By Nicki Jhabvala
Pro Football Writers of America
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The bass of a current hip-hop song reverberated throughout the Vikings’ Winter Park facility Friday afternoon as Tom Brady moved up to the line of scrimmage and scanned the defense.
He pointed to the “Mike” linebacker, he checked the coverage, he motioned his running back, then signaled for the snap, the volume increasing with his every move. Without a misstep, the throw was off and the Patriots’ offense inched its way to the end zone during situational drills.
No matter the noise or distraction, it was business as usual in the Patriots’ final practice — the lightest of their three this week — as the final pieces to the team’s week of prep were put in place.
“Just kind of reviewing moving the field and we did all of our special-teams situations, so we just got everything one last time,” coach Bill Belichick said.
“Last tuneup. This is it.”
Every player, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was cleared from the concussion protocol Thursday, was a full participant. Brady practiced only with the black KT tape on his right hand, as he has all week.
The challenges in preparing for the Eagles have been multifaceted, Belichick said, so throughout the week, the Patriots have tried to cover all their bases.
“They’re pretty good at everything — good in the kicking game, good on defense, good on offense, make you defend a lot of things,” Belichick said. “Just the volume of it all. It’s not like one thing you have to stop because there’s 10 things you have to stop. So everybody is going to have to do a good job. You can’t just rely on one guy or one thing.”
Belichick and his staff have tried to mirror the team’s schedule in Minnesota with what would be their normal week of work back in Foxboro.
“We kind of try to stay on a normal schedule. So normally what we would do is Friday is this, and then guys do whatever their individual thing is,” he said. “They might do massage or get some extra rest or maybe a certain film (study) routine that they’re in. Tomorrow is going to be kind of a normal Saturday for us.”
Only this week, the team will travel to U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday morning for a team photo and a gathering with family and friends.
Belichick laid a plan for the week to taper the workouts and keep his players on a schedule that balanced game preparation with staying fresh. Wednesday was the team’s lone fully padded practice. Thursday was a bit lighter and Friday was the final review, with helmets and shells.
Prior to Friday’s workout, the team’s specialists traveled to U.S. Bank Stadium for a kicking session before returning to Winter Park for practice with the full team. The Patriots ran through their full array of special-teams drills during the afternoon workout, but relied on the JUGS for kicks.
With the week of work nearly complete, Belichick said he was pleased with his team’s focus and practices as Super Bowl LII approaches.
“I think they’ve been focused, no question,” he said. “There are things that are different about this game, but we’ve managed those and we’ve tried to focus on what we need to do, and I think the attention level has been good.
“It’s hard to win in this league. It’s very competitive. I think we’ll be ready to go and we’ll go out there and do the best we can.”