INDIANAPOLIS - It’s not exactly M*A*S*H, but the daily injury/illness update seems to be a high priority for the Patriots as Super Bowl XLVI nears.
Yesterday appeared to bring mixed, but mostly good, news: While offensive linemen Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer were able to practice after a short bout with a stomach bug, tight end Rob Gronkowski sat out with a high left ankle sprain. He said prior to practice that he might be outfitted with a specialized shoe for Sunday’s game.
Of the three, Vollmer has missed the most time, not having played since Nov. 27, sitting out seven games because of foot and back injuries. He’s also dealt with a stomach ailment this week, but is pushing hard to play against the Giants.
“I’ve practiced for a little while now,’’ said Vollmer, who could have been placed on injured reserve, which would have ended his season. “As long as you have a chance to play again, you do everything you can, you do all your rehab, your treatments, whatever it is to get back on the field as soon as possible. I’m very thankful that I wasn’t put on IR, and that I have a chance to compete. Hopefully, I get out there on Sunday.’’
Light was so sick on Tuesday that he missed Media Day. Or at least everyone thought he was sick.
“I was doing the zip line downtown,’’ Light joked. “It was the only slot they had available.’’
Gronkowski hasn’t practiced since injuring his ankle in the AFC Championship game. He had been wearing a protective boot, but since Tuesday has been without it.
“I feel better every day. That’s the goal,’’ Gronkowski said. “You want to be moving forward every single day.’’
Gronkowski was the only player not at practice. The Patriots listed 10 with limited participation: offensive linemen Marcus Cannon (ankle), Logan Mankins (knee), and Vollmer; linebackers Dane Fletcher (thumb), Rob Ninkovich (hip), Brandon Spikes (knee), and Tracy White (abdomen); safety Patrick Chung (knee); receiver Wes Welker (knee); and defensive lineman Kyle Love (ankle).
Music to their ears
Loud music was a big part of yesterday’s practice - by design. Since the game will be played indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium, crowd noise - and the difficulties that come with it - could play a factor. So why not prepare for it?
“We can make it loud enough so that [players] can’t hear,’’ coach Bill Belichick said. “As long as they can’t hear, you have to do silent communications.’’
According to the pool report, the Patriots worked on standard game preparation, but also spent time on kickoffs and kickoff coverage. Today’s practice, Belichick said, will be “a little shorter and really more review for everything like we did today - first, second, third down, and red [zone] area and all the situations.’’
Growing up in Kaarst, Germany, Vollmer said watching the Super Bowl came at a great sacrifice: sleep deprivation.
“I think it started around 2-3 o’clock [in the morning] Sunday night and then on Monday you’ve got to go to school all tired,’’ he said.
But the first Super Bowl Vollmer could recall watching was the Patriots’ 20-17 victory over the Rams in February 2002 in New Orleans.
“I remember I had a couple of guys over to my house and really enjoyed it,’’ said Vollmer, who was 15 at the time. “I’m not sure I understood what was happening, but I enjoyed it. It was a really good experience, definitely.’’
Asked if he developed an affinity for the Patriots at that point, Vollmer said, “It was cool. Yeah, you just kind of pick your teams and it was the Patriots for me and you kind of go with it and then to get drafted here, it’s what you want, it’s what you dream of. It was great.’’
Good clean fun
Asked if he’s ever successfully pranked quarterback Tom Brady, Welker ventured off on an unexpected, and humorous, tangent.
“I pretty much make fun of his life, how terrible it is,’’ Welker deadpanned. “You go over and use his toilet and you press this button and it sprays water on you. I’m like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ It’s heated, it’s all this stuff.’’
After fielding a few more serious questions, Welker revisited the Brady bidet.
“He’s going to be mad at me for bringing that up. He’s always so humble,’’ Welker said. “I don’t know, sometimes I just want to go over to his house and use the restroom . . . He lives a good life.’’
Not a numbers guy
Patriots fans, your defensive coordinator is prepared. Matt Patricia wouldn’t get too specific, but he said this week he has watched every game the Giants have played, some more than once.
Patricia isn’t bothered by the Patriots’ rankings in various defensive categories, including 31st in total defense.
“I don’t get hung up on stats,’’ he said. “ I leave that to everyone else. I just worry about our defense and the team we’re playing this week.’’
The Patriots have given two solid defensive efforts in the postseason, but Patricia says that’s natural. “I think all teams evolve as the season goes on.’’
Ninkovich had an interesting observation about being overlooked before entering the NFL. “The process of evaluating guys when they’re coming out of college, sometimes that doesn’t work so well,’’ he said.
Ninkovich was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft by the Saints, but was cut after appearing in just three games over two injury-plagued seasons. He signed with the Dolphins, but was cut again, signed again by the Saints and released again, then picked up by the Patriots, for whom he has become a valuable defender, both in the pass rush and coverage.
When rushing the passer, Ninkovich - who turned 28 yesterday - said, “Hands are the key. You’ve got to make sure you keep [the blocker’s] hands off of you. The placement of your hands is critical, you want to out-technique people.’’
Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, the new coach at Penn State, announced a 19-member class of recruits for the Nittany Lions. Penn State lost six verbal commitments since November, when authorities filed child sex abuse charges against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. O’Brien credited his assistants for keeping the majority of the class intact while targeting new signees whom he says are the “right fit’’ for Penn State. Recruiting services ranked the class from 39th to 50th in the country, in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten . . . Don’t be surprised if the New York newspapers pounce on Brady again. Asked an innocuous question about the relationship with his family, especially his father, he took a not-so-subtle dig at Buffalo. And since Buffalo is in New York, expect a swift overreaction. “Even when I started my pro career, he traveled to Buffalo. I don’t know if you guys have ever been in the hotels in Buffalo, but they’re not the nicest places in the world,’’ Brady said, referring to his father, Tom Brady Sr., attending some of the Patriots’ away games. Should make for a fun visit to Orchard Park next season . . . Belichick, when asked about the critical comments Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made this week about the lack of competitiveness at the Pro Bowl (the AFC won, 59-41), and if he shared those views, said, “You know, what I’m going to say wouldn’t be probably what I should say to that question. What it was and what it is now, it’s a lot different. I’ll just take the Super Bowl questions from here on out.’’ . . . The NFL announced that John Parry will be the referee on Sunday. This will be the first time Parry will serve as the lead official for the championship game, but not the first time he’s worked it: Parry was a side judge for Super Bowl XLII (when the Giants beat the Patriots four years ago), and was promoted to referee after that season. His father, Dave, was a side judge for Super Bowl XVII.