COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Next stop, Mexico.
After a productive and enjoyable week of work in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, the Patriots put the finishing touches Friday on their preparations for the Oakland Raiders. They held one last practice session at the Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium before they begin to pack up and depart for Mexico City on Saturday.
"A few things to tighten up," head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged before Friday's session. "A lot of things to get ready for with the Raiders. They present a lot of problems, but we'll just keep grinding our way through it."
The only apparent negative development to emerge from New England's sojourn in Colorado involves David Andrews. New England's starting center did not appear at practice for the second consecutive day due to an unspecified illness. The team later ruled Andrews out for Sunday's meeting with the Raiders.
With Andrews unable to suit up for the game in Mexico, his center responsibility will likely fall to second-year interior lineman Ted Karras, who played nothing but right guard in college at the University of Illinois. His only experience at center has come in practices with the Patriots the past two seasons. That fact didn't seem to faze Karras when he spoke with reporters after practice Friday.
"I'm ready to go play if needed," he declared. "I'm still working on the little nuances… It's a lot different [than guard]. You have to make the calls, deliver the ball [to the quarterback] – that's the most important part of the play.
"I just come to work every day and fill in where I'm told to go. That's kind of been my M.O. since I got here. I'm just going to continue with that style."
With the week in Colorado all but in their rearview mirror, the Patriots appear anxious to head south.
"I'm just ready to go and play," wide receiver Danny Amendola smiled. "I've been looking forward to this game for a long time. We're playing a great team, had a good week of preparation. We're all looking forward to getting out there.
"There's a lot of football love in Mexico City. They're really enthusiastic, they're amped up, ready for the NFL to get down there. We're all excited, too."
"I'm excited for it. It's going to be a lot of fun," agreed quarterback Tom Brady. "I've never been to Mexico City. It's nice that it's here. When the schedule comes out and you kind of figure out where you're playing, this is the kind of game you look forward to, playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. So, it will be very memorable. I think everyone's excited. It's been a fun week to prepare, and we've still got a couple days left. Hopefully we can use it wisely."