FOXBORO (CBS) – The Patriots were back on the field Thursday for another day of shorts and shells practice.
Here are some of the tidbits from the Patriots locker room on Thursday as they get ready for next Saturday’s divisional playoff matchup.
Chung Takes The Podium
Safety Patrick Chung had the honors of taking the podium on Thursday. He said he feels good after making his return last week against the Bills. Chung missed seven weeks with a shoulder injury he suffered against the New York Giants, but said he felt great after making his return and the bye week will help.
“I was fine after the game. We’re all good, you know we got these couple days off to whatever pain we might have to take care of those and get rid of those little aches and pains and now it’s just ‘go’ time. So, it’s just good to have that bye week,” said Chung.
On Wednesday, veterans Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo touched on the mental makeup of this year’s team compared to years past. Chung said he is forgetting about the past, and is focusing just on this year’s team. And judging by the Pats ability to comeback from early deficits recently, Chung feels they are mentally tough enough and can only get better.
“I mean other teams – that’s the past, man. All I can think about is the team that we have now and right now, I would say that we’re mentally tough. You know we’ve started bad games and ended good which is huge mental toughness to finish the game and play a full 60 minutes. We’ve had a couple of those games where we’ve showed that we had that. I can’t speak about other teams, but this team right here, I feel we have a lot of mental toughness and it can only get better. I’m not saying we’re perfect, I’m not saying we’re great, but it can always get better, no matter what.”
Chung also said he would be talking to the rookies about what to expect from a playoff atmosphere, much like he was spoken to from guys like Tedy Bruschi, Jerod Mayo and Junior Seau.
Read: Mayo Ready For Playoffs
“Honestly, prepare for the game like it’s a regular game you’re trying to win,” said Chung. “You can’t get too hyped about it because if you get too hyped you might get too antsy and then you never know what might happen, but if you have the same preparation that you do week-in-and-week-out and just take it as a game that we have to win just like every other week then that’s the best advice I can give them. Just relax and let the game come to you.”
He wishes he had listened to that advice last season.
“I’m just straight Energizer Bunny out there, so they try to tell me just to relax and let the game come to you. I finally realized that great advice, so that’s the one thing I’ll tell a rookie coming in, ‘Just play your game and don’t worry about all the other hype and everything else that’s going on around you.'”
Branch Says Nothing Is Perfect
Deion Branch was his normal jovial self, having fun with the reporters that surrounded his locker.
Deion said head coach Bill Belichick has been motivating the team this week by showing them their mistakes throughout the season.
“Yeah, because you all think we’re perfect and we’re not, I promise you,” he said with a big smile. “Even with us on the offensive side of the ball putting up a lot of points, [we] still have a bunch of flaws. Last week, week before that, defense has been playing great but they can play better, special teams can play better. We can get better in all the phases and that’s what we’re trying to improve on right now during this bye week.”
Pats Locker Room Sound from Thursday
He said the slow starts are just one of the areas they are touching upon this week.
“Overall what everybody has been criticizing us on, the teams that we’re going against, these guys have pretty good players too. These guys game plan real good,” said Branch. “Trust me, we want to go out and score 45 points in the first quarter if we could. It’s not an easy game. The thing is that we’re staying focused, we don’t get flustered. Once we get on the sideline we make our adjustments and then we go out and do our business. We focus on going out and starting the game fast, trust me. We don’t sit back and say, ‘Hey let’s spot the guys 21 points and see can we come back just to make it look good?’ That’s not our job. We have to give other teams that we’re playing a lot of credit too, though.”
After a 13-3 regular season and the number-one seed in the AFC, the expectations are high for this New England squad. But as well all know, that is nothing new, and the younger players realize it.
“Just being around fans, the only expectation is winning,” said safety James Ihedigbo. “That’s the level of what Bill has set for us here. It’s one thing when you’re in the locker room and you have a level from your coach and you understand as players but when you step outside the locker room and your fans understand the level of performance that you have to play at week in and week out and that’s what they accept as a good accomplishment. It’s not so much the pressure, it’s just a culture of being a Patriot. All the guys in this locker room know that, I know that and we’re excited and ready to go for next week.”
“It’s pretty much been the same since I was drafted here. Nothing has changed,” said linebacker Brandon Spikes. “We just want to come out as a defense and perform as a whole unit and make a lot of plays; put our offense in the best position.”
The Patriots have a first-round bye, but be sure to tune in to a special playoff edition of Patriots GameDay Sunday January 8 at 11:30am on WBZ-TV. Then on Saturday, January 14, tune in to the Pats Playoff matchup on WBZ-TV and 98.5 The Sports Hub at 8pm. Pregame coverage begins with 98.5′s Patriots Preview at 5pm.