SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On the day the Patriots are scheduled to arrive in Phoenix for Super Bowl XLII, the main questions in the mailbag continue to center around quarterback Tom Brady.
There are also some questions on the Patriots' potential game-plan; a follow-up regarding Randy Moss and why he wasn't on the field during the post-game celebration in the AFC Championship; and a query about the sign that greets players when they enter Gillette Stadium.
Let's get to the questions...
Mike, trying to look on the bright side of Brady's injury -- is it possible this is giving his arm a chance to rest? Thanks.
John Michaud, Alexandria, Va.
A: Hi, John. I don't think there is a bright side to any injury, but I do see the point. One of the things I respect quite a bit about Brady is that he loves to practice, because he feels that is the primary avenue in which he can improve. So when something keeps him off the practice field, it's hard to see the positive in that. Brady is scheduled to answer questions from the media Sunday night, so my hope is that he can shed some light on that tonight.
Is there any way to really know whether Brady came to practice after the press left? The Giants are not going to prepare for a backup. Coach Belichick has never hidden Brady in all the past big games. There must be a tangible reason. There has to be an injury, or he has found a way to get into practice without the press knowing. This does not make any sense.
Ron Galluccio, Williamsburg, Va.
A: Sure, Ron, I believe there is a way to really to know whether Brady came to practice after the press left, and that's to ask someone involved in the practice - whether it be a coach, player or member of the support staff. I also feel there is a strong tangible reason that Brady did not practice last week - namely that it's better to be safe than sorry. Brady has a mild high right ankle sprain, and with a two-week break before kickoff, team officials probably asked the following question: Is it worth the risk of having Brady practice when a week of rest will limit the chances he re-aggravates the injury in the Super Bowl? Much like the Patriots did with Randy Moss in training camp - he tweaked his hamstring and while I believe he could have practiced he did not -- I think they are managing the situation with Brady perfectly. While I'm sure it kills Brady to not be at practice with his team, I feel that having him rest was the smart decision.
Did we get a hint of the Pats offensive game-plan from reports that the team was in pads for 2 straight days? Normally, this means they're working on timing in the running game (also why Brady's absence is not crucial). To me, it means that if they don't go with a balanced attack to keep the very good Giant pass rushers from 'pinning back their ears', the Pats will at least use the running game to set-up an attack against the perceived weak secondary. Your thoughts?
A: Interesting observation, Tony. I can't argue with it. I'd also add that when I saw the pads, I first thought about the defense working on its timing in the running game. Stopping the 1-2 combination of running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw figures to be the No. 1 priority of the defense, and getting in the pads allowed them to work on that aspect of things.
Hi Mike, Any update on why Moss was not on the field for the post game celebration in the AFC Championship game? It really worries me because he reminds of that one kid who keeps himself away from the groupies. Are you allowed to be on the field for the post-game celebration? Also, when I was watching the Jags game, their defensive coordinator, Mike Smith, was sitting up in the press box. But I always thought the OC, DC and the head coach must always be on the field. Why?
A: The explanation I heard for Moss not being on the field after the AFC Championship game was that he simply didn't know what to do after winning the conference title. He was apparently overcome with emotion. I'd like the chance to ask him if that was the case, as teammates have mentioned he was celebrating with them in the locker room once everyone arrived after the on-field festivities. On the second part of the question, Jeff, there is no rule that says offense/defensive coordinators must be on the field. I am not sure if that applies to the head coach, however.
Mike, does every team in the league have strict media rules like the Patriots? It seems that reading your reports every day that the media's day is structured right down to the second.
Kerri Burke, Chestnut Hill
A: Those rules are put in place by the NFL, Kerri, and the Patriots follow them like every other team. I look at it similar to what Bill Belichick often says when asked about a certain NFL rule. His response is generally: 'What I say doesn't matter, but it's our job to know the rules and abide by them.' Some teams loosen the rules, such as the Arizona Cardinals, who allow reporters full access to practice. But it's my understanding that most teams do not allow full-practice access. From a media perspective, I wish more did. At the same time, I can understand why teams don't, because you have to protect competitive advantage.
Reiss, can you give us fans an idea of the atmosphere early on in AZ? Do you notice more Giants or Pats fans? What is the street price for tickets? Any special preparations by BB to get the players acclimated to the heat again? Keep up the good work.
Dan D., West Roxbury
A: When I came in Saturday, it was generally quiet. So all in all, it's been tough to get an accurate feel for the atmosphere at this point as I haven't seen many fans. I did see some scalpers in downtown Phoenix and my initial sense is that the demand is greater than I remember from past Super Bowls. I might be way off, but I think it's going to be a tough ticket for those who come down with the hopes that maybe the price lessens as the week progresses. As for the players getting acclimated to the heat, I don't see it as a huge issue because it's 50 degrees here today and gets cooler at night. It should get warmer as the week progresses but I don't see it as a stifling heat. I'm sure the Patriots will still stress hydration, as they always do.
What time is the Superbowl being played?
Carol Baldwin, Palm City, Fla.
A: It's a 6:30 ET kickoff, Carol.
Tom Brady mentioned a 'What is expected of you' sign in his Jan. 18 press conference, with the No. 1 point being 'do your job.' Do you know what the other points are?
A: The other points on the sign are: Work hard, Be attentive; Put the team first.
Hey Mike. Just wondering, what is Bill Belichick's record after having a bye week?
A: Since he was hired as head coach of the Patriots in 2000, Belichick has posted a 12-2 record when coaching after an off week. The two losses came in the 2001 and 2002 seasons, so the Patriots have won seven straight games under Belichick when coming off the bye.
Could we please get rid of inter-conference play? I'm sick of seeing Super Bowl rematches of teams that played in the regular season. The Pats beat the G-men 3 weeks ago on their field. Why should we expect any different result in the Super Bowl on a neutral field?
A: I understand where you're coming from, Dave, and it's a thought I hear from afar regarding inter-league play in Major League Baseball. It is part of the reason I was mildly hoping for a Patriots-Packers Super Bowl. At the same time, I can embrace the 'recent-rematch' dynamic as something that makes this Super Bowl a bit different and unique. I love the idea that the coaches on both teams can build off some plays from the season-finale, adding an exciting wrinkle to the game that highlights the importance of coaching. I also would say that just because the Patriots beat the Giants on Dec. 29, I don't think that guarantees the Patriots victory in the Super Bowl. It still comes down to execution and if the Patriots don't execute, no one should be surprised if they lose.