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

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable. 

Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws. 

Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo spoke Wednesday for the first time since getting his shoulder separated by the Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso. Standing by his locker, Garoppolo was predictably vague about the status of his arm, unless you consider, “Getting better day by day,” as being insightful. 

The only two responses offered that were worth a damn came when asked if he could have done anything different when he got squished by Alonso while retreating and buying time.  

“Just have to be smart I guess,” said Garoppolo. “I mean, it’s football and stuff’s gonna happen like that, but have to be smart in those situations.”

Asked if he regretted holding the ball as long as he did on a third-down play with the Patriots up 21-0, Garoppolo replied, “After it’s all said and done it’s easy to say that, but it’s one of those things, you’re in the heat of the game. But bottom line I have to be smarter than that.”

Agreed.  

Meanwhile, as he worked last week to get back for Thursday night’s game against Houston, The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots were “putting pressure” on Garoppolo to be ready for the game. Working hard to get key players ready for upcoming games is standard operating procedure for a medical staff. Trying to force a player to perform is not. 

I asked Garoppolo if he felt unduly pressured. He replied, “No.”