At the start of his Q&A with reporters today, TE Benjamin Watsonopened up a notepad, which he claimed had a list of talking points.
"My first note actually says, 'We're not talking about the Saint,'" he said with a smile.
But then he went and broke his own rule, in response to a question about the need for more tight end involvement in the Patriots offense.
"The Saints were one of the first teams to double Randy [Moss]and Wes [Welker], and they won't be the last. But going forward, it'll be important for everybody to work to get open – running backs, tight ends, other receivers."
Before New England's bye week, Watson was on pace to have a career season. He had 15 catches, four of which went for touchdowns. But since then, Watson has only caught half as many balls and hasn't found the end zone. He was targeted more frequently against New Orleans, particularly down in the red zone, but only managed two catches on the evening.
"I do see opportunities for the tight ends, like I do every week," he continued. "We run our routes to get open. [The pass] is going to go to the open guy.
"What we're asked to do here is what we're going to do to make sure we win games. Obviously, as an offensive player, you want as many chances as you can get. But overall, it's about us winning games."
This season, however, Watson and the Patriots have failed to win on the road (the London game notwithstanding), and the tight end admitted that New England's Super Bowl chances could hinge on how well they're able to turn that around in the final stretch of the 2009 season.
"That's something we haven't done well, is win on the road. That's another emphasis, getting one on the road because we're not going to be able to get where we want to get if we don't start winning on the road. We've played some pretty good teams … teams we think we could have beaten, but for whatever reason, they were better than us. The only thing you can say is, 'Execute.' There's no magic formula.
"If you're talking about championship years," he added, "obviously we're not at that point yet. Each year is different. We still feel like we're a very good football team. Our record shows there's a lot of places for improvement, coming off our weeks where we lost games. That's been our goal – to try to improve each week. We'd definitely be the first to say that, as a team, we need to improve."
Defense not lacking confidence
CB Leigh Boddensounded an optimistic tone when asked about the team's recent struggles on defense.
"We're confident. There's no need for us not to be," he reasoned. "If you go in not confident, you're not going to be successful. You need to still have confidence in yourself and the game and just prepare as well as we can for the game to get a win."
And as far as the trouble the Patriots have had winning on the road this season?
"We've just got to match the [opposing] team's intensity, their crowd, and start fast and finish fast," Bodden explained. "It doesn't matter who you've got, you've just got to play well on the road. That's all we can do. It doesn't matter if you're rookie [or] veteran, you've just got to win on the road."
Thursday locker room/practice notes
To simulate the warm, south Florida weather, the Patriots took their practice inside the Dana-Farber Field House behind Gillette Stadium. The team wore full pads and their throwback uniforms, as this weekend will be the final AFL Legacy Game on this commemorative season.
Only two players were not on the field today: RB Fred Taylorand DB Bret Lockett.
Rookie LT Sebastian Vollmerreturned to action after missing last week with a head injury.