Curran: Can the Pats handle Haynesworth?


Curran: Can the Pats handle Haynesworth?

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - The Patriots spent 2009 dealing with irritants. They spent the ensuing offseason fumigating their locker room afterAdalius Thomas and his contrarian ilk were evicted. The result? A 2010 team that was rebuilding, a team with scrubs all over the depth chart forced into major roles went 14-2 and wound up the best team in football during the regular season. Likable. A throwback to the Patriots of six, seven and eightseasons earlier. The hokey notion of "The Patriot Way" was in play again. Now, they've imported a guy who does things like this. And this. And, oh, yeah . . . this. All because, when he feels like it, he can do this. Worth it? Hell, yeah. Definitely. Give it a shot. What do you have to lose? If he's a 330-pound dog interested incalling the defenses and tooling around on his impressive watercraft, you thank him for his limited services and show him the door. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and he's got more to lose than the Patriots do. The notion that the Patriots are "selling their soul" by hiring a bad actor like Haynesworth can easily be flipped. Maybe they are giving poor Albert a chance. It's Boys Town for millionaires, Bill Belichick as Father Flanagan. The truth is in the middle. Haynesworth is on his way because he's got unique talent and presumably some motivation to save his career. If he turns into a decent citizen while he's here -- or at least remains one for his tenure -- then that's an ancillary benefit that the Patriots will gladly accept. As for the notion Haynesworth will pollute the Patriots impressionable young players, I personally doubt it. First of all, guys have their own stuff to tend to. Vince Wilfork -- who, along with Haynesworth, will bring 700 pounds of human to deal with on the Pats defensive line -- was eloquent on Haynesworth's impact on Thursday. This ship is on the move, regardless if guys are getting on it or if theyre not," he pointed out. "Day in and day out, its a business, so you see guys all the time. You may see them for a couple minutes, you may see them for a couple months. Theyre out the door and then theres new people coming in."Some of the guys who went out the door in 2009 -- Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel -- were the kind you immediately miss. Into the leadership void left stepped . . . well, nobody. Wilfork was pissed about his contract at that time. Ty Warren is a quiet leader. The secondary had no vocal leaders and Jerod Mayo was in his second season and battling a torn MCL after the opener. And since nature abhors a vacuum, guys like A.D. and Shawn Springs were able to step forward and take leading roles. Their message wasthat Belichick was not beyond questioning and the program was not to be blindly followed. Even if the younger players didn't agree, the impact was there because nobody was leading powerfully in another direction. The tenor of the team suffered. But they flipped it back in 2010 and there are a lot of guys pulling on the oars now. In 2009, it was most guys pulling on the oars and afew standing back laughing at the guys working so hard. The easy comparison with Haynesworth is Randy Moss and Corey Dillon. Initially, I made it too. All were blessed with uncanny intelligence, limitless cynicism and each of them was the very best in the league at his position when at the height of his powers. All believethe world's out to get themand life is hard and unfair. But on further reflection, Haynesworth is the biggest reclamation project of the three. He's been far more diabolical. He's got anger issues (a look at his rap sheet shows that) and his transgressions aren't sophomoric as much as criminal. He's a dangerous guy. The idea that a player can take him into the parking lot and have a man-to-man to set the agenda the way Tedy Bruschi did when Dillon signed seems almost laughable. Haynesworth's shown he doesn't listen to anybody and he plays for Albert when he wants to. Belichick is trying to reach a guy who -- save for Jeff Fisher and former Belichick disciple Jim Schwartz -- has been beyond reach. But you still have to give Belichick the benefit of the doubt. Not that he'll reach him, but that he'll clear Haynesworth out quickly if he does not respond. I dont think that the organization would put us in a bad situation dealing with (a new acquisition)," Wilfork said. "We normally have pretty good decent guys that come around. Even if they have bad raps, or whatever it may be somewhere else. But you know what? Its always worked out for us."That person, hell see how we do things around here," he added. "Point blank. Like I said, weve had guys come through here with a rap sheet, He cant be handled, this guy cant do this. And you know what, it worked out fine for us.I dont think it will be a big problem. Like I said, thats the organizations call on who they bring in and who they dont bring in. But as a teammate, when were on the field, were all working together. We want to be the best. We want to be the best we can be. We want to prepare well. Thats one of the things that we do around here. We spend a lot, a lot of time in the film room and in the playbook, just learning what we need to do on this field. Because when we get on this field, regardless of what people say about you, its can you perform, can you put it together?"One thing that wont change, if theyre with us theyre with us," added Wilfork. "If not, guess what, the balls still rolling and this train is going to keep moving.Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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).

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day


Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here: