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Patriots will leave for Miami on Thursday, two days earlier than norm

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots will travel to South Florida on Thursday, two days earlier than the norm, in advance of Sunday's road game against the Miami Dolphins.

The decision to leave early was a result of Gillette Stadium hosting the NHL's Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens on Friday.

"When we found out about the hockey game, and as you see the activity around here in setting it up and so forth, it all ties in together -- the weather, being able to practice for a day in those conditions in Florida, and away from all the activity here so we can just focus on what we have to do," coach Bill Belichick explained on sports radio WEEI on Monday. "It sets up [to give us] the best chance to prepare."

A few picked-up Patriots pieces:

  • Belichick seemed to like what he saw from veteran running back Steven Jackson in limited work against the Jets. "It wasn’t a whole lot of opportunities but the ones he got I thought he ran hard. There weren’t really any issues," he said. "We’ll try to build on that this week. I’m glad he at least got a few carries, got some contact, got back on the football field. ... It’s a start. We’re underway so we’ll take it from here.

  • Linebacker Dont'a Hightower acknowledged that he's "definitely not 100 percent" with a left knee injury but told WEEI that he felt things got better as Sunday's game progressed. "I definitely felt good getting out there running around and felt like I finally got my burst back. Just felt a lot better as the game went on," he said.

  • Belichick liked how offensive LaAdrian Waddle competed after being called upon to replace injured left tackle Sebastian Vollmer. "I thought he hung in there pretty well," Belichick said. "That’s a tough spot, to go in at left tackle with not a whole lot of preparation and opportunity to really work with the offense, but I thought he hung in there and did a good job -- a decent job."

  • Belichick said the team's lack of depth, coupled with the club's scouting report on rookie cornerback Troy Hill, led to Hill being claimed on Christmas. "Troy was a good player at Oregon. We watched him in preseason. He played against Cleveland a couple of weeks ago. We just felt like he was a guy we would want to take a look at at that position; one that we haven’t had a tremendous amount of depth at all year," Belichick said. "We’ll see how it goes but we’re looking forward to working with him.