It should come as no surprise which team Bernard Pollard will be rooting for in Super Bowl XLVI.
Taking a parting shot at the Patriots, who defeated Pollard’s Ravens, 23-20, in the AFC Championship game, Pollard predicted the Giants would defeat New England.
“I just hope they put a thrashing on the Patriots, I really do,’’ Pollard said yesterday during an interview on a Houston radio station. “To lose to a team like that the way we played . . .
“We played a good game.’’
But it wasn’t enough to defeat the Patriots, as Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal attempt wide left that would have tied the game with 11 seconds left in regulation.
“You got to look at the experience of the team,’’ Pollard said, explaining his Super Bowl pick. “You got to look at what do the Giants have? They got a front four that is relentless. They got a secondary that is really, really good. They got a linebacking [corps] that has been with them.
“The dinking and the dunking, man? It’s just not going to happen,’’ Pollard said, referring to the Patriots’ emphasis on the short-to-intermediate passing game, which seemed to work effectively against the Ravens. “They are going to have to take shots down the field.’’
Pollard has been a one-man wrecking crew when it comes to playing against the Patriots. He was responsible for the season-ending left knee injury Tom Brady suffered in the 2008 opener versus the Chiefs. Then, playing for the Texans two years later, Pollard was the player Wes Welker was trying to juke when he blew out his left knee in the regular-season finale.
In the third quarter Sunday, it appeared Pollard had struck again when he rolled up on Rob Gronkowski’s left ankle and caused it to buckle awkwardly after the tight end had made a 23-yard catch.
Gronkowski returned later in the game but was spotted afterward wearing a boot on his left ankle.
“I think the Giants watch our film and watch the film of the season,’’ Pollard said. “They got to take away their big-time players. Gronkowski, I think he is coming off that ankle, so I don’t know if he will be 100 percent.’’
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said yesterday it was too early to evaluate Gronkowski’s status for the Super Bowl. The Patriots were off yesterday and will take off today before holding their first Super Bowl practice tomorrow.
“We’ll see how it goes with Rob and some of the other players who are getting treatment,’’ Belichick said during a teleconference yesterday. “We’ll see how it is when we get back on the field.’’
Asked if he felt fortunate that Gronkowski’s injury wasn’t more serious, Belichick said, “It’s hard to gauge injuries. We’ve seen some of the biggest hits in the game and seen guys get up and go back to the huddle like it wasn’t a big thing.
“Then you’ve seen other plays that look a lot less [serious], or with less of an impact. But because of the angle or the way that it happened, or whatever caused the problem, it’s more serious.
“We’ve got a lot of tough players on our team, and everybody is going to do all they can to be ready physically and mentally, especially physically, to try and compete in the game.’’
With Bill O’Brien juggling his duties as Patriots offensive coordinator and the successor to Joe Paterno as Penn State head coach, Belichick felt reassured to have Josh McDaniels on staff helping to prepare the team for the Super Bowl.
“It’s good to have Josh here,’’ Belichick said. “He was here for a long time and he obviously made a lot of contributions to our team and our success and he and I had a great working relationship and it’s great having him back.’’
McDaniels departed three years ago to take over as the Broncos head coach. He was working as the Rams’ offensive coordinator this season but became available when head coach Steve Spagnuolo was fired. He rejoined Belichick’s staff in time for the team’s first playoff game against the Broncos.
“But, that being said, Billy has continued to do in the last few weeks, since he’s been named the head coach at Penn State, he’s done everything that he’s done this year and last year on a weekly basis,’’ Belichick said. “He’s had the same responsibilities and he’s worked very hard to manage the two situations.
“But, by far and away, the majority of his time and energy and effort has been put into the New England Patriots. He’s done his full-time job here well and very diligently - just like he always has.
“It’s good to have Josh here. Josh has a lot of experience, he knows our players, he knows our system. Billy and Josh work together, Josh and I work together. So there’s a lot of background and history there that has pretty quickly come together and come up to speed.’’
Kudos to Coughlin
Belichick lauded the Giants and coach Tom Coughlin for the job they did to earn a Super Bowl berth.
“I have a lot of respect for Tom,’’ said Belichick, who was an assistant with Coughlin on Bill Parcells’s staff with the Giants. “I definitely think he’s stood the test of time with a couple of organizations, with Jacksonville and the Giants, and of course at [Boston College]. But at the NFL level, he’s stood the test of time.’’
Coughlin came under fire when the Giants fell to 7-7 on the season with two games left, before they won both to earn a wild-card berth with a 9-7 record.
“He’s tough, his teams are disciplined, they play with great competitiveness, they’re smart, and they’re a good situational football team,’’ Belichick said. “They have a lot of experience. He’s an intense coach and it’s reflected in the way his teams play.’’
Good old days
Belichick recalled his years with the Giants, saying, “Those were 12 great years of my life. I loved every one of them with the Giants - the people that I worked with, where I lived, our community. Two of our kids were born there. So there’s a lot of fond memories there, absolutely.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.