Anybody seen Tom Brady lately?
There was no sign of the New England Patriots QB Thursday when the media was allowed inside the team locker room just before practice began.
Brady, as you probably know by now, was last seen walking the streets of New York with a protective boot on his right foot. On a sports radio show here in Boston earlier this week, he told the hosts it was "nothing serious."
At his midday press conference Thursday, head coach Bill Belichick shed little light on the matter.
"Well, we'll go out there. I don't know," he replied when asked if Brady would practice. Turns out, Brady was not with his teammates at practice, either – at least not during the portion the media was allowed to observe.
Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Belichick added, "The injury report will be out next Wednesday and we're excited to give that to you. That form will be filled out completely and I can't wait to give that to everybody. I know you're anxious for it, so when it's due on Wednesday, we'll have it for you. Don't worry about that."
On a more serious note, Belichick talked about Brady's overall toughness, no doubt having played through pain and various injuries throughout his illustrious career. Since taking over the reigns of the Patriots in 2001, Brady has started 126 consecutive games.
"I think Tom's one of the toughest players on our team, mentally and physically. He works hard and he can be focused on his job regardless of what's going on in all of the surroundings – the crowd, the game, the – whatever it is, stuff flying around him, but he's very calm. He's a great competitor, but he's very calm.
"Tom works extremely hard. He trains hard, he's a well-conditioned athlete and he does everything he can to be ready so I think that certainly has something to do with it. On the other hand, I've seen other players that have trained hard that have had bad breaks and have missed games because of injury.. But he trains hard, he's in good condition. There's no question about that. I'm sure that helps him."
So, is all this chatter about Brady's foot going to end up being a non-issue come Super Sunday?
"Portray it however you want," Belichick replied with a smile.
How Hobbs handles height
Throughout these playoffs, the Patriots smaller secondary has at times had difficulty matching up with some of the taller receivers they've faced – Jacksonville's 6-6 Matt Jones and 6-4 Ernest Wilford, or San Diego's 6-5 Vincent Jackson, for instance.
Next Sunday, they'll go up against 6-5 Plaxico Burress and 6-3 Amani Toomer. The last time the Giants and Pats met, just about a month ago, one of the biggest plays New England's defense gave up came on the second play of the game – a 52-yard completion to Burress that set up the Giants first touchdown of the evening.
So how can 5-9 Ellis Hobbs (who was defending on that play) or 5-10 Asante Samuel neutralize their opponents' height?
"Technique. Great technique," Hobbs answered Thursday at his locker. "You can't make mistakes. When the ball's in the air, you have to be aware of your body, what position you're in, and not allow him to get himself body position where he can box you out, almost like basketball, going for a rebound. He already has the size advantage, but don't give him anything else."
Thursday Practice/Locker Room Notebook
In addition to Brady, safeties Rodney Harrison and Mel Mitchell were absent from practice. Harrison, however, was an active participant in the media's Q&A session in the Pats locker room prior to practice.
The Patriots were in full pads for practice, which took place inside the Dana-Farber Field House.
Five players donned the black practice-player-of-the-week jerseys: and DB Willie Andrews, OL Wesley Britt, QBs Matt Cassel and Matt Gutierrez, and S Ray Ventrone.