By Tom E. Curran
BUFFALO - The black Reebok baseball hat on Bill Belichick's head didn't quite go with the tan overcoat he was wearing.So kill him, the guy's not a fashion plate.What the lid said meant more than how it looked: 2010 AFC East Champions, New England Patriots. It's only a step. And while the Patriots weren't popping corks ("mellow" is how Deion Branch described the locker room), the fact the Commandant would see fit to pop it on his head before boarding the bus to go to Rochester announced to his team that it meant something. With the win comes decisions. And that leads off five things to chew on for today.
(I'm writing this while riding in the back of a Chevy HHR rolling back from Buffalo with the great Mike Reiss and soon-to-be-great Mike Rodek, both of ESPNBoston.com. I freakin' love my wireless card.) 1. PLAY OR NAY THIS SUNDAY, HEY!It will be this week's debate. Should the Patriots - with nothing to play for against Miami - sit their stars or roll 'em out there? Let's squish the drama now. The eight words we'll be hearing in relation to this will be: "Everyone will prepare to play the entire game." There is no advantage to tapping anybody on the shoulder and telling them they don't have to prepare this week. After Miami there will be no opponent to prepare for. It will be a week of fundamentals, self-scouting and long-term preparation. You don't want consecutive weeks of not being on game plans. Get 'em all ready, then shut 'em down after two series. 2. BRADY LOVES STUPID ROOKIESHere's yet another flip-flop from 2009. While the veterans dotting last year's roster may have eye-rolled at Bill Belichick's instructions and not given the necessary buy-in, that's not the case this year with a much younger team. "The rookies don't really know anything," said Tom Brady. "Really, what you tell them is what they believe. They don't look two weeks ahead. They're just not smart enough or experienced enough to do that. The veterans are just like, 'This is what you do.' And that's what they do. Having those guys like Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Devin McCourty, they just think this is just the way it is. They've really listened to the veterans, listened to the guys at their positions and listened to our coach."3. YO, RANDOM QUESTION!!Hey Tom, Enjoy reading your work. Relocated Pats fan (and everything Boston for that matter as I grew up in Lexington, MA) hoping to see the Pats in Arlington this year. Love your "Quick Slants" work as well.Two quick questions:1) Is Hernadez's injury serious?2) Will Taylor Price ever get on the field? Is he in the chateau bow wow as Bob Ryan is known to say?Safe travels home.
Gene IsottiGene, Thanks for the kind words. I'm tremendously talented. I don't think Aaron Hernandez' injury is a big deal. He practiced a couple of times last week and was in the locker room. Those guys are under lock-and-key if they're really messed up. He'll be good to go for the playoffs. As for Price, this year appears to be an apprenticeship. The time he missed during mini-camp because of the college graduation rule really set him back. He'll be a factor at some point. 4. WRIGHT MUST REALLY BE WRONGThe fact we haven't seen Mike Wright on the field in more than a month is becoming a big concern. Out a month with a concussion? You have to start wondering about his long-term health. He's their best interior pass-rusher when healthy and his playoff status would seem to be in serious jeopardy. 5. HAVE TO DRIVE NOWReiss has to take a call for ESPN at 3:30 and now I have to drive. So you get four. Sorry.