Ninkovich: Belichick emphasizing importance of wrapping up division


Ninkovich: Belichick emphasizing importance of wrapping up division

FOXBORO -- Chances are, Bill Belichick won't tell you what he tells his team, leading into Sunday's game in Miami.

But in the "Patriot Way" era, in which the only realistic goal seems to be "Super Bowl or bust," a division title is one step towards reaching that goal. And if you were to believe Belichick, you'd think the idea of Sunday being a "hat & t-shirt" game, was nothing more than the elephant in the room.

Preparing like they do each week. Nobody's talking about hats or t-shirts. It's just like any other game.

Not true. And neither is the notion that Belichick isn't emphasizing the importance of what they can leave Miami with: an AFC East Championship.

"It's a huge week for us," said the more outspoken Rob Ninkovich after Friday's practice. "We all know that. And we're excited to go play this game. I think it's that much more of a motivational game for us, to go to Miami, play a good team on the road, and come back with a hat and t-shirt.

"Belichick just emphasizes the importance of this game, to obviously sure-up the division," added Ninkovich. "And we'll talk about that if we win, but anytime you're going into a week where you know that you can win the division, you just put a lot of emphasis on making sure you go down there as a business trip. We're going down there to win the game."

Friday, Jan. 20: Canes’ Bickell tries to carry on after MS diagnosis

Friday, Jan. 20: Canes’ Bickell tries to carry on after MS diagnosis

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while simply skating my lane today.

*A terrific piece on Carolina Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell getting on with his life after an MS diagnosis, and pushing to see if he can return to the ice.

*If the New York Islanders botch the hirings for people guiding the franchise, then John Tavares could be one of the next figures gone from Brooklyn.

*It’s been a rough go of it for St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen over the past few weeks and that continued on Thursday night.

*Top NHL Draft prospect Nolan Patrick’s value comes from his two-way play, and that’s what teams are focused on rather than the injury issues.

*Mike Babcock talks a wide range of subjects with James Duthie during a 1-on-1 with the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach.

*In his never-ending odyssey on the fringes of the NHL, Seth Griffith has been claimed by the Maple Leafs on waivers for the second time.

*Veteran forward Clarke MacArthur won’t be playing this season for the Ottawa Senators amid his concussion issues.

*For something completely different: Bill Belichick just being Bill Belichick at his press conference on Friday and that’s something we can all be reassured about.


Patriots have perfect attendance at final practice of AFC Championship week

Patriots have perfect attendance at final practice of AFC Championship week

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had perfect attendance at Friday's practice, meaning they had all 53 players on their active roster present and accounted for at all three practices this week. 

Contrast that with how things have gone for the Steelers this week, and there is a stark difference. Star running back Le'Veon Bell missed each of his team's first two on-the-field workouts this week, and several Steelers players are dealing with a bug that seems to have circulated the locker room. 

The Patriots could have an interesting game-day roster decision to make should Chris Hogan (thigh), Malcolm Mitchell (knee) and Danny Amendola (ankle) both be healthy enough to play on Sunday. They have not entered a game with five receivers in uniform this season but could potentially dress Mitchell, Amendola, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Michael Floyd.

Other players listed as limited participants in practice this week are Brandon Bolden (knee), Martellus Bennett (knee), Dont'a Hightower (shoulder) and Jabaal Sheard (knee).