Entering Week 11, Rob Gronkowski is tied with Dallas' Jason Witten for most catches by a tight end (49), but is far and away the leader in his position in terms of receiving yards. Gronkowski's 806 are about 140 more than the next best – Cleveland's Gary Barnidge (667) and Carolina's Greg Olsen (664).
Gronkowski also holds the dubious distinction of leading the league in offensive pass interference calls. Four times this season, he's been flagged for the violation, and it's clearly a subject that puts him in the unusual position of being on the defensive.
"It's been going on all year… I'm not sure what it is," he acknowledged, adding with a defiant grin, "I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm playing football. I'm not changing my style. I'm just going to keep playing how I've been playing, how I go out and practice and try and transition it to the games."
The All-Pro tight end admitted that he often asks the officials why he was flagged so that he can learn from his mistakes, yet he maintained that he's not allowing the frequent flags to distract him.
"We're playing well as an offense. It's not that frustrating when I get the penalty and someone else makes a play on third-and-long. That definitely helps out right there, but got to just keep playing the game."
Brown having run in rookie year
First-round draft choice Malcom Brown granted a group of reporters a rare opportunity to chat with him on Thursday. The young defensive tackle has been in the starting lineup for the past month, and perhaps not coincidentally, New England's rush defense has been playing better and more consistently.
Not surprisingly, Brown admitted he's having fun halfway through his rookie campaign.
"I'm still learning. There's so much for me to learn, but these [veteran] guys are helping me out a lot," he began.
"When I was coming out of college, I was thinking I was going to go into a [professional] locker room where everyone was so serious and it's such a business, but it's a great atmosphere to be in [here in Foxborough]. You can't just concentrate all the time. You've got to have fun, or otherwise it gets old and you get tired of it. Football can beat you down, but if you go out there and have fun, everything just seems to go smoothly. And you're still learning in the process. I just lean on these vets. A lot of them call me their little brother. We just have fun like that."
Bill head coach Rex Ryan is normally a quote machine, but he was in rare form this Thursday. Earlier in the day, in a briefing with Buffalo media, he predicted that the Patriots – his opponents this week – are going to win the AFC East yet again this year and that he'd "much rather play someone else."
When asked why he's so obsessed with the Patriots, Ryan responded, "I want what they have. They have the rings. I'm not kissing them, but that's what I'm chasing."
Seemed like he was in a good mood at that point, but when he joined New England media on a conference call, his tenor changed. Ryan was asked if he loses sleep over the fact that his teams have lost so frequently of late against the Patriots.
"You know what, the only reason I talk about them is that they're the No. 1 team in our division, that's where we want to be. I know you guys always say I'm obsessed with them and all that. You guys are obsessed with them, not me. I want to beat them but you're the ones that talk about them every single day.
"I'll tell you this," an irritated Ryan continued, "we prepare for them the same way we prepare for every team that we face. But do we want to beat them? Absolutely. Do I want to beat them more than any team? Yeah, because they're the standard, they've won and they're the ones who win the division. To me, that's why do I obsess with them and all that? You guys write about I've lost seven of eight, so why are you even talking to me. I obviously have no clue on how to attack them or defend them. So, you guys should talk to somebody else who's got a better record than I do against them.
"I just think the way you guys spin everything, you put everything I say, you take whatever it is, you put it out there the way you want to," Ryan concluded. "I understand it. You guys have covered this matchup for years and years. We've got no business being on the same field. That's what you said. We've lost seven of eight, I've lost seven of eight against them. So, don't talk to me. I'm sitting back here and I'll answer the question, whatever. I don't know why you even bother."
A report by NFL.com indicated this week that linebacker Jamie Collins has recovered from a mysterious virus that has kept him out of the past two games, but that he is still trying to regain his normal weight and strength, which were sapped by the illness. Collins was not at practice or in the locker room again today. He's been out since Nov. 7, when he was downgraded for the Washington game.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman (left foot) and rookie corner Justin Coleman (right hand) were the only other Patriots not able to take part in practice.