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Gray hoping for green light Sunday; Jan. 16 notes

News from Patriots practice and player interviews.

With 412 rushing yards in just eight regular season appearances, Jonas Gray led all Patriots ball carriers in that category. Half of those yards came in one game, Nov. 16 at Indianapolis, when Gray also broke the plane of the Colts' goal line four times – a regular season franchise record.

The former practice squad player has been relatively quiet of late, however. In Week 16 at the Jets, he suffered a left ankle injury, was inactive the next week, and again last weekend against Baltimore. Gray has been a limited practice participant, however, and is eager to contribute again if called upon this Sunday in the rematch with Indy at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game.

Patriots Football Weekly's Andy Hart shares his players to watch during Saturday's AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

"It would mean a lot, man," Gray said about receiving carries in Sunday's playoff game. "Honestly, it would be — it would mean a lot. I'm excited, man. Hopefully I'll have an opportunity, but I'm just waiting and we'll see what happens. No idea. No idea. Just wait and see. Just like the game plan, you don't know how things will go.

"Same way with being active and inactive. You don't know whether you're going to play or not each week. You want to be able to contribute to winning an AFC championship, being a part of something great. Like anyone else on this team, (I'm) worried about the preparation, doing whatever I can to help the team."

Gray isn't the only Patriots back with a history of success on the ground against the Colts, however. Last season, in the Divisional Playoff in Foxborough, LeGarrette Blount churned out 166 yards and four TDs in a 43-22 victory. And it's been Blount, down the stretch, whom the team has turned to more often than Gray to run the ball.

Yet Gray says he's ready to go if needed on Sunday.

"When the team's winning, I'm coming in every day, I'm getting better," Gray said. "I'm getting better with my preparation, I'm getting better on little things. I'm also staying healthy, so I'm excited about the opportunity to play. I'm excited about my opportunity to play my role, whatever it is, I'll do it, and we have a chance to go to a Super Bowl. I'm only focused on this one game."

Singular focus

Gray isn't the only player staying focused. The Patriots collectively have had a one-track mind this week, according to wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who says he can't wait for kickoff Sunday night.

"Feels like it's been the longest week of the season. We always say the last week of the preseason to the first week of the regular season is long because you put in all that work and you're ready to go show it. But it seems like this week is taking so long. Everyone's anxious to go play.

"We always pay attention to detail around here," LaFell added, "but it's mad focus this week. Everybody is focused, everybody's out there at practice making plays. We're cheering for each other on the sideline. If somebody makes a mistake, we're getting on each other, busting a little bit more. Everybody's into it. This is an emotional game, man. You've worked all season long to get to this point. You have to show your emotions."

The Colts, meanwhile, went so far as to shut down their website, putting up a slate that encouraged fans to put all their focus on Sunday's game.

Practice Report

For their final practice of the week, the Patriots once again donned shells and helmets and took to the Gillette stadium game field. Rookie center Bryan Stork (right knee) was the only player not on the field, as has been the case all week.

Stork is a virtual certainty to miss the Colts game Sunday. However, former Patriots Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, and Troy Brown will be there to serve as honorary captains.

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