Patriots finally preparing for cold weather
By MATTHEW CARROLL
The Associated Press | December 29,2012
New England’s Rob Gronkowski speaks to reporters at his locker in Gilliette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday. The Patriots tight end is awaiting medical clearance to return to the field.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick doesn’t masquerade as a meteorologist.
However, the New England coach once again has his team acclimated for whatever inclement weather may swoop in Sunday for the season finale against Miami.
Rather than shifting practice indoors as they have before, the Patriots practiced outside Thursday despite cold, driving rain, and again Friday in chilly temperatures in anticipation of a winter storm expected to dump a few inches of snow late Saturday.
Temperatures are expected to hover in the mid-to-low 20s for kickoff Sunday afternoon.
“Whatever we get Sunday, we get. We’re not trying to forecast it,” Belichick said. “We’ll just practice in whatever comes. I’m sure sooner or later we’ll get something similar.”
For the second straight year, though, the region has endured a tepid winter in the month of December, a far cry from some of the more memorable games played in the snow at Gillette Stadium.
And that might be just fine with the Dolphins (7-8). But some members of the Patriots (11-4) are welcoming this long overdue cold front.
“It doesn’t bother us,” linebacker Jerod Mayo said. “You don’t see a lot of us out there in sleeves. When you see other teams coming from other places, they’re kind of sleeved up a little bit.”
Yet whether rain, snow or sunshine, Miami has had its share of difficulties traveling to Foxborough since quarterback Tom Brady took the reigns of New England’s offense in 2001.
The Patriots are 9-2 at home against the Dolphins since then, and the two losses didn’t occur on Brady’s watch, either. Brady was already sidelined for the season when New England and backup quarterback Matt Cassel lost to Miami in September 2008, and the three-time Super Bowl MVP played just one quarter before resting for the playoffs in a 28-26 setback on New Year’s Day in 2005.
It only gets worse for the Dolphins in the winter, too. Miami is 1-6 in Foxborough in either December or January over the past 11 seasons.
Call it a home-field advantage.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s advantageous, but I definitely feel like I can play in the snow,” said rookie defensive end Chandler Jones. “I like playing in the snow, to be honest with you. The cold weather doesn’t affect me at all.”
The Patriots defense is well aware that the unpredictable climate could play a pivotal role in ball security. Members of the secondary are on high alert for turnovers.
Considering New England is second in the league with 39 takeaways, though, that’s nothing new.
“I think you’ve got to have a heightened awareness when you get in these games because no matter how mentally strong guys are, it does change things — your hands get cold and different things like that,” safety Devin McCourty said. “Defensively, we definitely try to have more of an awareness to try to attack the ball.”
Just because the Dolphins typically play half of their games under the warm southern sun doesn’t mean they’re going to freeze at the first sight of snow.
In fact, another warm-weather team — the San Francisco 49ers — traveled to New England on a cold, rainy night two weeks ago and overpowered the Patriots, handing them their lone loss over their past nine games.
“They’re a professional football team, they’ll be ready to go,” McCourty said. “I don’t think it’s nothing new for them They’ve done it before, they did it last year, so I’m sure they’ll be ready to go.”
And after already playing a pair of December games in Florida, the Patriots are embracing whatever weather rolls their way.
“We’ve had a very fortunate December around here. It’s been good,” Mayo said. “Our other games we had were in Miami and in Jacksonville. The weather won’t be a problem at all. We enjoy the rain.”
Mayo then shifted his focus to the true opponent.
“We’re not playing the weather,” he added, “we’re playing the Dolphins.”