… For their first practice since winning the AFC Championship, the Patriots went to their indoor facility behind Gillette Stadium. Conditions in there are as similar as they'll get to Lucas Oil Stadium, site of Super Bowl XLVI. Players were in shells, helmets, and sweatpants.
… The only player not on the field was TE Rob Gronkowski (left ankle). Head coach Bill Belichick announced just before practice that he would not take part after suffering his injury in the AFC title game.
… Fourteen other Patriots were on the injury report, 12 of whom were limited for various reasons: WR Deion Branch (knee), rookie OL Marcus Cannon (ankle), safety Patrick Chung (right foot), LB Dane Fletcher (right thumb), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder), DL Kyle Love (ankle), LG Logan Mankins (left knee), LB Rob Ninkovich (hip), LB Brandon Spikes (right knee), right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back/right foot), WR Wes Welker (knee), and LB Tracy White.
… Two other players participated fully: C Dan Connolly (groin), and WR Matthew Slater (shoulder).
… Down in New York, seven Giants did not practice today: C David Bass (abdomen/neck), LB Chase Blackburn (calf), CB Will Blackmon (knee), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), WR Hakeen Nicks (shoulder), CB Corey Webster (hamstring), and LB Jacquian Williams (foot).
… Two other Giants were listed: DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) was limited, while S Tyler Sash (concussion) was a full participant.
… The Patriots' defense appears to be playing its best football of the season during these playoffs. Not coincidentally, perhaps, that has happened with the return of two key players, linebacker Brandon Spikes and safety Patrick Chung, both of whom were injured in the last Giants game and missed significant time thereafter. "[Spikes] brings a ton of energy. He's one of those guys on game day you just want to be around, he's so amped up and ready to roll," linebacker Rob Ninkovich said today. "I love him out there. His physical play is at a higher level. He's very physical, great at stopping the run. It's great, having Spikes back, having Chung back – a couple of guys that were out during the middle of the year – obviously is big for our defense."
… "We're the same defense," added Ninkovich. "Obviously, we had some things that weren't going our way earlier in the year – we had our ups and downs – but I think we did a great job of fighting through everything and improving each week toward the end of the year, which is the most important part."
… When Chung addressed reporters, he heaped praise upon New York's QB, Eli Manning (accidentally calling him 'Peyton' at first), as well as Giants receivers Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham, and Hakeem Nicks. "Eli's playing really good right now. He's throwing touchdowns, he's keeping his interceptions to a minimum. Their guy are stepping up. You have some threats … all over the field [with their receivers]. That's why they're in the Super Bowl."
… Does Chung feel like the Patriots are playing their best defense right now? "We can't answer that question now," he insisted. "We have a week-and-a-half to prepare. We can answer that question on game day."
… Chung was asked to describe his emotions as he prepares for his first Super Bowl experience. "We're preparing for a game," he stated matter-of-factly. "We're going to take every step like we've done. Same traditions, whatever we do to get ready. Forget the distractions, just get ready to play a game. We're excited, but it's a week-and-a-half away. Now, it's time to focus, get our minds right."
… Having been through this once before, WR Wes Welker knows from experience how he'd like to approach the remaining 10 days before the biggest game of the season. "We just have to focus and understand what the priority is, and that's this game and the result of it. Everything has to go into that. Everything else … put it away till the game's over."
… New England made a pair of transactions this week, placing practice squad WR Dorin Dickerson on IR and signing TE Carson Butler, who'd been on and off with the team last season, mostly on the practice squad. That's where he finds himself again for the time being.