Tight end Rob Gronkowski (left forearm) and rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard were absent at the start of today's workout. Dennard has been listed with hamstring and knee problems, but he played throughout the Texans game Sunday, so, his absence is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps we'll know more when the injury report is released later this afternoon.
Rookie DE Chandler Jones (ankle) and running back Danny Woodhead (left thumb) were both on the field after sustaining injuries that cost them significant playing time against Houston.
As is customary during conference championship weeks, the league's PR machine takes over the press conference setup at each team's facility. Today, in addition to head coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady, co-captains Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo took questions from reporters that were broadcast live on NFL Network.
Mayo had perhaps the most memorable quote, when asked to define the so-called "Patriot way." "If you want to be a good football team, you'll never be stuck in rush hour traffic. You are the first one here and the last one to leave," Mayo proclaimed. "I think guys really buy into that, guys that come from other teams, I think they follow the lead of the bulk of this team and it has worked well here."
This was Brady's response to the same question: "I think Coach [Belichick] always talks about doing your job. You do your job so that everyone around you can do their job. When people trust each other, then you can play with anticipation and confidence and ultimately go out there and play aggressively. There's no really no secret to it. It's just coach puts a lot of pressure on us in practice every day to perform at a high level. When we don't, we certainly hear about it. When you show up to work every day, you better have your game face on because you'll end up on the low light film the next morning. I think the guys bring that attitude every day and over the course of a long season, it results in enough wins to get us into the playoffs, give us a chance. I think I was one of those guys that had to learn that too. Tedy Bruschi took me aside and Willie McGinest took me aside and Lawyer Milloy took me aside. I think that's part of the responsibility as a veteran player that you learn from these experiences and you try to convey the message to some of the younger players so they don't have to learn the hard way. A lot of times you have to learn the hard way in life."
Belichick agreed when a reporter asked if the Ravens are as good at throwing the long-ball as any team the Patriots have faced this season. "Torrey Smith is good. They're all good. It's Torrey Smith, but it's all of them. It's [Jacoby] Jones, it's obviously [Anquan] Boldin, it's [Dennis] Pitta. It can be [Ed] Dickson. [Tandon] Doss. You can go right down the line; they throw it to all of them, and then they also have explosive players like [Ray] Rice, like [Bernard] Pierce, Like Pitta, like Boldin, even Smith on some catch and run plays where they take the ball for five, six, 10-yard pass and end up getting 40 or 50 with it because they're fast an they're tough to tackle. Some of them, they just launch it down there and throw it up and the receivers go up and get it, or they make great players like they did last week against Denver. But sometimes it can be a screen pass or an under route or something like that and it could turn into a 50-yard gain too because of their ability to run with the ball. It's a very explosive team with a lot of big plays. It's a lot of long balls, but it's not all long balls. It's a lot of catch and run plays, too. So they get you both ways. If you play off them and give you a lot of space, they'll kill you on the catch and run plays. If you get up there and try to take those away, they can kill you on the deep balls. They're very well balances. They execute well and they can get a lot of yards in a hurry. They do a real good job on the deep balls, really good."
Wilfork and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis share an alma mater – the University of Miami, which produces a notoriously tight-knit group of NFL players. Naturally, the Lewis topic came up during Wilfork's Q&A session, as this is Lewis' final NFL season. "We bleed orange and green," Wilfork said, referring to the Miami colors. "I love to see my guys around the league. It just shows you that we had something special. We have mutual respect but at the end of the day, I want to win and he wants to win. We are always competitive but Hurricane or no Hurricane, I am a New England Patriot and I want to win, plain and simple. I am pretty sure he wants to win. For how long it takes we are going to battle our tails off… and after the game we wish each other luck and hopefully with that guy going out, just let him know what he meant to this game because he meant a lot to this game."
Locker room interviews are scheduled to begin around 3:30 EST.
UPDATE… 4:34 p.m.
Dennard's absence was not injury-related, according to the team. Neither he nor Gronk practiced at all. Five Patriots were limited, including Jones and Woodhead. CB Marquice Cole (left pinkie), OL Nick McDonald (right shoulder), and DE Trevor Scott (knee) were the others. The Ravens have yet to announce their injuries.
TE Michael Hoomanwanui drew a sizeable crowd. No surprise, considering the loss of Rob Gronkowski. "Gronk is a special player. I'm not necessarily going to step in and be Rob… that's not us," Hoo-man told reporters. "We'll collectively do it as a group and try and fill that void."
TE Aaron Hernandez extolled the virtues of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. "He's a hitter and a great player. Reads offenses, catches calls… he's a smart player. Once we run a few plays and he hears the call for it, then he'll pick up on it and get his defense ready for that play."
When he talked to the media this afternoon, RB Stevan Ridley was sporting his signature onesie outfit today, this one in royal blue, but he punctuated his ensemble with rainbow-colored moon boots (see photo at left). He told reporters that he pulled over to buy them as soon as he saw them on display at a store in Boston.