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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Bad news for Titans: Pats are focused, healthy

By MIKE SHALIN
January 12. 2018 12:21AM
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the second half of New England's 26-6 win over the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium last month. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)



After a weekend of denials, the Patriots have spent this week answering questions on how they deal with distractions.

In short, they laugh them off. They just don’t care.

It starts at the top and goes right on through the roster.

Asked Thursday if the distractions caused by that ESPN piece is important, Tom Brady said, “Not to us players. We do what we always do. We show up to work and try to do the best we can do. We know there’s a lot at stake and I think everyone’s put a lot into it. It doesn’t really matter what happened outside of this facility and what we’re trying to accomplish.

“It’s a big task to go out and win a playoff game. We’re playing against a good team, Divisional round, and I’m glad we earned the chance to be here to do it and we’ve just got to go take care of business.”

And now they’re healthy.

Malcolm Mitchell was back at practice Thursday. Chris Hogan and Kyle Van Noy were both removed from the injury report. Rex Burkhead and James White were practicing.

Just what they needed — more depth.

Our buddy Zack Cox of NESN tweeted, “Today was the first time since Sept. 29 that the Patriots had perfect attendance at practice. This is the healthiest they’ve been in months.”

Coach Bill Belichick, asked if Mitchell could play at some point going forward, said, “I don’t know. If that happens, I’ll let you know as soon as possible. There won’t be a second delay.”

The Patriots, as always, are saying all the right things about the Titans. In Nashville, a column calling the Patriots “cheaters” will surely find its way to some bulletin board.

Marcus Mariota has done some good things in his three years in the NFL. Heck, he once had an 87-yard touchdown run. He even caught his own batted-down pass and scored last week. Does he have a shot Saturday night?

The Patriots are 13½-point favorites to advance to the AFC title game — again. Here’s a number for you, and we go back to Cox for this one: The Pats are 32-1 when favored by at least 13½ points in a game since 2000, the only loss coming against the Cardinals in Week 2 of the 2012 season. They were 13½-point favorites in that game and lost 20-18.

More Belichick

Putting it as only he can, the coach was asked Thursday about how nice it is having Rob Gronkowski available for the playoff run.

He said: “Yeah, well, whatever team you have, that’s the team you have. So, if we have him, that’s great. There are other players that we don’t have. There’s other players that other teams don’t have. So, whoever you have, you have. Whoever you don’t have, you don’t have. You try to put the most competitive team out on the field with the players that you have. It’s great to have him a part of it. He’s a great player. But, as I said, there are other players that we don’t have, so we don’t have them, just like everybody else.”

First, Blake Bortles becomes the first quarterback ever to win a playoff game with more yards on the ground (88) than through the air (87).

“It’s a playoff game, so it’s not like it’s the preseason where I can go out there, ‘Oh, it’s Brady,’ and I’m chillin,’” Tennessee’s Kevin Byard said Tuesday. “This is a playoff game. So I don’t really care if it was Joe Montana. You know what I’m saying? I’m trying to go out there and win the game. I want to make him look like Blake Bortles if I can and try to catch a couple picks.

“Tom Brady is a great quarterback, but it’s a playoff game. I’m not really looking at it like that.”

Giants safety Landon Collins says he’s fine with Belichick staying where he is.

“The way he runs his organization, I’ve been through that process. I don’t like it,” Collins told the New York Post. “It’s too strict. …. He’s a great winner, he’s a great coach. I don’t know if (his style) is what the organization really wants. I talked to guys who played for (his) team. They love winning, but at the same time, they don’t want to be on the team.” ...

The New York Post reported the Giants had reduced their coaching list down to three — Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and Pat Shurmur.

Across the pond

The Celtics were down 22 points in the first half in London Thursday and roared back for what turned out to be an easy win. They did it with an 83-42 run.

From column pal Dick Lipe: Jaylen Brown was a career-high plus-34 and Al Horford a plus-32, matching the second-best number in his career. From radio voice Sean Grande: the Celtics (34-10) are 9-4 when trailing by at least 12 points in a game, 5-4 when down by at least 17. Impressive.

Good Sox news

As folks speculate on who will play second base for the Red Sox until Dustin Pedroia is back from knee surgery in May, Pedroia himself says he has an idea.

Pedroia.

Speaking to Rob Bradford on Bradford’s podcast, Pedroia said he’s way ahead of schedule and is shooting for Opening Day.

“That’s the difference of having my knee fixed than to when it wasn’t fixed — I couldn’t hit any miles per hour,” he said. “I couldn’t make gains because physically my knee was blowing out. I could only get to a point to where I could last a four-hour game. Now, I am getting ready for 162 (games) plus the playoffs. That is my mindset and that is how I feel. My legs are strong again.

“I am hoping I get cleared next Wednesday to start running and get after it. That leaves me enough time to get to spring training to where I’m a part of it from the get-go and that is all I want.”

Still quiet

The waiting game is on regarding J.D. Martinez, who wants more than the five years currently on the table. He also wants to play the outfield, something that can’t happen in Boston unless Jackie Bradley Jr. is traded. A thought: It says here Martinez, who says he’s willing to hold out until spring training to get a job, isn’t worth much more than the three years/$39 million the frugal Mets just handed out to Jay Bruce.

Column pal Chris Smith of MassLive tweeted on Thursday: “Red Sox depth starter Hector Velazquez 5 IP, 1 R, 0 ER yesterday in Mexico. He has allowed just one earned run in 20 innings for Mayos de Navojoa.”

Here and there

RIP Ernie “Pop” Lewis, a starter on Rick Pitino’s 1987 Providence College Final Four team. … Former Bruin Chris Kelly has made the Canadian Olympic team. … Sean Deveney of The Sporting News has the Celtics trailing only the Warriors in the latest power rankings. … Central Florida fans have paid for a billboard in Tuscaloosa, congratulating the Crimson Tide on their national championship and challenging Alabama to a home and home series. … From Sports Illustrated on Twitter: “This morning, Texas announced that guard Andrew Jones had been diagnosed with leukemia. Tonight, they knocked off No. 16 TCU in double OT and held his jersey high after the game.” … Thoughts are with Jones, and with hockey voice Pierre McGuire, also battling cancer. … Le’Veon Bell said he would consider sitting out the 2018 season or retiring if he’s hit again with the franchise tag. “I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I would definitely consider it,” he said Thursday. … Prolific baseball author and historian Bill Nowlin has a Tom Yawkey book out — “Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox.” … Solidarity: the Predators wore Titans jerseys with their corresponding numbers entering practice this week. … Finally, this from Jerry Remy as he makes his way back from his latest battle with cancer: “Unfortunately I will not be going to winter weekend this year. The doctors thought that it would be best if I avoid crowds where I might catch a bug while I am on the radiation treatments.”

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL