COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The New England Patriots departed the Marriott that was their home for the week on Saturday morning to travel to Mexico City, with offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle sharing a message of thanks on social media.
— LaAdrian Waddle (@LaAdrianWaddle) November 18, 2017
As part of this week’s “final walk-through,” let’s revisit some of the highlights of the week:
Monday: Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun addressed players at a team meeting. When he explained the survival training that cadets go through, some Patriots players were in awe.
“Just kind of hearing it, it starts off and you’re like, ‘It’s not that bad, kind of like camp.’ And then they have another week where they go out into the mountains and it’s just them. It’s like ‘Oh, you lost me on that one,’” cracked running back/core special-teamer Brandon Bolden. “They said you’ve got to get your own nutrition and stuff like that. He made the comment, ‘You hope there’s a rabbit out there.’ … You know what? I might just have to go off the guy from Discovery Channel and just start chopping up a tree because that’s probably the most stationary thing I can get my hands on and we’re just going to eat bark for a whole week.”
Tuesday: On the players’ day off, about two dozen of them visited the U.S. Olympic Training Center. While there, gymnast Sam Mikulak -- who competed in the 2012 and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games -- addressed them. He also showed them some of his training on the pommel horse. One part of the experience that stood out to safety Devin McCourty was the room where altitude could be adjusted to replicate where athletes would be competing. “I’m sure some of that stuff will be instituted somewhere in the future back in Foxborough,” he said.
Wednesday: At the end of a full-pads practice, tight end Rob Gronkowski said players were told there was a surprise waiting for them, and to look to the sky. That’s when the “Wings of Blue” – an aerial demonstration team – parachuted onto the playing field next to them. When players broke the final huddle, they raised their arms together and said, “1, 2, 3 – Team USA!”
Thursday: After a walk-through practice inside Falcon Stadium, the Patriots were introduced to four Falcons (the official mascot of the Air Force Academy): Oblio, Aurora, Zeus and Ace. Just like a halftime show at a football game, Ace flew for them.
Friday: Patriots coach Bill Belichick watched all 4,000 cadets march into lunch, then was introduced to applause. He received an Air Force hoodie from Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, and in turn presented a Patriots hoodie to him while briefly addressing the cadets. Mitchell Hall erupted in cheers. Later in the day, the entire Patriots team was served lunch in the second level of the press box at Falcon Stadium.
“It’s been great, a lot of fun,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “Couldn’t be any better – a really beautiful place and a unique setting.”
Quote of the week: “Yo soy fiesta, baby!” – Gronkowski, on his message to fans in Mexico
Stat of the week: The Patriots will be starting their fourth different offensive line combination this season, with center David Andrews (illness) ruled out. Ted Karras, a 2016 sixth-round draft pick, is his projected replacement.
Hussey assigned as referee: John Hussey will be the referee for the Patriots-Raiders game. He wears No. 35. A longtime line judge, he was promoted to referee in 2015.
CBS’ top team on the call: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (analysis) and Tracy Wolfson (sideline) will call the game on CBS (4:25 p.m. ET).
Prediction: The Patriots have won 12 straight road games, matching the longest streak in team history, which is behind only the 18-game road winning streak the 49ers put together from 1988-90. In looking for road win No. 13, they will be going against a Raiders' defense that is 31st in the NFL on third down and doesn't have an interception this season. That means Tom Brady & Co. could be primed for a big day. Patriots 38, Raiders 24.