Vince Wilfork speaks Tuesday in Phoenix on Super Bowl media day. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)PHOENIX -- Vince Wilfork can still remember the day he broke down and cried like a baby.



MIKE PETRAGLIA

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PHOENIX — Now that media day has come and gone, the attention for Super Bowl XLIX has begun to at least start to turn to the actual game on Sunday. The teams will practice for the first time in Arizona on Wednesday following their respective media availabilities in the morning.

Here is the media schedule for Wednesday:

8:00 MT Bill Belichick press conference
8:15 MT Vince Wilfork press conference
8:30 MT Patriots player availability (Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Darrelle Revis, Chandler Jones, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater with podiums)
10:15 MT Pete Carroll press conference
10:30 MT Russell Wilson press conference
10:45 MT Seahawks player availability (Doug Baldwin, Kam Chancellor, Jermaine Kearse, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Max Unger with podiums)

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

Quiet Star: After a season of silence, Patriots LB Jamie Collins talks about his breakout year. By Chris Price
Extra-special: Patriots special teams has excelled under coach Scott O’€™Brien. By Ryan Hannable
The Triumph of Brandon Browner. By Chris Price
Jerod Mayo grills Bill Belichick, steals show at Patriots media day. By Mike Petraglia
Chris Mortensen on MFB saying he has doubts about the Patriots’ stance with Deflategate.
Former Jets coach Mike Westoff joined Dale & Holley to talk about Deflategate.
Mike Florio and Peter King joined Dale & Holley to discuss if the Patriots did anything wrong with Deflategate.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

PHOENIX – There's nothing better than an athlete who talks it and walks it.



Brandon Browner has sparked the Patriots secondary this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)PHOENIX — Brandon Browner is a lot of things: Outspoken. Intense. Tough.



Scott O'Brien has been the Patriots' special teams coach for six years. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Scott O’Brien has been the Patriots’ special teams coach for six years. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Often times on some NFL teams, the special teams unit gets over looked. Not so much with the New England Patriots.

Led by special teams coach Scott O’Brien — in his sixth year as New England, but serving as a special teams coach in the NFL since 1991 — the Patriots have emerged as one of the better special teams units in the league, making game-changing plays on numerous occasions.

The Patriots’ special teams group finished first in Rick Gosselin’s famous NFL special teams rankings this year and finished seventh in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranking, a major credit to the work O’Brien has done with his players.

“I’€™m not sure,” O’Brien said when asked why he’s coached special teams exclusively for 23 seasons. “I’€™m sure I was influenced by a lot of people I came up with through my career. I’€™ve always enjoyed it as a player. I can’€™t put my finger on it, but it’€™s always been something I’€™ve enjoyed doing. I love the schemes, the creation of it. I don’€™t know. I don’€™t think it’€™s just one thing. I’€™ve had a lot of influences on me.”

New England has blocked five kicks this season — four field goals and one punt. The unit has seen three players get named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Chris Jones for his field goal block in the closing seconds against the Jets in Week 7, Julian Edelman for his punt return for a touchdown against the Broncos in Week 9 and Ryan Allen for his field position changing punts in Week 14 against the Chargers.

The four blocked field goals on the year was a franchise record.

“I think a lot of it has been, like I said, timing,” O’Brien said. “It’€™s a group effort no matter who blocks it. To block kicks in this league is hard to do. It usually takes more than one thing to happen to have that success, but I think these guys have always worked hard at it. You just get the right combination of the right players in the right spot. You give them a chance to have success, and they have it. It’€™s obviously had a big impact during the games.”

This isn’t even mentioning the job Allen, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and long-snapper Danny Aiken have done. Allen averaged 46.4 yards per punt, which was good for 10th in the NFL, while Gostkowski connected on 94.6 percent of his field goals — the second-best mark in the league.

The Patriots go above and beyond when it comes to valuing special teams, as they often keep multiple players on the 53-man roster just because of their ability to stand out on special teams — Matthew Slater being the prime example.

Slater, a seven-year veteran, played just 16 total offensive snaps this season according to Pro Football Focus, but was also named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth straight season as a special teamer. Knowing how much value the Patriots organization has in special teams, Slater knows how fortunate he was to be selected by them in the fourth round in the 2008 draft.

“For me personally it’s awesome,” said Slater. “I really think me being here is a Godsend because there are not many teams that approach the special teams phase like we do and put as much time into it as we do. We have a great group of guys that take a lot of pride is playing at a high level so it’s been great being apart of this.”

“Obviously, a lot of teams don’t do that,” Slater said of having roster spots reserved for core special teams guys. “I think maybe we are considered a little different in that way and it is a formula that works for us, and it is a formula that has allowed this team to have a lot of success over the years.”

Slater isn’t the only player, who plays virtually exclusively special teams. Brandon Bolden, Nate Ebner, Tavon Wilson and Jonathan Casillas also fall into that category — players who might be cut if they were on another team that didn’t have as much belief in special teams than the Patriots do.

“I can’t speak for any other team since I’ve never been on another team in the league. I can’t speak of how they hold their levels of importance, but I think the way — we hold every play to its highest importance,” Ebner said. “We put as much detail into the field goal as we do our red area with no time left on the clock in the fourth quarter. We put detail in everything we do from special teams to defense to offense. It’s an important phase of the game and we take it very seriously.”

O’Brien is self-admittedly hard on his players, but he has their respect and gets the most out of them. The players credit a lot of their success because of him coaching them so hard. In his 23 seasons in the league he’s coached special teams for the Browns, Ravens, Panthers, Dolphins and Broncos.

“Scott is a smart, smart coach,” Bolden said. “He has a different game plan and different schemes for every team we play. He does a good job of making sure everyone knows what they are doing.”

“He’s very hard on us,” Slater added. “He doesn’t want us to settle. He always thinks he can do better and make one more play — do something a little bit different. I think that is why we have been able to have the success that we have had because he’s constantly challenging us.”

There is a sense of confidence among the special teamer’s that they can make a big play on every given week, whether it’s a blocked punt, blocked field goal, or even a big tackle to change field position.

“I think that is testament to the work the guys and the focus and effort we put in on a daily basis,” Ebner said. “I think it is great to see.”

“It just goes to will, determination and preparation,” Bolden added. “We go through every week thinking we might get a chance to block a kick. We’ve been sticking to it, doing what we do and getting a few blocks this year.”

O’Brien takes a lot of pride in seeing his players getting the results of their hard work on the field by making big plays, such as Jones’ blocked field goal, Bolden’s punt block against San Diego, and even Vince Wilfork‘s blocked field goal in Week 16 against the Jets.

“I’€™m happy for those guys,” said O’Brien. “They work extremely hard. For any coach, your success comes from the players’€™ success. That’€™s the only thing you really do it for. That’€™s what drives me, and when you can give a plan to those guys and they can go out there and execute it and have success doing it, that’€™s what it’€™s all about. The bottom line is they’€™re helping you win on fourth downs or to get the game started at the half. It’€™s just part of the success that they’€™ve worked hard to get.”

With Super Bowl XLIX shaping up to be a back-and-forth, close game coming down to the wire, it’s entirely possible that one of the Patriots special teams could play a major role in deciding the outcome of the game.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins meets the media Tuesday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins meets the media Tuesday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — It was like seeing a unicorn tap-dancing with Bigfoot next to the Loch Ness Monster.

On a morning where a guy dressed up like a superhero was seen roaming the arena floor next to a Mexican TV reporter carrying a puppet, and questions like, “Who has your favorite booty: J-Lo, Iggy Azalea or Kim Kardashian?” were asked of Rob Gronkowski and “What kind of oil do you use on your beard?” for Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the oddest sight of all was Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins answering questions from the media.

The second-year linebacker, who almost never speaks with reporters, offered a simple explanation as to why he’s been so quiet over the last year-plus.

“Yeah, man,” he said with a small smile. “You know, I’m a busy guy.”

It was hard not to notice the contrast between Collins — who clearly would have rather been anywhere else in the world than speaking with us Tuesday morning — enduring the session with reporters in relative good humor, and Seattle’s media-phobic running back Marshawn Lynch, who answered every question during his four-plus minute session with reporters Tuesday, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” before strolling out after roughly five minutes.

“It’s not something I look forward to,” Collins confessed while looking out at reporters from his podium. “I can tell you like that. It’s just not something that I get excited about. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t do it. I don’t really need all the publicity.

“I’m just trying to get this right here over with. I’m just trying to get this Super Bowl over with, so I can go back home.”

To be fair, Collins has been a busy guy. The hyper-athletic 6-foot-4, 250-pounder led the Patriots with 109 tackles this season, but even more important, he emerged as a breakout playmaker for the Patriots. He’s only one of three guys in the NFL this year with at least four sacks and two interceptions (a group that includes Green Bay‘s Julius Peppers and Seattle’s Bruce Irvin). Collins also has seven quarterback hits and three passes defensed.

When you toss in his special teams value as well (he blocked a field goal against Miami), he’s become one of the most important pieces of the defensive puzzle for the Patriots.

“That dude is an awesome football player,” cornerback Brandon Browner of Collins.

Over the course of his career with the Patriots, the 25-year-old has been used as a defensive chess piece by Bill Belichick. He’s lined up opposing wide receivers and tight ends in the passing game, and has used his strength and speed to get physical with some of the better pass catchers in the game. He and fellow linebacker Dont’€™a Hightower have also managed to become impressive pass rushers, mainly working A-gap blitzes to perfection.

When it comes to his responsibilities, does he have a preference?

“I do, but I tend not to settle, you know?” he said. “I like to experience a lot of stuff. I like to do a lot of things on the field, especially if I can help my teammates. If they want to put me at safety, I’ll play safety. Put me at quarterback, I’ll play quarterback. I just do what’s best for the team.”

With the season-ending knee injury to veteran Jerod Mayo in October, Collins and Hightower have emerged as twin pillars of a New England defense that has offered a lot of 4-2-5 looks over the course of the season. On Tuesday, Collins spoke of the “brotherhood” that bonds the linebacking corps, one that has lasted even after Mayo went down with his injury.

“It’s been fun,” Collins said. “It’s been a success as you can see, so you know, we just need to keep that brotherhood going. I learned a lot from Hightower and Jerod Mayo. I try to use everything to my advantage.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

ESPN Senior NFL reporter Chris Mortensen joined Middays with MFB Tuesday to discuss the NFL’s investigation into the Patriots’ potential deflating of footballs in the AFC Championship against the Colts.

Chris Mortensen

Chris Mortensen

ESPN Senior NFL reporter Christ Mortensen joined Middays with MFB Tuesday to discuss the NFL’s investigation into the Patriots’ potential deflating of footballs in the AFC Championship against the Colts.

To listen to the interview on the Middays with MFB Audio on Demand page, click here.

While many came away impressed with Bill Belichick‘s animated press conference Saturday, Mortensen was skeptical of the information shared by the New England coach, saying that Belichick’€™s press conference “doesn’€™t explain how the Colts’€™ balls remained within regulation.”

“One team’€™s footballs, basically all of them were under-inflated. The other team’€™s footballs, when re-tested — and they like them on the lower end too, by the way, the Colts, were all within regulation,” Mortensen said. ‘€œAll the scientific minutiae that’€™s been thrown at us, be careful about buying into it.”

Added Mortensen: “I found it to be fascinating TV, but it didn’€™t persuade me.”

Mortensen also noted that he was surprised to see Patriots owner Robert Kraft handle Monday’€™s press conference the way he did. In addition to maintaining the Patriots’€™ innocence, Kraft said the league should apologize to his coach and quarterback if they find the Patriots committed no infractions.

“Either way, Bob Kraft, what he did [Monday], as I’€™ve been told by other people in the league, was astounding, because we all know that he’€™s now throne down the gauntlet to commissioner Goodell, who obviously Bob Kraft’€™s been his biggest ally,” Mortensen said.

Mortensen said that the comments from the Patriots shows that despite the ongoing investigation, the Pats “truly believe this is baloney.”

Despite the distraction of Deflategate, Mortensen said he believes the Pats will defeat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday.

“I think they’€™re going to win the Super Bowl,” Mortensen said. “I think they’€™re going to win it because they’€™re the better team.”

For complete Super Bowl XLIX coverage, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

PHOENIX — The last time the Patriots were in the Super Bowl was 2012 and Rob Gronkowski was not healthy.

The star tight end had injured his ankle in the second half of the AFC championship game against the Ravens, and clearly wasn’t 100 percent for the game. Gronkowski finished the game with just three catches for 26 yards and the Patriots fell to the Giants, 21-17.

This year is a different story as Gronkowski is 100 percent healthy, and should be one of the biggest parts of the Patriots offense Sunday night against the Seahawks.

“We’€™re just looking at this Super Bowl,” said Gronkowski. “I’€™m just worried about this one right now. Preparing all week, feeling good, feeling great, feeling healthy. That’€™s key. Just working hard in the week and we start practice back up tomorrow down here. I’€™m super excited about that. Can’€™t tell you how excited I am for the game.”

For the first time since 2011, Gronkowski played in 15 or more games. He hasn’t played a full season since that year, and although he didn’t this year, he could very well have as he was a healthy scratch for Week 17’s game against the Bills, as the game meant nothing for the playoffs.

“It’€™s definitely a tough experience, man,” Gronkowski said of being injured and missing games. “Definitely don’€™t take the game for granted anymore. It’€™s an honor to be out there on the field with my teammates and all. Throughout the whole year, especially this time of the year, going to the Super Bowl, being out on the practice field, helping my team do its job and just going out and practicing hard. I’€™m super excited for this game Sunday.”

As expected, the very outgoing tight end with a bubbly personality was asked a number of off beat questions, including singing a Katy Perry song. He also said he is the best dancer on the team and Julian Edelman is the worst.

He also did say the now famous Gronkowski party bus will be in Arizona come the weekend.

“It’€™s on its way down right now,” he said. “Body Armor wrapped it up in this thing. It can’€™t get into the parking lot in Gillette because of the Body Armor sponsor, but it’€™s all good. It’€™s on it’€™s way down here. I’€™m sure there will be some pictures with it and all that good stuff.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable


PHOENIX — This is a tough time to be a Jets fan.

The team’s quarterback situation is a mess. They have a new coach. And they’re about to watch arguably the best defensive player in their history playing for the hated Patriots in the Super Bowl.

On Tuesday, at media day at US Airways Center, Darrelle Revis was asked it must be like for a Jets fan to watch him play on game’s biggest stage after making a name for himself for his first six seasons in New York.

“€œIt’€™s not really my fault,” Revis said. “I didn’€™t make the call. Management made the call at that time and they felt it was best to get rid of me. So that’€™s the situation. That’€™s how I look at it.”

Ironically, Revis is in the Super Bowl with a New York-type controversy swirling in Deflategate. That gave Revis another reason to recall what he went through in the Big Apple, and to a lesser degree in Tampa Bay, with the reported mutiny against Bucs head coach Greg Schiano.

“Things come up and I’€™ve been around a little bit,” said the Jets’ 2007 first-round pick. “I’€™ve been on teams where situations come up and you have to deal with them accordingly. Whatever the situation is, the league office is dealing with it too and you just have to really see what they do about it. Let them handle it.”

After tearing his ACL against the Dolphins in Sept. 2012, Revis went through an extensive rehab program that was documented in “Hard Knocks” on HBO. The following April, the Jets traded to Tampa Bay and signed one of the biggest contracts in the NFL. Revis’ 6-year deal was worth $96 million, made him the highest paid defensive back in NFL history.

He played his seventh and only season in Tampa in 2013 before joining the Patriots in March 2014, signing a two-year deal. After eight seasons, Revis is finally soaking up the Super Bowl vibe. And he has the Jets to thank.

“It’€™s pretty awesome. I mean, this is what you play for every year,” Revis said. “In the offseason you work hard to get to this point and when you get there, like right now, it’€™s so surreal to me. It’€™s awesome, but it’€™s also crazy. But at the same time, it shows that hard work pays off, and there’€™s still work to be done. We have one more game left as a team to accomplish our ultimate goal, which is holding the Lombardi Trophy up.”

Many would argue that while he is eight years older than when he broke into the league, Revis is playing the best ball of his career.

“€œThat was the No. 1 goal for me, just winning a Super Bowl. Every year, that’€™s what we play for. You know I had a bump in the road, having an ACL injury. That kind of twisted my mind up a little bit because it was more so me focusing on my health. Once I focused on my health to make sure I could get back where I need to be and playing at a high level, I was confident and determined. Just focus and get with the right team and that’€™s what I did.”

Great players want to play on the greatest stage. Revis finally has that chance. Did he ever doubt this day in the super spotlight would ever come?

“€œYou know, there’€™s always doubt,” Revis said. “Especially going through eight years of not really accomplishing what you really want to accomplish as an individual player and also as a team goal. That’€™s basically getting to the Super Bowl and actually winning it. I can speak for myself personally and I’€™m sure I can speak for a lot of guys in the NFL who don’€™t make it to the playoffs. There’€™s some guys that play 13 or 14 years and never make the playoffs. It’€™s humbling, but at the same time, it’€™s a great experience. It just shows that we worked so hard to get to this place that we are at now.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia