Still unsure when and who they'll play next weekend in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, New England continued with its preparations for this Sunday's regular season finale against the Houston Texans. With nothing more at stake than the number-three seed, the game holds little meaning for the Patriots.
That is, unless you ask the players for their opinion.
"I can't really speak for everyone. Personally, I hate losing. I want to win everything," insisted RB Fred Taylor. "I guess that's the most I can say about that."
"[A]ny time the lights come on and you're in uniform, you're going to want to play. You want to play your best, you don't want to embarrass yourself," added LB Tully Banta-Cain. "We have a challenge that we have to address and we're trying to improve and get better going into the postseason, so this is a big building block for us to get to the postseason."
Because of the one-hour time difference between the East Coast and Texas, head coach Bill Belichickhas moved the start of practice up one hour to help his players get accustomed to the slight change in their body clocks.
"I thought it was a very good coaching strategy, given that the game's going to be on Central time," said Taylor. "I think the strategy helps us out, it's to our benefit. But they have been a team that's started fast. We don't want to get down there thinking that it's a 1 o'clock game and it's 12 o'clock; by that time, it's deep into the second quarter and we're down. We want to be able to come out against what they do, start fast ourselves and try to win the game."
Taylor described the Texans, who are trying to secure their first wining season and first-ever playoff berth, as "an improved team."
"They're a better than they've been and they have a lot of good players. They've lost some close games. They're a team that starts fast, even last week when Miami was down 24-0. But it'll be a challenge. They have a lot to fight for. I'm sure they want to show how much they've improved."
"They've got some weapons over there, especially [Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre] Johnson, he's a one-man wrecking crew," added Banta-Cain. "But they do have other guys that are in the mix, so, we have to put our A-game out there."
The Patriots defense has played better down the stretch and appears to be peaking at the right time, according to Banta-Cain.
"You always want to play with a lot of energy. And you want to have big plays to build off of and feed off of. The fact that we're doing it now as opposed to doing it earlier, I think that's the best way to be."
Brady expects to play
QB Tom Bradyspoke to reporters after practice and indicated he is preparing to play most of, if not all, of the snaps against Houston.
"I'm out there doing all the regular practice stuff," he revealed. "I want to play, and I want to do great and have a great game against a team that's fighting for their playoff lives. It's a meaningful game for us and a meaningful game for them, too. It'd be great for us to go and win on the road."
Brady was asked if he talked to his head coach about his desire to play this weekend and said he had indeed.
"He said, 'You're going to play. Don't worry about that. You'll be playing.'" Brady told the media at his mid-afternoon press briefing.
"I expect [whether it's a] close game, blowout … I expect to play the whole game. I don't see why not."
Thursday locker room/practice notes
For just the second time this season, the Patriots had every member of the 53-man active roster on the field for the start of practice. The final workout of this calendar year took place in shells and sweats inside the Dana-Farber Field House while light snow fell outside.