Bill Belichick in good humor at Indy

INDIANAPOLIS -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick arrived in Indianapolis with more than a game plan for Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants. He brought his sense of humor too.

Touching on the hospitality he expected in the city where the rival Indianapolis Colts play, Belichick recalled one of his more controversial coaching decisions.

"I've never had too much hospitality here until I went for it on fourth-and-2," he said, referring to his late-game decision that backfired in a 2009 regular-season loss. "Since then I've been greeted in a lot more friendly manner than I was in the past."

Belichick as jokester was the highlight of the team's arrival, the Patriots' charter plane touching down at approximately 5 p.m. ET Sunday, about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. The Giants aren't scheduled to arrive until early Monday afternoon.

Belichick explained that the early arrival allows the Patriots to have as close to a normal regular-season week as possible, with a practice Monday, day off Tuesday, then practices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The Patriots will use the Colts' facilities, an ironic twist, and quarterback Tom Brady said he hopes the team will be practicing inside all week. The Super Bowl will be played inside Lucas Oil Stadium, which will mark the Patriots' first game indoors this season, and Belichick has stressed the importance of conditioning in what figures to be a steamy environment. Last week, Belichick had the team practice indoors (once in full pads) and he turned up the heat, with one player saying he lost six pounds after two workouts.

As for the team's arrival Sunday, Brady relayed how it was different driving past the Colts' stadium and seeing a picture of defensive end Dwight Freeney.

"To be in Indy and not play him is definitely a relief for me. He's terrorized me for a long time. I'll be terrorized by some other players in some other uniforms this week," Brady said at the University Place Conference Center & Hotel, on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"It's great to be here," he continued. "Regardless of where you play, the Super Bowl is an incredible experience for all of us. I've been very fortunate in my career, my fifth time. You try to communicate to the younger players how special it is to be here because you really do never know when you're going to come back."

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a left high-ankle sprain in the AFC Championship Game, traveled with the Patriots and wore a boot on his left foot. Belichick called him "day to day."

The Patriots were given a Super send-off earlier in the day, with 25,000 fans showing up at Gillette Stadium for a rally before the team departed. Belichick, Brady, owner Robert Kraft and others addressed the crowd.

"We're going down there for one reason," Brady said at the rally. "We're going to give it our best and hopefully we have a lot more people at our party next weekend."

Some in the New York media jumped on the remark, and later in the day, Brady was asked if he was hoping to project confidence to fans.

"Well, it was a pep rally," he said, drawing laughter from reporters. "People were pretty excited. Certainly players were excited. I know 25,000 fans who were there were excited as well. It was great to see the support. We get great support, home and away, and hopefully we have some Patriots jerseys in the stands next Sunday night."

Brady said the Patriots had "a couple of really good days of preparation" last week, while adding that the Giants have "changed a little bit" since a Nov. 6 meeting, a 24-20 Giants win at Gillette. "They're playing as well as anyone we've played all year," Brady said.

Belichick also praised the Giants, touching on his respect for owner John Mara and coach Tom Coughlin, saying he has a "close relationship with them and a lot of respect for the entire organization." Of his own team, Belichick said, "I think our players are obviously excited to be here, looking forward to the challenge, and we get to work (Monday) out on the field."

A relaxed Belichick helped Super Bowl XLVI media festivities get off to a surprising start with his engaging session. With the Giants not arriving until Monday, all the focus was on the Patriots, and Belichick -- forgoing his usual gray hoodie for a suit and tie -- stole the show with his sense of humor. Who says Belichick isn't media friendly?

"It's nice to be in Indianapolis, about the nicest I've ever seen it here in February," he said in opening remarks, later chuckling at one reporter's stated media affiliation of "Hawaii Five-O."

When a young female reporter from Scholastic News Kids Press Corps asked Belichick how he'd feel to join Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll with four Super Bowl rings as a head coach, Belichick smiled, seemingly surprised to field such a question from a 12-year-old. Before answering, he said hello.

It was an unexpected beginning to the week, which for the Patriots started with the rally back at Gillette Stadium.

"We had a great turnout," Belichick said. "The whole lower deck was packed on really the whole side of the field, all the way around to the end zones. So we got a great send-off. Our fans have been great all year, like they usually have."

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.