PHOENIX — The game is getting closer and closer, as Thursday will be the last day of player access for both teams this week. They will also practice in the afternoon.

Here is a complete media availability schedule for Thursday:

Bill Belichick speaks from the podium at Patriots Super Bowl headquarters in Arizona. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)CHANDLER, Ariz.



MIKE PETRAGLIA

BIO | ARCHIVE


PHOENIX — The game is getting closer and closer, as Thursday will be the last day of player access for both teams this week. They will also practice in the afternoon.

Here is a complete media availability schedule for Thursday:

8:00 MT Bill Belichick press conference
8:15 MT Tom Brady press conference
8:30 MT Patriots player media availability
10:15 MT Pete Carroll press conference
10:30 MT Richard Sherman press conference
10:45 MT Seahawks player availability

Here are a few of the top stories and audio segments from Wednesday:

Why Tom Brady is facing make-or-break Super Sunday? By Kirk Minihane
From Needham to Middlebury to the NFL for Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka. By John Tomase
Group dynamic: Patriots running game poised to make history. By Chris Price
Replacing a legend: How Patriots went with Dave DeGuglielmo to take over for Dante Scarnecchia. By Ryan Hannable
Gordie Gronkowski joined Middays with MFB.
Mike Florio joined Dennis & Callahan.
ESPN Sports Science guy John Brenkus joined Dale & Holley.

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo had a tough job replacing Dante Scarnechia but he did it well. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo had a tough job replacing Dante Scarnecchia, but he did it well. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — It’s never easy replacing a legend — just imagine what it’s going to be like for whoever has to replace Tom Brady.

That was exactly what Dave DeGuglielmo was facing this season when he became the first Patriots’ offensive line coach in 24 years, as Dante Scarnecchia retired after last season. Scarnecchia had been a coach in the NFL since 1982, including different stints with the Patriots along the way.

Bill Belichick was asked Wednesday why he went with DeGuglielmo and the process that led to the hire to replace one of the greatest offensive line coaches in the history of the NFL.

“He was available –€“ he wasn’€™t in football last year,” said Belichick. “We interviewed him at the end of the season — I think it might have been during the bye week last year before the Indianapolis game if I remember correctly, but somewhere in there. Because we knew that Dante [Scarnecchia] was going to be retiring, we wanted to kind of try to jump on the process. Met with our staff, we all spent time with him, brought him back for a second interview and hired him. So not a normal process I would say. Again, he’€™s got a lot of experience, works hard, knows our system very well.”

DeGuglielmo was no stranger to people in the Patriots organization, as he served as the offensive line coach of the Miami Dolphins when current Patriots tight end coach Brian Daboll was the offensive coordinator a few years back.

He is also a local, being born and growing up in Lexington, Massachusetts and having coached at Boston University when they had a football team.

He has served as an offensive line coach with the Giants from 2004-08, the Dolphins in 2012 and the Jets in 2013. He said coaching the Patriots as a local isn’t easy.

“It’s harder to be a Bostonian and work for the Patriots than it is to be a New Yorker or a Californian because everyone and their brother knows my name and when guys [in the media] tear me apart in the media my mom feels bad,” DeGuglielmo said. “I know it’s part of the business, but mom feels bad. When it was the Jets killing me, my mom didn’t read it because she wasn’t opening up the [N.Y. Post]. She didn’t care.”

The 46-year-old didn’t even think about who he was replacing when he started with the Patriots, as Belichick wanted him to be himself, and no one else.

“Actually he wants me to be me,” said DeGuglielmo. “He wants me to coach the way I coach. He wants me to be who I am all he time because he is who he is. Everyone in our building is free to be who they are. The difference is they don’t parade me out [in front of the media] which I appreciate.”

With that being said, the transition didn’t go as smoothy as one would’ve hoped.

The Patriots started the season 2-2 and the offensive line wasn’t performing very well, as Brady was sacked nine times over the first four games and the offensive line was struggling to find a combination that worked. Even with the issues, he didn’t let that affect the transition and his first four games with his new team.

“It [was] more of a perceived heat,” he said. “As long as Bill [Belichick] was pleased with what I was doing I followed his message, we stayed on the track, we stayed on what we do and it worked out some games better than others, but it worked out fairly well.”

The vast majority of the offensive line returned from last season and were now playing for just the second offensive line coach of their professional careers. Despite what came across from the outside at the start of training camp, the players have grown to love ‘Gooj’ as he is known as.

“[Gooj] has done a great job,” guard/center Ryan Wendell said. “I’m not a coach, but it had to be a tough position to come in and take over a group of guys that has had the same coach for so long. I think he’s done an excellent job of coming into our system, meeting the guys and trying to make the best out of them.”

“I have really enjoyed him coming in this year,” guard Dan Connolly added. “We had a great coach in Dante Scarnecchia and it was sad to see him retire, but I think Gooj has done a really good job. I have enjoyed playing for him. He’s a fun guy to be around and he’s a good coach. He expects a lot of us, like this team expects a lot out of everyone.”

Once the Patriots found an offensive line combination that worked in (left tackle-to-right tackle) Nate Solder, Connolly, Bryan Stork, Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer their play picked up. That unit began playing together in Week 5 and in eight total games together in the regular-season, the Patriots were 7-1 and allowed just four sacks. In the other eight games, they allowed 17 sacks.

“The more time that you have with guys, whether it be in practice or in the games that kind of experience is beneficial and you can’t beat it,” Wendell said. “Of course the more time that guys have with guys next to them it will pay off.”

Even with the early season struggles, it was DeGuglielmo keeping the unit in line and not letting them get too down on themselves.

“I think it’s been a year of ups and downs,” Solder said. “We’ve had good weeks and then weeks that we weren’t really happy with our performance. Through all of it we take it one week at a time. We work on improving and fixing the smallest of details — we take nothing for granted.”

While Scarnecchia was a hard, intense coach, it appears DeGuglielmo keeps things fun, while still being able to get the most out of his players and being hard on them when need be.

“He is a guy that makes friends very fast,” said Wendell. “It seems like wherever we go he knows somebody, has someone to talk to. He’s always telling stories. He’s the kind of guy that has no problem talking to strangers.”

“They have similarities and differences, but both of them seem to work,” he added when comparing the two coaches.

With the Patriots reaching the Super Bowl and seeing his players being able to play on the biggest of stages, that is everything DeGuglielmo wants as a coach. He described his group as the hardest working team he’s even been on, which makes it even more gratifying to see the Patriots reach the Super Bowl.

“It’s only satisfying when the players are happy at the end of the game,” DeGuglielmo said. “To me, a game is a game and as long as those guys have a smile on their face more than they don’t that’s all that matters. These guys fight. These guys work hard. This is the hardest working much I’ve ever been around. Smartest working, toughest group of guys I have ever coached.”

It’s become clear DeGuglielmo isn’t going to be Scarnecchia, but that seems to be OK because even with the contrasting styles, the results have been the same.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo has been playing the role of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in practice the last week-plus. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo has been playing the role of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in practice the last week-plus. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — When it comes to preparing the Patriots’€™ defense for Sunday’s Super Bowl, some of the most vital individuals won’t even see the field during the game.

In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is playing the role of Seattle’s Russell Wilson, while a crew of backup running backs — including Jonas Gray — have been trying to replicate the work of Marshawn Lynch. And a trio of young receivers in Josh Boyce, Brian Tyms and Jonathan Krause have tried their best to prepare Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington for Seattle receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse.

How good a job they did preparing the New England defense over the course of the two-week run-up to the game will play a sizable role in how the Patriots fare on Sunday.

In terms of prepping for the role of Wilson, Garoppolo said he’s been able to watch extra film on the Seattle superstar, and has come away impressed.

“He’s a very, very talented quarterback,” he said. “He can do a lot of things — he can run, he can throw a deep ball, the intermediate stuff. He extends plays with his feet. He’s a heck of a player. So re-enacting him for the defense, it’s pretty tough. But I think I’ve been giving them a pretty good look.”

It’s been the same story all year long.

“As a group, we put in a little extra time every week trying to get that look down to the best of our ability,” Garoppolo said. “The better look we give them during the week, the better they will be able to play on Sunday.”

According to Tyms, working on providing the best possible look is a collaborative effort between the scout teamer and the player who will line up opposite him.

“It’s hard to implement a receivers’ moves because everybody is their own person,” Tyms said. “But for the most part, we try and communicate as far as on certain routes, ‘Does he use that release?’ So on certain routes, I will hit them a certain way. At the same time, I’m still trying to win. I don’t want to give anyone anything easy, because this game, no one gives you anything easy. Especially at this level. There’s a lot of communication.

“When we’re on scout team, we really, honestly, try and go hard at our defense. I’m not trying to go through the motions. Nobody does,” he added. “Me, Jimmy, Josh, nobody does. We’re really trying to go at them like it’s a game. So we figure the harder we go, the harder they have to go, and the better we make them. The better they make us, because we’re going against the best DBs in the game right now. That’s the mindset.”

Scout team can oftentimes be a thankless job, but if handled correctly, can lead to bigger and better things. In his rookie year, Tom Brady used a solid season working as the scout team quarterback too climb the depth chart and eventually supplant Drew Bledsoe as the starter. It’€™s all about making the most of your opportunities.

“You’re going against a starting defense every day, and you’re working on your craft,” said Gray, who has replicated several running backs over the course of the season including Minnesota‘s Adrian Peterson. “No matter what you’re working on, if you’re imitating one running back, you’re working on that part of your craft. Imitating another running back, you’re working on that part too. It’s cool just to have an opportunity just to have a chance to work on your strengths and your weaknesses.”

Garoppolo said Wednesday that while there’s always guys shuffled on and off the scout team because of personnel moves, they have managed to forge a nice bond among many who have stuck around over the course of the season.

“We always have guys bouncing in and out on scout team, so it’s little different than the starters. But we try to work together,” Garoppolo said. “We’re a nice little unit: me, the offensive line, the receivers, the running backs. All of us. We all do a great job working together. We try and make it into really like our offensive period. We’re trying to give them a look, but at the same time, we’re trying to perfect our skill too. It benefits both sides of the ball. If you have that mindset going into it, it will benefit you too.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

PHOENIX – Steven Hauschka was born in Needham to a dentist mom and scientist dad. He graduated from Div. III Middlebury College in 2007 with a degree in neuroscience and earned acceptance to Tufts Dental School.



PHOENIX — With it being Super Bowl week each team gets assigned a pool reporter to view practice all week (similar to training camp) and then submit a pool report after.

USA Today’s Jarrett Bell was there for the Patriots practice. Here are a few of the highlights:

— The team practiced outdoors at the Arizona Cardinals training facility.

— Drills included third downs, red zone snaps and various down-and-distance challenges.

— Bryan Stork, who didn’€™t practice when drills began last week while nursing a knee injury, practiced without any apparent setback.

Tom Brady took all the snaps according to coach Bill Belichick

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Tom Brady will have plenty at stake Sunday. (Getty Images)"Tom Brady will never win another MVP.



KIRK MINIHANE

BIO | ARCHIVE


PHOENIX — The Patriots held their first practice in Arizona Wednesday afternoon and got some good news on the injury front as they only list five players total on the practice report.

Bryan Stork

Bryan Stork

PHOENIX — The Patriots held their first practice in Arizona Wednesday afternoon and got some good news on the injury front as they only list five players total on the practice report.

After practicing all week on a limited basis last week, rookie center Bryan Stork (knee) did once again Wednesday. He missed the AFC championship after injuring his knee in the divisional round. All signs point to him being ready for Sunday.

Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), Chris Jones (elbow) and Sealver Siliga (foot) were all limited in the session.

Tom Brady (ankle) fully participated.

Brandon Browner (knee) and Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe) have been removed from last week’s bye week report.

Here is the complete injury report:

Limited participation

LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder)
DT Chris Jones (elbow)
DT Sealver Silga (knee)
C Bryan Stork (knee)

Full participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle)

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable