fb-pixelPatriots’ focus has been divided this week, but they know they have work to do - The Boston Globe Skip to main content
patriots notebook

Patriots’ focus has been divided this week, but they know they have work to do

Linebackers coach Jerod Mayo has been checking on players' mental well-being throughout the week.Steven Senne/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots continued with what has been a unique week of preparation for Sunday’s gigantic matchup with the Bills, focusing simultaneously on Damar Hamiln’s health and football.

“This week’s certainly been a little bit different, but everybody’s getting ready to go,” Bill Belichick said Friday morning. “They are, we are. So, start pulling things together here, leave [Saturday], and be ready to go on Sunday.”

Belichick expects everyone will continue to process the situation as they have right on through game day.

“We expect it to be an emotional scene, and in the end, we’re going there to play our best football game,” he said. “I think everybody understands there’s a balance with the things going on here.”


Linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, whom Belichick pointed to as a guiding force for his staff and players this week, said Hamlin has been “in everybody’s prayers throughout the week” and he was excited to learn of Hamlin’s improvements over the last two days.

“I just want to say thanks to everyone involved. You know, the training staff, oftentimes the guys who no one even knows their names, right?” said Mayo, whose brother, Deron, is on the Patriots’ strength and conditioning staff. “You know, the trainers, the doctors, it was all hands on deck, and especially the doctors at the hospital.

“So, [Hamlin] has definitely been top of mind of all the guys, but great news today. Happy about that.”

Mayo has had conversations with some players and checked in on their mental well-being but said veteran leaders Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty are the guys most of the players have leaned on.

Shifting focus to the game, Mayo said he expects that familiar intensity that always comes with playing the Bills in Orchard Park.

“I always say, going out to Buffalo is like playing in college, it’s like an SEC stadium,” said Mayo, who played at Tennessee. “So it’s definitely going to be tough.”


Mayo said with the stakes that are on the line — the Patriots will earn a playoff spot with a win — the motivation is obvious.

“Honestly, you win and you’re in, and that’s the mentality,” he said. “Like, there’s no speech or anything that a coach can give you. It’s, ‘Look, either you win and you’re in the playoffs or you lose and you go home.’ ‘’

Mayo called it a “trash bag game.”

“That means if you lose, you get a big plastic trash bag [to clean out your locker],” he said.

The Patriots technically can still make the postseason if they lose, but it would take losses from the Dolphins, Steelers, and Titans to get in through the back door.

Two are suspended

The Patriots suspended cornerback Jack Jones and punter Jake Bailey, according to the NFL transaction wire. Both players were on injured reserve before getting moved to the league’s reserve/suspended list Friday. The details of the suspensions are unknown.

Jones (knee) hasn’t played since Week 14 against Arizona, while Bailey (back) hasn’t played since Week 9 against Indianapolis.

“I’m aware of the situation involving my client Jack Jones,” agent Jamal Tooson said in a statement to NFL Network. “Jack is focused on getting back to help the Patriots as soon as possible. Regarding the suspension, it appears to be a miscommunication regarding Jack’s rehab process. I’m hopeful we’ll reach an amicable resolution for both Jack and the Patriots.”


Jones, a fourth-round pick, is in the first year of his rookie deal, while Bailey, who signed a lucrative extension in the offseason, is under contract through 2025.

Bailey had returned to practice Dec. 21, opening his 21-day window to possibly return to the 53-man roster.

Coach Bill Belichick said Friday morning Bailey would not be activated for the remainder of the season, but did not reference the suspension.

Bailey went on IR after Week 9 as he dealt with a back injury. He came back to practice last month but wasn’t able to turn the corner. In his absence, the Patriots have used Michael Palardy for punts and Nick Folk and Tristan Vizcaino for kickoff duties.

An All-Pro in 2020, Bailey was averaging career lows in punting average (42.1 yards) and net average (35.3). Entering the season, he averaged 46.7 and 42.1.

Palardy has struggled at times, averaging 42.6 and 36.2 on 38 punts.

Perfect attendance

The Patriots had all 53 members of the active roster on hand for Friday’s rainy and raw practice. Only practice squad players Brad Hawkins and Terez Hall were not spotted during the media portion of the session.

Nicole Yang of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Buffalo.

Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him @globejimmcbride.