By Nicki Jhabvala
Pro Football Writers of America
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The New England Patriots kicked off their Super Bowl week of practice with their first and only fully padded session Wednesday afternoon at the Minnesota Vikings’ Winter Park indoor facility.
And at Week 20, they seemingly haven’t missed a beat.
“We’re getting there,” coach Bill Belichick said. “Every year is a little bit different because we’re a little bit different and the team we play is a little bit different. But I think we’re doing the best we can.”
The 12:30 p.m. CT practice lasted approximately two hours without a minute wasted.
Quarterback Tom Brady, wearing only black tape on his injured right (throwing) hand, practiced in full and led the offense through passing and red-zone drills to start, then situational 11-on-11 football.
By his side for much of the workout was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who practiced in pads and was listed as limited as he works his way through the concussion protocol.
“We red-jerseyed him today so he’s working his way back,” Belichick said.
Also limited were defensive linemen Deatrich Wise (concussion) and cornerback Malcolm Butler (illness).
The up-tempo practice was similar to most other Patriots practices, with receivers running routes and catching deep balls from Brady to start. The offense transitioned into a red-zone period, then went straight to 11-on-11, with the noise cranking up before every snap. Special teams took over for kick returns, and later field goals. After additional 11-on-11 work, Brady and the offense closed it out with a two-minute drill.
The location might have changed. The opponent too. But the Patriots’ schedule remains regimented, with morning meetings, weights and practice, then additional team meetings and media availability to follow at the team’s hotel attached to the Mall of America.
“Again, it varies during the season — short weeks, long weeks,” Belichick said. “But we had a week in Foxboro and now it’s kind of our day to hit the tempo here and tomorrow will be a little less, Friday will be a little less.”
The Patriots will return to the Vikings’ facility for practice at the same time Thursday and will have two more daily sessions before Sunday’s game.