stragglers that missed the team's Friday night curfew.
After the stadium session, the team returned to its hotel. The Patriots will have a team meeting in-between lunch and dinner. There will be a curfew Saturday night as well. The time was undisclosed.
Belichick said his teams have often treated Super Bowl Saturdays like this when there's been a bye week between the Conference Championship and the Super Bowl. The exception was before Super Bowl 36 when there was no bye week before the Patriots played and beat the St. Louis Rams. Saturday was the 10-year anniversary of that shocking, 20-17 upset of the Rams.
Producers Steve Silva, Alan Miller, Darren Durlach, and Zuri Berry teamed up today to bring you live video from 98.5 The Sports Hub's Patriots fan party at the Broad Ripple Tavern in Indianapolis today. Watch the replay of their broadcast above. It features interviews with The Sports Hub's Scott Zolak, Andy Gresh and Tony Massarotti, as well as the Globe's Greg Bedard and Joe Sullivan.
INDIANAPOLIS - We'll be teaming up with the fellas at 98.5 The SportsHub for a Patriots Fan Takeover meet-up tomorrow at the Broad Ripple Tavern to discuss all things Patriots if you're interested.
There's no cover, nothing formal, just a chance to hang out and chat before the big game.
Here are the particulars:
What: Patriots Fan Takeover, a chance to have a few drinks and discuss the big game.
When: Saturday, 4-7 p.m.
Where: Broad Ripple Tavern, 745 Broad Ripple Ave., Indianapolis.
Who: Various 98.5 personalities, including Andy Gresh and Scott Zolak, myself and Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan.
Cost: Free to get in, after that you're on your own.
We'll also be covering part of the event as part of our Super Bowl live video series, so maybe some of the folks at home will see you on Boston.com. The live video stream begins at 4 p.m.
In addition, check out some of the fun menu items Broad Ripple Tavern has added special for the Patriots Fan Takeover bash.
WELKER WATER- Absolut Vodka, soda, sprite, lime. Hooters approved!
BOSTON TEA PARTY - Absolut Wild Tea and lemonade. Revolutionary!
BELICHICK - Captain and soda. What don’t you understand?
INDIANAPOLIS -- With a Super Bowl rematch between the Patriots and Giants, it was only a matter of time before we heard from Mr. Helmet Catch himself, David Tyree, one of biggest villains in New England sports history.
Tyree's miraculous headgear grab paved the way for the Giants to upset the Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII, four years ago. His cursed catch prevented the Patriots from lifting a fourth Lombardi Trophy and ruined a perfect season. Tyree, who never played another regular season or playoff game for the Giants after that one, is well aware of his painful place in local sports lore.
"I understand the bitter nature of it. I understand how passionate New England fans are about their sports, but at the same time I was happy to be the guy to win it for my hometown team," he said. "There got to be winners. There got to be spoilers. That was a moment that I don't try to take credit for. I know that was God really showing me favor. That's not going to happen again, at least not in that same fashion. I'm just honored to be a part of sports history."
Tyree said he took a picture with some Patriots fans who were in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI. He said he has nothing but love for Patriots fans, but he's not apologetic about his heartbreaking play.
"Y'all got enough championships to lord over for centuries, but I understand what it feels like to get that next one," he said. "We'll see. New York and New England are going to duel it out one more time."
Not surprisingly Tyree, who last played in the NFL in 2009 as part of the Ravens team that pounded the Patriots at home in the playoffs, is going with the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
"I'm all in Big Blue. I've been enjoying the wave of it all," Tyree said. "There have definitely been tremendous parallels from '07 to what they present in the 2011 team. I think the big difference-maker is that Eli Manning is now an elite quarterback. That's puts them in a different position offensively, and the defense is just as dangerous."
What? You expected him to pick the Patriots?
Who has the better head football coach? Who gets the next World Series win, the Red Sox or Yankees? CineSport's Noah Coslov asks the Boston Globe's Chris Gasper and the NY Times' Sam Borden.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Patriots had a one-hour walkthrough today at Colts headquarters as Super Bowl XLVI nears, with everybody participating and coach Bill Belichick telling the pool reporter, "I think we're ready to go."
According to reporter Alex Marvez, the Patriots concluded their preparations with the light workout, Belichick comparing it to a typical day-before-game routine. Since they arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday (one day before the Giants), the Patriots practiced on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, as well as last week in Foxborough.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski was on the field in sweats, sneakers, and a t-shirt, taking part in nothing more than light jogging. He returned to practice yesterday for the first time since injuring his ankle in the AFC Championship.
"We’ll see where he’s at on Sunday, but hopefully [he’ll play]," Belichick said. "I saw no setbacks. He’s still making progress.”
According to the team’s injury report, Gronkowski and 10 others were limited in their participation yesterday and are listed as questionable. The group includes offensive linemen Marcus Cannon (ankle), Logan Mankins (knee), and Sebastian Vollmer (foot/back/flu); linebackers Dane Fletcher (thumb), Rob Ninkovich (hip), Tracy White (abdomen), and Brandon Spikes (knee); receiver Wes Welker (knee); defensive lineman Kyle Love (ankle); and safety Patrick Chung (knee).
Receivers Deion Branch (knee) and Matthew Slater (shoulder), safety James Ihedigbo (shoulder), and offensive linemen Dan Connolly (groin) and Matt Light (flu) are probable.
In todays edition of Championship Today, Chris Gasper gives us his three keys to a Patriots win over the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
INDIANAPOLIS --- Indianapolis Mayor Gregory Ballard, whose fine city has been receiving plaudits from all precincts for the Hoosier Hospitality it has shown in hosting Super Bowl XLVI, visited the NFL Media Center today at the JW Marriott Hotel, the second-most dominant structure in the city's skyline next to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Mayor Ballard, whose city won the right to host the Super Bowl in 2008, said it was his hope Indianapolis could get into the NFL's rotation of Super Bowl sites, but that it wasn't likely to happen for another decade, given the considerable financial commitment it required from the local business community.
Ballard said he was reminded of the Super Bowl's outreach as a global event when in 2009 he was traveling to Indianapolis' sister city in Cologne, Germany. There, he said, he happened upon a Thai couple traveling through the country.
Ballard, whose wife is of Filipino descent, struck up a conversation with the Asian couple. When he introduced himself as the Mayor of Indianapolis, Ballard was dumbstruck when they replied, "Can you believe that [Bill] Belichick went for it on fourth and 2?''
"I mean, this was a Thai couple ... in Cologne, Germany,'' Ballard said, incredulously. "It's all you needed to know about the international outreach of our American game.''
Sports media columnist and Touching All the Bases blogger Chad Finn is in Indianapolis as part of the Globe team covering the festivities, and he'll be right here at noon to take all of your questions.
INDIANAPOLIS -- In his last press conference before Super Bowl XLVI, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin deflected any questions on his team's bravado, saying what his players had said were no different than what Tom Brady has said.
On Wednesday, Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty said Giants fans should "get ready for a parade on Tuesday." On Sunday, during the Patriots' sendoff, Tom Brady said "we're going down there, and we're going down there for one reason. We're going to give it our best and hopefully we have a lot more people at our party next weekend."
Coughlin wasn't deterred by the talk.
"I know that there's one or two quotes out there," Coughlin said. "But I think, to be honest with you, I don't know that any one of them is any different than Tom Brady's.
"I think it's just a matter of our team has played good football against great football teams. We always [tell] our teams, 'Humble enough to prepare, confident enough to perform.' "
The coach said he expects to have his full 53-man roster available for Sunday's game.
"Ahmad [Bradshaw] has practiced two days in a row so that tells you what kind of excitement is there," Coughlin said.
After the press conference, Coughlin posed with the Lombardi Trophy, as is customary for Super Bowl coaches.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Belichick met with the media for the last time before Sunday's Super Bowl this morning, and discussed tight end Rob Gronkowski practicing for the first time since his injury in the AFC Championship, making a case for former Patriots coach Bill Parcells's inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and planning for the game's longer halftime.
Gronkowski returned to the field yesterday and was able to practice in a limited capacity. His availability against the Giants has been one of the key story lines for the Patriots since his injury, but he ditched the protective boot he had been wearing on Tuesday, practiced yesterday, and, according to Belichick, appeared to be in good shape a day after the workout.
"I think he was OK this morning. I don't think we had any setbacks," Belichick said. "We'll see how it goes out there today. He's coming along, we'll just have to see where he gets to, but it's certainly moving in the right direction."
Parcells is one of 15 finalists for induction into the hall of fame, with the voting taking place tomorrow. Belichick, who spent many years on Parcells's staff with the Giants, Jets, and Patriots, said his former boss is Canton-worthy.
"Absolutely. Bill has done a tremendous job in his time in the National Football League," Belichick said. "Bill has had a great influence on my career and me personally. I can't imagine he'd be left out of that group."
Because of Madonna's musical performance during halftime, there will be a much longer break before the start of the third quarter. A typical halftime at an NFL game lasts 12 minutes; Sunday's is expected to push 30, so Belichick attempted to simulate that at Wednesday's practice.
"It gets into a whole restarting mentality, it's not like taking a break and coming out for the second half. It's like starting a game all over again. It's almost like a doubleheader in baseball," Belichick said. "That makes it a little bit different, so we had the players go through that process of restarting.
"I just felt it was beneficial for our team this year to actually go through that. Go out there and warm up, practice, take breaks, shut it down for a half hour, go into the locker room, simulate what a halftime would be in terms of corrections and adjustments, and restarting our bodies both mentally and physically. Just try to go through that process on a timeframe that was more like it's going to be this week than like it's been in any other game this season."
Belichick also said that the team will remain at the downtown hotel that has served as headquarters all week and won't go to a remote site the night before the game, and that the Patriots will take their official team photo tomorrow. A bench had been set up on the field during media day on Tuesday, but the Patriots were without Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer, both of whom were ill.
The interview session ended with a question about how tired Belichick feels as game day nears and if he's been able to get any sleep.
"I've slept like a baby," he said.
Today's the unofficial deadline for Super Bowl picks. The Globe staff has made its choices. Many national experts have weighed in. The weekend will be consumed with talk of who will win Super Bowl XLVI.
Here's a few more to add to the mix. In the video above, Alan Miller and Steve Silva caught up with a number of football insiders to get their picks, including former Colts coach Tony Dungy, Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Sports Illustrated's Peter King, Hall of Famer Joe Montana and Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
In Globe 10.0 today, Bob Ryan and Chad Finn make their predictions as well.
Just realized that one of my favorite sections of today's story on Patriots veteran offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was cut in the editing process. These things happen when you submit a 1,900-word story (yes, the submitted story was much longer) on deadline. But I wanted you guys to see it. It would have been in between the part about Dan Koppen being Scarnecchia's favorite, and the way his grandkids have softened him.
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(Trouble) might be the word used to describe Scarnecchia’s relationship with left tackle Matt Light for much of their 11 years together. Their screaming matches in the offensive line meeting rooms are legendary.
“Oh, man,” former lineman Damien Woody said. “He and Matt Light had a lot of yelling matches when I was there. And Matt was a young guy at the time but Matt was the type of guy who wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion or whatever. So he and Dante used to get into all the time.
“If he felt like Dante was jumping all on us for no reason, then Matt was like, ‘I’m going to let you know.’ And Dante, you can really get him going really quickly. Him and Matt, they would go at it a lot but at the end of the day, calmer heads would prevail and you just keep them moving. But they’ve had some combustible moments in the past.”
Mankins had a quick explanation for the blowups.
“They’re both just stubborn,” he said. “They would go round and round. Those two, they both always think they’re right and are not going to give in.”
But it seems like, during what could be the final Super Bowl run for both men, Scarnecchia and Light have given into the love.
“We have (had fights), there’s no doubt about it,” Scarnecchia said. “I think there was a point in time where he thought he probably thought he knew more than what he actually knew, which can be dangerous.
“I think that we are truly, the two of us, in a happy place. We really are. And honestly, I’m grateful for that. Very grateful.”
Was that some genuine public display of affection from Scarnecchia to one of his players?
“He’s all right,” Scarnecchia said, snapping back into form. “He’s no box of chocolates.”
At the Super Bowl, one pool reporter is allowed to watch the entire practice and then files a report on what happened during the session for all outlets to use. Here is today's report; the AFC pool reporter is FOXSports' Alex Marvez.
INDIANAPOLIS -- New England tight end Rob Gronkowski's return highlighted Thursday's Super Bowl XLVI practice at Indianapolis Colts headquarters.
Appearing in the second half of the nearly two-hour session, Gronkowski participated on a limited basis for the first time since suffering a sprained left ankle January 22 during New England's 23-20 AFC Championship game victory over Baltimore.
“He did some things. He didn’t do everything,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow. I think that will be the big key – how he responds to this today.”
Asked how encouraged he was by what Gronkowski did Thursday, Belichick said, “It was good. It was fine. We’ll see where he is tomorrow -- whether that set him back, whether it didn’t and whether he’s able to continue to progress on a daily basis. But it was a good test for him, too, at least. At least he was out here and did some things to see how it feels. We’ll see how it goes.”
Gronkowski enjoyed one of the most prolific seasons for a tight end in NFL history with 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Working in helmets and shells, the Patriots ran a gamut of offensive, defensive, and special-teams drills inside the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. Belichick said his players had "good energy. They worked hard."
Helping to set the tempo early was Patriots defensive line coach Pepper Johnson. A two-time super bowl winner as a New York Giants linebacker, Johnson screamed encouragement during the opening kickoff work and even tried to playfully tackle linebacker Tracy White after throwing an interception during a defensive line drill.
"Pepper's got a lot of energy," Belichick said with a smile.
On Wednesday, Belichick made the strategic move of taking a 30-minute break during the middle of practice to mimic the extended halftime coming for Sunday's matchup against the Giants.
"We were trying to simulate the best we can," Belichick said. "It's not perfect but it’s the best we could do. Practice, take a break, come back out and re-start.”
Belichick said Friday's practice would be "more review. Obviously, we don’t have much new going in. Just kind of making sure everything we have going in we’ve got right.”
Asked if he was doing anything different during practices than prior to New England’s previous four Super Bowl appearances under his guidance, Belichick said, “I think each one’s different. Each team is different and each preparation is a little bit different depending on what the needs are, your opponent, where your team is, how experienced they are and so forth. There are little tweaks here and there but it’s basically the same.”
Tight end Rob Gronkowski returned to practice today and was limited for New England; all signs still point to him playing in Super Bowl XLVI. With Gronkowski back on the field, that means the Patriots had all players present.
OL Marcus Cannon - ankle
S Patrick Chung - foot
LB Dane Fletcher - thumb
TE Rob Gronkowski - ankle
DT Kyle Love - ankle
G Logan Mankins - knee
LB Rob Ninkovich - hip
LB Brandon Spikes - knee
OT Sebastian Vollmer - flu/back/foot
WR Wes Welker - knee
LB Tracy White - abdomen
WR Deion Branch - knee
C Dan Connolly - groin
S James Ihedigbo - shoulder
OT Matt Light - flu
WR Matthew Slater - shoulder
Today's Boston vs. New York video debate features Shalise Manza Young of the Globe and Ben Shpigel of the New York Times debating three topics: 1.) Which defense would you rather have? 2.) Who is the defensive X factor in Super Bowl XLVI; and 3.) Which is the better sports town, Boston or New York?
Patriots players addressed the trash talk in typical New England fashion ... by not taking the bait.
Brady, who grew up in California, was a fan of Montana when he played for the San Francisco 49ers and won four Super Bowls.
Given Brady's success -- he's playing for his own fourth Super Bowl ring on Sunday -- Montana was asked to compare himself to Brady.
"It's hard to compare guys. He's a completely different style of player than I was. He's most of the time in the shotgun. I don't think I ever stepped foot ... well, I did once. they snapped the ball over my head and [ coach ] Bill [ Walsh ] said forget it, get under the center. He likes to be in the pocket. We all try to stay in the pocket but I didn't stay there if I didn't have to. Things got crazy. He doesn't like to move around and that's the key to the game this weekend. You have to make him move."
On the quarterbacks with four Super Bowl rings club:
"I don't know if there's a club. You guys make the club. Terry [ Bradshaw ] and I don't sit around talking about that, but I think it's great for him. He's had a great career. The thing with him is he's still got enough age on him that he can probably get back here another time or two. So it'll be fun to watch him."
Is Brady a Hall of Famer?
"Oh, yeah. Long before this. You've got guys who've done not anywhere near what he's accomplished and made it to the Hall of Fame so obviously he's well past that."
On the Brady/Belichick and Patriot dynasty if they win
"The thing I like about them is that they've been able to do it with different teams. Obviously there's a connection between him and Bill and that's probably the biggest key. When you have that connection with the quarterback, you can make things work with just about whoever you've got. It doesn't matter."
On Eli Manning
"He's in the same boat. He doesn't really have to. Everybody wants him to win another Super Bowl to have to prove something. I'm not sure why. Obviously the more you win the better you feel. He didn't come here to lose. I actually believe they've got the better team."
More on Montana and The Catch:
Montana will recreate The Catch, which happened 30 years ago when he completed a touchdown pass to Dwight Clark with under a minute left in the NFC Championship vs. the Cowboys to advance to the Super Bowl. The Catch will be celebrated at the Volkswagen Rolling Stone Rock N Roll fan tailgate party on Sunday and eight fans will have a chance to re-enact that catch with Montana and one person will go to the game with Montana.
This time, Osi Umenyiora showed up.
The day after being fined $20,000 for missing yesterday's mandatory media session, Umenyiora sat at a podium and explained that it was a scheduling mix up, that he thought he didn't have to attend the session, that despite the fact that every single one of his teammates made it, he managed not to.
"Honest mistake," Umenyiora said. "We had just went through the whole media day the day before so I wasn’t exactly sure that this was going to be mandatory. So I went to go hang out with my family.
"It was a mistake, a costly one, but a mistake nonetheless."
Umenyiora figured out that something was amiss when he returned to the team hotel at noon yesterday -- the same team hotel where the interview session was held -- for team meetings.
And while he wasn't happy to be opening up his wallet, the Giants defensive lineman said he understood why the fine was so hefty.
"It makes sense because the NFL’s a business," said Umenyiora, who had been in attendance on Media Day on Tuesday. "Players are the product and the fans are the customers. The only way we can reach them is through you guys, the media. We have to be responsible.
"If it was a $1,000 fine, most of the people, they’ll laugh at that. They won’t even come downstairs and talk. You make the fine substantial enough it’s going to make people want to show up."
INDIANAPOLIS -- In a week where party-planning and psuedo- guarantees pass for trash-talk, Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty added more to the pile when he told fans to get ready for a parade.
He was piggybacking on comments Tom Brady made Sunday that he hoped to see more people at the Patriots victory celebration than their were at their Super Bowl sendoff.
The Giants brushed off Brady's comments -- linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said he didn't even consider it trash talk -- and when it came to Canty, the Giants stood behind their teammate.
Defensive back Corey Webster boiled it down to common sense:
“He’s our teammate,” Webster said. “We’re going to back him up regardless. Everybody puts this on their schedule at the beginning of the season. The goal is to be in the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl. Nobody's showing up this weekend to lose the Super Bowl so everybody has every right to go out play hard and win.”
Safety Antrel Rolle guaranteed a Giants victory earlier in the week -- sort of -- saying "we're going to win this thing."
INDIANAPOLIS --- While Rob Gronkowski said today the decision to play in Super Bowl XLVI would ultimately be his, his fellow tight end, Aaron Hernandez, said he hoped to see Gronk line up against the Giants.
But if Gronkowski was unable to go, Hernandez didn't even want to fathom what kind of impact it would have on the Patriots' offense.
Gronkowski's 1,327 receiving yards established an NFL record for most by a tight end since Kellen Winslow had 1,290 in 1980. His 18 touchdowns (17 receiving, 1 rush) also set an NFL single-season record, easily surpassing the previous mark set (13) by San Francisco's Vernon Davis in 2009.
"Obviously, it would take a toll on our team, him not playing,'' Hernandez said of Gronkowski. "But we have a lot of great players on this team. That's the reason we're here today. Yeah, it would take away Yeah, it would take away a huge weapon and a big part of this game, but I feel like we have so many players on this team that everyone is smart enough and knows that it would be time to step up and carry that rifle on their shoulder.
"I think he’ll be fine and I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that.”
What kind of pressure would it put on Hernandez if Gronkowski was not able to go 100 percent?
"I’d say it puts pressure on everybody,'' Hernandez said. "If you come to a Super Bowl and you’re not thinking you got to step up your game in the first place, then you’re probably not ready to play.
" I feel like everyone is ready to step up and we’ll be prepared with or without Rob,'' Hernandez said. ``Obviously, it will be a tougher game without him.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady apologized this morning for his comment yesterday about Buffalo hotel accommodations.
Brady was responding to a question yesterday about the relationship he has with his father, Tom Brady Sr., and mentioned how supportive he's been, attending away games during Brady's college days at Michigan, and as a professional with the Patriots.
"Even when I started my pro career, he traveled to Buffalo. I don't know if you guys have ever been in the hotels in Buffalo, but they're not the nicest places in the world,” Brady said yesterday.
Asked today about the comment, Brady expressed remorse.
"I apologize for saying that," Brady said. "Buffalo was tough on us this year in Buffalo. I should have picked a non-NFL city for that [comment]."
On Wednesday, Giants defensive end Chris Canty told New York fans to "get ready for a parade on Tuesday."
Today, Patriots receiver Deion Branch was asked about Canty's boasts.
"We just don't do that over this way. There is no need for it. I promise you we're going to show up Sunday. We'll be there. Let's hope that they'll be there too, because we're going to be there," he said.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The condition of Rob Gronkowski's injured left ankle remains Topic A in the buildup to Super Bowl XLVI, but in the relentless onslaught of questions, the Patriots' All-Pro tight end continues to maintain his usual good nature.
He's even mixing in some comedy.
Arriving at this morning's Patriots media session at the University Place Conference Center, Gronkowski entered the room with an exaggerated limp (think a 6-foot-6-inch peg-legged pirate) before walking the last couple of steps normally while laughing at his own joke.
"Of course there is definitely frustration,'' said Gronkowski, who suffered a high ankle sprain when he was tackled awkwardly by the Ravens' Bernard Pollard in the AFC Championship game. "But I'm just worried about the things I can control. I've been getting healthier every day. I'm just listening to the coaches, doing the mental reps, and studying film on the Giants. You keep doing what you can do to improve every day.''
Gronkowski said he is improving -- ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that he is expected to have limited participation in practice today -- and also revealed some details about the process in getting him as healthy as possible for Sunday.
Gronkowski confirmed that a painkilling shot before the game is an option and that he will try out "devices" in an attempt to give the ankle extra support, including the possibility of a special cleat.
"I want to be out there. I'm anxious to be out there,''' Gronkowski said. "My goal is to be out there and do everything I can. I want to put myself in the best situation, so when it comes to Sunday I will be in the best situation to play."
He said he is receiving treatment multiple times daily -- "basically, besides media, film, and bed, that's what I'm doing."
He doesn't necessarily have to practice this week in order to dress Sunday, and that the final decision on his status is his.
In other words, barring any setbacks, he'll be out there.
"I know how much pain I can tolerate," Gronkowski said. "I will make the final call. I listen to the trainer's advice, but it's how I feel. I'm just trying to get better. The trainer has helped me get to a place where I need to be.
"It's the Super Bowl. I'm doing everything I possible can to be out there. I want to be out there not matter what. I want to help out the team. I am doing everything possible to be out there. And we'll just see on Sunday. I will try to go as much as possible."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke with reporters this morning, and said the Patriots "still have a lot of things to work on, but it's starting to come together."
"It's been a good week, and I think the players are really focused, they're excited to play," he said.
Watch more of Belichick's comments in the video above.
It will be located on our special live video page. The questions window will be opened a little while before the chat begins so you can get your questions in there.
If you can't join the chat at 12:15, we'll have the archived footage in this post later this afternoon.
Tomorrow Chad Finn will host his weekly chat session at noon using the regular format.
NBC Sports broadcasters Peter King, Al Michaels, and Cris Collinsworth, who are in town to lead the network's coverage of Sunday's Super Bowl, shared some thoughts on the game and what it means to the Patriots' legacy.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It's another early morning here in Indianapolis as the Patriots and New York Giants prepare for Super Bowl XLVI.
The Patriots, including all of the team's coaches, will meet with members of the media at 8 a.m. at the team hotel.
The Giants will speak with the media at 10:15 a.m. at the their hotel.
At 2 p.m., there's a press conference with Madonna for the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI halftime show.
Also today at 12:15 p.m. we'll host another live video chat from the media hotel, this time with Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy. The page for the chat can be found here.
Globe columnist Bob Ryan answered questions on a live video feed from Indianapolis this afternoon.
You can replay the session in the video window below.
We're planning another one tomorrow, featuring Dan Shaughnessy. Same time and place. On Friday, Chad Finn will host a regular chat session. We'll also have a pregame chat as well as an in-game fan chat during Sunday's game.
At the Super Bowl, one pool reporter is allowed to watch the entire practice and then files a report on what happened during the session for all outlets to use. Here is today's report; the AFC pool reporter is FOXSports' Alex Marvez.
INDIANAPOLIS - An almost-complete New England Patriots squad conducted a two-and-a-half hour Super Bowl XLVI practice in helmets and shells Wednesday at Indianapolis Colts team headquarters.
"We had our moments - some good ones and some things we've got to work on," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said afterward. "They're trying. They're working hard. We've got a ways to go though.
"We've had a little bit of extra time to prepare so we hit all the areas. I thought we had good tempo and good timing. We'll back down a little bit the next couple of days."
Tight end Rob Gronkowski was the only player who didn't participate during Wednesday's session. Gronkowski suffered a left ankle injury January 22 during New England's 23-20 AFC Championship game victory over Baltimore. "He's day to day," Belichick said. "He's getting better, but we'll take it day-to-day." Tackle Sebastian Vollmer (foot/back) worked on a limited basis. "He did a little bit today," Belichick said. "We'll see how he does tomorrow." Left tackle Matt Light, who battled an illness earlier in the week, completed a full practice.
To prepare for the crowd noise expected inside Lucas Oil Stadium during Sunday's matchup against the New York Giants, the Patriots blasted loud music through much of the practice inside the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"We can make it loud enough so that [the players] can't hear," said Belichick, whose team has not played inside a dome this season. "As long as they can't hear, you have to do silent communications whether it's on defense with hand signals or offense with tapping the center [for the snap] and all that."
Among the selections played were songs from Jon Bon Jovi - a personal friend of Belichick's who attended New England's second-round playoff win over Denver - and Super Bowl XLVI halftime performer Madonna. Belichick said he and Patriots director of football/head coach administration Berj Najarian choose the songs but added with a smile, "I get veto power."
Besides the standard game preparation that included 11-on-11, 7-on-7, goal-line and two-minute drills, the Patriots spent a portion of Wednesday's session working on kickoffs and kickoff coverage. Belichick said kickoffs are usually practiced on Thursday but the team is a day ahead from having conducted a full-pads practice Monday in Indianapolis.
"Today is like Thursday for us during the season," Belichick said. "We do punt and punt return on Wednesday, which was Monday."
Belichick said Thursday's practice will "be a little shorter and really more review for everything like we did today - first, second, third down and red (zone) area and all the situations."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Tight end Rob Gronkowski wasn't at Patriots practice today, but he met with the media during the team's scheduled media availability this morning, and said he might be outfitted with a specialized shoe for Sunday's Super Bowl.
"I think we're going over that tonight, so we will see with the training staff," Gronkowski said.
He hasn't worn the protective boot since Monday, didn't appear to be limping, but wasn't willing to disclose what he's been able to do as he tries to recover from a high left ankle sprain in time to play in the season's biggest game.
"I feel better every day. That's the goal," he said. "The rehab is going well. Everything is moving forward."
Gronkowski was the only player to not practice today. The Patriots listed 10 under limited participation: offensive linemen Marcus Cannon (ankle), Logan Mankins (knee), and Sebastian Vollmer (back/foot/flu); linebackers Dane Fletcher (thumb), Rob Ninkovich (hip), Brandon Spikes (knee), and Tracy White (abdomen); safety Patrick Chung (knee); receiver Wes Welker (knee); and defensive lineman Kyle Love (ankle).
INDIANAPOLIS -- Asked if he’s ever successfully pranked quarterback Tom Brady, Patriots receiver Wes Welker ventured off on an unexpected, and humorous, tangent.
“I pretty much make fun of his life, how terrible it is,” Welker deadpanned. “You go over and use his toilet and you press this button and it sprays water on you. I’m like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ It’s heated, it’s all this stuff.”
After fielding a few more serious questions, Welker revisited the Brady bidet.
“He’s going to be mad at me for bringing that up. He’s always so humble and so everything,” Welker said. “I don’t know, sometimes I just want to go over to his house and use the restroom. … He lives a good life.”
Today's installment of our daily Super Bowl debate features reporters Greg Bishop of the New York Times and Michael Whitmer of the Globe.
Their topics: Which team has the better offense, which player will be the offensive X factor Sunday, and which city has better pizza.
Left tackle Matt Light, who had been battling a stomach bug but was feeling much better today, conducted a hilarious morning sit-down with media members. It was Light's first Q&A session since arriving in Indianapolis.
Light was asked why he missed Media Day yesterday. "I was doing the zip line downtown," he answered jokingly. "It was the only slot they had available, and daggonit I couldn't pass it up, they sold all those tickets out and I wanted to make sure I got my opportunity."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady also spoke about the protection his offensive line provides as he expects to face a ferocious Giants pass rush on Super Bowl Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL has announced the game officials for Super XLVI Sunday, touting the crew's combined experience of 69 playoff games.
Tabbed for the 46th Super Bowl is referee John Parry who will head a crew of seven, including: Carl Paganelli (umpire), Tom Stabile (head linesman), Gary Arthur (line judge), Gary Cavaletto (field judge), Laird Hayes (side judge) and Tony Steratore (back judge).
Parry is in his 12th season in the NFL. He was the side judge in Super Bowl XLI and has officiated a conference championship, six divisional playoffs and one wild-card game.
Larry Nemmers will be the game's replay assistant while Lou Nazzaro will be the game's video operator.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Patriots CEO and chairman Robert Kraft said today he knew way back in 1996 it was the right call to hire Bill Belichick as the Patriots’ next football coach, even though it was against the strong objection of some TV network executives.
"I knew then we had a special simpatico, and when the staff changed, I knew then he was someone special who would be back in my life one day,’’ Kraft said of Belichick, who will attempt to guide the Patriots to their fourth Super Bowl title in five overall appearances in Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI matchup against the Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"The first year he was with us we went 5-11 and then the year we won it we were 1-3 the second, so we were 6-14 and a lot of my friends in the media were telling me I made a big mistake hiring him, and I didn’t know what I was doing, and he didn’t know how to give a press conference, with his monosyllabic answers.
"But I’ve learned in life that I don’t sit in judgment of other people,’’ Kraft said. "I know what’s right for me, and he was right for me.’’
Kraft said there was no prescribed formula for success in the NFL, which he said was geared toward parity.
"If you do well, you draft higher and you have a tougher schedule, so you want to get managers you can encourage to be bold and do different things and then when they take those risks and they don’t work out, you back them,’’ Kraft said. "A perfect example this year, and something I can relate to personally, is Marcus Cannon, someone who had cancer and went through chemo.''
Cannon's fight resonated for Kraft, who was at the side of his late wife, Myra H. Kraft, who passed away July 20, 2011, after her courageous battle with cancer.
"I went through chemo with my wife and I know what it takes out of a person,'' Kraft said. "He went through the chemotherapy and it looks like it’s arrested and now he’s playing in the Super Bowl.
"But that was a big chance when he dropped from where he should’ve been [on the draft board],’’ Kraft said of Belichick's decision to draft Cannon. "But you have to be willing to take risks. Then when he went for it on fourth-and-2 here in Indy, a lot of our plans were second-guessed. I’m not second-guessing, because I understood why he did it. So he has my full support.
"Very often in the NFL, you have division from within where there’s a lot of egos involved,’’ Kraft said. "My job is to make sure everyone’s on the same page.’’
But the decision bring in free agents such as wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who has yet to pan out, and recalcitrant defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who was released Nov. 8, certainly were not easy calls for the organization.
"Well, I meet with every one of these players before we bring them in, because I want to make sure these are people that fit in,’’ Kraft said. “My family name is on this team and it’s very important. Haynesworth, I liked him; Ochocinco, he’s a terrific guy. I hope somehow great things happen in this game [for him]. You never know. The potential is there, so we’ll see what happens.’’
Expressing the sentiment that he felt ``fortunate to have the best coach in the NFL and I believe we have the best quarterback in the NFL,’’ Kraft said it was his duty as team owner not to meddle with, but to support and reinforce that partnership.
"Ownership can mess it up,’’ he said. "You need decent ownership, but you’re not going to have sustained success if you don’t have a good quarterback and a good head coach
"And you need stability. In my opinion, I found a great life partner that I was married to for 46 years and I miss her dearly and I loved her and our relationship got stronger as the years went by.
"I’d like to think it’s the same thing in our companies our family has, we do business in over 90 countries in the world, and we have the same people running our companies in different countries overseas, because we try to develop relationships,’’ Kraft said. "I’m concerned with texting, tweeting, and e-mailing, that we’re not doing enough relationship building. I think Bill’s comfortable with where he’s at and I think all our players are and I hope we can bring a fourth championship home to our fans in New England. This is a special year for us.’’
Asked if he saw the soap opera Colts owner Jim Irsay was involved in with his aging quarterback, Peyton Manning, as a cautionary tale for his organization, Kraft said, "I like Jim Irsay a lot, I like Peyton a lot, I’m going to let them deal with it. I’m at a point in my life where I’m enjoying things; I might never be back at this game again. I’m going to focus on that and enjoy it. I like Peyton and Jim a lot and I’m sure they’re smart enough to sort it out.’’
INDIANAPOLIS --- Although he said he was still feeling ``a little under the weather,'' Patriots offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer said today he didn't expect it would prevent him from playing in Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI matchup against the New York Giants.
Speaking Wednesday morning during the Patriots' player media availability session at the team's headquarters, the University Place Conference Center and Hotel, Vollmer, who had missed significant time this season due to back and foot injuries, said those ailments were no longer an issue.
"I'm definitely better,'' he said. "I mean I haven't practiced for a while and I started practicing not too long ago, so it feels definitely better there's no doubt about that.''
Vollmer, who was slowed in preseason camp by a balky back, missed five of the first six games of the season, but was activated as a reserve for the seventh game of the season. He started the next four games at right tackle, before he was felled by an foot injury at Philadelphia that forced him to miss the remaining five games of the regular season and the divisional round triumph over Denver and the AFC Championship win over the Ravens.
Asked how difficult it was for him to remain engaged in the day-to-day preparations for gameday when he was inactive, Vollmer replied, "It's tough, because you see your team winning or losing and you just feel like, `Well, maybe I could do something about it.' You could be part of that win and go out there and play. That's why we do this. And when you can't, it's always tough.
"I mean you just try to stay engaged, like you said,'' Vollmer said. "So you go to meetings and try to learn and always try to prepare myself every week as if I was playing every week, plus going through treatments.
"So, hopefully, I'll be done with this and I'll get to play.''
INDIANAPOLIS -- Every member of the Patriots (except recent hire Josh McDaniels) was made available to the media this morning before the team's practice. Now that yesterday's media day spectacle is over, players can focus on preparing for Sunday's Super Bowl against the Giants.
Don't be surprised if the New York newspapers pounce on Tom Brady again. The Patriots quarterback, asked an innocuous question about the relationship with his family, especially his father, took a not-so-subtle dig at Buffalo. And since Buffalo is in New York, expect a swift overreaction.
"Even when I started my pro career, he traveled to Buffalo. I don't know if you guys have ever been in the hotels in Buffalo, but they're not the nicest places in the world," Brady said, referring to his father, Tom Brady Sr., attending some of the Patriots' away games.
Matt Light, who missed media day with a stomach bug, spoke to reporters, and said he was feeling better. Sebastian Vollmer also spoke, and said he's optimistic he'll be able to play; Vollmer, recovering from back and foot injuries, hasn't played sinced Nov. 27.
Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship, didn't appear to be limping, and wasn't in the protective boot that he's been wearing. Coach Bill Belichick, asked if Gronkowski would practice today, gave a vague "we'll see how he is later today, see what he can do" answer.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It's an early morning for Patriots followers in preparation for Super Bowl XLVI. Head coach Bill Belichick will meet with the media at 8 a.m. for today's press conference followed by the availability of players and assistant coaches.
New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin will meet with the media at 10:15 a.m., followed his players and assistant coaches.
At 12:15 p.m., the Globe will be hosting a live video chat with columnist Bob Ryan. You can find the chat located here.