Foxborough, Mass. - The NFL playoffs often bring about something new, fresh and exciting at a time of the season when its sorely needed, as for many teams the end of the 17-week regular season limps to an anticlimactic and often dull finish.
If you need proof, look (or read) no farther than the quotes coming out of Gillette Stadium this week. As the Patriots spent their by week preparing for their first playoff game on Jan. 16 - a total of 11 days away - all the extra prose came off the usually mundane quotes, pointing directly to what's really on the player's minds: the playoffs.
To listen to quarterback Tom Brady, one of the Patriots captains this season, talk about what message he would deliver to his teammates about the importance of the playoffs, gives an indication to the increased level of meaning of the playoffs for the Patriots. The script has been flipped for the often below-the-radar Patriots, who spent the regular season downplaying the big picture, but now talk about the playoffs with fervor. The common theme throughout the locker room has been taking advantage of opportunity.
"I think what you try to make them aware of is that these opportunities don't come along very often," said Brady about his approach to the playoffs. "It's almost like, 'What is the price you would pay for success? What would you give up to win this game? Would you give up a week of not doing anything but preparing for football?' And I would, and I do, and that's the excitement about it.
"When you've achieved what we've achieved, I think you just look back and you say, 'Whatever price I had to pay was just miniscule compared to the joy and the excitement of what we accomplished.' So, that's what it's about. It's a tremendous feeling. You just hate to look back if you lose a game and then for six or seven [days] think about, 'What if I did this? What if I had prepared more? What if I had made this play in this game?' or 'What if I had watched a little more film?' So, why leave that to chance. I just do it all and then try to go out and play your best."
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick - who owns a 7-1 career post-season record, including a perfect 6-0 mark with the Patriots - also chose the venue to deliver a message, noting there is more "urgency" in preparation at this time of the season.
"I think what we have to understand is that we have a opportunity," Belichick told an overcrowded room of reporters. "It's not anything you can ever count on down the road. You can't ever count or depend on this happening again. Right now, it's an opportunity that we need to do everything we can to take advantage of and be ready to maximize our performance next Sunday. Everything we got, we need to put into this one. Don't think that it will ever be there again, because there is no guarantee that it will. Just take advantage of the opportunity that we have right now and that is it."
The Patriots concluded their short bye week by vacating Gillette Stadium yesterday for a long weekend away from football until they return Monday to prepare for Indianapolis, the New York Jets or San Diego. Although the players have physically gone their separate ways, the reality is that most will remain mentally very close to the game.
Brady was asked how often he'll be thinking about the playoffs as he takes in the wild card games over the weekend.
"All day, every day," Brady explained. "Even in this situation, where we're really not sure who we're playing, you're still thinking about the scenarios. You're thinking about the teams you could play and we could play the Jets, we could play the Chargers, we could play the Colts, and all three of those teams you have on your mind. But, in the meantime you're still mentally getting ready."
Even thought it's more than a week before they actually take the field, it's probably not a bad sign that Brady, like many of his teammates, is preparing for the playoffs as if it's his last trip to the post-season. More so than ever, the Patriots are all business.
"Well, it's very different than the regular season," Brady said. "That's what I've learned in the past four or five years, how much different it is and really what's at stake. You've worked so hard to get this opportunity and now it's here and regardless of what's going on in your life, this takes total control of it and it's fun because you realize you can' t afford any mistakes. You can't afford to lose. You can't afford to waste any time in the meeting room, on the practice field, and it's almost like your awareness is heightened. Your intensity is heightened and you're just excited."
Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin has been selected by his New England Patriots teammates as the recipient of this year's Ed Block Courage Award. The honor is annually bestowed upon one player from each of the NFL's 32 teams who best exemplifies the principles of sportsmanship and courage. "I feel very honored to win this award and represent the New England Patriots," Colvin said in a statement released by the team. "To be able to recover from the injury that I had and to be able to come back out and contribute to the team is very satisfying. I appreciate the support of my teammates, the organization and the coaching staff." ... Linebacker Tedy Bruschi was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Sunday's 21-17 win over San Francisco. Bruschi, who finished with a game-high 15 tackles, also won the award in Week 4 against Miami. ... The Patriots are making a limited number of tickets for the Jan. 16 divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium available for public sale tomorrow starting at 10:00 a.m. through Ticketmaster. Only a limited number of individual seats and standing room only tickets are available, and the Patriots have set limits of two tickets per person to extend the opportunity to as many fans as possible. Call 508-931-2222 or 617-931-2222 or visit Ticketmaster online.