AFC East: New England Patriots

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Welcome to University of Phoenix Stadium, where the New England Patriots face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX (6:30 p.m. ET Sunday).

Weather conditions: It has been rainy for much of the last four days here, and there was a heavy fog outside this morning, which has delayed some flights coming into Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport. This stadium has a retractable roof, so weather conditions aren't a huge factor. However, the roof has been opened for the game.

A feel for University of Phoenix Stadium: Opened on Aug. 1, 2006, this still has the feel of a sparkling new facility. The normal seating capacity is 63,400 and can be expanded to 72,200. This is where the Arizona Cardinals play their home games, and it is also the site of the annual VIZIO Fiesta Bowl. There are chair-back seats circling the field entirely, with the majority of them "cardinal red" and some others silver. Behind the Seahawks' end zone, the chair-back seats are temporary and on bleachers. A mural with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and safety Devin McCourty, along with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and safety Earl Thomas, is hanging high above one side of the stadium, above the Patriots' end zone. There is a large NFL logo on the center of the field and two Super Bowl XLIX logos at each 25-yard line.

Seven players to declare inactive: The Patriots have seven players to declare inactive, and those decisions are finalized and announced around 90 minutes before kickoff. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday that everyone on the roster should be ready to play from a health perspective, including starting center Bryan Stork.

Patriots to wear white: The Patriots are in their white jerseys Sunday night. They are 1-1 in Super Bowls in white.

Vinovich gets the call: Referee Bill Vinovich has been assigned his first Super Bowl. He most recently worked the Patriots' victory over the Ravens in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs. ESPN's Kevin Seifert wrote more on Vinovich in the days leading up to the game.

TV broadcast: Sunday night's game is on NBC, with Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analysis) and Michele Tafoya (sideline) on the call.

Opening coin toss: The Patriots have won 14 of 18 opening coin tosses this season. They have deferred each time.

National anthem: Performed by Idina Menzel.

Halftime: Performed by Katy Perry.

Sparkling Super Bowl program: The official Super Bowl program, selling for $20, has a picture of the Lombardi Trophy in the middle of the logos from both teams.

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- With New England Patriots players available to reporters for three straight days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, and with those sessions between 45 minutes to an hour, there was much to digest. Little nuggets were picked up along the way, and we've pieced a lot of them together for a few upcoming "cleaning out the notebook" updates.

For example, here's one thing -- receiver Danny Amendola on the dynamics of the receivers -- that struck as good insight into the inner workings of one aspect of the team:

“Start with [Brandon] “JoJo” LaFell. Great guy from Houston. We’re both from Houston. We remember watching each other play in high school. JoJo’s funny. He’s always quoting movies, singing songs, keeping the mood light.

"[Julian] Edelman and I have been good friends for four or five years now. We’re always joking around. We’re always ripping on each other.

"[Matthew Slater] is like The Equalizer. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie with Denzel [Washington], but Slate is like the father figure in our group. He gets us all right. If we mess up, he’s going to get us right.

"B.T., Brian Tyms, he’s like our loose cannon. He’s a great player, fast, can take the top off coverages. Great guy to be around.

"[Practice squad player] Jonathan Krause, young cat, Vanderbilt, rookie. Just kind of wide-eyed but works hard every day, plays the game the right way, great athlete.

"Josh Boyce, great athlete from TCU. He’s been like a little brother to me since he’s come here. We’re both from Texas. He’s from Dallas, from central Texas, Dallas area. I’m from Houston, so we can relate that way.

"That’s it, really.”

W2W4: Patriots' key areas vs. Seahawks

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday (NBC, 6:30 p.m. ET), and after a week of hype, let's drill down and highlight the areas deemed most critical for the Patriots from this perspective:

Stopping Lynch and read-option: In our film study on the Seahawks, some of the best examples of opponents having breakdowns against the read-option was the season finale against the Rams (for example, 5:42 of the first quarter, 15:00 of the second quarter). Defensive ends and the linebackers have to work together on the edges, reading keys and being patient. The Rams sometimes just blindly rushed toward quarterback Russell Wilson off the edge, and when the defensive end was sealed to the inside, it opened up huge running lanes. The Patriots must be much more disciplined and this is why ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones, and linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, are key players to watch closely Sunday night. The Seahawks give a defense a lot of action to contend with, and as defensive tackle Alan Branch said in our weekly P.A.T.. feature, it all starts with "building a wall" in the running game.

Gronkowski vs. Chancellor: Cornerback Brandon Browner, who has been teammates with both Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (6-6, 265) and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor (6-3, 232), said it best about this projected matchup. "That's going to be one for the ages," he said. It's the NFL's best tight end against arguably the NFL's best strong safety. The Seahawks have been effective covering tight ends in the playoffs the last two years, but Gronkowski is their biggest challenge yet. One thing to watch: Chancellor went down late in practice Friday with a knee injury. Could that limit his effectiveness? If so, Gronkowski could have a big day, or force a change of plans with a linebacker such as K.J. Wright having a bigger part of the coverage responsibilities.

Capitalizing on special teams edge, starting with punt return: Special teams has played a big part in past Patriots Super Bowls. As it relates to this matchup, the feeling here is that New England has the edge in most areas. The Seahawks only had 17 punts returned against them during the regular season, a league-low, so their coverage unit hasn't been tested often. Patriots returner Julian Edelman is as fearless as they come in that area of the game (the Patriots had 41 returns in the regular season) and this is one of the "games within the game" we'll be watching closely. Edelman projects as a big difference-maker in a potential low-scoring game in which good field position is at a premium.

Discipline in pass rush to keep Wilson in pocket: Remember when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had almost 12 seconds to throw before firing incomplete in the Patriots-Packers game on Nov. 30? We envision a similar plan from the Patriots with their pass rush, focusing on a disciplined, conservative plan in which the ends sink at the line of scrimmage and never allow themselves to get too far up the field. That way, Wilson can't escape the pocket and extend plays. The Patriots might mix in a few more blitzes against Seattle than they did against Green Bay, but overall, the mindset seems to be keeping Wilson in the pocket and seeing if he can consistently win as a pocket passer. The Patriots know Wilson will extend some plays regardless, and when that happens, defensive backs will focus on the "plaster" technique.
PHOENIX -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's absence from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's annual Super Bowl news conference was noted in this space, in part because Kraft publicly expressed his displeasure with the league's handling of the investigation into underinflated footballs as it relates to leaks in the media. Kraft is usually in attendance at Goodell's news conference.

I've learned more about Kraft's absence.

Kraft decided to stay back with the Patriots, who had a team meeting scheduled at that time Friday. Kraft also went to practice after the team meeting.

Kraft's decision to forgo Goodell's news conference reflects how he is approaching this Super Bowl experience, looking to maximize the time with his players and coaches.

Patriots vs. Seahawks preview

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30
PHOENIX -- Five months ago, when the NFL season started, this is the Super Bowl matchup many people expected.

The journey to the desert was bumpy for the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots started the season 2-2, and the Seahawks were 3-3. Seattle has won eight consecutive games, and the Patriots have won five of the past six, with the only loss coming in the season finale to Buffalo when nothing was on the line.

Now they meet with a shot at history. The Seahawks hope to become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the Patriots did it 10 years ago. The Patriots hope to become only the sixth team to win it four times (San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers).

ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount take a look at how these teams made it here and how they stack up in Super Bowl XLIX:

Blount: Mike, the last time these teams faced each other is remembered by many for Richard Sherman’s “You mad, bro?” comment to Tom Brady after Seattle's 24-23 victory. Brady threw 58 passes that day. Do you see the Patriots throwing that much this time, or will they balance it out a little more with LeGarrette Blount running the ball?

Reiss: I’d be surprised if we see 58 pass attempts again. The unusual part about that game was that the Patriots ran 85 offensive plays compared with the Seahawks’ 55. I’d be shocked if we see that great of a discrepancy in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks, who were still creating their identity in that 2012 game, have a little bit of a Giants-like feel to them. Their pass rush is able to create disruption with the standard four rushers, and Patriots followers need no reminder of how that has given New England problems in past Super Bowls. One way to settle things down is to get the running game going; whether it’s Blount or Shane Vereen, I’d expect the Patriots to be committed to that part of the game early. The quick, short passing game -- which is often an extension of the running game -- is part of that, too.

Terry, Bill Belichick said watching Russell Wilson reminds him of his youth and watching Roger Staubach with some of his Houdini-type plays. What stands out to you about Wilson’s third NFL season compared with the first two?

Blount: That’s certainly a good way to describe his ability to make something out of nothing, along with his incredible ability to elude pass-rushers. But two things stand out for me now. First, his knowledge about when to run and when not to. It’s always his last option, but he’ll take off if he knows there are yards to be had. Second is his growing knowledge of what a defense is showing him and trying to do against him. He often checks off into a better play based on the defensive alignment. That’s what happened with the winning 35-yard TD pass to Jermaine Kearse in the NFC Championship Game when he saw the Packers were in a Cover Zero, meaning no safety would be deep to help and Kearse would be one-on-one with a cornerback.

Mike, a lot has been said and written this week about Pete Carroll’s three years as the head coach for New England. After being fired there, his career blossomed at USC and now with the Seahawks. What’s the general feeling about Carroll’s time there from inside the organization and from the Patriots' fans?

Reiss: Owner Robert Kraft was unfiltered and honest this week at the Super Bowl when he said, “I think I probably handicapped Pete from doing as good a job as he could have done.” That was the case, because Kraft was coming off a situation in which Bill Parcells wanted the control to “shop for the groceries” and Kraft said he reacted to that by setting up a three-headed structure with Carroll as head coach, Bobby Grier leading the personnel staff and Andy Wasynczuk managing the salary cap. Kraft also said at the Super Bowl that it was part of his “evolution as an owner” and ultimately led him to hire Belichick to succeed Carroll. So to sum it up, it was tough timing for Carroll in New England, succeeding such a strong personality in Parcells and having a relatively new owner still finding his way; for fans, my sense is many of them didn’t fully get Carroll and unfairly labeled him as a laid-back, California guy.

Keying on Marshawn Lynch seems like an obvious place for the Patriots to start. How often have teams been able to limit Lynch this season, and, when that happens, how have the Seahawks responded?

Blount: In three of the four games the Seahawks lost, Lynch rushed for 61 or fewer yards. If a team can stop him, it does improve its chances. However, two of those three losses came before the Percy Harvin trade, when Harvin was a big focus of the offense. After the trade, the Seahawks got back to doing what they do best as a power-running team that uses the read-option to keep defenses off balance. Focus on Lynch, and Wilson is the master at taking off and running, but what makes him so effective is his ability to throw downfield accurately while on the run.

One year ago, Brandon Browner didn’t get to play in the Super Bowl with his Seattle teammates. Now he gets to play in the Super Bowl against them. Browner even said he wants his teammates to target the injuries of Earl Thomas and Sherman. Do you sense this is a special moment for him? And do you think Browner and former Seahawks defensive tackle Alan Branch know things about the Seattle offense that can help the Patriots?

Reiss: Great question, Terry, as this has been one of my big takeaways from the early part of the Super Bowl week. I sat in on the first 20 minutes of Browner’s session at media day, and the passion was oozing; it was clear how much this means to him. As Chad Finn of wrote, Browner “talks like a professional wrestling heel trying to rile up a crowd; his cadence and booming voice makes everything sound like a declaration, a boast or a threat.” I also thought it was interesting that Brady said the team is tapping Browner’s knowledge. “Pete [Carroll] has run the same defense for a long time, and we’ve had a little insight from Brandon, who has talked to us about how he coaches,” Brady said.

The turning point for the Patriots’ season was a loss to the Chiefs. How fair would it be to say that a loss to the Chiefs was a turning point for the Seahawks?

Blount: Without question, it was a big turning point because the Seahawks haven’t lost since. Kam Chancellor and Thomas led a meeting with the team after that game to say, "This isn’t who we are, and we need to start playing for each other and trusting each other again." Another factor after the K.C. game was the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who missed five games with a nasty turf-toe injury. His presence in the middle, along with Chancellor finally getting healthy, solidified a defense that went on a historic run in the final six regular-season games. But I believe the real turning point for this team was trading Harvin. It has taken a few weeks to get back to who they were, but shipping out Harvin brought back a feeling of trust and support among the players.

Mike, I don’t think anyone will be accused of deflating any footballs Sunday, but why do these wild accusations keep happening under Belichick’s watch? Does it all stem from the Spygate mess years ago? Is some of it just petty jealousy of all the team’s success?

Reiss: The past obviously doesn’t help them as it relates to this current issue. Although I personally think the impact of the illegal videotaping was minimal, and the coaches they were filming were in plain sight of everyone else in the stadium, the fact they still did it after the NFL sent out a memo prohibiting the action doesn’t earn them much benefit of the doubt. I mean, we had a team heating footballs on the sideline of a Vikings-Panthers game this year -- which is clear manipulation of the football -- and it was hardly a blip on the radar. So from this view, there is a different level of scrutiny with the Patriots. Some of that has been brought on by the team itself from the past, and some of it is generated from the league, which probably views the Patriots as a team that pushes the envelope harder than most. And as for jealousy, as they say, it’s lonely at the top, and there are quite a few who would like to see the Patriots knocked down a few pegs. The Colts, who, based on owner Jim Irsay’s tweets, sparked the investigation of the underinflated footballs, are the latest to join the hit party.

What have been the keys for the Seahawks defensively?

Blount: The biggest factor was Wagner coming back. That enabled K.J. Wright to go back to his best position at Will linebacker, which improved both spots. But the Seahawks also had some players step up in the interior of the defensive line and make an impact after nose tackle Brandon Mebane went down with a torn hamstring. Veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams, a six-time Pro Bowl pick who signed with the Seahawks back in training camp, took over as the starter and played like the Williams of old. He made the most of his chance to finally reach the Super Bowl in his 12th NFL season at age 34. And the Seahawks received a huge boost from second-year defensive tackle Jordan Hill out of Penn State. Hill was sensational down the stretch with 5 sacks in the final six games before a knee injury ended his season in the playoff game against Carolina.

Mike, in light of nickelback Jeremy Lane’s comments last week, saying he didn’t think Rob Gronkowski was that good, all eyes will be on Gronk on Sunday to see whether he'll make Lane eat his words. Lane isn’t likely to line up much against Gronk, but I can’t wait to see Gronk go toe-to-toe with Chancellor and Seattle's outside linebackers. How do you see that playing out?

Reiss: I thought Browner’s remarks summed it up best: “That’s going to be one for the ages. Gronk is a beast and Kam is a beast.” I see them both making plays, so it might be a one-on-one matchup that is ultimately decided by which player rises up and makes the one final play in the critical situation that could decide the game. Just thinking about it fires me up for the game itself.

The Super Bowl often produces an unlikely hero. Any thoughts on some good candidates for the Seahawks in that regard?

Blount: Last year is a prime example with linebacker Malcolm Smith earning MVP honors after his 69-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first half. I’ll pick a couple on each side of the ball who could come up big this time. First is tight end Luke Willson, who has taken a major step forward in his second season. Willson is one of the fastest tight ends in the league. With Browner and Darrelle Revis on the outside for New England, Russell Wilson might look to make some big throws over the middle to the big Canadian. Also, wide receiver Ricardo Lockette is a blazer with good size who could get a shot at a big catch in a matchup with Browner. On defense, don’t be surprised to see linebacker Bruce Irvin make a game-changing play. He had two interception returns for touchdowns this season and has really blossomed after moving to the Sam linebacker spot last season. A real shocker as a hero could be rush end O’Brien Schofield, who has been a force off the edge in the second half of the season. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him force a fumble and come up with a big sack at a key moment.

Anyone have a crossword puzzle?

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- What is a New England Patriots player to do during the mandatory 45-minute media access period at Super Bowl XLIX when no one comes up to ask a question?

Rookie offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, for one, made his time useful by attempting to complete a crossword puzzle.

Fleming majored in aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford.

On the football field, the fourth-round draft choice is a top backup who has carved out a niche as a sixth offensive lineman in a power-based run package. When fans hear, "No. 71 is reporting as eligible," that's the tip-off that Fleming has entered the game.

This moment Thursday morning captured, in a sense, where things stand from a media perspective at the Super Bowl.

After four straight days of interviews, there's almost nothing left to ask. So why not try a crossword puzzle?
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- The New England Patriots' 45-minute media session had ended on Wednesday, but one player remained behind to answer some more questions. It was cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Think he's enjoying this Super Bowl experience?

Of course he is, which has been easy to see over the last two days. Revis, who has been generous with his time with reporters throughout the season, stayed almost 15 minutes overtime Wednesday and touched on a variety of topics, including coming to New England on what was essentially a one-year contract.

"Yes, it’s very risky to take that chance, but I believe in myself. I have faith in myself, in what I bring to the table, in how I prepare and just me overall as a person," Revis said. "This is what I love. This is what I do. If I don’t believe in myself, who will?”

Technically, the contract Revis signed with the Patriots last March was a two-year, $32 million pact. But the way it is structured, Revis would count a mammoth $25 million against the salary cap in 2015, which is why the expectation in most circles is that if Revis stays with the team it will be with a restructured deal.

Asked how he deals with playing for a new contract, Revis said, "Just experience, growing as a professional athlete and not really focusing on off-the-field situations or my off-the-field situations. I feel like I’ve got a great team behind me, and they do a great job of where I need to be or where I want to go. I mean, do I want any of the attention? No, but at the same time, this is how my career has been panning out. I’ve just got to make the best of it."
PHOENIX -- As the New England Patriots prepare for Super Bowl XLIX, it's a good time to step back and remember that on this day 15 years ago, one of the most important decisions in franchise history was made: Robert Kraft hiring Bill Belichick as coach.

As ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates points out, there have been 123 other head-coaching changes across the NFL since that time.

Belichick reminisced on that chapter in his coaching career a bit during his opening news conference at Super Bowl XLIX.

"I have a great relationship with Mr. Kraft. I really appreciate the opportunity every day to coach the New England Patriots," he said. "Mr. Kraft gave up quite a bit in order to work out the trade, basically that’s what it was, for me to be part of this organization after I resigned from the Jets. I’ll be forever indebted to him for that, and the support that he and his family and his staff have given me as the football -- to coach the football team -- has been tremendous.”

Snapshots: Patriots' send-off rally

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26
Below are some scenes from the Patriots' rally Monday at City Hall Plaza in Boston:

Bob Kraft and Bill BelichickMaddie Meyer/Getty ImagesPatriots coach Bill Belichick embraces owner Robert Kraft while quarterback Tom Brady looks on.
Bill BelichickAP Photo/Charles KrupaBill Belichick told the crowd: "Be safe through these next couple days of snow. We'll be thinking about you. But, we will be back soon."
Tom Brady AP Photo/Charles Krupa"We have the best fans in all of America," Tom Brady told the crowd, and added, "We will be needing you all next Sunday night."

Patriots Send-Off RallyMaddie Meyer/Getty ImagesTom Brady, Dan Connolly and Vince Wilfork soak in the cheers at City Hall Plaza as announcer and former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak (right) watches.
Patriots fansAP Photo/Charles KrupaDespite the bitter cold in Boston on Monday morning, several thousand fans attended the rally.

Brandon Browner motivated by Obama snub

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26
New England Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner might have a Super Bowl ring, but he is looking for redemption in Super Bowl XLIX.

Browner sat down with ESPN’s Josina Anderson to discuss missing last season’s Super Bowl victory because of suspension as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

"I was at the White House and what-not, and President Obama got to speaking about the L.O.B. [Legion of Boom]," Browner said. "And he left my name out."

Being left off of the president’s list of acknowledgement really hit home for Browner.

"That was tough for me," Browner said. "[Seahawks head coach] Pete Carroll is such a great guy, and once he had seen that he looked back at me. We have a photo. As soon as [Obama] said that, we made eye contact and that was pretty much what I needed to settle me, to be like 'as long as my coach understands how much those guys meant to me then I’m good.'"

This season, Browner said that being given the ring while he was down turned everything in his life upright for him.

With a chance at another Super Bowl, this time as a player in uniform for the Patriots, Browner has one goal.

"The promise I made to myself was to get back here to shake the president’s hand," Browner said. "And let him know who I am a little bit."

PHOENIX -- One notable matchup in Super Bowl XLIX will have the New England Patriots' best pass rusher, Chandler Jones, going up against the Seattle Seahawks' best offensive lineman, Russell Okung.

The two squared off in the Seahawks' 24-23 victory over the Patriots on Oct. 14, 2012, with Jones having one of his better games -- nine tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. But because Jones moved around the line of scrimmage, not all of that production came against Okung. In fact, the two sacks were when Jones beat tight end Zach Miller and guard James Carpenter.

Needless to say, Okung has revisited tape of that game to get familiar with Jones again and he told me Sunday that the growth is obvious.

[+] EnlargeRussell Okung
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesSeattle tackle Russell Okung compares Chandler Jones' style to San Francisco's Aldon Smith.
Asked if there is a player he faces more regularly who reminds him of the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Jones, he cited San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith (6-4, 265).

“Just the way their bodies are. Obviously they're not the exact same player, but they are long-armed guys who can move direction really quick and play some good ball," said Okung, a 2010 first-round pick of the Seahawks. "He has a combination of power and speed. Any time you have a guy like that, you have to expect anything, whether coming under, trying to power through you, or going up the field to hit the edge. Aldon Smith is dynamic in that way and so is Chandler Jones."

Smith entered the NFL as a first-round pick in 2011 and has played in 50 regular-season games (30 starts) and has 44 career sacks.

Jones, a first-round pick of the Patriots in 2012, has played in 40 regular-season games (37 starts) and has 23.5 career sacks.

With the Patriots placing emphasis on not allowing quarterback Russell Wilson to scramble out of the pocket and extend plays, with their defensive backs using a "plastering" technique, Jones' work on the edge projects as a critical part of the game-plan in the Super Bowl. One breakdown in discipline could result in a Wilson escape of the pocket.

"He's very sound fundamentally, both as a rusher and playing the run," Okung said of Jones, crediting the Patriots' coaching staff.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick publicly lauded his players on Saturday, saying, "The team was the best team in the AFC in the regular season. We won two games in the playoffs against two good football teams. The best team in the postseason, that's what this team is. I know that because I've been with them every day and I'm proud of this team.”

For those curious if the players heard those words, the answer is a resounding yes.

"It’s always nice to hear your coach talk with that amount of passion and pride about our unit," Patriots receiver Julian Edelman relayed Sunday before the team's fourth practice.

At the same time, Edelman noted this isn't the time to be happy with receiving verbal bouquets.

"We still have other things to accomplish," he said. "We could talk about how Coach felt and all of that stuff after this week because it doesn’t really mean anything unless you go out and you finish it."

As for finishing it, Edelman described practices in recent days as "high tempo" while pointing out that "guys are focused."

Part of Edelman's preparation has been studying a Seattle defensive backfield that has some of the biggest players in the NFL -- cornerbacks Richard Sherman (6-3, 195), Byron Maxwell (6-1, 207) and Tharold Simon (6-3, 202) and safety Kam Chancellor (6-3, 232) among them.

"They’re a little different because they’re all big. They’re all big, strong, ferocious players," Edelman said. "They play in their scheme. They’re well coached. They play hard. We certainly have some guys that are big, but this a completely different group. [We’ve] got to take these next few days [to] prepare [and] get ready for them and try to bring out the A game."

Edelman described himself as "more focused" for this Super Bowl, a result of having played in one following the 2011 season.

"Any kid who played Pop Warner or high school football, this is the ultimate stage," he said. "When you’re 12 years old, you used to dream about getting this opportunity to go out and play against a really good opponent who’s the defending Super Bowl champs. It doesn’t get any better than that."

Patriots have perfect attendance at final practice before trip

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots had perfect attendance in their final practice before heading to Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX.

The Patriots practiced inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse for the fourth consecutive day Sunday as they are preparing for Super Bowl conditions.

Rookie center Bryan Stork, who has been dealing with a knee issue, continues to show no noticeable signs of injury, as it looks like he will be ready to play in the Super Bowl.

Players were wearing sweats and shells at practice.

The final event for the Patriots before heading to Arizona is a send-off rally at 11 a.m. ET Monday at City Hall Plaza in Boston.

The Patriots' next practice will be in Arizona.

Transcript: Bill Belichick's defense of the Patriots

January, 24, 2015
Jan 24
Patriots coach Bill Belichick called an impromptu news conference to address the football deflation allegations against his team. What follows are his extensive opening remarks:

“I want to take this opportunity to share some information. I spent a significant amount of time this past week learning as much as I could learn, more than I could ever imagine to tell you the truth, about bladders, gauges, stitching, pressure, game-day ball preparation, rub downs and so forth. I’m trying to be as helpful as I can here and show you what I’ve learned.

“Having coached for 40 years in the National Football League, played for several years, growing up in a football family, being around this game my entire life, it’s clear that I don’t know very much about this area. Over the last few days, I’ve learned a lot more than I ever knew, like exponentially more.

“I feel like this is important because there have been questions raised and I believe now 100 percent that I have personally and we as an organization have absolutely followed every rule to the letter. Now it is a feeling on behalf of everyone in the organization, everyone that is involved in this organization, that we need to say something.

“I’ve talked to and gathered a lot of information from members of our staff. I have talked to other people familiar with this subject in other organizations and we have performed an internal study of the process and I think there’s certainly other things that I can do, maybe other research that can be done.

“I’d say at this time I definitely have enough information to share it with you. And so based on the events of today, I feel now is the time to do it rather than wait. Though, I know this is kind of an impromptu thing, but that’s just the way it worked out.

“First of all, let me start with the process. As Tom [Brady] explained on Thursday, I think the most important part of the football for the quarterback is the feel of the football. I don’t think there is any question about that and the exterior feel of the ball is not only critical, but it’s also very easily identifiable. When I feel a football, I can feel the difference between slippery and tacky. I can feel the difference in the texture of the football of what degree it’s broken in. If you put five footballs out there, which football is broken in the most, which football is broken in the least, that’s easy to identify and that’s in a sense the essence of the preparation. We prepare our footballs over time and we use them in practice. That preparation process continues right up until the footballs are given to the officials prior to the game. That’s when they are finalized, if I could use that word. I would say that in that process, I’ve handled dozens of footballs over the past week. The texture of the footballs is very easy to identify. The pressure of the footballs is a whole different story. It’s much more difficult to feel or identify.

“So the focus of our pregame preparation for the footballs is based on texture and feel. I think Tom went into that extensively on Thursday and he obviously could go through it a lot better than I can because he obviously is the one touching them, but that’s the heart of the process.

“So we simulated a game-day situation in terms of the preparation of the footballs and where the balls [were] at various [points] in the day or night, as the case was Sunday. I would say that our preparation process for the footballs is what we do -- I can’t speak for anybody else, it’s what we do -- and that [preparation] process we have found raises the PSI approximately one pound [per square inch]. That process of creating a tackiness, a texture, the right feel, whatever that feel is, a sensation for the quarterback, that process elevates the PSI approximately one pound [per square inch] based on what our study showed, which was multiple footballs, multiple examples in the process as we would do for a game. It’s not one football.

“When the footballs are delivered to the officials’ locker room, the officials were asked to inflate them to 12.5 PSI, what exactly they did, I don’t know. But, for the purposes of our study, that’s what we did. We set them at 12.5 [PSI]. That’s at the discretion of the official regardless of what we ask for, it’s the official’s discretion to put them where he wants. Again, that’s done in a controlled climate. The footballs are prepared in our locker room. They are delivered to the officials’ locker room, which is a controlled environment. It’s whatever we have here, is what we have there.

“When the footballs go out onto the field into game conditions, whatever those conditions are, whether it’s hot and humid, cold and damp, cold and dry, whatever it is, that’s where the footballs are played with and that’s where the measurements would be different -- possibly different -- from what they are in a controlled environment and that’s what we found. We found that once the footballs were on the field over an extended period of time, in other words they were adjusted to the climatic conditions and also the fact that the footballs, which an equilibrium without the rubbing process after that had run its course and the footballs reached an equilibrium, that they were down approximately 1.5 pounds per square inch. When we brought the footballs back in after that process and retested them in a controlled environment as we have here, then those measurements rose approximately 0.5 PSI. So the net of 1.5 [PSI] back down 0.5 [PSI] is approximately 1 PSI.

“Now, we all know that air pressure is a function of the atmospheric conditions, it’s a function of that. So, if there’s activity in the ball relative to the rubbing process, I think that explains why when we gave them to the officials and the officials put it at 12.5 [PSI] if that’s in fact what they did, that once the ball reached its equilibrium state, it probably was closer to 11.5 [PSI]. That’s just our measurements, we can’t speak specifically to what happened because we have no way of touching the footballs other than once the officials have them, we don’t touch them except for when we play with them in the game. But, it’s similar to the concept of when you get into your car and the light comes on and it says low tire pressure because the car has been sitting in the driveway outside overnight and you start it up and you start driving it and the light goes off -- it’s a similar concept to that. So the atmospheric conditions as well as the true equilibrium of the football is critical to the measurement.

“At no time were any of our footballs prepared anywhere other than our locker room or in an area very close to that, never in a heated room or a heated condition. That has absolutely never taken place to anyone’s knowledge or anyone’s recollection and that just didn’t happen. When you measure a football there are a number of different issues that come up -- No. 1 gauges. There are multiple types of gauges and the accuracy of one gauge relative to another, there is variance there. We are talking about air pressure. So there is some variance there.

“Clearly, all footballs are different. So footballs that come out of a similar pack, a similar box, a similar preparation, each football has its own unique characteristics because it’s not a man-made piece of equipment. It’s an animal skin. It’s a bladder. It’s stitching. It’s laces. And each one has its own unique characteristics. Whatever you do with that football, if you do the same with another one, it might be close, but there’s a variance between each individual football. Footballs do not get measured during the game. We have no way of knowing until we went through this exercise that this was really taking place, so when we hand the footballs to the officials, the officials put them at whatever they put them at, but let’s just say it’s 12.5 [PSI]. That’s where they put them and the air pressure at that point from then on until the end of the game, we have no knowledge of. And honestly, it’s never been a concern. What is a concern is the texture of the footballs, and again that is a point that Tom hit on hard on Thursday.

“We had our quarterbacks look at a number of footballs and they were unable to differentiate a one-pound-per-square-inch difference in those footballs. They were unable to do it. On a two-pound differential there was some degree of differentiation, but certainly not a consistent one. Couple ones they could pick out, but they were also wrong on some of the other ones that they had. So you’re welcome to do that [test] yourself. I can tell you from all the footballs that I’ve handled over the last week, you can’t tell the difference if there is a 1 PSI difference or a 0.5 PSI difference in any of the footballs.

“Again, anyone who has seen us practice knows that we make it harder, not easier, to handle the football.

“And our players train in conditions that a lot of people would recommend that we not drive in. That’s what they do. They are a physically and mentally tough team that works hard, that trains hard, that prepares hard and have met every challenge that I’ve put in front of them. And I know that because I work them every day. This team was the best team in the AFC in the regular season and we won two games in the playoffs against two good football teams, the best team in the postseason. And that’s what this team is. And I know that because I’ve been with them every day and I’m proud of this team.

“So, I just want to share with you over the last week. I’m embarrassed to talk about the amount of time I’ve put into this relative to the other important challenge in front of us. I’m not a scientist. I’m not an expert in footballs. I’m not an expert in football measurements. I’m just telling you what I know. I’m not going to say I’m Mona Lisa Vito of the football world, as she was in the car expertise area, alright?

“At no time was there any intent whatsoever to try to compromise the integrity of the game or to gain an advantage -- quite the opposite. We feel like we followed the rules of the game to the letter in our preparations, in our procedures in a way that we handle every game that we’ve played in as it relates to this matter. We try to do everything right. We try to err on the side of caution. It’s been that way now for many years. Anything that’s close, we stay as far away from the line as we can, and in this case I can say that we are as far as I know and everything I can do, we did everything as right as we could do it. And we welcome the league’s investigation into this matter. I think there are a number of things that need to be looked into on a number of levels. That’s not for this conversation. I’m sure it will be taken up at another point in time. And this is the end of this subject for me for a long time. OK?

“We have a huge game, a huge challenge for our football team, and that’s where that focus is going to go. I’ve spent more than enough time on this and I’m happy to share this information with you to try to tell you some of the things that I have learned over the last week, which I have learned way more than I’ve ever thought I would learn. The process, the whole thing is much more complex and I mean, there are a lot of variables that I was unaware of. It sounds simple and I’m not trying to say that we are trying to land a guy on the moon, but there’s a lot of things here that a little hard to get a handle on and there was a variance in so many of these things.”

Patriots mimic Super Bowl conditions at practice

January, 24, 2015
Jan 24
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots had perfect attendance at practice as they practiced inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse once again.

The Patriots have held all three practices this week in their indoor practice facility as they prepare for conditions similar to the ones they will encounter in the Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.

Patriots rookie center Bryan Stork, who is dealing with a right knee injury he suffered in the divisional-round victory over the Ravens, continues to practice. Stork’s progress and consistent presence at practice is an encouraging sign, as he would shore up the interior of the offensive line.

Players were wearing sweats and shells.