Working on very little sleep, Gillette Stadium has nonetheless been buzzing with activity today, as you might expect. Upstairs, the Patriots' administration is finalizing all the logistics for the team's sojourn to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI. Downstairs, the football operations staff is doing its best to limit the external distractions prior to leaving.
Many of the usual details remain to be ironed out – ticket requests, accommodations, travel arrangements, guests lists, etc. – but there are at least a couple of items that we can report with certainty. New England, as the home team, has chosen to wear its dark blue uniforms, while the New York Giants will wear their road whites. The Patriots also announced today that the team will depart for Indy on Sunday.
We also know that Patriots players have been given tomorrow off, keeping with the regular season routine of having Tuesdays off. Head coach Bill Belichick will conduct a conference call with the media at some point tomorrow, but that is the only official activity until Wednesday. Behind the scenes, though, there is still plenty to do.
Players and coaches gathered earlier today for a team meeting, described by players afterward as a typical Monday session, going over yesterday's game and briefly setting the stage for the chaotic, but exhilarating days ahead.
"We can't get too caught up in that," declared special teams co-captain Matthew Slater. "That can become overwhelming. We have to realize here, there's only one reason and one purpose in going down to Indianapolis, and that's to win the game."
"You kind of want to let it sink in and enjoy it for a couple of days. This is the time to do it," conceded kicker Stephen Gostkowski. "Let it rest before you gear up, and you get an extra week for this game, so, you get a couple days off to let it settle in … answer all the text messages you get from people that you haven't heard from in a long time. It's very excited. Just blessed to be a part of it."
Gostkowski was a second-year player when the Patriots faced the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, and is today one of the few remaining members of that previously unbeaten squad that fell to New York in Arizona. Naturally, he was asked for his thoughts on watching the Giants upend the 49ers in San Francisco last night to set up the Super Bowl rematch in Indiana on February 5.
"I was impartial either way," he insisted. "We were going to have to beat a good team to win, and we're going to have to play our best … It doesn't really matter."
For most other Patriots, this will be their first experience on football's grandest stage – guys like Slater and Julian Edelman (To minimize distractions, Slater revealed that he'll let his father –Hall of Famer Jackie Slater – deal with tickets requests and the like).
What will be familiar is the opponent. New England lost to the Giants in the regular season, 24-20 here in Foxborough. In fact, New York was the last team to beat the Patriots this season. Breaking down that game film will be a priority when the time comes.
"I haven't really thought about it yet," maintained multi-purpose threat Edelman. "[The Giants] are a good team, they beat us earlier in the year, and they've only gotten better. They're rolling right now and we have a tough task on our hands. We'll get more into that when the week gets going."
"These guys are playing well," added Slater, speaking about the Giants. "They're hot at the right time, they have a lot of momentum, their defense is great, their front [seven] is one of the best I've ever seen, and their quarterback is playing at a very high level right now.
"I think we'll be able to go look at that tape and learn from that [regular season] game and hopefully apply that in our preparations going forward."
To close out the day at Gillette, Patriots owner Robert Kraft addressed the media for the third time in the past four days. When asked for his thoughts on the Super Bowl rematch with New York and his memories of the last encounter in the championship game, he admitted, "I've never been able to watch it."
He also gathered the media to announce a team initiative called the "Super Bowl for Super People Sweepstakes." This Patriots season, as you may know, has been dedicated to the memory of Kraft's late wife, Myra Hiatt Kraft, and her passion for philanthropy and volunteering.
In keeping with that spirit, Kraft's sweepstakes will result in a chosen group of New England volunteers getting to make the trip to the Super Bowl as guests of the team. Details on who qualifies and how to enter should be posted on patriots.com this evening.