Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe offers a story on Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach John Gruden. In one way, Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, the only NFL coach besides Belichick to win a Super Bowl in the last four seasons, is Belichick's opposite. He's a mad scientist of an offensive coach. But according to Belichick, Gruden doesn't just relish the challenge of whipping opposing defenses, he gets a perverted joy out of torturing them. It's almost as if Belichick has bought into the oft-made comparison of Gruden to Chucky, the malevolent doll from the ''Child's Play" horror movie series. "He's gonna stick the knife in, but then he's going to turn it a couple of times, too," Belichick said of Gruden's offensive philosophy. ''Not only are you going to be uncomfortable, but you're going to be real uncomfortable by the time they end up finishing with the formation, and the motioning, and then the pattern or the action that comes with it. Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald and Tom Curran of the Providence Journal both offer similar articles on Gruden.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots defense has certainly improved against the run of late, but it must be at its best Saturday to stop Tampa Bay's Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who could very well win the NFL's Rookie of the Year award. The 5-foot-11, 217-pound running back, drafted fifth overall out of Auburn, needs just 76 yards to reach 1,000 for the season, and that's with two games missed with a foot injury. "He missed a couple of games early, but he's come on great," Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel said of Williams. "He runs hard, he's got speed, he runs with power, he breaks tackles. I'm sure everything they liked and saw of him in college, he's doing the same things here."
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe, Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald and Tom Curran of the Providence Journal all offer an injury update on Tom Brady. The Patriots' injury report came out yesterday, and quarterback Tom Brady was termed "questionable" for Saturday's game with Tampa because of a shin injury (and the requisite "right shoulder"). Brady hurt his left shin diving into the end zone in the first quarter of last Sunday's 35-7 win at Buffalo. Though he winced in pain and limped for some of the game, he played until the contest was out of hand. Yesterday, Brady offered a limited update on his condition. (According to league rules, the term "questionable" means he has a 50-50 chance of playing.) "I'm doing better than I was a few days ago," Brady said. "You guys know Belichick, so I'm not going to talk about this stuff. He's given me strict instructions to keep quiet, so that's what I'm doing. We'll see how it goes, so hopefully I'll be out there. I'm excited about what [Saturday's game against Tampa Bay] means for us, it's going to be a great challenge, one of the best teams in the NFC. I wish I could elaborate, but Belichick said, 'Don't say anything about it.' So, it's what the boss said, it's what I do."
Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger writes that with center Dan Koppen lost to a season-ending shoulder injury, left tackle Matt Light still out with a broken leg, Ashworth sidelined for a time with a knee problem and now Kaczur out of commission with a bum shoulder, the only constants for the Patriots up front have been guards Logan Mankins and Stephen Neal. And, of course, line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Scarnecchia's work with the Patriots been nothing short of brilliant the last few years. Offensive line coaches aren't often thought of as master in-game tacticians, but Belichick credited Scarnecchia with making some "subtle adjustments" in the running game last Sunday that got the Patriots going after a shaky start. "Dante is as good a coach as anybody I've coached with in my career," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who's been at this for 31 years. "... I think I can say to pretty much any lineman who comes into this organization, 'If you'll just accept the coaching that you're getting, which is very good, you'll improve. If you don't improve, then it's really your fault because you're not going to get any better coaching than this from him."
Glen Farley of The Enterprise offers a story on Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin. Colvin heads into Saturday's game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium with a sack in each of the last three weeks dating back to Nov. 27 in Kansas City. His total of 67 tackles this season ranks third on the Patriots behind only Vrabel and nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Showing signs of the burst he boasted with the Bears, with 5 1/2 sacks, Rosevelt is leading the charge - he's tops on the Patriots in that department. "He's been solid," said Belichick. "His play's improved in every aspect - his play against the run, in coverage, his play against the pass, his awareness, his communication. He's playing pretty well. Certainly more consistently than he ever has in our system. (That's) due to his diligence, hard work and perseverance. He deserves a lot of credit for all that," said Belichick. "He's done it himself and he's overcome a significant obstacle."
Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger reports that former Boston Patriots center, Walt Cudzik, 73, passed away last Sunday at his home in Alabama. Gino Cappelletti, the Patriots' longtime radio analyst on WBCN-FM, played kicker, receiver and sometimes defensive was a teammate and friend of Cudzik. "Walter and I got to be close," Cappelletti, 71, said. "He played at Purdue, I played at Minnesota, so we were Big Ten-ers. We had something in common. He was a pretty knowledgeable as far as the blocking of an offensive line. And he was doing what all the centers have been doing now in pro football in calling out the blocking (schemes) to the two guards and the tackles."
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers his weekly Patriots report card. The lowest grade of a C went out to the Patriots special teams, who allowed Terrence McGee to rack up 126 return yards on five attempts.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.