With his right ankle taped, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with coach Bill Belichick while the team stretches before the NFL football team's practice began at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., Monday, Jan. 28, 2008.
PHOENIX – The Patriots were happy to leave the cold and wind of Foxborough and begin work under sunny skies at Sun Devil Stadium Monday afternoon, and Tom Brady was indeed among those doing the work.
The quarterback's right ankle was taped but that didn't prevent him from taking part in the entire practice, which lasted roughly an hour and 40 minutes. According to pool reporter Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, Brady took part in all phases of the workout, including jogging the length of the field twice at the end of drills. Pompei did indicate that Brady appeared to have a slight limp.
After practicing in full pads back home last week, Bill Belichick had his team in shorts and shells. "We just wanted to get a good crisp practice and work on our timing. We had a lot of contact last week," Belichick said.
Later in the afternoon the scene shifted to the Phoenix Convention Center where Belichick's press conference took place. When asked about the extent of Brady's work earlier in the day, the coach was brief. "[Brady] was out there with everybody else."
Faces change, message doesn't
Six new Patriots took their turns on the risers at the Convention Center as Rodney Harrison, Junior Seau, Matt Light, Adalius Thomas, Ty Warren and Wes Welker all met with the media. As is usually the case during Super Bowl week, many of the questions dealt with issues that have been addressed locally throughout the season. But the answers remain the same.
As Belichick has stated several times over the past few weeks, the Patriots are well aware of the history surrounding their quest to go undefeated but continue to stress the need to stay focused. Harrison sounded like the coach himself when asked about his team's potential to make history.
"Like Bill said, it is the biggest game of our lives," Harrison said. "We have an opportunity to do something special that no one else has ever done. Right now it starts with practice and preparing and executing and then going out there on Sunday to win a football game."
Harrison was his usually engaging self during his 20-minute session. At one point he was asked about the many new weapons the Patriots brought in during the offseason and he drew an interesting analogy.
"It feels like 2003 when we played the Colts and they were unstoppable, it seemed like they were unstoppable," Harrison said of his team's record-setting offense. "It just seems like when we go against our offense it's like going against the '03 Colts with so many different weapons – the wide receivers, the running backs, the tight ends – so much talent and that's what we have."
Harrison touched on a number of other topics ranging from the legacy of his former San Diego teammate Seau to doling out Super Bowl tickets for family and friends. But he got very serious when asked about his reputation as a dirty player.
"Football is a dirty sport," he said. "You look at wide receivers going at your knees – is that dirty? I had that happen to me last year and it cost me a chance to play in the AFC Championship Game and it could have ended my career."
With three Pro Bowlers – Light, Dan Koppen and Logan Mankins – among the starting group, the guys up front are starting to gain some respect nationally, but that doesn't seem to have changed Light's often gregarious look at things. Light had an interesting take when asked how he would describe the Patriots offensive line.
"I would try to take over what the linebackers say: smart, fast and nasty, but we're not fast," Light said. "I think we're a physical group and for the most part we play pretty well together and we make pretty good decisions out there. I think everybody, if they take it to heart and learn the game plan and make sure they get in there and figure everything out before each contest and for that we've been able to play pretty effectively."
Then he added: "Other than that we're just a bunch of chubby white guys with bad complexions."
Light turned serious when the topic of his former teammate, Joe Andruzzi, came up. Andruzzi played guard for the Patriots from 2000-04 and has been battling Burkitt's lymphoma for the better part of the year.
"Joe's had to deal with a lot over the last year. When we first found out about it, our hearts went out to him and his family," Light said. "I think he's put up a heck of a fight and as far as I know he's winning that battle.
"Joe was a great teammate, a guy that really brought people together, really helped create that family feeling at least within our group as a line. Always invited us over to the house, of course, being a big Italian family we always had plenty to eat and for a lineman that's all we need. We wish Joe the best and we always think about him."
Brady defends Light
Light has protected Brady's backside for the last seven seasons. Now, the reigning NFL MVP is defending his personal protector against allegations from Giants Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora's claims that Light is a dirty player.
"Matt's dirty. He is not very clean, I know that," Brady joked Sunday on the bearded Light's personal hygiene before turning serious. "I am around him quite a bit. Matt plays hard. I think we have a bunch of guys on our team that play hard and he is a big part of that offensive line and what they do. Anytime your left tackle has a Pro Bowl season, you as a quarterback should owe him an awful lot.
"I don't think he is really a dirty player. Football is a very tough game. It is about hitting and it is about blocking and it is about tackling. There is a whistle that blows and sometimes that contact may kind of persist a little bit beyond the whistle. But I don't really think that is the case with Matt. Maybe with Rodney [Harrison], but not Matt."
Belichick noted in his Sunday press conference that Seau received an equal number of votes from his offensive and defensive teammates to earn the honor of captain in just his second season in New England. … The Associated Press reported that Washington owner Daniel Snyder has interest in speaking with both Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo about his team's vacant head coaching position. "We'll comply with league rules," Belichick said of any requests that might come down the line to speak with McDaniels. … The NFL announced that Alicia Keys and Arizona native "American Idol" winnerJordin Sparks will perform during Sunday's Super Bowl XLII pregame show. … Tuesday is Media Day at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Patriots entire roster of players and coaches will be available to the endless and diverse wave of media members on hand for the week. … Vince Wilfork was fined $5,000 for unnecessary roughness during the AFC Championship Game. Wilfork has been fined on four different occasions this season, totaling a reported $37,500. … The NFL will salute Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams on Sunday. Williams, who led the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos 20 years ago in San Diego, will participate in the Vince Lombardi Trophy ceremony at the conclusion of the game. Williams joins the ranks ofDon Shula and Bart Starr as legends saluted in previous Lombardi Trophy ceremonies, which was expanded in 2006 to include a great from prior Super Bowls.