SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – With the Patriots having safely arrived in rainy Arizona, the first order of business was trying to determine the extent of Tom Brady's ankle injury that prevented him from practicing last week. Speaking at a press conference immediately following Bill Belichick's briefing, the quarterback attempted to ease New England's fears with a little humor.
"What'd coach say?" Brady said with a smile when asked about his status. "It's feeling good. I haven't practiced but I've watched practice and taken a lot of mental reps."
Brady did confirm the injury took place in last Sunday's AFC Championship Game victory over San Diego, even specifying it occurred on a third-quarter sack. But he reiterated that he didn't expect it to affect his preparation or his ability to play in the Super Bowl.
Brady dealt with a similar situation back in 2001 as he prepared to play in his first Super Bowl, against the Rams. He went down with an ankle injury during the second quarter of the AFC title game and was replaced by Drew Bledsoe for the remainder of the afternoon. While there was some doubt in the week leading up to Super Bowl XXXVI, Brady was cleared to play. Despite having just one week to recuperate, Brady started and went the distance in the 20-17 win over St. Louis.
When asked if he could draw any parallels between the situations, Brady couldn't even remember which ankle gave him the problem the first time around.
"I honestly don't even remember that far back. I know I only had one week to prepare back then," Brady said. "I was able to play then and this ankle won't keep me out of the game this time. It would take a lot more than that to keep me from playing."
For the record, it was his left ankle in 2001 while his current ailment is a mild high sprain of his right ankle. The Patriots will get back to work in earnest on Wednesday, at which time the team is required to post its first injury report of the week. As he has throughout the past several days, Belichick joked about his "desire" to get that out to the media as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
In the meantime, Brady admitted he hasn't been able to do much dropping back and throwing as he rests. "I've done just a little bit," he said. "Not nearly as much as I would have had I been practicing last week. I think it was a good week in terms of mental preparation. I can't run anyway so it's not going to have much of an effect."
Brady was asked about Randy Moss' lack of involvement in the offense during the playoffs. The record-breaking wideout broke the single-season record for touchdown receptions with 23 but has just two catches for 32 and hasn't sniffed the end zone during the postseason, but the quarterback isn't concerned.
"He's always a part of out plan, but a lot of our offense is based on what the defense does," Brady said. "San Diego played really well and Jacksonville did a good job too. They both did a good job of focusing on Randy and limiting him. If [the opponent] comes out of the game and stopped one player but we still win … I hope that's the case."
When the Patriots take on the Giants on Sunday, Belichick will be going against Tom Coughlin, a guy he faced on a daily basis when both were together on New York's staff back in the late-1980s. Belichick was the Giants defensive coordinator and worked specifically with defensive backs while Coughlin was in charge of wide receivers.
That meant the two spent many practices working their troops against one another, which led to tremendous respect on both sides.
"We worked against one another on a daily basis with seven-on-seven drills, one-on-one battles and all the stuff that receivers and DBs do," Belichick said. "When Tom left, first for BC and then to Jacksonville, we maintained our relationship and I continued to call him when our interests didn't conflict. I have a lot pf respect for Tom. He's a tough, hard-working and loyal guy who does a tremendous job.
"I'm happy for his success, just not this week."
Weather or not
Weather was an issue on both ends of the Patriots trip to Phoenix. Snow fell at Gillette Stadium as the team embarked on its journey and then delayed its flight a bit out of Logan Airport in Boston as the plane was de-iced.
Four-plus hours later the Patriots larger-than-usual charter touched down on a rainy Arizona runway. Despite the desert area that gets minimal rain throughout the year, New England arrived during a relatively strong downpour that put a literal damper on the arrival photo opportunity that was shown live on NFL Network.
"I don't know that the weather is much better," Belichick said with a smirk at his Sunday evening press conference, "But whatever it is we'll deal with it."
Added Brady: "I wish it was warmer. They told me this was a desert. I think we brought the crappy weather with us from Foxborough."
More than 15,000 Patriots fans filled part of the Gillette Stadium lower bowl for a send-off rally Sunday morning. The large crowd battled cold, windy, snow conditions to send the team off in style. Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Belichick, Brady, Richard Seymour,Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi all spoke to the fans before boarding buses out of town.
"We're proud to have them as our fans and hope to represent them well this week," Belichick said, after describing the snowy, send-off scene as a "romantic setting."
"I told them we'd be thinking about them on Sunday," Seymour said.
Been here for days
Looking ahead isn't exactly a staple of the Patriot Way, but a few team members admitted that the final couple days of practice last week in Foxborough weren't exactly holding their attention.
"Don't tell Coach Belichick, but mentally I was here a few days ago," Seymour said of finally getting to Super Bowl week.
"I don't know if I was here two days ago, But yesterday I was definitely here," Mike Vrabel said of his roaming mind.
The All-Pro linebacker went on to say that while the week is about work and preparing for the big game, for some players it's also a mini-vacation.
"Not for anybody to take this wrong way, but when you are away from your kids a couple days, it's a dad's vacation," Vrabel said.
NotesBelichick, Brady, Bruschi, Dan Koppen, Seymour, Vrabel and Kevin Faulk all held press conferences with the media upon arriving at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa. … When asked about Eli Manning, Belichick said his team, "couldn't do much to stop him," in the season finale in New York. … Seymour admitted that prior to the start of the postseason he picked the Giants to reach the Super Bowl. "I did. I faced that team. They have talent and play the game tough. They do a lot of different things." … Vrabel had a little fun at the expense of one height-challenged reporter who barely rose above table and riser setup the players sat at. "We gotta get you a milk crate." … Asked to rate the offensive linemen in a variety of categories, Koppen said Matt Light had the best feet of the group. What category does Koppen rate first in? "I'm first in brains," Koppen said with a coy smile. … Seymour was asked about his style of play and whether it pushes the limits of clean play on occasion. "I play the game the way the game is supposed to be played. When the whistle blows it's time to stop." … Bruschi spent his very successful college days at the University of Arizona and still has fond feelings for the state, if not its other major college football program. "We called them the Scum Devils," he said of Arizona State. … A veteran of the desert, Bruschi laughed at second-year kicker Stephen Gostkowski's reaction to the local vegetation. "Gostkowski said, 'That's the first cactus I've ever seen in my life.' And it was just a little one." … Tomorrow's schedule will move to the media center, which is the Phoenix Convention Center. The Giants are scheduled to arrive at approximately 2:45 p.m. (MT) and Belichick's press conference is scheduled for 3:30. Six Patriots players will also speak at that time. Coughlin and six Giants are scheduled to address the media at 5 p.m.