Tom Curran of the Providence Journal reports that Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi was named the co-Comeback Player of the Year yesterday. Bruschi, who rebounded from a stroke shares the award with Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith, who came back from a knee injury. Both players garnered 18 votes.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that Jaguars vice president of player personnel James " Shack" Harris and head coach Jack Del Rio have built the team around one element, toughness. It's a reason why the Jaguars are thought to be different than most warm-weather teams that traditionally struggle in the cold. They are big, powerful, and young. They're built to play anywhere, any time. At least that's the hope here where the team has practiced in temperatures hovering near 75 degrees all week. "In order to play in the Northeast you have to have that physical and mental toughness and that's what we're trying to develop here," said Del Rio. "To be able to go anywhere and play the game at your highest level no matter what the conditions, is the place you have to get to as a team. I take pride in our ability to do that."
Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe writes that with the injuries that have become prevalent in Foxborough, backup players have often been brought into even sharper focus in the past few seasons. When the safety ranks thinned last season, Davis was brought over from his traditional linebacker spot. It's a move that clearly signals desperation, but that didn't make it any less crucial for Davis to be fully prepared for the action in the middle of the secondary. Matt Chatham, for one, was a surprise atop the list of tacklers in the final regular-season game against Miami with eight. Coach Bill Belichick wasn't willing to sacrifice his starters for a game he didn't need to win. So Chatham got to be a linebacker again. ''I think everybody views everybody as important, knowing that to have a team you have to have a lot of different people that do different things," Davis said. ''We have practice squad guys whose names will never be in the paper who do a great job playing all week both sides of the ball. We don't give them any greater -- or less -- significance than you do Tom Brady or Adam Vinatieri. I think the entire team thrives on the fact of no one person's bigger than the team."
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe reports that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished third in the voting for NFL's Most Valuable Player. Brady led the league in passing yards with a career-best 4,110, and said earlier in the week that the award was the ''farthest thing from my mind." Seattle Seahawks running back Shawn Alexander took home the honor, while Indianpolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning finished a close second. John Tomase of the Boston Herald also offers a similar article on Brady.
Ron Borges of the Boston Globe writes that despite all the Patriots' injuries this year, they will enter tomorrow night's AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium much healthier than the Jaguars. While New England has to be concerned over linebacker Tedy Bruschi's calf and the problems stopping the run that develop whenever backup Monty Beisel replaces him, it pales in comparison with the troubles the Jaguars face. Jacksonville's strength is its defense, and it, too, is wracked by serious injuries. Middle linebacker Mike Peterson, the team's leading tackler, has a badly sprained (possibly broken) wrist, and both defensive ends, Paul Spicer and Reggie Hayward, are hurting and their playing time may be limited.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that when Tom Brady takes aim, it makes no difference whether it's a No. 1 reciver, starting inside linebacker, or offensive tackle running the patterns -- he's just looking for the open guy. Brady threw touchdown passes to 12 receivers this season, tying the NFL record for most TD targets by a quarterback in a year (Tampa Bay's Brad Johnson in 2003). All six receivers on the squad (not including rookie Bam Childress, who was put on the roster last week) have touchdown catches. All three tight ends have scoring grabs. Only one running back had a TD reception this year, but Mike Vrabel, the aforementioned linebacker, and tackle Tom Ashworth, No. 68, have each scored on Brady passes, Vrabel three times. "You have a lot of guys around there that can make plays," tight end Daniel Graham said. "So you can't just throw the ball to one person, because we have guys that when they do get the ball, they can do a lot of things. There are a lot of weapons on our offense, so why not use them?"
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that Byron Leftwich made it through the week without a setback to his right ankle, which he broke Nov. 27. That means there's only one thing left for the Jaguars quarterback to do: Be prepared for tomorrow night's game without looking back.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald writes that 37 players on the 53-man roster can boast of at least one championship ring. That's 22 more than Tampa Bay, the next closest of any of the 11 other teams in the tournament. 30 of those 37 players have earned multiple rings. That kind of experience can't be taught, or replicated. Sure, it sounds cliche, but the Patriots do know what it takes to win in these games. They know the secret. They know the formula. And their coach does, too. And knowing and recognizing that builds an inner confidence and security other teams such as the Jaguars don't have.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio and quarterback Byron Leftwich yesterday said they had no problem with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady playing the disrespect card earlier this week. "You know what, I actually understand what he's talking about because early in the year people were trying to write them off," Del Rio said. "At one point I had to laugh. You're talking about a guy that's won three out of the last four Super Bowls having to answer questions. It's just the nature of the beast. It's kind of the way it is."
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that Corey Dillon's season-long simmer bubbled over yesterday when he lashed out at a media he believes has discounted him this season. "Writing about the running game, who gives a [obscenity]? We're in the playoffs," Dillon said. "We're playing for something. If you guys don't feel me on that, I don't know what to tell you. If you don't like it, if you don't like me, I don't care. It doesn't matter. You guys aren't going to do nothing for my life after football, so why should I give a rat's (obscenity)? I don't. I keep it real. That's what it is. "I'm going to do what I do. I'm going to do what I've been doing. It doesn't matter how many yards I got, how many yards I don't got. I don't care. It's playoff time. We're playing for something. Bottom line. Take it or leave it. If you don't like it, don't come over to 28's locker and don't bother me, because I don't care."
Jarrett Bell of USA Today offers a personal look at the life of Patriots defensive lineman, Richard Seymour. The article takes a look at Seymours family life and talks about the loss of Seymour's father in 2004.