Bill Belichick talks Vikings but refuses Spygate bait

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Bill Belichick talks Vikings but refuses Spygate bait

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick -- surprise, surprise -- doesn't care that the Patriots are 5-1 and the Vikings are 2-4.

"They are very good in all three phases of the game. They've lost a couple close games. They were right there on every last position, right there every time,'' he said on Wednesday. "So I have a lot of respect for them, a lot of respect this team. We're going to have our hands full on Sunday."

And that's with or without Brett Favre.

The Minnesota quarterback recently added a sprained ankle to his list of problems and is not sure if he or backup Tavaris Jackson will start against New England. Of course, Belichick will prepare for everything and anything.

"We've got to be ready for all those guys, whether they are the guy listed first on the depth chart or not,'' he said. "If they're on the 45-man roster, or even if they're on the practice squad, they can easily be elevated up to the roster and play against you.''

It doesn't help that the Patriots will be without starting safety, Patrick Chung. Chung suffered a knee injury in the first half of Sunday's win over the Chargers. Sergio Brown, originally called up on Saturday because of an injury to Jarrad Page, will need to step up yet again to help fill the void left by Chung.

Belichick said that the rookie has potential.

"We talked to him at the end of training camp about things that he needed to work on and improve on things on special teams and things on defense and he's done that. He had an opportunity to play and he took advantage of it and did some good things. It wasn't perfect; there are a lot of things that he can do better and learn from, but he definitely helped us.''

The lines have seen more than a few changes. Injuries have been the bad news (Leigh Bodden, Nick Kaczur, Kevin Faulk, Brandon McGowan, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price). The good? This team can handle some shuffling. The defense has been especially impressive to New England's head coach.

"Its a very flexible group. Those guys have a lot of versatility," Belichick said. "I think part of it is by playing another position they understand how that affects their position and what responsibilities the position next to them has and that probably helps them a little bit. It gives us depth and gives us some flexibility in terms of where we want to deploy those guys on different packages or different calls."

Belichick had a lot to say about the special skills of his players. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork was another guy earning a gold star going into Week 8.

"He not only plays his position, but helps the other guys play better. I think thats really the mark of an outstanding player: a guy that can elevate the play of the players around him, either with what he's doing or in doing things that help other guys and give them better opportunities. Hes very unselfish about that."

So with all the praise for his men and those with the Vikings, was there anything the coach didn't want to get into?

Signal stealing.

It seemed like Vikings coach Brad Childress was trying to bait Belichick on Monday by calling the Patriots the all-time great signal stealers." Apparently, he underestimated the ever unflappable Bill.

"I'm not really too worried about 2006,'' he said. "I'm worried about this Sunday against Minnesota. I'm not worried about next Sunday, last Sunday, '06, '02, '89. Really, its just this Sunday."

It's not like the past is completely off limits. Belichick just has more important things to think about.

"We've talked about some other games before, but really, my focus is the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon. That's what I'm here for."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will go with four receivers against the Steelers as Michael Floyd has been listed as a healthy scratch for the AFC title game. 

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

The Patriots had all five of their wideouts -- Floyd, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola -- available to them for Sunday's matchup, but they're opted to use the four who are most experienced in the team's offense. 

Hogan (thigh), Mitchell (knee) and Amendola (ankle) were all listed as questionable going into the weekend, but all have been deemed physically ready to play as their team vies for a Super Bowl berth. 

Floyd had his worst game as a member of the Patriots last week in the Divisional Round against the Texans. On two routes, both slants, Floyd ran the pattern in such a way that there appeared to be some miscommunication between him and quarterback Tom Brady. One was picked off and the other was almost picked. 

Floyd admitted as much last week, saying that there are still intricacies to the Patriots offense that he needs to pick up -- including exactly how Brady wants certain routes run.

Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans last week but felt optimistic soon thereafter that he'd be good to go for the conference championship. Mitchell hasn't played since suffering a knee injury against the Jets in Week 16. 

Other Patriots inactives for Sunday include quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running back DJ Foster, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, safety Jordan Richards and corners Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones.

Curran: Pats already winning the mind game

Curran: Pats already winning the mind game

FOXBORO -- There’s this book called “The Obstacle is the Way,” written by an author named Ryan Holiday.

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

Therein, the 29-year-old author explains how many highly successful people use adversity as a springboard. Holiday explains that dwelling on impediments to success -- whether they be personal shortcomings, daily challenges that confront us or just bad luck -- hinders our ability to accept them and move on undeterred . . . which is critical to success.  

It’s a book I first became aware of when reading a feature on John Schneider, the Seahawks GM. Schneider said he was told about the book by Bill Belichick confidante and former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi in 2015.

“[Lombardi] said, 'That's really where you would get a great vibe for what [Belichick] is like and what his philosophy is and how he approaches life and his football culture and all. I went out and purchased it right away, and it was awesome.”

The book came to mind last week when Mike Tomlin, in his postgame address to his team, lamented that the Patriots were “a day-and-a-half” ahead of Pittsburgh in prep time and that the Steelers wouldn’t be back in Pennsylvania until 4 a.m.

Already there was that “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’ . . . ” woe-is-me approach that gave not just Tomlin an issue to fixate upon, but his players as well. Kind of like the idle intimation Tomlin made after the 2015 opener that the Steelers headsets gave them issues.

Of course, by Monday morning, the Steelers had more to deal with, as Antonio Brown broadcast live 17 minutes of locker-room footage. The Steelers fixated on that through Wednesday. Then the flu descended on their locker room and reportedly affected 15 players. Early Sunday morning, the Steelers had the fire alarm pulled at their hotel and -- even though they didn’t evacuate -- it’s shaping up as something the Steelers will be muttering about for weeks.

Or even years. They still think they got jobbed out of a Super Bowl by “Spygate” even though the 2001 Patriots beat them because of two special-teams touchdowns more than anything having to do with alleged taped signals.

Contrast that with the Patriots. After they sat on the tarmac in Providence for three hours on New Year’s Eve waiting to take off for the finale in Miami, Tom Brady talked about the opportunity the delay afforded the team to catch up on rest or preparation.

It’s just the way the Patriots have been hard-wired since Belichick took over. Screw the mottos, like “Do Your Job” or the hokey “One More”. (Can someone tell me that if “One More” occurs, what's next year’s saying? “One More One More?”) If there’s been a mantra for success that underpins everything the Patriots have been about it would be: “It is what it is.”

Quarterbacks coach passes away? (Dick Rehbein in 2001.) Very sad. But it is what it is. Starting quarterback has artery sheared? (Drew Bledsoe in 2001.) Is what it is. A league-sponsored witch hunt is carried out prior to the Super Bowl with the starting quarterback in the crosshairs? (Deflategate/Tom Brady in 2015.) It is what it is. That quarterback’s ultimately yanked off the field for four games? (Brady's suspension, 2016.) Is what it is.

Bill Parcells once said, “If you give a team an excuse they will take it every time.”

So it was with that in mind when the Patriots in 2003 boarded a plane for Miami and Belichick told them they were going down there to win and that he “didn’t want to hear about the heat or the plane ride or the f****** orange juice.” The Patriots got the point and extracted a 19-13 overtime win -- the first time they’d won there under Belichick.

The Patriots have had plenty of fire alarms pulled on them over the years -- three times during their week in Indy prior to Super Bowl 46, at least once in Arizona prior to SB49 -- and never did those cause the outcry that this minor disturbance caused.

That has to do with the mythology around the Patriots and Belichick that’s grown and festered for a decade-and-a-half.  The rest of the paranoid NFL imagines a KGB-style intelligence agency and wound up more concerned with the Patriots than readying a great team tto unseat them. Which is handy when explaining to your owner why the Patriots routinely win at the rate that they do. They cheat. What better way to cover your ass?

It can work for a while, right Ryan Grigson?

Another pro sports dynasty that enjoyed the kind of long-term dominance New England's in the midst of also won a lot of games because opponents got spooked by dead spots in the floor, hot locker rooms and cold showers in the original Boston Garden.

In other words, this mental tenderness exhibited by teams that choose to rage at the unfairness of it all rather than laugh and soldier on is nothing new.

Today, the ill-feeling, sleep-deprived, Steelers -- who had to cram their preparation around the distraction caused by a great player -- will play their most important game in six years.

God willing, the headsets work.