Pats: We won't be scoreboard-watching on Sunday


Pats: We won't be scoreboard-watching on Sunday

FOXBORO -- Take a stroll through the New England Patriots locker room and you'll find that nobody's very interested to the Houston Texans' 1 p.m. game against the Indianapolis Colts.

On one hand it makes sense. If Houston actually loses, the Patriots don't automatically receive a first-round bye. They still have to do their job at home against the Miami Dolphins. So there's no sense in wasting your time worrying about a game that's going on while you're preparing for an important game of your own.

And even if Houston wins, there's still the possibility -- though not a very realistic one -- of the Kansas City Chiefs catching the Denver Broncos off-guard in their final regular-season game before the playoffs. And that game, like the Patriots' is at 4 p.m. So the Pats will still have something to play for even if the Texans win.

On the other hand, it would be naive to think that the Patriots don't know -- or actually care -- about what's at stake in the game before theirs. So if they care, and they should, then it also makes sense to at least pay attention to the outcome of the Texans' visit to Indianapolis.

Still, when you take that stroll up and down their Gillette locker room, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone expressing the latter.

"Whatever happens in those games, happens, man," said cornerback Aqib Talib after Thursday's practice. "All we can do is control what we can control. So we're going to go out and handle our business, do our best to handle our business."

"I think the biggest thing is, we know we've got to go out and play well Sunday and we've got to win," said safety Devin McCourty. "No matter what happens in any situation, we've got to win. I think that's what we're focused on right now, going out there and playing well and trying to win."

The Patriots will need more than just a win over the Dolphins on Sunday to get a first-round bye. They'll also need either a Texans or Broncos loss.

But while they prepare for their 4:25 kickoff, one would think it would be easy for someone to get the urge to check out what's going on in the 1 p.m. game.

"Not at all," said Vince Wilfork. "Our goal is to win, plain and simple. We can't control anything else. We won't be watching other games because we have a game to play ourselves. So our main goal is to win, and everything will work itself out. However that may be, it's going to be. We're not going to dwell over it. At the same time, we can control what we can control. That's playing a good football game and winning. It's going to be tough. Division game. We're playing at home, but Miami is a team that knows us. This is a team that's going to come in here and play their tails off in their last regular-season game, so we have to be ready for anything."

Unconventional NFL draft grades

Unconventional NFL draft grades

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Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

While the Bruins technically operated, and operated well, short one coach once assistant coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien behind the Boston bench, that’s not expected to continue for the upcoming season.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed this week that the B’s will be retaining the current assistant coach group of Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo and Bob Essensa to work under Cassidy as full-time head coach, and that they’ll be looking to add one more person to his staff.

“I think our staff did a very good job jumping in and picking up, because we didn’t add to it at the time [of Cassidy’s promotion] when we subtracted from the group. It will stay as is,” said Sweeney. “We will also be looking to add to it to complement that group. Bruce and I have already spoken briefly about it, but we haven’t identified yet and we’ve already received some people that would have some interest. We’ll pursue that accordingly.”

Sacco handled the defensemen and the penalty kill in the final few months of the season, and Pandolfo worked with the forwards in his very first season as an NHL assistant coach following a stint in player development. Essensa, of course, worked with the goaltenders and as the “eye in the sky” from the press box once Pandolfo moved to the bench following the coaching change. So the natural assumption would be that the Bruins would hire another former defenseman to work with the D-men given the backgrounds of Sacco and Pandolfo as forwards.

“We haven’t gotten too far out in front of it. But, Joe Sacco moved from the front of the bench to the D, and did a terrific job [while playing a] big part of the penalty kill all year. Jay [Pandolfo] came down from the press box, worked with the forwards, which he had worked with all year. But now he’s in the heat of the battle. They were terrific. We were a true staff,” said Cassidy. “Goalie Bob [Essensa] became a little bit more of an eye in the sky for us up there. We had Kim [Brandvold], who was our skating coach, helped a lot with the practices, with the pace we were trying to establish. I can’t thank them enough.

“Going forward, we’re going to meet and decide what’s the best fit for us [as an assistant hire]. Obviously those two have a forward background, I have a defense background, so maybe that’s an area we have to look at, what’s the best complement. But we’d be getting ahead of ourselves if I said today that we’re pinpointing an exact thing. We’ve got to look at it and say, ‘OK, who’s the best fit. What makes us the most successful?’ We’ll go from there with the candidates we get.”

The situation automatically leads one to wonder if P-Bruins head coach Kevin Dean would be a possible candidate as a longtime Cassidy assistant at the AHL level, or if Dean wants to continue on his track as a head coach. If not Dean then perhaps Providence Bruins assistant coach and former Bruins D-man Jay Leach might also be a strong candidate after his first season working with the young P-Bruins at the AHL level.

While it’s clear the Bruins still have some discussions before potentially making a move on hiring an NHL assistant for Cassidy’s staff, they have made a determination about their scouting staff. The B’s never replaced the head of amateur scouting position when Keith Gretzky was hired as an assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, and it will instead be Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley that will run Boston’s draft board in June.

“Scotty Bradley has stepped back into that role, which he’s very comfortable doing. He holds the title of Assistant General Manager and he’ll oversee the draft. We’re very comfortable with the people he’s worked with in recent years that have been a big, big part of our recent drafts. Our meetings went well,” said Sweeney. “They were just at the U-18s and had other subsequent meetings, so there will be some banter in the upcoming [scouting] meetings, in terms of where we end up finalizing our list. Scotty will oversee that.”

It’s not exactly foreign territory for Bradley, who previously held the head scouting position with the Black and Gold and played an instrumental role in drafting players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But there’s also some question as to how big a role Gretzky played in drafting the massive wave of talented prospects now pushing their way through Boston’s system, and how much his presence will be missed at NHL Draft weekend moving forward.