Patriots

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

new-england-patriots-take-field-12017.jpg

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here:

Brady touched by Gronk's loyalty, sad for Jimmy G

Brady touched by Gronk's loyalty, sad for Jimmy G

Tom Brady sounded humbled both by his team's performance and his All-Pro tight end's pledge of loyalty to him in the aftermath of the Patriots' 26-10 loss to the Lions in Detroit on Sunday night.

Of Rob Gronkowski's acknowledgment that he was nearly traded to the Lions in the offseason and that "Brady's my quarterback. I'm not going anywhere without Brady," the Patriots quarterback, in his weekly WEEI interview on the "Kirk and Callahan" show, said the feeling is mutual about Gronk.

TOM E. CURRAN's HARD TRUTHS

“Well, I think that speaks to our relationship and I feel as strongly about him as he does about me," he said. "I love the guy. He has had a big impact on my career personally, professionally. Like I said, I am very lucky to play with him and we’re going to keep fighting. We are going to keep going after it week in and week out. We’re going to figure out a way to get this thing turned around.”

Brady would comment specifically on the rumored trade, but called it "nothing short of a miracle" that Gronk is playing after fighting through injuries throughout his career. 

“I don’t want to get into any hypotheticals and things like that. I have played with him for a long time," he said. "I think so highly of him as a player, as a person, as a friend, as a teammate and I am lucky to play with such a great player and someone who I just love being out there with. [He is] such a great competitor with what he’s fought through over the course of his career. Nothing short of a miracle in a lot of ways. … I love playing with Gronk. 

Brady also expressed sympathy for his former backup QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, who is likely out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in the San Francisco 49ers loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

https://www.nbcsports.com/boston/patriots/49ers-fear-jimmy-garoppolo-tore-left-acl?int

“I feel terrible for him,” Brady said. “It’s a tough injury. I feel bad for Jimmy, and it's football. Things happen like that. I've been through an ACL. It just sucks. You hate to see people go down, and (Jimmy) is someone I really like and have been friends with since the day he got here. It just sucks to have to go through that.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

For Patriots, 'gotta play better, gotta coach better' never rang more true

cp-spark-hard-truths-3-092318.jpg
USA Today Sports Photo

For Patriots, 'gotta play better, gotta coach better' never rang more true

The Patriots fell to 1-2 on the season with a stunning 26-10 loss in Detroit against former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Click here for the boxscore, and here to watch what the coaches, players and analysts were saying after the game.

GAME WITHIN THE GAME
The biggest X-factor going into this game was how well-prepared the Lions would be by Matt Patricia, given his knowledge of what the Patriots would like to do on both sides of the ball.

Based the Lions’ success, it’s safe to say he sniffed some things out.

Defensively, Detroit didn’t appear to blitz much. The Lions just played solid coverage and rushed four most of the time. That was plenty to keep the Patriots receivers from running free and allowing Tom Brady to stand back and pick them apart. The sacks they had were coverage sacks. The pick they had was an instance where Brady appeared to just wing it into coverage hoping to pick up a chunk. It wasn’t close.

Meanwhile, the Lions took full advantage offensively of the Patriots' inept and unimaginative pass rush. Aside from Deatrich Wise showing up with a terrific singular effort on his sack, there was precious little heat on Matt Stafford and he was content to find the holes on the sidelines and throw short over the middle where the Patriots labor to cover.

Most discouraging for New England was the way Patricia and his offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, exposed Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy at the point of attack, rooting them out of there and then getting LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson to the second level with speed.

The Patriots were outcoached, certainly. But they also seemed to just take it on defense. They got pushed around, play after play, and just kept lining up and allowing it to happen again. 

MORE HARD TRUTHS

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE