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Amendola, Patriots homing in on Houston

The Patriots hope to make themselves at home next Sunday evening against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium.

That shouldn't be hard for New England wide receiver Danny Amendola, who hails from the Houston area, growing up in The Woodlands prior to a college career at Texas Tech.

So what will be a special experience for everyone involved, the trip to Texas this week is even more so for Amendola.

"It does. It does," Amendola said, acknowledging it being extra unique week. "[I was] born and raised in Houston and played a lot football in Houston. It will be special to go play another game there."

Amendola spoke Sunday morning at Gillette Stadium, just prior to the final Foxborough-based practice of the week for the Patriots.

"We're ready to just put in one more good day here then get out there tomorrow and get it rolling," Amendola said.

"Pretty excited to, honestly, to get in some warmer weather, so that will be good," cornerback Logan Ryan said of Monday's flight to Houston. "I know we've got one more important practice today that I think we need to get in. I think being a little older I understand that so we're actually excited for practice. We're having a lot of fun out there. Last practice at home so it's always fun."

Earlier this week Bill Belichick said that somewhere between 50 and 100 percent of the Patriots Super Bowl preparation would be concluded prior to arrival in Houston, the rest hammered out in a week of work at the University of Houston. The key is to put the extra week between games to good use, but also peak at the right time on Feb. 5.

"I mean it's like preparing for a test. You want to get the work done early. You want to get familiar with it. It's not going to hurt to learn," Amendola said.

And while Amendola is clearly looking forward to playing the biggest game in all of sports in his home town, sometimes such circumstances can be overwhelming for a player. The veteran receiver said that hasn't been an issue this week as he took care of tickets for friends and family.

"I've got a lot of good friends that don't bug me. But I have a lot of people coming so it's exciting," Amendola declared.

23

The Patriots have 23 players who've been on teams lucky enough to advance to the Super Bowl, including Tom Brady making his record seventh trip to the big game. Atlanta, on the other hand, has just five such players.

On paper, experience is one of the many areas that would seem to favor the Patriots.

But there is no better example of lack of experience being rendered meaningless than New England's own Super Bowl XLIX win over Seattle thanks to undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler's history-altering interception.

Belichick and others have downplayed the value of experience, the emphasis in New England always more focused on another "E" word – execution.

"I don't know," Amendola responded when asked about the advantage of experience. "We'll find out but we've got to play good football, play really great football to get a win. They're a really great football team. They're going to be the best football team we play to this point so just getting familiar with them this week is really the only thing we're focused on. Experience isn't going to help you win it. You've got to play a really good, new football team, a well-coached football team. We've got to play good. It's the only thing we're really focused on."

Super rookie

The Patriots have been to a record six straight AFC title games, three of those experiences leading to spots in the Super Bowl. So it's no crazy for New England newcomers – be they rookies or veteran additions like Chris Long – to think that arrival in Foxborough gives them a big chance to go to the big game.

But according to rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell – whose impressive first NFL season included 32 catches for 401 yards and four touchdowns – that's a thought you banish from your brain when you first join the Patriots. Much smaller goals take precedent at that point.

"You just hope you can make the team at that time," Mitchell said last April's fourth-round pick. "I mean you know the challenges that are ahead just from conversations around this opportunity and this organization. You hope for it. You know if you make it through the process that you'll have an opportunity but other than that you just hope you can make the team."

In the end Mitchell was able to achieve both goals.

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