Patriots calm before the playoff storm


Patriots calm before the playoff storm

By Mary Paoletti

FOXBORO -- Don't show up late to Gillette on this Tuesday. This Tuesday is different.

It's Jets week -- again -- for the Patriots, so the amount of reporters in the locker room is increased by default. But this one, the rubber match, is also a divisional playoff game. So the media mob, as you might expect, has grown exponentially. Latecomers are stuck in SRO (standing room only), peppered in along the wall of videographers and photographers recording and clicking away.

NFL road warriors like Rachel Nichols arrive early to grab a front-row seat. There's a lot going on today. The dry-erase board in the workroom that outlines the week's schedule is crammed with names, dates, times and locations.

Up first to the podium is Jerod Mayo.

This is something special.

See, there's a certain routine that happens at Gillette during the work room, certain things that can be expected.

1) Tom Brady will meet the media. Always. The location of the scrum can change -- podium (rare), Bret Lockett's locker (pre-Moss) or his own locker (post-Moss) -- but you can depend on it happening.

2) Bill Belichick will speak at the podium. Whether in grunts, cryptic riddles, or half-sentences.

But the NFL's leading tackler and Patriots defensive captain standing in front of a room full of reporters? No; this is different.

Mayo discusses the surprising strength of the 'D' cautiously: "That Cleveland game is still in my head." He laughs off engaging in Jets mind games: "Im hoping no one asks me those types of questions." And he describes the tone: "This feels like the playoffs." Mayo's answers are like his hits: quick, efficient.

Two other teammates will take the stage: Deion Branch, then Alge Crumpler. Their styles are night and day. Branch, the undersized wideout, grins a wide smile and puts reporters in stitches with his velvety voice. Few other Patriots could so smoothly call MVP-caliber quarterback Tom Brady a "dork."

Crumpler exudes calm.

He's not interested in the peripheral drama of Rex Ryan calling out Brady for not being a studious dork, the psychology of Brady and Branch's on-field chemistry, or any opportunities to pat himself on the back. For Crumpler, it's about focus, preparation and accountability. The rest? "I don't care."

Now enter the locker room.

If it's playoff buzz you want, you're in the wrong place. The only change this week is the steady din emanating from the media milling around the room. But Patriots players are scarce, per usual.

Practice squaders Ross Ventrone and Carson Butler, and the little-used Tony Carter, catch some 'Z''s by their lockers. The three lay on their backs, feet propped up on folding chairs, earbuds in, hats or hoods pulled down over their eyes.

The few others who dare the area littered by reporters try to get ready for practice as discretely as possible. They tote red (Jarrad Page) or blue (Danny Woodhead) binders as they flit from locker to weight room and back to their lockers again. Don't even try the rookies because they're on lock-down. "Not talking today," Aaron Hernandez shrugs.

The guys who take too long to get dressed get pounced on by the press. Today, Page turns to find himself surrounded by a half-circle of cameras, bright lights, and microphones. He insists that preparation for the playoffs is business as usual. A sympathetic Kevin Faulk walks by the trapped Page, but keeps moving.

"You guys don't want to hear this," Faulk quips to the herd over his shoulder, "but it's just another game. If you treat it like anything else, that's when things get out of hand."

It appears Faulk is right. If the energy of this team is amped up this week -- and it is -- the Patriots are saving the show for themselves. For Sunday. For the Jets.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Patriots celebrate 15-year anniversary of 2001 team with videos, Hall exhibit


Patriots celebrate 15-year anniversary of 2001 team with videos, Hall exhibit

The Patriots have announced a series of initiatives to celebrate the 2001 Super Bowl championship team on the 15th aniversary of their title-winning season.

Throughout the course of the 2016 season, the Patriots will feature special content online and on Patriots All-Access that will lead up to Dec. 4, when Gillette Stadium will host a reunion of the 2001 team during halftime of the Patriots-Rams regular-season matchup. 

The Patriots have already featured images of moments from the 2001 campaign on tickets for their eight regular-season home games. They'll also have a special exhibit dedicated to the 2001 team at The Hall at Patriot Place beginning in the fall. In addition, issues of Patriots Football Weekly this year will include posters of shots from the 2001 season. 

"The Super Bowl XXXVI win over the Rams was the first championship for our team and will always hold a very special place in our hearts," Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. "The victory made everyone that ever wore a Patriots uniform or rooted for the Patriots on the bleachers at Foxboro Stadium feel proud to be a fan. I know I am looking forward to reliving some of those great memories throughout the 2016 season."

The Patriots said that video vignettes of the 2001 season will launch this week on Twitter and Facebook as well as on

Mayo: Patriots QB situation has him thinking back to 2008

Mayo: Patriots QB situation has him thinking back to 2008

Jerod Mayo looks at the looming quarterback situation for the Patriots and can’t help thinking back to his rookie season.

The former Patriots linebacker who graduated (ahem) to co-hosting “Quick Slants” with me on Monday nights, was asked how drastic the impact of Brady’s four-game suspension will be.

“I still remember 2008, my rookie year, in the first game of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs and Tom tears his ACL,” said Mayo. “Matt Cassel, at the same point, had zero starts just like Jimmy Garoppolo and we won 11 games. I know we missed the playoffs, but we still won 11 games and that’s something.”

Asked what the message Bill Belichick gave the team in the wake of Brady’s injury and what Mayo anticipates the message being now, Mayo answered, “Honestly, it’s so cliché but it’s that ‘next man up’ mentality and the depth of the team that Bill Belichick builds, you just can’t top it.”

Later in the show, Mayo indicated he wouldn’t be surprised if the team did add a little more quarterback depth in camp. In 2015, the team brought on both Ryan Lindley and Matt Flynn as a cushion behind Brady and Garoppolo.