Welker: I want to play Sunday


Welker: I want to play Sunday

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- By now, you know the only thing the Patriots can take out of Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium is retained health and a momentum boost heading into the playoffs.

How much momentum you can gain prior to a first-round bye remains to be seen. But staying healthy is nothing to be trifled with. After all, it was in the last regular-season game of 2009 that Wes Welker blew out his knee, forcing him to miss the playoffs . . . as short as they were for the one-and-done Pats.

But the memory of crumbling to the Reliant Stadium turf last week isn't haunting Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. He wants to play Sunday, since he thinks it's better than having two consecutive weeks off.

"Not playing for a week, and taking that week off, it's good for you physically, but at the same time, you want to keep it going," said Welker prior to Thursday's practice. "So definitely, this week is key for us to keep that momentum, stay on top of everything, and be ready to play."

Welker said he hasn't been told how much playing time he'll receive on Sunday against the Dolphins. But he sounds like someone who wants to help finish off the season in dominating fashion.

"I'm here to play football," said Welker. "That's what I get paid to do, and I love playing. So, no matter what's at stake, or what the deal is, I want to play.

"I know people are probably thinking different about that, but I don't worry about other stuff. Whatever Coach Bill Belichick decides for me, that's what I'm going to do. I'm always ready to play."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

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: