The Patriots will hit the field for their first day of practice Wednesday leading up to the AFC Championship Game, as yet another chapter in their rivalry with the Ravens begins. We'll be heading down to Foxborough later today to cover all the action, and here's a look at what's on tap.
Practice notes. The expectation is that the team will continue its pattern of working in shells rather than full pads at practice. A typical Wednesday practice in the NFL focuses on first- and second-down plays, which often turns the attention to the running game. That could mean the Patriots will be spending plenty of time today keying on Ray Rice in practice.
DE Jones' status. Though the injury to tight end Rob Gronkowski earned the majority of headlines on Sunday, the Patriots also lost defensive end Chandler Jones, who missed the second half due to an ankle injury. There haven't been any indications from the team one way or another as to what his status is for this Sunday, but we'll see if he's healthy enough to at least step on the practice field today. Running back Danny Woodhead (thumb) is also a player to watch, although his injury sounds less serious (Bill Belichick said he was cleared to return Sunday).
Brady, captains to speak. As always, we'll hear from quarterback Tom Brady during his weekly press conference (11:15 a.m. ET), while the Patriots will also line up a pair of captains to address the media as well. Brady recently became the NFL's all-time leader in wins by a starting quarterback in the playoffs, and is one game away from becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to start six Super Bowls.
Belichick on Lewis. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talked about the return of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis this postseason, and how the defense has changed schematically with him on the field, while also highlighting his strengths. "Schematically, I’d say that they’re pretty similar. They have their package of stuff they’re pretty good at. They did that when he’s been in there and when he hasn’t. Ray is an instinctive player, always has been. Very good in the running game, play-actions and screen passes and things like that; does a good job with the underneath combination patterns. He certainly controls the defense in terms of checks and adjustments, that kind of thing. He certainly adds a lot. I’m sure that they’re glad that he’s back in there for a variety of reasons: his plays, leadership, being able to quarterback the defense and certainly the front. He’s done a good job for them since he’s been back in there."
Caldwell's impact. The Ravens made a late season shift at offensive coordinator, firing Cam Cameron and replacing him with quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell (formerly the Colts head coach). Belichick described the differences in the offense under Caldwell's watch. "I’d say there are a few subtle things, a few things that have a little bit of an Indianapolis look to them, more so than earlier. [But] I’d say it’s basically the same offense. There are a lot of things that look the same. Again, I don’t think you can change your offensive system in a week or two. That would be a lot to ask and I don’t think they need to. But they modified it. It’s probably a better question to ask them, as I’m sure there are some subtle things that are done internally that as an outsider you wouldn’t really be aware of."