According to multiple reports, former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien will remain as head coach at Penn State.

O'Brien reporetedly interviewed for both the Browns and Eagles head coaching positions but chose to return for a second season with the Nittany Lions. The 43-year-old guided Penn State to an 8-4 record in 2012 despite sanctions levied on the program. He was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.


FOXBORO -- Tom Brady, Rob Ninkovich and Dont'a Hightower all returned to practice Thursday in the frigid conditions outside Gillette Stadium as the Patriots held their final practice before taking a three-day break for the bye weekend. The team had full attendance for the practice. 

Ninkovich's return was most notable since he missed practice Wednesday after injuring his left hip in the second quarter of Sunday's win over the Dolphins. Hightower is nursing a shoulder injury while Brady missed Wednesday but did not suffer any apparent injury in the season finale. 

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady has had several classic encounters with the Ravens and future hall of fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced to his team that he was retiring after the playoffs on Wednesday.

"He is still an incredible player and competitor," Brady said. "I know so many people have said so many things about him. I'm certain the guys that have played with him can probably speak to him the best, but it was a privilege to play against him."

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and typically, it is the elite quarterbacks (read: not the Mark Sanchezes of the world) who are playing deep in January.

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady, Rob Ninkovich and Dont'a Hightower were the three players missing from practice on Wednesday as the Patriots practiced outdoors on the lower practice field in sweats and shells. For Brady, it was just his second missed practice of the season. 

Brady also missed practice during the bye week in last year's playoffs but returned to practice the following week. Wes Welker, Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer also missed practice last year in the bye but all three were on hand on Wednesday. 

FOXBORO -- The Patriots went back to work on Wednesday at Gillette Stadium during their hard-earned playoff bye week, and the news apparently is good regarding Rob Ninkovich.

"I’m happy here. My family is happy here. We’re excited about what’s ahead of us here in the playoffs, and to talk about any other opportunities at this point is, to me, irrelevant, because I’m totally focused on this season and what this season holds."




FOXBORO -- The Patriots signed rookie DL Tracy Robertson to the practice squad on Tuesday.

Robertson, 23, originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with Houston out of Baylor in 2012. The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder was released by the Texans on July 29 and signed with the Detroit Lions on Aug. 1. He was released by the Lions at the end of training camp on Aug. 31 and has not appeared in an NFL game. Robertson appeared in 44 games while at Baylor, making 27 starts and recorded 44 tackles and 7.5 sacks.

With the new year dawning, the Patriots will face some difficult personnel decisions in 2013. Here are the five that are first on their plate: