Pats quiet on distractions

603838.jpg

Pats quiet on distractions

FOXBORO -- It came from the empty spaces in front of Patriots lockers, through the swinging doors leading into the team's training room, and from the throng of players who whizzed by the media only to vanish a moment later: silence.

Even for the Patriots -- keepers of a particularly quiet locker room -- they seemed hushed on Friday.

The news that offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien had accepted the head coaching job at Penn State broke on Thursday night, and the Patriots weren't talking.

That is, of course, the Patriots way.

Apparently, word was passed down from coach Bill Belichick to leave the subject untouched. The players -- as they so often do -- took heed. Of the scant few who were wrangled by reporters, some admitted that they were instructed not to comment. Some politely declined. Others were mum, promising interviews at a later date. Each had his own way of keeping quiet, but their silence was as uniform as the jerseys they wear on Sundays.

A few strayed from the plan. Julian Edelman spoke (and was thanked profusely by the media). Offensive lineman Nick McDonald spoke, too, but he didn't say much.

"Just another work day," McDonald insisted. "Come to work. Do our jobs."

With that, the hulking 300-pounder disappeared, leaving little more than the muffled sounds of hip-hop music coming from the nearby Patriots weight room to fill the air.

There is a reason for their tightened lips. It is the Patriots way. It is the Patriots staying on task. All season they preached focus on the next game, the next opponent, and they followed that road to a 13-3 record, an AFC East championship and the No. 1 seed throughout the AFC playoffs.

They weren't about to veer off course on Friday. They weren't about get bogged down in questions on O'Brien's impending move.

It's a policy that can be frustrating for media or fans starved for sound bites, but it's not without its benefits at a time of year when distractions can quickly derail a season. It's easy to accuse the Patriots of being dull or uncooperative. But not focused? Not them.

Their concentration -- even if it's an act, the script passed down by Belichick -- always appears to be finely tuned. On Friday, in the face of what could be perceived as a distraction, they pulled the rip cord and deployed the silent treatment. As a team, they made (almost) no comment about their fiery coach undertaking a high-profile gig just before the start of the playoffs.

Crisis averted. Continue on the highlighted route to the Divisional Playoff game.

Today at 11:30 am, O'Brien will be announced as the Penn State head coach. When the Patriots speak with the media next week, they may touch on O'Brien's new job because it will be official. But more importantly to them, by then they will have a definitive opponent -- either Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or Denver -- and that's where their focus will lie. That's what they'll be more likely to comment on, not who's coming or who's going on the coaching staff.

Cincinnati. Pittsburgh. Denver. For better or worse, that's the Patriots way.

Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

van_noy.jpg

Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

When Kyle Van Noy was traded to the Patriots in late October, he had a lot to learn. He needed to understand the layout of his new team's maze-like facility. He needed to adjust to a new locker room. He needed to adapt to a new home. 

He also had to become fluent in a new language.

The former Lions 'backer was inactive for two weeks before he was comfortable enough with the Patriots system -- and the coaching staff was comfortable enough with him -- to get on the field. He played 29 snaps against the Niners in first game with his new club, then saw 28 plays against the Jets. On Sunday he saw his role expand as he played 40 of a possible 51 plays, which was more than Shea McClellin (38) or Dont'a Hightower (33). 

"Kyle has done a great job of working really hard to acclimate to what we’re doing, and he has had to learn really fast as far as the system, the communication, the language," said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on a conference call Tuesday. "It’s like when you go to a different system, offensively or defensively, a lot of times it’s just learning the vernacular and the verbiage . . . That’s a big part of it. Then getting more familiar with that kind of terminology and the communication is critical because there’s a lot of calls and adjustments, things like that that we’ve got to do on the field."

Van Noy was making some of those calls himself on Sunday as he wore the green dot on his helmet when Hightower was on the sidelines. Even with the added responsibility, Van Noy was able to play freely enough that he put together what might have been the best game of his three-year career. 

Used at the end of the line of scrimmage as well as in a more traditional off-the-line linebacker role, Van Noy was effective in defending both the pass and the run: He stuffed three Rams rush attempts, he recorded a quarterback hit that led to an incompletion, he drew a holding call, and he recorded an athletic interception when he tracked a wobbling Jared Goff pass that floated over the middle after Jabaal Sheard hit Goff's arm as the rookie released his throw.

After several of his stand-out plays, Van Noy was visibly excited on the field and later on the sidelines. It was the culmination of six weeks of work, learning as much as he could from a coaching staff that was eager to teach him. 

"He’s extremely prideful in his work and his approach to the game," Patricia said. "He’s very cerebral. He’ll ask a lot of questions. He really wants to understand what we’re doing and why, which is great. We’re trying to give him those answers and insight into kind of where some of this either came from or developed or situations like that so that’s really good."