Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe features quarterback Tom Brady, who missed portions of practice for the first time this season yesterday, three days after absorbing a hard hit from Jaguars linebacker Clint Ingram. "I haven't been hit that hard in a long time," Brady said of the helmet-leading blow from Ingram. "I've always said I'm real proud of the fact that I've hung in there as a guy [for] who the knock on him coming out [of college] was too skinny, too weak, can't run, can't do any of that. At least I feel like I've tried to overcome a lot of those things. I've been in there, hung in there a bunch of games in a row, knock on wood." Brady has started 104 consecutive games for the Patriots.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald raises questions about the Patriots plans for the upcoming Titans game, wondering if the Pats will rest starters like Brady. "We're going to approach this game like we approach all the rest of them," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I don't know how else to put it." Tomase talks to tight end Benjamin Watson, who's missed the last two games with a sore knee. In a perfect world, he'd take some snaps Sunday, but that may not be possible.
Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal also wonders how much of the game will be played by starters. "We're looking at playing the whole game just like we do every other time, that's our job," said Patriots veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel. "When Bill tells me to come out, I'll be out. I work for the Patriots, so when they tell me to come out [I'll come out]." Unlike recent years, the Patriots are not on top of their game heading into the playoffs. Last season, the Pats had won six of their last seven games entering the season finale against Miami, which it lost. This season, even though New England has won five of its last six games, they weren't resounding victories.
Lenny Megliola of the MetroWest Daily News offers an interview with Brady's father, Tom Sr. "We both jumped out of our seats. It was horrible," said Brady's dad from his San Mateo, Calif., home, where he watched the Jaguars game with his wife, Galynn. "Watching a football game used to be fun. It's no longer fun. It's tough. It's brutal out there." Reportedly, the quarterback traveled to Boston after the game to get his shoulder checked out, rather than going home to California as planned.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald compares Brady and Tennessee QB Vince Young, who share a mutual respect. "He should be the face of the NFL," Young said. "I'm not taking anything away from Peyton Manning, but (Brady) has done the job and gotten it done, even though people said he couldn't. He doesn't get the type of pub he deserves." The two will meet Sunday in Nashville, though they already know each other. They hung out at the ESPY Awards. "Vince seems to be a very nice person," said Brady, "a great leader, a great competitor, with great ability and obviously a great future."
Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe reports on Titans quarterback Vince Young. With 1,972 passing yards, a 52.6 completion percentage, and 12 touchdown passes (with 11 interceptions), Young has made the case that his unconventional throwing style indeed translates to the NFL. Add that to his 523 rushing yards, and the impressive reviews make perfect sense, especially considering that during the six-game winning streak, Young has seven TD passes, three scoring runs, and just three interceptions.
The Boston Globe's Mike Reiss offers a feature on safety Rodney Harrison. After he fractured his scapula against the Colts Nov. 5, Harrison had plenty of time to think about his future. He returned to the game against the Jaguars, and plans to play next year as well. "I feel like a kid still," he said. "I'm having fun. I still have the passion to come in early, lift weights, to work out extremely hard, to be in the classroom, to help motivate some of these young guys. I feel like I can still do it."
Albert Breer of the MetroWest Daily News features Harrison, explaining a play that Harrison said made him realize he's still got it. "(Defensive coordinator Dean Pees) looks at me and says, 'Rod, are you tired?' " Harrison said yesterday. "And I said, 'Coach, I just ran about 40, 50 yards to try to knock this guy out of bounds. Of course I'm tired.' He didn't want to overload me with too many plays. So I said, 'If you ran 40, 50 yards, you'd be tired, too, after getting knocked on your butt.'"
Rich Garven of The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that Harrison is happy to be back. The veteran safety missed six games with a broken shoulder blade before returning in Sunday's 24-21 win over Jacksonville. The veteran started at safety and put the finishing touch on the AFC East-clinching victory when he recovered a fumble with 1:46 to play.
Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant reports that the playoff path is out of the Patriots hands. Entering the regular season's final week a year ago, the Patriots had some control of their first-round opponent. Because of their preference to play No. 5 seed Jacksonville and avoid a first-round matchup with the league's hottest team, the sixth-seeded Steelers (who went on to win the Super Bowl), the Patriots rested key starters and essentially tanked their 2005 regular season finale against Miami (losing 28-26) in order to remain at No. 4.
The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan, an admitted non "NFL guy," takes a look around the league, wondering "What's with the NFC?" Ryan has been covering sports for decades and can't remember the last time there was such week-to-week inconsistency in the NFL. "C'mon, aren't we all rooting for the ultimate train wreck in the form of a 7-9 NFC team playing on wild-card weekend while as many as four 9-7 AFC teams stay home? Well, I am," he writes.
Mark Farinella of the* Sun Chronicle* offers some correspondence with Santa about his good friends, the Patriots.
Plus, don't forget to check out USA Today's Inside Slant on the Patriots, updated today.