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January 10, 2008
Photo: Showing Patriot-ism
Journal photo / Gretchen Ertl
A Patriot's fan showed his loyalty to the record-breaking team by painting the side of this building on Route 108 in South Kingstown.
Posted by Donna McGarry at 6:45 PM | Permalink
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Thursday participation/injury report
For the Patriots
S Willie Andrews - elbow
TE Kyle Brady - team decision
RB Kyle Eckel - stomach
S Rodney Harrison - thigh
CB Ellis Hobbs - team decision
G Nick Kaczur - foot
G Stephen Neal - shoulder
TE Stephen Spach - knee
DB Antwain Spann - hamstring
WR Wes Welker - team decision
QB Tom Brady - right shoulder
For the Jaguars
LB Mike Peterson - hand
Did Not Participate
WR Reggie Williams - back
DT John Henderson - hamstring
DT Grady Jackson - knee
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 4:44 PM | Permalink
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Transcript: Bill Belichick's Thursday press conference
How are we doing today? [We’re] winding down on our preparations here, try[ing] to get all the situations covered and be ready to go on Saturday night.
Can you talk regarding the safeties a little bit for Jacksonville?
I think, well of course they’re new from last year, Deon Grant was an outstanding player for them, did a good job, but [Reggie] Nelson is a kid that we did a lot of work on coming out of Florida. [He’s a] fast, real athletic guy, has a lot of range back there, has made a lot of plays for them. I can’t think of the strong safety’s name, 26? I think it’s Sam [Knight].
Yeah, Sammy. Real experienced player, we played against him a lot in the past. Of course he was at Miami, very instinctive guy, he’s around the ball a lot, reads the quarterback well. They’ve been very productive. It’s a good secondary. [The] corners are good, [Terry] Cousin comes in as the third corner and both their safeties are back. They don’t play a lot of six DB’s, mainly five. Those five guys do a good job and they’ve got good depth out there at corner with [Scott] Starks and Aaron Glenn, so it’s a good secondary, good young players, too. [Jamaal] Fudge has played some for them in safety, too.
If you were preparing for an opponent and you only had two tapes to choose from, one tape when they won and one tape when they lost, which tape would you choose?
It would depend on who the team was. I think that win or lose, it sometimes comes down to one play or two plays or something. You could get a lot more out of a tape that had more relevance to you, win or lose.
What’s the hardest thing about playing left tackle and in particular, what strengths does Matt Light have that let him succeed there?
Probably the hardest thing at left tackle is having to block the athletic rushers that come off that side, which is usually where the other team’s best -- or most athletic rusher, maybe not their best rusher -- but usually their most athletic rusher [is]. The left tackle has got to block a very athletic guy out there in the pass rush and then he’s got to block big guys like [Paul] Spicer this week or other guys we’ve seen in our division in a running game that are 300-pound guys, 290 or whatever they are, and block them in the running game. So it’s a combination of being athletic enough to block the athletic pass rushers and being big and stout enough to hold up against the big guys in the running game and on the power rush. Usually you don’t get a lot of help over there because most teams are right handed and most teams put the passing strength to the right side, not always, but generally speaking most teams do, so it’s a little more -- pretty challenging over there in terms of blocking those athletic guys.
Is there anything in particular that Light has been able to do there?
I think Matt does a good job. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s big enough. He’s not the most athletic guy, but he’s athletic enough. There are probably -- I’d say he’s in the upper echelon in both of those categories, but there are probably some left tackles that, if you went to the Indy Combine test results, would test better than him. There are some that are bigger than him, but I think he has a good combination of mental toughness, technique, size, athleticism, quickness, to be competitive against a lot of different types of players out there, which he sees and he does a good job forcing the running game. He’s competitive on the pass rush against power, against speed, and he’s a good technique player. He doesn’t just have a lot of bad plays where he just takes a bad set or is late out of the stance, or over sets the guy, or those kind of things, so he’s pretty consistent. He’s been consistent since he came here in ’01 and he started playing left tackle for us as a rookie, so he’s had a lot of consistent and good performances over there. That’s a tough position to play.
Which particular challenges do you expect to face from the Jacksonville running back tandem and do you expect to see anything different than what you’ve seen so far?
As far as what? New plays, or what are you talking about? You’d have to ask them. I don’t know what they’re putting in, but those backs are good. Fred Taylor is one of the best running backs in the league. He’s got as a great combination of quickness, power, vision, he’s a very good technique runner and I think he’s got exceptional vision. He finds and sees holes as well as any back we play. He’s got the speed to go the distance, he’s got the power to run over people and he’s got the quickness to make defenders miss in the hole. He breaks a lot of tackles. He’s good in the passing game. [Maurice] Jones-Drew is a little different style of runner, but very effective. He’s a very powerful guy for his size, has great lower body strength, runs through a lot of tackles, has good speed, can go the distance. We saw that in the kickoff return last week against Pittsburgh, saw it against New Orleans, saw it against the Colts. [He makes] long runs, very good in pass protection, he’s probably as good a pass protector as we’ve seen this year for his position [at] running back, plays a lot on third down, catches the ball out of the backfield, runs good routes, [he is] hard to tackle when he catches it, good screen and draw guy. Both of those guys, they’re not good, they’re real good. Fred Taylor is as good as anybody we’ve faced. He’s outstanding. I mean [LaDainian] Tomlinson is obviously a great back, I’m not saying that, but he’s been more consistent and had more production, but Fred Taylor has got a lot of good plays, a lot of them.
You talked about Maurice Jones-Drew and his blocking. Have you told your linemen to make it a point not to underestimate him, shown them the block he made on Julius Peppers?
[Shawne] Merriman, Julius Peppers, put on any film you want; he blocks every week. You don’t have to go to one play. You can find it every week. He’s a good third-down back. He does a good job for them. He protects well, catches the ball well, and they give him the ball on some third down running plays and he’s a threat to pick up the yardage there, so yeah, he does a real good job. Those two guys are outstanding. They’ve got good depth in the backfield. Greg Jones has made some good plays for them back there. He’s a good fullback. [LaBrandon] Toefield, I know he hasn’t gotten a chance to play a lot, but when he has he’s been effective. It’s a good group.
Can you comment on the five players who made All-Pro this year?
[I’m] happy for all of them that made it. More importantly is what our team is trying to accomplish. I congratulate all of the players on all of their individual awards, but it’s really secondary to what our team goals are right now.
You talked about working on situations. Is there any particular situation you like to teach that’s kind of a favorite?
No, not really, because you don’t know what is going to come up. You never know what it is going to be. Last week was very unusual: in the Pittsburgh-Jacksonville game you had three two-point plays -- two from the two and one from the 12. Usually if you have one two-point play in a game that’s a lot, and there were three of them. So depending on which side of that play you’re on, whether you’re running it or defending it, you get that situation. We had the hands team in the Giants game. To go back to the Pittsburgh-Jacksonville game, Pittsburgh has got the ball with three minutes to go. Making a first down probably seals the game or comes close to ending it, and Jacksonville gets it back, and they try to get a field goal to win. So, again, it depends which side of those situations you’re on, but you know you could be trying to run out the clock, trying to score, trying to onside kick, trying to recover an onside kick, trying to get a two point conversion, trying to stop one. There are so many of them, and those big plays can come in the first quarter, they don’t have to come in the fourth. But there’re a lot of those one-play situations at the end of the game that you have to prepare for both sides of the situation, and who knows what’s going to come up. [We] wouldn’t want to feel like we’re going to work on this one thing and hope that comes up. Your chances are [that] some things might come up once a year and then you keep waiting for that one situation, it’s one play in the whole season. There are a lot of other ones that could be just as important that will come up. So you have to be ready for all of them.
How close is Nick Kaczur to being ready, in regard to his foot?
We’ll get the injury report after practice today. He practiced yesterday.
How tough is it mentally to blow a big lead on the road in a hostile environment like Jacksonville did and have to bounce back pretty quickly?
I think in the National Football League you’ve got to be ready to play 60 minutes every week. I think every team knows that, so whatever the score situation or conditions are, you play for 60 minutes, whichever side of it you’re on. And that’s what we better be ready to do. That’s what the competition is in this league. There’re a lot of close games, a lot of them come down to one possession, a lot of them come down to the final possession, a lot of times the final play, so you just have to be ready to go for 60 minutes every week. I think every team knows that, prepares for that, and that’s they way you have to play the game. It doesn’t matter which end of it you’re on.
With the left tackle again, is the nature of the position such that if you make a mistake it’s going to get a lot more attention than a success would get praise?
[It] depends on how much attention you want to give it, I guess. Anybody else on the line can get beat. A quarterback can make a bad throw, a receiver can drop a pass, a running back can fumble. You tell me which one you’re going to give more attention to. I don’t know. They’re all -- Mistakes are mistakes. Coaches make bad decisions. Defenders miss tackles, drop interceptions, miss tackles. I don’t know, you tell me which is worse and which gets more attention. If they’re bad, they’re bad. If they’re good, they’re good.
When a quarterback like Tom Brady is able to play as consistently as he has, is it any more a result of the left tackle than of the other guys on the offensive line?
Certainly each individual has an important role in the group and then the group as a whole is important. They’re pretty intertwined. I don’t know really where the individual stops and the group starts. It’s a lot of interwoven parts there, especially on the offensive line cause all five of those guys have to be on the same page. Those five have five people they have to block in the running game and the passing game. And after the snap they can come in a lot of different combinations and stunt and twist and go all over the place. So in the end, those five have to handle whichever five people it is, however you’ve got it schemed. So the way that group functions as a unit is critical and then, of course, each individual block along the way is critical. They’re both important; you can’t really have on without the other.
What’s the biggest strength of the Patriots offensive line?
Biggest strength? I don’t know. Again, like we talked about with the left tackle, it goes across the board. What’s the play? What are you trying to do? You’ve got to do a lot of different things. We’ve seen a lot of different things from the defenses. We’ve seen teams play a lot of pass rushers that are linebackers and defensive ends, we’ve seen all big guys in there on early downs, we’ve seen blitzes, we’ve seen two and three-man rushes, we’ve seen all different stunts and combinations in there. So sometimes you’ve got to block movement, sometimes you’ve got to block size and power, sometimes you’re pulling out there on screens, sometime you’re trying to block the guy that’s 350 pounds lined up four inches away from you. They’re all different challenges across the board. Some you win, some you don’t, but you’ve got to be able to battle all of them at those positions, and that’s the challenge of playing the offensive line. It’s not like it was back when I came into the league, where the right guard would line up across from the left tackle and they’d block each other for 60 plays. You just don’t get those kinds of match-ups any more. There’s a lot of moving parts and you get different plays were your combinations are different, schemes are different. You just get a lot of different match-ups. I think that’s what makes it hard now on the offensive line. Everybody’s got so many different match-ups, so many different jobs to do, it’s hard to just isolate and say this is all this guy has got to do. He’s got 20 jobs and they’re all hard, especially against good players. Sometimes it’s just as hard to block a little, quick guy as it is to block a big, powerful guy, depending on what the skills are and what the play is and what you’re trying to do.
You mentioned 60 minutes a lot. Is that a hard message to get across to your players, that one small play in the first quarter is as important as later in the game?
I think that’s something that every coach talks about from junior high school football to the NFL and all the spots in between. I don’t think you ever don’t talk about that. It’s a lot easier said than done, but that’s-- In this league it’s so competitive. Everybody’s good, every team has good players and good coaches and guys who can make plays. It doesn’t take much to, if they have a little bit of a half a step or an edge or whatever, for them to make a play. You’ve really got to be at your best all the time, because if the other guy is a little bit ahead of you for whatever the play is, you could be in trouble. I think everybody is aware of that. We all talk about that; doing it, and being focused for 60, 70, 20, however many plays you’re in there for and all the situations and all the things that come up. It’s very challenging because there are great players on the other side of the ball, too. It’s not just competing against yourself, like an individual sport. You’re competing against other competitors and other schemes and there’re a lot of moving parts. Sometimes it isn’t that you’re not focused, it’s just that the other guy wins and that’s part of it too, but you certainly want to be ready to perform for 60 minutes in this game, in the National Football League, especially this time of year because you’re getting everybody’s best.
Posted by Art Martone at 2:32 PM | Permalink
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Transcript: Josh McDaniels' Thursday press conference
Can you start by reflecting on the last week when you declined to interview for those jobs and what your thinking was?
Yup. I’d always said that if that opportunity presented itself I’d take all the information that I had at hand and try to make the best decision for me personally and professionally -- and for my family, keeping them first and foremost in my mind relative to moving on at any point in my career. I was grateful for the opportunity that those teams gave me, but at this time that’s the best thing for me, is to be here and focus my efforts on this preparation for the playoff run here. That’s really as simple as that and that’s all that went into it and I’m going to be here in New England.
How much did you weigh just going through the experience, even if you knew it wasn’t the right time, thinking that that experience might help you in the future?
It could, and I think Bill [Belichick] said it best earlier this week, it could hurt you or it could help you. Every experience could have a positive, could have a negative to it and, again, I’m not really worried or concerned about what that experience may or may not have afforded me going forward in my career. If that ever comes up again and the time is right for me to do that, then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but I’m not really worried about whether it hurt me or helped me or what I could have gained from it or what I didn’t gain from it. I’m just really focused right now on the playoffs.
Do you think you’re ready to be a head coach in the NFL?
I’ve said this before - That’s for somebody else to choose. If that time ever comes up and that’s ever presented again to me and I feel like it’s the right opportunity for me to try to attempt to do that, then we’ll do it. But again, I’ve said in the statement, [I’m] grateful for the opportunity they present to me, but at this time I’m going to be a Patriot and I’m looking forward to it.
This is not a Tom Brady question per say, but during the summer if you were sitting around with your buddies and somebody said a quarterback would have the kind of numbers he’s had, would you have believed that would be possible?
It’s hard to say what another quarterback’s going to do in another season. I know he’s had a special season relative to the way he’s performed and the way he’s played. To project whether he would have done that - or somebody else, for that matter, would have done it - I don’t know. There’s a lot of records and there’s a lot of numbers that people I know put out there and say, ‘Boy, I don’t know if there’s ever going to be another guy that gets close to it,’ but somebody - I know Peyton [Manning] threw 49 and Tommy, he just so happened to throw 50. I’m sure somebody else will come along and approach that number again and give that a run and see what happens, but I think if you play on a good team and you have a good season and you prepare hard and work hard and you have good people around you and you’re on, like I said, a good organization with a good, winning team then you have an opportunity to do things like that. Tommy had a great year, there’s no question about it.
As far as safeties go, what do you see in Jacksonville’s safeties?
We’ve played against Sammy Knight before and he’s a very instinctive player. He’s a veteran guy who you can tell he watches a lot of film and understands what teams are trying to do against them. He’s a very smart player. Reggie Nelson is an exceptional athlete. [He] covers a lot of ground, has made a lot of big plays for them this year. You can’t be lazy around either one of them. You can’t take your eyes off of them or you can’t throw the ball and not know where they are, because they’ll make plays on you and they’ll have the ball going the other way. They’re a big-play defense and those two are a big part of the reason why, because they’re aggressive in the run. They’ll get down there and they’ll hit you and they’ll make plays in the running game, but they also take away plenty in the passing game in the deep part of the field and, again, like I said, if you’re not careful with them then they’ll end up with the football. I think that’s something that you’re going to have to keep in mind on every play the entire four quarters with those two.
Thinking back a few months, would you have been surprised at all at what Randy Moss has been able to accomplish?
You know, from the time we got Randy he showed how hard he was willing to work. He’s been a great leader and a great teammate and a great guy for us to coach. When you have ability like Randy has and then you tie that in with how hard he works to try to go ahead and be the best player he can be and really help our team in any way, shape or form he can - I don’t really think the numbers are that big of a thing for him. I think he wants to win and I think that shows every day when we come into work. To look at his skill level and to say that I’d be surprised at what he’s done with how hard he works, I wouldn’t say that. He’s capable of big things and he’s obviously shown that this year. With the way he works and the way he approaches the game, it doesn’t surprise me.
What was your focus offensively during the bye week? What did that help you do?
We did a lot of things during the bye week and really tried to hit a lot of areas - Most areas of our offense we tried to work on and tried to take a look at the last half of the season. Anything that we could do better or things that we might want to go ahead and tweak going into the playoffs, you always have an opportunity to do that when you have a bye week. We kind of took the same approach that we did when we had the bye week in the middle of the season. [We] really focused on ourselves and covered a lot of ground -- worked in the red zone, goal line, third down, against blitz pickup, in the running game - and tried to hit as much of it as we possibly could. We had two good days last week and hopefully that will help us here going forward into the playoffs.
When teams have gone three-wide or four-wide against Jacksonville, how have they generally defended it? Do they play much six defensive backs, or it is pretty standard with just the one, Terry Cousin, coming on?
Yeah, I would say that they’re a nickel team, with Terry Cousin coming in. They’ve shown some dime - not a whole lot of it, but I would say this: not a lot of teams have really put that four-wide or anything like that out there against them, so it just so happens that they’ve been in a lot more nickel than anything else. I know they have a good secondary. Those other players - [Scott] Starks and [Aaron] Glenn and those [guys] - they have all played and we’ve seen them and we’ve watched them play and do good things. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them put the dime in the game, but if it just was nickel than that’s probably what they’ve played the most of and what they feel most comfortable in, and that’s what we would anticipate [them] putting out there against us when we’re in any kind of three-receiver grouping.
How much does it help you as an offensive coordinator to have the depth on the offensive line that you do? Nick Kaczur goes out and Ryan O’Callaghan can come in and it doesn’t seem like you lose very much.
That’s been a big help. Dante [Scarnecchia] does a great job, does an exceptional job at coaching that group of guys. I know he doesn’t treat the starters any differently than he does the guys that are getting ready to play if one of those happens to go down. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had some guys go in there and play well and stand up to the challenge. I think that’s definitely a big plus when you can have guys step in there like that, because then you don’t have to change as much of what you want to do as [you would] if you felt differently about that group. To be able to say we have depth there and put those guys in there and let them play and not have to change or adjust too much of what we’re doing, I think that’s the biggest advantage it gives us. Like I said, it comes back to Dante and he does a great job coaching that group.
What’s the biggest challenge for that offensive group facing the size of Jacksonville’s defensive line?
They’re really physical, they’re aggressive. They create a lot of issues with just a four-man rush because they never, ever stop coming. It’s a great team as far as hustling and making hustle plays, is what we kind of call them. You may have them blocked initially, but you have to block them until the play is completed or else they’re going to get to the quarterback, or they’re going to get in the backfield and create a problem in the running game. I think finishing plays overall and getting on your assignment early, but then again continuing until the whistle blows, I think that’s a big thing for them. That’s where they create a lot of their negative plays and it’s probably the biggest challenge that we’re going to face up front, is not only being physical and matching their aggressiveness, but also finishing every play like they do.
Can you talk about the impact of the spread offense at the college level and how much of an influence it may have in the NFL, positive or negative?
The spread offense in college seems to be different because the quarterback is such a running threat in college. And I’m not an expert in the spread offense, as far as college football is concerned, but I know when you see it you see a lot of quarterbacks that are mobile and able to run and they use that guy as the primary runner sometimes, which to me is an advantage. Unless you put another guy down there in the box, you’ll always have enough to block whomever they have down there close to the line of scrimmage, which when you’re handing the ball to the back a lot of times, you don’t have the same numbers advantage because the quarterback’s not a blocker. A lot of times in college football they use that running back or that halfback, whoever’s back there, as the next blocker to handle that safety who’s coming down in the box. Then the quarterback’s the runner and there’s really no guy for him except the guy standing back there in the middle of the field, and that guy obviously is not going to make the tackle close to the line of scrimmage.
What kind of impact are you seeing at this level?
I don’t know if there’s really… Like I said, it’s a different type of game there and as far as the players - Is that what you’re asking, about as the players are concerned?
How do you deal with the quarterbacks?
I don’t think there’s much of a - We don’t end up seeing a lot of similarities between college spread and the type of offenses you see in the NFL because of the lack of runners at that position, as I would say is the quarterback position.
Focus has been a buzzword this year for you guys. In terms of turning down those job interviews, did you think in any way that by going and interviewing you would set a bad example for the team? Did that enter your thought process at all?
I really wasn’t concerned with that. I mean, I obviously want to do what’s great and best for this football team at this point in time, but just the overall decision was simple. The best thing for me is to be a Patriot and to continue in my role here and do what I’ve been doing and prepare hard for the playoffs and worry about that stuff at a later time, if it comes back up again.
It was really that simple to turn down someone who asked if you wanted to be a head coach of an NFL team?
It was really that simple. I love my job here right now.
James Carroll has produced a lot of very good coaches. How much did your experience there contribute to your success?
I learned a tremendous amount at John Carroll. The people that I worked with and that coached me there did a great job of running that program and I know that they’ve had some successful people come into the National Football League, as far as coaches are concerned. Obviously Don Shula is the most noted of those guys, but there’s a lot of people in the league that have kind of a background from there. They kind of keep in close contact with one another. I know most of the guys that are still in the league, Chuck Priefer and Greg Roman and some other guys that are in the league that do a good job. It’s kind of a little fraternity and we take a lot of pride in coming from a smaller school and being able to come into something like the National Football League and try to make a success story out of ourselves, and then in hindsight, hopefully keep John Carroll in the light. It’s a little clique we have, so it’s kind of fun. But I owe a lot to it. I had a great education there and it obviously springboards you into whatever career you’re going to go into. I’ve chosen this one [and] it’s a good one.
Did you meet Don Shula when you were in college?
I did not. I have met him, though, before, but I didn’t meet him when I was in college.
Posted by Art Martone at 2:30 PM | Permalink
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Barber brothers talk Asante
Tiki and Ronde Barber have a weekly show on Sirius NFL Radio called "The Barber Shop," and the twins talked Pats-Jags on Tuesday night.
Ronde, one of the best corners of this generation and the only current defensive back besides Rodney Harrison with more than 20 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career, said he can't think of many corners who have been better than Asante Samuel over the past couple years.
These quotes are courtesy of Sirius:
Tiki Barber: "The X-factor in beating [the Patriots] is you have to keep scoring because if you don’t, if you go two or three times without scoring, you can’t win.”
Ronde Barber: “You find yourself at the end of the game feverishly trying to catch up and you can’t do it. That’s when their defense gets opportunistic. That’s when Asante Samuel comes out of nowhere and is dancing in the end zone. He’s made a living doing exactly that, wait for teams to panickingly try to get back in the football game and say, ‘Thank you. I’m the best corner in football.’”
Tiki Barber: “Is he?”
Ronde Barber: “I don’t know. You know what? You look at his numbers and his production over the past two years it’s hard to disagree with him. I don’t think that he’s being boisterous in saying so. Man, I can rack my brain over guys. I can’t think of many that are as productive as him. Obviously there are good players out there. Charles Woodson is having a hell of a couple of years [but] nobody seems to care.”
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 12:39 PM to Asante Samuel
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Practice peek: perfect attendace
In a positive sign for New England, all hands were on deck at practice, which is being held inside Gillette Stadium, including tight end Stephen Spach and defensive back Antwain Spann, both of whom did not participate yesterday.
The players are in shells and pants/shorts, though defensive line coach Pepper Johnson was in shorts and a short-sleeve polo despite the back-to-normal chilly temps.
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 12:26 PM | Permalink
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Thursday at Gillette
Hey all --
With a Saturday game, today is the last day of practice this week for the Patriots -- and consequently, the last day of access we in the media have to the team -- though they will hold a walkthrough tomorrow.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and head coach Bill Belichick were at the podium this morning, with McDaniels explaining why he declined the chance to interview with Atlanta and Baltimore for their head coaching openings.
"I always said if the opportunity presented itself, I would take all the information available and make the best decision for myself personally and professionally, keeping my family in mind first and foremost," he said.
McDaniels reiterated that he wanted to focus on the playoffs, and later said he loves his job here with New England.
In the locker room, defensive lineman Mike Wright was spotted for the first time since he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 13 with a foot injury. Wright was still using crutches, and a black sleeve was on his lower left leg.
Running back Kyle Eckel, who participated in practice yesterday, was wearing a padded girdle-type thing under his jersey. He has been listed on the injury report with a stomach injury.
The players seemed to be in a light mood, typical of a Friday (or Thursday in this case), as they know that after practice they can head home. They are also usually in a good mood when the week's preparations have gone well, as it is with Belichick.
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 12:02 PM | Permalink
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