FOXBOROUGH — Josh McDaniels made it clear earlier in the week that he and Tom Brady had moved on from the sideline spat that was captured on the CBS broadcast last Sunday against the Bills.
“It’s a very competitive game, an emotional game. Things like that can happen,’’ McDaniels said last Tuesday during a conference call. “Being in the game a long time, and understanding Tommy’s a very emotional person and player, it’s part of what makes him great. You know it’s never personal.’’
The outburst, which featured Brady hollering at the Patriots offensive coordinator on the sideline following an incompletion on third and 11, was still bothering the quarterback nearly a week later, though.
“I want to apologize to Josh for last week in Buffalo,’’ Brady said to open his media conference Saturday at Gillette Stadium. “A lot of people see it and they think the nature of our relationship might be something like that, but it’s really the exact opposite of that. Been feeling bad all week and haven’t had a chance to say it. He knows how much I love him.’’
Brady and the Patriots returned to Gillette Stadium for their final practice before heading to Miami Sunday to play the Dolphins on Monday night.
Brady was absent from practice on Wednesday and Thursday, the first time he had missed consecutive sessions all season. It was hardly a big deal considering Brady will be out there against the Dolphins. He had been taking rest days on Wednesday the previous two weeks, but did it on Thursday, which served as the regular Wednesday practice day with the Patriots playing Monday.
“It’s just time for a little extra treatment, that’s really all it is,’’ Brady said. “I can certainly go out there, but you have just a couple nicks so we take it week to week. You’d love to be out there physically feeling the best you can but sometimes you’ve got to pay attention to something so you can be the best you can be on game day.
“Just take it week to week. Not predetermined, but just trying to be smart. We have four games left and they’re all important. You’ve got to be at your best for those.
Big role for Richards
When Nate Ebner missed the first two games of the season with a shoulder injury, safety Jordan Richards was called upon to fill in Ebner’s role of punt protector on special teams.
It’s an important role, one Ebner has filled particularly well over the years, serving as the last line of defense for punter Ryan Allen. He was also the chief communicator on special teams, aligning the punt formation.
It was clear at that point Richards was a temporary fill-in until Ebner returned. Now the responsibility of that position falls on Richards’s shoulders for the remainder of the season after Ebner was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago with a knee injury.
“When he did it at the beginning of the year . . . we knew, Nate knew, Jordan knew that was Nate’s position,’’ coach Bill Belichick said. “Well, Nate’s unfortunately not going to be able to play again this year, so it’s now Jordan’s position. I think it makes it a little bit different. Does he prepare differently? Does he practice differently? No, I wouldn’t say, not necessarily, but there’s an ownership, there’s a confidence at that position. He does a great job with it.’’
Richards has enjoyed his new responsibility, to go along with his defensive work at safety.
“There are a lot of calls we’ve got to make and you want to get everybody on the same page,’’ Richards said. “So, it’s definitely a role I’ve enjoyed and embraced and want to do my best.’’
Van Noy to sit out
Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who was limited to 15 snaps last week against the Bills because of a calf injury, has been ruled out against the Dolphins on Monday night. Right tackle Marcus Cannon is also out with an ankle injury. Backup lineman LaAdrian Waddle, who missed last week with an ankle injury, is questionable. Defensive end Deatrich Wise returned to practice after missing the last two days with a foot injury and is questionable . . . Running back Dion Lewis returned to practice after missing Friday with an illness. Mike Gillislee, who’s been inactive the last four games, also missed practice Saturday because of an illness . . . Wide receiver Chris Hogan, who has missed the last four games with a shoulder injury, is questionable and was a limited participant in practice all week . . . Defensive end Trey Flowers is questionable because of a rib injury that kept him out last week, although he practiced all this week.