A thick fog enveloped much of southern New England Wednesday morning, but even had it been perfectly sunny, the Patriots still might've moved their practice to their indoor facility behind Gillette Stadium.
This weekend, the team will travel to Indianapolis, where the Colts have a loud indoor stadium (with a retractable roof that opens when the weather is nice). That roof will certainly be closed for the Sunday night game between Indy and New England, making the crowd noise a significant factor for the Patriots to overcome. That's why they tried to simulate those conditions today inside the Dana-Farber Field House – complete with blaring music and increased temperatures.
"That field house only gets about three practices a year," wide receiver Julian Edelman pointed out afterward. "It's definitely nice to get in there and keep the bones warm and get a good crisp practice. They crank [the heat] up a little bit, and feeling the condensed atmosphere and the light. It's always a little different playing inside. We got that under our belt today. We'll see where we'll be tomorrow. It's definitely fun not to play in 35-mile-per-hour gusting winds and snow and rain."
Even though the Patriots have the luxury of practicing indoors or out in Foxborough, winning on the road in the NFL is tough for most teams.
"Just overall everything," tight end Rob Gronkowski observed. "Traveling, the crowd noise, getting your body adjusted to a time zone, the flight. I've done it many times now, so, I know how to do it. You just have to overcome it and be prepared."
"Because everyone's used to their routine and everyone," added Edelman, "you know, they get to be at their facility and have their night's sleep where they're used to going. They don't have to travel. It's usually just being comfortable."
The margin between winning and losing can be that fine.
"If you let it," offered Edelman. "Obviously, communication's going to be a little different. There probably has to be non-verbal communication and signals and all that, because they have a loud crowd and teams in this league, all their fans are pretty loud.
"Especially when they're playing against us. I don't know why," he grinned. "I feel like it's always loud. But that tells you something about our league, I guess. We have good fans all around. It's just getting used to that and being able to communicate and execute under a little pressure."
So, what else does a road team need to do – besides mimicking stadium conditions – to gain a competitive advantage?
"I think you just have to ignore noise," Edelman continued. "Not worry about what you can't control – where you're playing – but worry about what you can, and that's going out and executing what you have to do to win. Of course, there are different elements with communication and you're dealing with the crowd, but as long as we work on our communication and take advantage of these next two days to prepare for this good team, that'll give us an opportunity to do well.
"It sounds like déjà vu, but I have to do my job and not worry about anything else – if we're on the road, what the temperature is, if we're indoors or outdoors. If I can just get my job done and everyone gets theirs, we'll do all right."
"Communication is a little bit more of an issue on the road," QB Tom Brady told reporters earlier in the day, "and I think that's the most important thing when you're playing on the road is to make sure everyone is really on the same page, because if you're just a little bit late anticipating things, then the defense has such a significant advantage.
"When we're going on the road, we don't have many of these games on our schedule – maybe one a year where we play in a dome or we play in a controlled environment – so we just have to go out there and play well. That's ultimately what it's going to come down to."
The way Gronkowski has been piling up catches, yards, and touchdowns against opposing defenses once again, whether it's one-on-one or double – sometimes triple – teams, it seems like no defense can stop him. Which prompted a reporter to ask him if he feels like he can dominate any defender he faces.
"I just feel like," Gronk replied diplomatically, "if I go out and run a route how I was coached, at full speed, I can get open. But at the same time, if I'm not running the route how I was coached, not going full speed, I feel like I can be covered by anyone. It's just a matter of being prepared and doing what I was taught during practice."
Wide receiver Brandon LaFell was back at practice Wednesday after not being seen on Tuesday. He reportedly was suffering from an illness, but was also seen getting medical attention on his left ankle during the stretching period today. LaFell, however, was not listed on the injury report.
The Patriots continue to practice without DE Chandler Jones (hip) and rookie DL Dominique Easley (right knee). The latter was spotted coming out of the training room as media were leaving the locker room Wednesday, but he quickly retreated and did not take any questions.
Meanwhile, DL Sealver Siliga also remains a non-participant. Siliga suffered a foot injury against Oakland in Week 3 and was subsequently placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. He is now eligible to begin practicing once more, but has not yet suited up, although he has been seen in the locker room in recent days.
Siliga could get back to game action as soon as next weekend when the Patriots host Detroit.