FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. The Patriots' playoff theme this year is "Not Done" and that also applies to how veteran outside linebacker James Harrison views where he is at this point in his career.
"I maybe want to play a year at 40, maybe 41," he told me this week.
Harrison, 39, has shown that he's still productive since being signed by the Patriots on Dec. 26. He has played 89 defensive snaps in three games, totaled 11 tackles and delivered consistent pressure off the edge in passing situations.
No surprise, but Harrison said he didn't need that type of performance to prove to himself he could still play at a high level after being used sparingly in Pittsburgh this season. He said his belief in himself never wavered.
"But at some point in time, I'm going to have to stop [playing]," he said, explaining why it's probably two years maximum. "I told my son [James III] he could play contact football when I stop, so I'm going to have to give it up in the near future, so he can start getting adjusted to playing. I don't want him to wait too long.
"He's already 10, and then he'll be playing against kids who have been doing it for 4 or 5 years, contact football, and they'll know how to take a hit and give a hit. To have a kid come into high school, or even be 14, 15 years old and have been playing since they were 10, that puts him at a disadvantage, especially just safety-wise."
In a piece he wrote with Jarrett Bell of USA Today in 2015, Harrison had explained why he wants to be present when his son starts playing football.
He hasn't reached that point yet. A free agent after this season, Harrison told me, "I don't see this being where I want to stop at right now."
2a. Bill Belichick usually has the Patriots practicing outside over the course of the season, thinking that the team can benefit from working in various conditions. That has held true even in weeks when the Patriots were preparing to play a road game at an indoor venue. But Belichick has informed players that every practice this week in Minnesota leading up to Super Bowl LII -- which will be held at the indoor U.S. Bank Stadium -- will be indoors, so they don't have to bring their cold-weather gear.
2b. The Patriots will be using the Vikings' practice facility, while the Eagles will be practicing at the University of Minnesota. One twist to potentially keep an eye on: Will the large ceiling fans that hang low at the Vikings' facility affect practice work for kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Ryan Allen? It did for the Vikings, who did the bulk of their kicking work at U.S. Bank Stadium and often didn't kick off when they went through their situational work at practice.
2c. In part because of that, the Vikings are scheduled to move into a new practice facility in a few months.
3. Tom Brady's underdog story from the 199th overall pick in the 2000 draft to five-time Super Bowl champion has inspired many. There is a reminder of it on the top shelf of his locker, where Brady has had a green plastic helmet with the No. 199 throughout most of the year. He said it was given to him by a Navy SEAL.
4. Bill Belichick paid receiver Danny Amendola one of the highest compliments imaginable in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI's "Dale and Holley Show with Rich Keefe" on Monday: "There's something to performing well under pressure, and I would say Danny performs very well under pressure. Some of his biggest and best plays are in the most critical situations. Guys like Kevin Faulk and Troy Brown also I would say had those characteristics," he said. Faulk and Brown are Patriots Hall of Famers, of course.
5. Belichick often reminds his players at this time of year that playoff experience means nothing, and that it’s all about playoff execution. If experience was all that counted, the Patriots would roll against the Eagles based on Brady alone.
Entering SuperBowl Lll, Tom Brady has played in 7 Super Bowls in his career, as many as the entire Eagles roster combined (7)— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 23, 2018
6. A pet peeve that I'd like to see the NFL and NFL Players Association work together to correct to create more fairness for players: Any fines in the playoffs should be based on a percentage, not a flat figure. This thought was sparked after Jaguars safety Barry Church received a $51,000 share for playing in the AFC Championship but had $24,309 taken away as part of a fine for his hit on Rob Gronkowski. While one can debate the intent of the hit, does anyone think it's right for any player to have his pay cut in half based on one play?
7. One moment that stood out to me from the Patriots' on-field celebration after the AFC Championship Game was when Belichick called out, "Where's Stephen? Where's Stephen? Where's Stephen" as he looked for his son -- safeties coach Stephen Belichick -- on the field. When Bill found him, he wrapped his arms around Stephen in a big embrace. After seeing that, and then listening to the end of Bill Belichick's weekly radio interview in which he talked about looking forward to being part of the weekly interviews again in 2018, it left me with a convincing feeling that Belichick appreciates his situation and looks forward to sticking around in the coming years.
8. As Mike Vrabel considers options for his Titans coaching staff, I think Eric Mangini would be a shrewd hire as his defensive coordinator. Mangini, of course, was defensive coordinator of the Patriots in 2005 when Vrabel was one of the team's linebackers. I'm not sure it's even a consideration, but it would make a lot of sense considering that Mangini's past experience as a head coach could make him a valuable sounding board for a first-time head coach in Vrabel. Mangini was out of the league in 2011-12, and then after three seasons in San Francisco, has been out of the NFL in each of the past two seasons.
9. Patriots undrafted free-agent defensive lineman Adam Butler has been impressive on and off the field, and he showed an example of the latter on Friday when I went around the locker room asking if players knew the significance of the date Jan. 27, 2000, in Patriots history. Butler knew right away it was the day Belichick was hired, which floored me because he was in the first grade at the time. He explained that he had researched Belichick prior to his pro day last year, knowing Belichick was going to be there. When I mentioned this to another Patriots player, the response was on point. "Hey, that's Vanderbilt," the player said, acknowledging Butler's alma mater's fine academic reputation.
10. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery were roommates at the University of South Carolina and faced each other daily on the practice field, usually as the first players in each repetition. Now they'll do it in Super Bowl LII. That’s one of many fun storylines that will be spotlighted in the coming days. Gilmore entered the NFL as a first-round pick in 2012 (No. 10 overall), while Jeffery was a second-rounder (No. 45) in the same draft.
Here's a snapshot look at what to expect media-wise in Minnesota:
Sunday: Eagles arrive (approx. 4:30 p.m. ET)
Monday: Patriots arrive (approx 3:30 p.m. ET); media night (Patriots at 8:10 p.m. ET; Eagles at 10 p.m.)
Tuesday: Belichick/Brady/10 players (12 p.m. ET); Doug Pederson/Nick Foles/10 players (1:40 p.m.)
Wednesday: Pederson/assistant coaches/players (11:15 a.m. ET); Belichick/assistant coaches/players (5 p.m.)
Thursday: Pederson/assistant coaches/players (11:15 a.m. ET); Belichick/assistant coaches/players (5 p.m.)
Monday: Super Bowl-winning coach/MVP (9:30 a.m. ET)