Foxborough, Mass. - The question of all questions during the bye week heading into the Super Bowl is centered on Philadelphia wide receiver Terrell Owensand his injured right ankle. Whether or not Owens plays remains to be seen, but until the question is officially answered the Patriots are preparing for the Eagles star receiver to take the field on Feb. 6.
"He's on the active roster, so we'll be ready for him," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Thursday.
The Patriots coaching staff has spent the last three days preparing for the Eagles, and will hold the first of three straight days of practices Thursday, covering "maybe 75 or 80 percent" of the game plan, according to Belichick.
"We're not going to wait for kickoff," Belichick said. "We're going to prepare for the game assuming everyone is there. If they're not, then we'll go from there. You never know. You have to be ready for all the players who are active. That's just part of your preparation."
Owens had surgery on his right ankle Dec. 22, three days after originally injuring it against the Dallas Cowboys. Philadelphia trainer Rick Burkholder said Wednesday that Owens has started jogging and plans to continue his rehabilitation in hopes of playing in the Super Bowl. If Owens does play, it will have been about six and a half weeks following a surgery that normally requires eight to 10 weeks of recovery.
What does or doesn't happen with Owens doesn't appear to change the Patriots plans.
]()"We don't even know about T.O., I'm not even going to comment on that or what his status or if he's going to play or not," Patriots safety Eugene Wilson said. "We're just going to prepare how we've prepared all year."
Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin is one player who can sympathize with Owens. Colvin missed last year's Super Bowl after suffering a major hip injury early in the season, and understands Owens may not want to miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Colvin said he wouldn't be surprised to see Owens attempt to take the field.
"I think if the guy can walk, I think he's going to try to play," Colvin said. "I think he's going to get out there. I think if he's on the active roster, then you have to prepare for him to play. Just wait until game day, you'll find out then."
The Real Sick Story
Apparently quarterback Tom Brady wasn't the only Patriots who fell ill Saturday night before Sunday's AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh. Brady acknowledged he suffered from a flu bug leading up to the game, but said there was never any question he would play, downplaying the supposed ailments Thursday.
"There were a lot of guys who were sick, and a lot of guys who weren't feeling good and a lot of guys who were probably playing with tougher ailments than I was," Brady said. "Guys have been doing that all year. A bunch of guys didn't feel well, and I think I was one of many and probably felt the best out of the group."
Brady said being singled out from his teammates overshadows what the rest of the team often has to overcome in order to play.
"It takes away with what everyone else does and what everyone else plays with," he said. "Everyone else plays with great toughness and never complains and I get a little flu bug. Like that's a big deal or something. I think it takes away from what those guys do."
Belichick: Experience No Advantage
As the Patriots approach their third Super Bowl in the last four years, the question being asked is how big of an advantage their playoff experience brings. To Belichick, experience isn't everything. He doesn't believe the Patriots hold an advantage because of previous Super Bowl experience.
"I really don't think so," he said. "We heard that a few years ago when we went down there and the Rams had just been [to the Super Bowl] and what a big factor experience was and all that. I didn't think it was that big of a deal. I don't think it's a big deal now. I think whatever team plays better and is more ready to play a week from Sunday, I think that's who this game will favor. I don't think experience is that big of a deal."
Twice Is Nice
It's been quite a run for the Patriots 2003 draft class. For the members of last year's rookie class who appeared in Super Bowl XXXVIII - Wilson, Ty Warren, Bethel Johnson, Asante Samuel, Dan Koppen and Tully Banta-Cain - next weekend's game will mark their second Super Bowl in as many seasons.
"I wouldn't say it's luck, but I feel very fortunate," Wilson said. "For one, to be on a team of this magnitude and to be around such a bunch of great guys and coaches. Just overall, it's a great organization."
Super Bowl Sendoff
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has invited the public to attend a "New England Send-off" for the Patriots on Sunday, January 30, from 9:00-11:00 a.m. outside of Gillette Stadium. As part of the program, Governor Romney, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Patriots players past and present will speak. Gates to the stadium parking lot, where parking is free, will open at 8:00 a.m. The send-off also includes music, team highlights and a performance by the New England Patriots cheerleaders.
The MBTA will run a commuter rail train from Boston and Providence to the stadium that will be free of charge. Trains will leave South Station and Providence Station at 8:15 a.m. and arrive at Foxboro at 9:20 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., respectively. Return trains will depart Foxboro Station approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the send-off.
Belichick held a 10:45 a.m. press conference Thursday, followed immediately by a press conference by Brady. The two sessions were covered by over 100 media members and 19 television cameras. Full audio versions of the press conferences can be downloaded on Patriots.com. ... The Patriots locker room was also open to the press Thursday for approximately 45 minutes. Colvin, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Matt Light, Troy Brown, David Patten and Adam Vinatieri were among those who drew large media crowds. ... Back up quarterback Jim Miller, with a green mesh jersey in his locker, said he would be playing the role of Donovan McNabb for the Patriots scout team this week: "I better get my speed shoes ready." ... The Patriots remain one player short of the 53-man active roster limit. ... Belichick noted the Patriots will remain on their normal three-day practice schedule this week. The team will treat today as a normal Wednesday, holding the practices the next three days before traveling to Jacksonville on Sunday. ... Brady had a good excuse for sidestepping a question regarding the Patriots place among the best NFL teams of all-time. "I know coach doesn't want to get into this a whole lot, this type of big picture stuff. That's not really going to do much for what we're trying to accomplish this week." ... The Boston Herald is reporting the Patriots have agreed to a future contract with linebacker Grant Steen, who was with the team during its 2004 training camp.