Patriots calm before the playoff storm


Patriots calm before the playoff storm

By Mary Paoletti

FOXBORO -- Don't show up late to Gillette on this Tuesday. This Tuesday is different.

It's Jets week -- again -- for the Patriots, so the amount of reporters in the locker room is increased by default. But this one, the rubber match, is also a divisional playoff game. So the media mob, as you might expect, has grown exponentially. Latecomers are stuck in SRO (standing room only), peppered in along the wall of videographers and photographers recording and clicking away.

NFL road warriors like Rachel Nichols arrive early to grab a front-row seat. There's a lot going on today. The dry-erase board in the workroom that outlines the week's schedule is crammed with names, dates, times and locations.

Up first to the podium is Jerod Mayo.

This is something special.

See, there's a certain routine that happens at Gillette during the work room, certain things that can be expected.

1) Tom Brady will meet the media. Always. The location of the scrum can change -- podium (rare), Bret Lockett's locker (pre-Moss) or his own locker (post-Moss) -- but you can depend on it happening.

2) Bill Belichick will speak at the podium. Whether in grunts, cryptic riddles, or half-sentences.

But the NFL's leading tackler and Patriots defensive captain standing in front of a room full of reporters? No; this is different.

Mayo discusses the surprising strength of the 'D' cautiously: "That Cleveland game is still in my head." He laughs off engaging in Jets mind games: "Im hoping no one asks me those types of questions." And he describes the tone: "This feels like the playoffs." Mayo's answers are like his hits: quick, efficient.

Two other teammates will take the stage: Deion Branch, then Alge Crumpler. Their styles are night and day. Branch, the undersized wideout, grins a wide smile and puts reporters in stitches with his velvety voice. Few other Patriots could so smoothly call MVP-caliber quarterback Tom Brady a "dork."

Crumpler exudes calm.

He's not interested in the peripheral drama of Rex Ryan calling out Brady for not being a studious dork, the psychology of Brady and Branch's on-field chemistry, or any opportunities to pat himself on the back. For Crumpler, it's about focus, preparation and accountability. The rest? "I don't care."

Now enter the locker room.

If it's playoff buzz you want, you're in the wrong place. The only change this week is the steady din emanating from the media milling around the room. But Patriots players are scarce, per usual.

Practice squaders Ross Ventrone and Carson Butler, and the little-used Tony Carter, catch some 'Z''s by their lockers. The three lay on their backs, feet propped up on folding chairs, earbuds in, hats or hoods pulled down over their eyes.

The few others who dare the area littered by reporters try to get ready for practice as discretely as possible. They tote red (Jarrad Page) or blue (Danny Woodhead) binders as they flit from locker to weight room and back to their lockers again. Don't even try the rookies because they're on lock-down. "Not talking today," Aaron Hernandez shrugs.

The guys who take too long to get dressed get pounced on by the press. Today, Page turns to find himself surrounded by a half-circle of cameras, bright lights, and microphones. He insists that preparation for the playoffs is business as usual. A sympathetic Kevin Faulk walks by the trapped Page, but keeps moving.

"You guys don't want to hear this," Faulk quips to the herd over his shoulder, "but it's just another game. If you treat it like anything else, that's when things get out of hand."

It appears Faulk is right. If the energy of this team is amped up this week -- and it is -- the Patriots are saving the show for themselves. For Sunday. For the Jets.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Belichick: Karras stepping in an illustration of why Patriots are good


Belichick: Karras stepping in an illustration of why Patriots are good

Is it Tom Brady? Is it Bill Belichick? Well, yes and yes. But there are other reasons for why the Patriots are 8-2, obviously, and Belichick highlighted one of them by lauding one of the most unsung players on his 53-man active roster.

What Ted Karras did on Sunday -- filling in against the Raiders as the starting center in place of David Andrews -- was just one of many examples of a player making the most of an opportunity presented to him, Belichick explained.


"Ted always works hard," he said after the Patriots beat the Raiders, 33-8. "Nobody spends more time at the facility than he does. Training. Preparing. He had an opportunity, and he stepped up and did the most with it. That's what we needed. That's why we have a good team. We have a lot of guys who do that."

Andrews came down with an illness last week and missed the team's final two practices at the Air Force Academy. As the primary fill-in at all three interior offensive line spots, Karras was tapped as the replacement, and he played all 60 offensive snaps for the Patriots in what was his first start since filling in for Shaq Mason during the 2016 season-opener. 

Karras had played just nine snaps going into the game -- all in a blowout against the Broncos the week prior -- but was part of an effort in the trenches that allowed Tom Brady to remain relatively clean for the vast majority of the game. On 38 drop-backs, Brady was pressured just seven times, he was hit three times, and he was sacked only once. And for the second consecutive week, Brady's offensive line was not penalized. 

Considering that Karras wasn't the only fill-in used, the offensive line's performance was all the more impressive. LaAdrian Waddle continued to be the primary replacement for Marcus Cannon, who is dealing with an ankly issue, and when Waddle left Sunday's game briefly on two different occasions then Cameron Fleming took his place. 

"They did a great job to step in like that . . . [Waddle] was battling out there, going against some really good players," Brady said. "It was a great team win. Great by the offensive line. They've really done a great job with the penalty situation, moving the line of scrimmage and so forth. Great protection. We just have to keep it going."


Former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn killed in car crash


Former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn killed in car crash

Terry Glenn, the Patriots' top draft pick in 1996 who had a tumultous six-year career with the team -- and who also caught the first NFL touchdown pass ever thrown by Tom Brady -- died early Monday morning in a one-car accident in Irving, Texas. He was 43.

Glenn wound up playing 12 years in the National Football League, joining first the Packers and then the Cowboys after leaving the Patriots in controversy in 2001. Glenn was involved in a pay dispute with the team during training camp, had issues with the coaching staff, and was deactivated by Bill Belichick after the fourth game of the year. He wasn't given a Super Bowl ring after the Pats beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

He had earlier clashed with Bill Parcells as a rookie, with Parcells famously referring to Glenn as "she" when he was sidelined with a minor injury. He caught 90 passes for 1,132 yards and six touchdowns in '96 to help the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history; they were beaten by Green Bay in Super Bowl XXVI.

Glenn and Parcells reunited in Dallas in 2003 after Glenn had spent one yeat with the Packers, and he played the remainder of his career with the Cowboys. He had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in Dallas.

According to reports, Glenn was with his fiance at the time of the accident. She's being treated at a local hospital for unspecified injuries.

He played college football at Ohio State.