When the NFL resumes play this weekend, the New England Patriots will honor the victims, heroes and all Americans in a unique show of Patriotism during pregame ceremonies. As part of those ceremonies, the Patriots will recognize four American heroes: Bill Andruzzi, a retired New York City police officer, and three of his sons, Billy, Jimmy and Marc.
The four will serve as honorary captains for the game's opening coin toss. Billy, Jimmy and Marc are the brothers of New England guard Joe Andruzzi. All three are New York firefighters who answered the call during the attack on the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11. They have since worked tirelessly during the search and rescue mission.
"It is an honor to recognize the Andruzzi family," Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said. "They represent many of the real American heroes. We salute the Andruzzis and the many brave men and women like them who have been willing to risk their own lives to save others. Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families who were affected by the recent tragedies."
Patriotism will be at an all-time high in Foxboro Stadium for "Fleet Day." Fleet is donating more than 60,000 American flags to be handed out to every fan who enters the stadium. Fleet Works volunteers will be staffing tables located at key stadium entrances, to accept donations on behalf of the American Red Cross.
Other pregame ceremonies will include a 60-second tribute video prepared by NFL Films. A giant American flag will be unfurled on the field for a special presentation of "America the Beautiful." All attendees will then be asked to observe a moment of silence prior to the singing of our national anthem. The anthem will be performed by Massachusetts State Trooper and former Marine Dan Clark. He will be joined on the field by dozens of representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, as well as local firefighters and local and state police.
Each player will where an American flag decal on the lower back of his helmet for the rest of the season. American flags also will adorn the caps players will wear on the sidelines during the game.
The stadium will be decorated with special red, white and blue bunting in the end zones and along the sidelines that reads, 'United We Stand.'
Stopping the big play
Allowing big plays was a problem for New England in the season opener against Cincinnati, and the New York Jets have several big-play guys in their offense. With this in mind, Head Coach Bill Belichick is stressing the importance of keeping focus this Sunday.
Belichick said the three main problem areas concerning big plays for the Patriots involved missed assignments, not playing team-oriented defense and missing tackles. All three keys saw breakdowns at different stages of the loss to the Bengals. Tight end Tony McGee was all by himself on a 25-yard touchdown pass. New England linebacker Bryan Cox blamed himself for that play.
Individuals not taking care of their roles on defense and in special teams hurt the team all day. Corey Dillon bounced off several tackles en route to a 104-yard performance, and Curtis Keaton ripped off a 64-yard kick return to set up a field goal.
The offensive personnel for New York has several players capable of hurting New England. Running backs Curtis Martin and Richie Anderson both need to be contained, and the receiving trio of Wayne Chrebet, Laveranues Coles and Matthew Hatchette can stretch a secondary.
"The Jets have a lot of formations and motions they like to use," Belichick said. "We are going to have to be mentally alert."
From what Belichick has seen of New York thus far, the Patriots receivers will not be seeing much man coverage this weekend.
"What it looks like this year is that Aaron Glenn is always to the offensive right, and Marcus Coleman is always to the offensive left. They haven't flip-flopped at all," Belichick said. "If you look at the two corners, you probably won't see two more different corners on the same team. Marcus is 6-2, 210 and Aaron is 5-8, 185. They have totally different styles of play. When I was there, and last year too, they would match up against receivers that better fit their style of play. This year to this point they haven't done that. When the third corner comes in, which is Ray Mickens, he always is in the slot."
Because the Jets play so much zone defense, it prevents offenses from setting up one-on-one match-ups in the passing game.
"They play very little man," Belichick said. "Most of their man-to-man comes on third down. They do mix it in a little bit on the early downs, but it would be really hard to count on. It would be really hard to call a play on first or second down and think, 'We are going to get man here.'"
McGinest probable for game
There was a late change to the Patriots injury report Friday, with defensive end Willie McGinest added as probable for the game with a leg injury.
Richard Seymour (leg), Mike Vrabel (knee), Otis Smith (leg) and Torrance Small (leg) are all listed as questionable. However, Belichick sounded much more confident about Seymour and Vrabel playing than Smith or Small.
Seymour and Vrabel have been able to practice. Neither is 100 percent, but they should be able to give playing a chance on Sunday. Small, who had returned from his leg gash in training camp only to have his leg tighten up a week later, is getting better, but is limited.
"Otis didn't do too much yesterday," Belichick said. "I think he has a lot less chance to play than the other guys. Torrance been out there the last couple days and seems to be making pretty good progress."