FOXBORO - No Patriot had a greater hand in the building of the New England dynasty than Troy Brown. And no player more regularly elevated his play to an even greaterlevel when games of import came around. As a proud Patriots alumni, Brown's seen the Patriotscrack under pressure in2009 and 2010. But this year, he seesa change. "I think this team is different this year," said Brown. "Some guys like (linebacker Jerod) Mayo who've been around three or four years, I think they've matured some. They understand that you can't play in the shadow of(the great teams)anymore but can learn from what they did and how they carried themselves."Brown will be one of four honorary captains for the Patriots on Sunday in the AFC Championship against Baltimore. The Patriots haven't yet announced the other three. The fact Brown played in 19 postseason games for New England starting in 1994 (he didn't play in the 2007 postseason) and was a central figure in some of the biggest moments of the 2001 Super Bowl run made him a natural. He explained that he still gets a weird feeling when the NFL postseason comes. "I was talking to Deion Branch just now and talking about the way players should feel this time of year," said Brown. "I didn't get that feeling from this football team a couple of years ago that they had really pushed that button to go to the next level. "They should all be feeling different right now, there should be a sense of urgency, a different type of feeling in the locker room," said Brown. "I told (Deion) that, 'I still get those feelings today. When the playoffs start, for whatever reason I feel different. I feel like I've pushed a button myself.' " And you do. This is the time of year when I feel like, 'If I had one more game...' This is the time of year I want to play in."The 2009 team had some malignant personalities on it and rolled over against the Ravens. The 2010 team seemed a little wide-eyed in their loss to the Jets. "I don't think in the past they were pushing that button and going to the next level," Brown explained. "This is a whole 'nother season. The excitement of the game, the focus on the game. There's three types of tempo. There's preseason tempo, there's regular season tempo and there's postseason tempo. Then you have Super Bowl tempo too. But there's all different levels and everybody can't hit that switch. And they all have to be on that page when they do that."Given the 45-10 win over Denver Saturday night, it's hard to arguethat Brown's off-base. It was the team's most complete performance of the season in its biggest game. But the next game - and the one after - willdetermine whether this team is simply different from 2009 and 2010or quite similar to the 2001, 2003 and 2004 teams.
CHICAGO -- Pablo Sandoval's second season with the Red Sox is officially over, almost before it began.
Sandoval, who appeared in just three games in April after losing the starting third baseman's job to Travis Shaw in spring training, underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder Tuesday and won't return until 2017.
"Dr. (James) Andrews (who performed the procedure) said the surgery went well,'' said Dave Dombrowski, "as well as can be expected. I talked to Pablo myself already today, talked to his representative Rick Thurman. Pablo's happy that they've been able to fix the problem and committed to getting ready for next year.''
Andrews told Dombrowski that in a best-case scenario with "everything going perfectly right, maybe he could be ready (to play) in six months,'' taking his recovery into November.
Sandoval was bothered in the past by labrum issues, and they appear to have worsened over time, though no one with the Red Sox can pinpoint an incident or specific time when Sandoval aggravated the condition further.
"It happens,'' said Dombrowski. "I don't really know what happened that one day he woke up and couldn't lift up his shoulder. But that was really the first indication that we had that he was hurting.''
"Even after the onset of the injury,'' said John Farrell, "Pablo and I had some conversations daily. . . There was a play in Toronto (in the first week of the season) when he dove to the (foul) line and saved a run. Whether the impact there moved along the injury, that's a possibility. Even in conversations with him, there was not one event that he could recall.''
Dombrowski said Sandoval will return to Boston soon, where his girlfriend is due to deliver a baby in the next few weeks. After that, Sandoval will return to Florida, though it's undecided whether he will be based in Miami, where he lives in the off-season, or at the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers.
Dombrowski said that while an exact rehab plan has yet to be put together, the Red Sox "will have our eyes on him on a continual basis. But I can't say that someone (from the organization) will be there all the time, but quite regularly.''
Asked if the time off might enable Sandoval to address some conditioning issues, Dombrowski said: "He already has. I'm not going to give you specific (numbers), but he already has dropped weight during the season, once he's been under our care on a daily basis. I think he's committed to doing that, we're committed to doing that. We'll have a very thorough program to address a lot of different issues between now and next season.''
Left unanswered is how Sandoval can contribute to the Red Sox in the three remaining years left on his five-year, $95 million deal.
"Everybody keeps asking me about 2017,'' said Dombrowski. '' 'What are you going to do when David retires?' My response is, let's go through 2016 and then we'll worry about that in the winter time.''
The Red Sox get a much needed boost to their bullpen as they begin their road trip through Chicago and New York. They have activated right-handed pitcher Carson Smith off the disabled list.
Smith was placed on the 15-day DL on April 3 (retroactive to March 25) with a right flexor strain suffered in spring training. He made two rehab appearances with the Portland Sea Dogs, retiring all five batters over 1.2 innings of work, striking out two in the process.
This is Smith’s first season with the Red Sox after being acquired in a traded with the Seattle Mariners in December.
In 79 major league games from 2014-15, the right-hander went 3-5 with 13 saves, a 2.07 ERA (18 ER), and 102 strikeouts in 78.1 innings pitched (11.7 SO/9.0 IP). Smith set Mariners reliever records for the most scoreless appearances (20) and most scoreless innings (19.1) to begin a major league career.
To make room on the 25-man roster, infielder Marco Hernandez was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket following Sunday night’s game against the New York Yankees.
Right-handed hitting Chris Young gets the start in left field against left-hander Jose Quintana (3-1, 1.47 ERA) and Ryan Hanigan catchers knuckleballer Steven Wright (2-2, 1.37) as the Red Sox open a three-game series against the White Sox tonight in Chicago.
The White Sox have the best record in the American League at 18-8. The Red Sox (15-10) have moved into first-place in the A.L. East after a three-game sweep of the Yankees.
The full lineups:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Ryan Hanigan C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Steven Wright RHP
Adam Eaton RF
Jimmy Rollins SS
Jose Abreau 1B
Todd Frazier 3B
Melky Cabrera LF
Brett Lawrie 2B
Jerry Sands DH
Dioner Navarro C
Austin Jackson CF