The story seems to be the same every year. The players have all heard it, fans dread it and coaches try to prevent it, but pretty much every time the Patriots travel to face the Dolphins in Miami the outcome is anything but positive.
New England is 7-29 all time in Miami and hasn't won in the Sunshine State since 1997. The team has fallen by more than 10 points in the last three trips down south and for the most part the games have been all but over at half time.
So the challenge has been put forth for the Patriots, build on solid wins over the last two weeks, continue to strive for consistency in all phases of the game and take out the 4-1 Dolphins to earn an early-season spot atop the AFC East.
"He just mentioned today, 'Hey this is what the deal is about going into Miami. What are you going to do about it?'" Patriots guard Damien Woody said of how New England Head Coach Bill Belichick has asked his team to approach the trip to Miami. "So that's the approach we are trying to take this week is, 'What are we going to do about it?' Are we going to accept what everybody is telling us or are we going to go down there and get the job done?"
"We just have to go down there and play football. That's what it all boils down to. It's not about the heat or anything like that, it's about just beating the team you are going against. We just have to take that attitude and just go down there and get the job done."
Woody also said that the team is well aware that even though it is still quite early in the NFL season and race for the postseason, that a win on Sunday would put New England in first place in the division.
"We are just going down there for one mission," Woody said. "We are going down there on a business trip to beat those guys. We are playing for first place in the division. So a lot is at stake and the guys are ready to go to work today. Why not go down there and claim first place? That would be huge for this football team. We are just looking to keep building momentum and this is a huge game this week."
One advantage that New England could have is the youthful inexperience of a number of the young players that are playing key roles for the team. While those guys may not have the veteran experience that can help a player on the field, they also don't have the negative memories of what have been dismal trips for the Patriots in Miami in recent years.
"I don't know anything about it," rookie defensive lineman Ty Warren said of the team's history in Miami. "You hear about it, but I don't think it's really the guys in the locker room that make a big deal about it. A lot of times it is more the media that makes a big deal out of it than the players. The players know what they have to do. Bull in and bull out. If you listen to a lot of that stuff you start believing it. But we are all professionals around here and we know the task at hand."
Rookie outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain became the first of the four Patriots on PUP to start practicing Wednesday. By rule the seventh-round pick out of California now has 21 days of practice before the Patriots must make a decision as to whether to add him to the active roster, release him or place him back on PUP and lose him for the remainder of the season.
"I feel good," Banta-Cain said of his return from groin surgery that took place just after rookie mini camp. "I am in good shape. I am strong, flexible and no hampering injuries or anything like that. I am ready to go."
The 6-2, 250-pound player that many believed could be one of the steals of draft weekend says he has used his rehab time wisely, taking as many mental reps as possible to help prepare himself for his first practice time in New England.
"I am pretty much comfortable with what the defense is all about," Banta-Cain said. "From here on out I'll just be practicing at brushing up my skills and get everything formulated so that I can get everything right when it's my time."
But Banta-Cain isn't sure if he'll get a chance to step on the field for the Patriots this season, or where he might fit in even if he were added to the active roster.
"I definitely feel that an opportunity could arise soon with the injuries and things like that," Banta-Cain said. "I just keep my hopes up, but I don't expect anything. I just wait until I get my opportunity and when I do I'll try to take the best advantage of it.
"I was a defensive end in college. I was a pass-rushing guy in college, but I definitely have the abilities to cover guys and do other things in the defense. So I think right now they are going to put me positions to do what I can best do which is probably pass rush. As I develop into an all-around linebacker then I will probably start seeing more coverage responsibilities and things like that."
The other PUP players who are now eligible, including Kenyatta Jones, Stephen Neal and Chas Gessner, have not begun practicing although Jones would appear to be the next in line to step on the field.
"We've been winning with what we've been doing so let's just keep doing what they have been doing and I know when I am called on I will be ready," Jones said. "Hopefully that won't be too long from now. I just have to go out and let them know and show them that I am better than where I was and I've been paying attention in the classroom and that my knees and body are at a point now where I can do what I am supposed to do. That's all I can do it just keep on keeping on with the things that I can control. If I can't control it I can't worry about it."
"I am way stronger now, stronger than I have ever been. My knees are way stronger now. I am doing weights that I never did before and single leg stuff that I've never done before. I just keep on training and rehabbing and just keep on doing what I am supposed to do to make my legs stronger. From here on out I just have to take care of my knees, take care of my body and try to get myself back on the field."
The Patriots issued a slightly shorter, but still quite lengthy injury report that included 13 players on Wednesday. Fullback Larry Centers and safety Je'Rod Cherry were new additions to the list, while running backs Kevin Faulk and Fred McCrary and receiver David Givens made it off the list from the previous week. Ted Johnson (foot) and Ted Washington (leg) are still listed as out. Centers (knee), Adrian Klemm (ankle) and Mike Vrabel (arm) are doubtful. Deion Branch (ankle), Cherry (knee), Daniel Graham (shoulder), Ty Law (ankle), Willie McGinest (neck), David Patten (knee) and Antowain Smith (shoulder) are all listed as questionable. Tom Brady remains probable with his arm injury.
Johnson, Washington, Klemm, Centers, Law, McGinest, Branch and Cherry all missed practice action on Wednesday, although Johnson seems to be taking steps in the right direction in his recovery from his broken foot. The middle linebacker was walking through the locker room without a cast, without crutches and with no noticeable limp. Vrabel also appears to be on the right track as he not only practiced, but also had no cast on his recovering broken right arm in the locker room.
The Dolphins list 11 players on the injury report for Sunday's game in Miami. Tackle Mark Dixon (ankle) and fullback Rob Konrad (knee) are both doubtful. Defensive tackle Tim Bowens (hand) and linebacker Junior Seau (hamstring) are listed as questionable. Quarterback Jay Fiedler (calf), safety Trent Gamble (quad), safety Brock Marion (ankle), defensive end Adewale Ogunleye (hip), defensive end Jason Taylor (quad), linebacker Zach Thomas (foot) and safety Shawn Wooden (ankle) are all listed as probable.