CHANDLER, Ariz. — Bill Belichick may have to motivate some players but that’s never been an issue with Rob Gronkowski.

The Patriots coach Wednesday gave the tight end props for the way he’s battled back from numerous injuries that slowed him between 2011 and 2013. The sprained ankle hindered his 2011 Super Bowl against the Giants. His broken forearm kept him out of the 2012 AFC championship and a torn ACL forced him to miss the 2013 AFC title game.

Belichick hinted Wednesday that Gronk’s enthusiasm and love of the game has been one of the factors in helping him get back on the field to such a high level.

“Rob always has a great energy and enthusiasm for the game, is always ready to go, loves to practice, loves to work, works hard in the weight room, competes well all the time,” Belichick said. “You never really have to get on Rob and go, ‘€œYou know, that wasn’€™t your best,’€ or that kind of thing. He’€™s always out there working hard. But I do think that being said, there’€™s maybe just a little extra level there, just like what you referred to. Coming back multiple times, he’€™s come back from various setbacks, and I think the fact that it’€™s gone well, that he continues to feel better and better each week.”

As Gronkowski pointed out Wednesday, there are those who underestimate his intensity for the game because he’s portrayed as a partier. But Belichick knows better. The coach said there’s not a harder worker on the team than No. 87.

“I think that certainly any time you either lose something or go without something for a little while, you have that appreciation when you’€™re able to regain it or even possibly move up to a little bit higher level, which I would say probably is the case with him. His hard work and diligence in all areas from training to technique to just a lot of little things.

“And I think that he and (tight ends) Coach (Brian) Daboll have a great relationship and Brian’€™s done a great job with all of our tight ends, but obviously Rob in particular. But there are a lot of little coaching points that ‘€“ things that Rob does better now than he did a year ago or two years ago. Part of that’€™s experience, part of that’€™s just a little bit better understanding and harder work on those little things ‘€“ they become big things. But, you know, in the end, the credit goes to Rob. He works hard, he competes well, he listens, we tell him to do something and he really tries hard to do it. I have tremendous respect for Rob and the way he goes about his job.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Chandler Jones is anxious and excited for his first Super Bowl. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Chandler Jones is anxious and excited for his first Super Bowl. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Chandler Jones is one of 36 players on the Patriots who will be playing in their first Super Bowl on Sunday against the Seahawks, and obviously there is a lot going through his mind.

“Those two words are very good words to use: excited and anxious,” Jones said. “But within that, ultimately there’€™s one task at hand, and it’€™s to win. The biggest thing is just being calm throughout it all, all the interviews, all the media, all the people asking for tickets. Just being calm and levelheaded through it all.”

Fortunately for Jones and the rest of the Patriots defense, they have a leader like Vince Wilfork who has played in three previous Super Bowls and has won one as well. He’s preparing the players as best he can for the game.

“He’€™s just like having another brother, actually,” said Jones. “Like I said in the previous interview, his leadership is one thing that stands out to me the most. You could talk to him about anything, about being on the field, off the field, personal life, anything. Having a guy like him in the locker room, words can’€™t explain.

“Everything he does. Even on the field or off the field, or like I said, even in the film room, there will be times where Vince will say, ‘€˜Hey, watch out,’€™ something a coach might not see, but Vince will,” he added. “He’€™s almost like having another coach in the film room.”

Jones played in 10 games this season, as he missed six with a hip injury, but finished with six sacks. One of his biggest tasks on Sunday will be controlling Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

“He’€™s a tremendous quarterback. He’€™s a really good quarterback,” said Jones. “I wouldn’€™t call him unusual. He came in the NFL with me, actually, in the same draft class. He was actually one of the lower quarterbacks picked. ESPN always talks about it. But I feel like if everyone just contains and if everyone is in their spot, that zone read offense, you catch your guy outside their spot, it could hurt you and could gash you.  If everyone’€™s in the right spot, then we should be fine.”

There’s no question the Patriots will have their hands full with Seattle, but they may be able to contain the Seahawks offense, especially the passing game as they only gained an average of 203.1 yards a game, which was 27th in the NFL.

“Everyone that’€™s in the NFL, most teams are good teams,” said Jones. “I feel like there also is going to be a good game on Sunday, but I feel like if everyone’€™s in their spot, we should be fine.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

CHANDLER, Ariz. — At first, Bill Belichick hesitated in answering the question posed to him Wednesday morning about a new domestic abuse prevention ad that will air while his team is playing in Super Bowl XLIX Sunday.

But then he recognized an opportunity to pay respect to both the seriousness of the issue and the work owner Robert Kraft and his late wife Myra did in promoting a non-tolerance of domestic violence.

“I mean, the advertising and all that, that’€™s not really my field,” Belichick began. “But we certainly support the league’€™s efforts in that area. We’€™ve always done that with our team. That’€™s always been a priority. It’€™s been a priority for (owner) Mr. Kraft.”

Belichick’s relationship with Kraft didn’t begin in 2000 as head coach. He was the assistant head coach under Bill Parcells in 1996, the same season that the Patriots drafted Christian Peter in the fifth round from Nebraska.

Just a month before the draft, Peter was convicted for the eighth time in seven years, for grabbing a woman’s throat in a Nebraska bar. The pick set off a firestorm of criticism from the Boston media and Myra Kraft, wife of the Patriots owner. After learning more about Peter’s violent history, the Patriots relinquished the rights to Christian only a week after the draft. The team said that Peter’s behavior was “incompatible with our organization’s standards of acceptable conduct.”

Belichick recalled that decision and the impact it made on him.

“Going all the way back to 1996, the first year I was with the Patriots, we had an incident in the draft that’€™s well documented. So it’€™s always been that way for us, for our organization, and obviously we support everything in that area. But what the league decides to do relative to things like that, you know, it’€™s not really my pay grade.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison stopped by Middays with MFB to talk about the state of the Patriots. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Harrison touched on the fact that the Patriots are one of the most hated, if not the most hated, team in the NFL, adding that the recent success of the franchise among other things are not conducive to drawing in many outside sympathizers.

“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “When you play for the Patriots, you’re the most hated team in the league because you’ve had success, because they don’t like the personality of Bill Belichick, because they don’t like the pretty boy Tom Brady. They don’t like guys like us that are prepared, that are smart, that go out there and take care of business. I heard other coaches and GMs coming out talking trash. we beat you because we out-prepared you, we’re smarter than you and we’re more physical than you.”

Harrison said that the back-to-back championships are probably what started turning people off of New England and that Belichick and the players didn’t really help the cause either.

“[Belichick] wasn’t really engaging, he was kind of moody and grumpy and that type of guy, and he kind of controlled the media, and they didn’t like that,” he said. “But also the players. We were hard-working guys, we were very humble, but yet we had an arrogance about us because we knew we were smart.

“We knew we were good, and people didn’t like that.”

But the fact that so many people hate the Patriots might actually be good for them, Harrison said, because it makes them form an “us against the world” mentality.

“It’s all part of it,” he said. “I think when you play for the Patriots, you automatically know from day one that you’re going to be on the most hated team. I think the players embrace that, it’s us against the world and you don’t really worry about the outside influences, and that’s what [Belichick] would always tell us. He says, “Hey guys, you worry about what people say inside this locker room, you don’t worry about the outside.’ “

Blog Author: 
Judy Cohen
Richard Sherman is ready to take on Tom Brady again in the Super Bowl. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Richard Sherman was teammates with Cameron Fleming at Stanford for one season. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Aside from Brandon Browner and Alan Branch, who played with Richard Sherman in Seattle, no one on the Patriots knows the Seattle cornerback better than rookie offensive lineman Cameron Fleming.

Fleming red-shirted the year Sherman was still at Stanford so he spent a year around the team before Sherman was drafted by the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft.

“I guess he was always like he is now,” said Fleming. “He’s a very entertaining person, I guess. Very confident.”

Sherman earned his undergraduate degree in communications at Stanford and returned for another season to get his Masters. The cornerback actually started at Stanford as a wide receiver before switching to the other side of the ball for his final two seasons.

His most memorable moment may have come after last year’s NFC championship game when he went off during an interview with Erin Andrews on the FOX broadcast. Fleming said that wasn’t a surprise to see.

“No, I mean he’s definitely a passionate player and when you catch someone right after the game in the heat of the moment things like that are going to coming out,” Fleming said. “I can’t say I am surprised.”

Even though Fleming is an offensive lineman, he can appreciate how good of a player Sherman is.

“From all reports he’s a very, very good corner,” said Fleming. “One of the best in the league obviously. He’s an All-Pro, Pro Bowler for a couple of years now. He’s definitely doing well.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

PHOENIX — This may be the Super Bowl but Vince Wilfork speaks like a man with perspective.

Asked Wednesday about how he keeps things together in his busy life, Wilfork said finding the right balance is the key to everything.

“It benefits me because it keeps everything in perspective for me,” Wilfork said. “I wouldn’€™t have football if it wasn’€™t for my faith or my family. That’€™s one of the things that I always lean on when things get rough, when things get tired, when I really don’€™t want to practice, have got to do this, when my body is feeling like this. (If) I have a bad day at work, I go home and see my family. My kids, they’€™re so innocent. The only thing they want to do is play, they want to tell me about school.”

Perspective and perseverance is something Wilfork has been through a lot this year, overcoming an Achilles injury from 2013 and pulling a trapped woman from an overturned SUV after the AFC championship.

“It kind of puts everything in perspective when you look at it because no matter what I’€™m going through in life, I can always go home and have that feeling that I’€™m not a loser or that I’€™m not this or I’€™m not that. And that’€™s the luxury of having a good family. That is one thing I cherish the most.

“Everybody who knows me knows how I feel about my family. I would take family over football any day. My family and faith, I would take it over football any day. But I’€™m lucky to be at the level I’€™m at just because of what I’€™ve accomplished just because of my family and my faith and being dedicated to what I do and that’€™s football. Without them, I wouldn’€™t be who I am and I understand that and I cherish those moments with my family and my faith and my friends. I cherish all of that.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

NFL Network analyst and former Ravens coach Brian Billick joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to share his insight on the similarities between the Seahawks and the Patriots and to discuss Deflategate.

NFL Network analyst and former Ravens coach Brian Billick joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to share his insight on the similarities between the Seahawks and the Patriots and to discuss Deflategate. To heard the full interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

As a former head coach, Billick’s main area of interest in the Super Bowl is the coaches Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick. He said that the teams overall line up very well in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, however many there are, but that the coaching matchup is pretty similar as well.

“These two coaches,” he said, “were the boy geniuses, crashed and burned in their first jobs, were humbled, came back, put themselves in a position, both great defensive minds, both true head coaches.

“You’ve got two coaches, although brilliant defensive coaches, that are true head coaches in the true sense of the word.”

Billick pointed out that even though Carroll is viewed as more of a player’s coach, that’s just the result of perception, noting that his demeanor is what gives off that impression, not his actions.

“Pete and Bill are the same guy,” he said. “The difference is Pete is California cool, Joe Cool, and Bill, we know, is physically in pain any time he has to talk to anybody in the media or stand in front of a microphone, physically in pain.

“Both are absolutely ruthless when it comes to orchestrating a team, demanding from a team, and as much as he’s the ‘player’s coach,’ no one has turned the personnel over more than Pete Carroll and [GM] John Schneider,” Billick added. “If you can’t get the job done, ‘Hey, I love you man, let’s have a beer afterwards, but your ass is out of here,’ and both are ruthless that way. They just have different ways, they appear from the outside to do it differently.”

Not having a capable quarterback at the helm is what Billick cites as some reasons why Belichick and Carroll may have, as he put it, crashed and burned earlier in their coaching careers. But since they got their guys and have developed as coaches, it makes sense that they’re succeeding.

“If you go back to Bill and Pete in the early years, it’s real simple. They didn’t have the quarterback,” he said. “And it sounds like I’m being disrespectful, but I’m not in any way shape or form. You fall into Tom Brady in the sixth round, and Pete, remember now he was 7-9, 7-9. He gave up a second-round draft choice for [Charlie] Whitehurst, he’d thrown money at Matt Flynn, and they took Russell Wilson in the third round and hit gold.

“And beyond the fact that obviously you grow with the position, you learn, they’re obviously better coaches than they were when they came into it the second time, in Pete’s case, the third time, but the idea that, and that doesn’t mean they weren’t good coaches without them, but you either have that guy or you don’t. If you don’t, you miss out on a first-round quarterback, as much as I’m enjoying this, you’re talking to ‘EEI radio on Super Bowl week instead of coaching a team.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On the league following up with Deflategate: “Everybody’s criticizing the league for following up on this. They’re just following up on what somebody, I don’t know, I don’t whether it was Indianapolis … who knows, not that we’ll ever know. To me, this is monumental and it’s much ado about nothing. Does the ball being deflated have a tangible effect on the game? No. I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t even know there was a range in terms of where the balls were to be inflated, but if this was, and at some point the league’s going to have to determine, if this, to me this is tax evasion and tax avoidance. We all try to minimize our tax burden with tax avoidance, it’s legal, but if you step over that line into tax evasion, your butt’s going to jail.”

On doctoring footballs: “We’ve been doctoring the balls for forever because you want your quarterback to be able to throw the ball he’s comfortable with. The inflation range was never really a factor. We’d dunk it in water, we’d scuff it up because you don’t want your quarterback throwing a new ball, and that’s why we have the K balls. You don’t want to throw a kicking ball, so we separated that. The fact that, and I don’t know why, and if that needs to be addressed then you go to the league meetings, you go to the competition committee and you say ‘Hey, let’s expand the range a little bit,’ and that’s cool, but right now the range is what it is, and you have to stay within the rules. The fact of what New England’s history has been via Spygate, you can’t disassociate from that. If this were the first time, Josh Gordon is about to be run out of the league. Why? Because of his multiple offense, compared to a guy who’s a first-time offender, OK, we’ll work with that. That’s to me, if, that’s a huge if, New England is found culpable in knowingly manipulating the balls from the organization down, the fine has to be north of what Spygate was. That’s a tall order, by the way.”

Blog Author: 
Judy Cohen
Rob Gronkowski said Wednesday people underestimate how serious he takes football. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski said Wednesday people underestimate how serious he takes football. (Elsa/Getty Images)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Rob Gronkowski is a kid at heart.

The 25-year-old star tight end is as outgoing as anyone, always wanting to talk and laugh with anyone who will listen and does more charitable events than anyone on the team.

Because of his personality, Gronkowski sometimes gets a bad rap that he doesn’t take football as serious as he should.

Gronkowski responded to those people on Wednesday.

“I feel like they underestimate the hard work and dedication behind the scenes for everyone,” Gronkowski said. “Just going in the weight room when it’€™s your time to work out, the meetings behind the scenes, the practicing during the week. I mean, I feel like some people just look at it like you go out there on game day and play, but that’€™s not really the case.

“You always have to be taking care of your body throughout the whole week, in the morning and all the way through nighttime, getting sleep. So, people kind of underestimate the hard work and dedication that goes into the week to get prepared for the games on Sunday.”

His work ethic was shown this past offseason as Gronkowski suffered a torn ACL in a December game and was ready to go for the team’s first day of training camp this past summer and was active for Week 1 of the regular season. That injury wasn’t his first major injury either, as he’s battled back and elbow injuries over the course of his career.

“I’€™ve been through a lot, for sure,” said Gronkowski. “They’€™re all the worst. You never want to be injured, no doubt. You always want to be out on the field with your teammates. I really don’€™t have one that I’€™ve played with like bad — I just go out there and play. Every time I step out onto the field I’€™m ready to go.”

With that being said, Gronkowski still takes some time to let loose and have some fun, which sometimes gets criticized in the media.

So, why is it made such a big deal when he goes out and parties?

“€œBecause I’€™m a baller? Is that a good answer?” he said.

Sunday will be his second Super Bowl game, as he played in 2012 against the Giants in Indianapolis — although not at 100 percent — finishing with only three catches. That experience he says will help him this time around.

“I’€™ve just got to come in here and keep it all business and just focus on the Seattle Seahawks,” said Gronkowski. “All the little things, all the noise around, just block it off and just focus. Focus like it’€™s any other week, just practice like it’€™s any other week, go to meetings like it’€™s any other week, and let all the distractions do their own thing outside.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Tom Brady spoke for 45 minutes Wednesday morning as part of the Patriots’ media availability at their team hotel.

His voice sounded like he was stuffed and Brady revealed he is battling a bit of a cold.