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.