Patriots prepare for Irene before going to Detroit

Patriots prepare for Irene before going to Detroit
August 25, 2011, 6:55 pm
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By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO Earlier this week, parts of New England felt the rippling effects of an earthquake that measured 5.8 on the Richter scale.

Now comes Hurricane Irene, which is expected to pound the East Coast sometime this weekend.

Even though the New England Patriots will play at Detroit on Saturday, Hurricane Irene is still a major concern in terms of its potential impact on when the team leaves as well as when it returns.

"It sounds like we'll be out before it comes in," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "Hopefully we'll be in before it comes in. But definitely we have to keep an eye on it and kind of batten down the hatches."

The Patriots are scheduled to leave for Detroit on Friday and return after the game Saturday night.

Hurricane Irene is considered a Category 3 Hurricane with sustained winds between 111-130 miles per hour that have ravaged the Bahamas and are expected to impact a number of major cities on the East coast -- including Boston.

By the time it hits New England on Saturday, Hurricane Irene is expected to be a Category 1 or 2 storm with sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour.

The impact of Hurricane Irene can already be felt in Foxboro.

Country music star Kenny Chesney was scheduled to perform at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. However, hurricane concerns led to Chesney's concert being moved up to Friday.

The decision makes a lot of sense, especially after bad weather recently led to deaths and serious injuries at the Belgium Pukkelpop Festival and the Indiana State Fair.

"Our first and foremost priority is the fans' safety, so we have made the difficult decision to reschedule the show," promoter Louis Messina of TMGAEG Live said on Chesney's website.

Chesney added on his site, "I want the last weekend of the 'Goin Coastal' Tour to be a great experience for everybody. But I also want it to be the safest experience for everyone. I've always said Foxboro is a highlight of our tour, because the fans are ready for a great night of music and fun no matter what night it is!"

But moving the concert to Friday presents a potential problem for the Patriots, one that might become an even bigger issue than Hurricane Irene.

"It looks like that's a potential issue," Belichick said. "We're going to hit a little traffic coming out of here on that one. Hopefully we can maneuver through it."

New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch is more concerned about the weather's impact on his family and the families of his teammates.

"And then trying to get back once the game is over," Branch said. "Those are things we think about; most importantly, family and stuff. We'll make sure we have everything set up before we leave."

New England defensive end Andre Carter spent is first five seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers (the last five in Washington), so he has seen his share of severe weather conditions such the earthquake earlier this week that was felt throughout parts of New England.

"That was different," Carter said of the earthquake. "It's kind of scary. To hear of an earthquake on the East coast, is definitely uncommon."

Fortunately for the Patriots, the Lions play on dome-covered Ford Field so weather conditions won't be a factor during the game.

"It is what it is," said Carter, a San Jose, Calif. native who starred at Cal. "Sleet, snow, rain or shine, you have to prepare your mind for a physical game. The majority of us, especially vets have been through all types of weather. This is just football. You have to play against the elements."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn