Patriots are prepared to weather elements

Email|Print| Text size + By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / December 15, 2007

FOXBOROUGH - When light snow fell during Thursday's practice at Gillette Stadium, Patriots coach Bill Belichick described it as "pretty pleasant out there."

It was a winter wonderland, indeed.

Until the snow began to accumulate. And accumulate some more, presenting the Patriots with an opportunity to practice in the wintry conditions they might encounter tomorrow against the Jets.

"It's only a challenge if you let it be a challenge, if you think about it being a challenge," running back Kevin Faulk said yesterday. "If you work at what you're doing, and you concentrate, you should be all right."

Forecasters are calling for temperatures ranging from 35 degrees to a low of 16, with a 70 percent chance of snow and rain during the game (1 p.m. kickoff).

"By the end of [Thursday's] practice, there was significant accumulation on the field," said Belichick.

Among the challenges the Patriots encountered Thursday: "Wet ball, ballhandling, playing in the snow, field awareness, lack of lines, alignment," Belichick said. "The field, [there] are no markings, so just the spatial relationship of the goal post and the stadium, the field and landmarks that you have to kind of estimate at when you don't have those markings there."

With Eric Mangini and the Jets in town, though, the Patriots will leave nothing to chance. And while everyone in Foxborough insisted the weather wouldn't be much of a factor, Belichick had his team practice outdoors again yesterday.

"I don't know how it's going to be [tomorrow]," Belichick said. "[If] you listen to four forecasts, you get four different versions of it. Sooner or later, maybe we'll play in it. Maybe we won't, but we've practiced in rain, wind, snow, night, afternoon, morning. I'm not really worried about it."

Since 1993, the Patriots are 22-3 when the temperature at kickoff is 34 degrees or colder. In the snow, the Patriots are 9-0 all-time in Foxborough, with three of the last six memorable playoff triumphs, including a 16-13 overtime victory over Oakland Jan. 19, 2002, in the last game played at Foxboro Stadium.

Tom Brady set a team playoff record by throwing 52 times in that playoff thriller. He completed 32 passes (another team playoff record) for 312 yards that snowy night, proving that even in those conditions he was still capable of throwing the ball.

So a little snow and rain is not likely to cause the Patriots to make wholesale changes in their game plan.

"I've never run in the snow," said running back Laurence Maroney. "I played in the rain, but I've never played in the snow. [Thursday] I was just basically trying to keep my feet up under me and just try to run fast and still keep your feet up under you so you won't slip and fall. Don't try to make too many big cuts."

Maroney, though, has not shied away from playing in adverse conditions.

"I went to the University of Minnesota," he said. "We had bad weather there every day. I might not have played in it [the Gophers play home games in a domed stadium], but I had to walk in it every day. I had a cold game at Michigan State. Other than that, I had a couple of cold games, but nothing like this."

In the locker room, it begged the question, "What's the coldest you've ever been in a game?"

"Tennessee," Faulk said. "It was in the playoffs [at Gillette Stadium, Jan. 10, 2004]. It was about minus-14 degrees."

"Probably Buffalo, my rookie year," said receiver Wes Welker. "I don't know what [the temperature] was, but there was rain coming in sideways at you and there was a pretty hefty wind, too."

"I'd say one of the coldest games was the Giants playoff game against the Bears, '85," Belichick said. "It was cold that day. It's always cold when you get beat, 21-0, I can tell you that, though."

Said fullback Heath Evans, "I've played in a few. I've played in Green Bay a few times. Again, even there, it comes down to what Green Bay linebacker am I trying to play against. This week, it's what Jets linebacker am I trying to play against. Elements, really, don't have that much to do with it. It comes down to execution, which is a simple answer, but inside the locker room that's the truth of the matter."

So when the snow started coming down Thursday, Evans wasn't exactly wringing his hands in delight, anticipating some carries in the running game. "Oh, no," he said with a laugh. "I was making a snowball."

While he acknowledged "you could have some footing issues, you could have some ballhandling issues," Belichick said it will be the same for the Jets.

"Whatever the conditions are out there, the team you're playing is the team on the other side of the line of scrimmage," Belichick said. "That's who you have to beat. It's not like golf, where you're hitting the ball into the elements. You have to block and tackle, cover and defend and all that. It's certainly a part of the game, I'm not saying that, and it's a factor, but I don't think it's [as] much of a factor as the execution of your team against your opponent."

Christopher L. Gasper of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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