Return to prominence
Ginn’s speed gets special attention
FOXBOROUGH - The story changed for the Dolphins’ Ted Ginn Jr. in one quarter. When the Jets game started last week, he was the benched wide receiver. By the end of Miami’s 30-25 victory, Ginn was that guy who ran two kickoffs back for touchdowns in the same quarter.
Now he is the guy the Patriots’ special teams are preparing for this week. Coach Bill Belichick said most of the special teams work is the same week to week, but the team does allow for the chance to focus on more specific details when necessary.
Belichick said Ginn’s speed helped him on his first return of 100 yards, while on the second, a lack of tackling helped him make it 101 yards.
“Tackling is always an emphasis for us against Miami with their backs and their receivers,’’ Belichick said. “And [Davone Bess] is a hard guy to tackle on punts, too. He’s a different style runner, but he’s very effective and quick, and Ginn’s got the big-time speed.
“We’ve worked on it and probably put a little more time on kickoff coverage than, I don’t want to say normal, but that’s the way it’s been this year. First, it was [Leodis] McKelvin and Buffalo’s returns. And then it was Leon Washington and the Jets’ returns. And then it was [Clifton] Smith and [Sammie] Stroughter last week and Tampa’s returns. We’ve seen some of the best return teams in the league already. It was a problem then and it’s a problem now.’’
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski said he has to treat all returners the same. In giving the Patriots the best advantage, Gostkowski said he focuses on hang time.
“You can get in trouble if you try to just drive it down there and if you drive it, you better kick it out of the end zone,’’ Gostkowski said.
“If you can keep it in the air another half-second, that’s another 5, 10 yards these guys can run, as fast as they are. You can get in trouble with a low line-driver, so pretty much I’m trying to give the most consistent kick so they’re having to do the same thing every time.’’
“I’d seen it before, but at the same time, any time you got a guy like Ronnie Brown lining up at quarterback, it’s difficult,’’ Mayo said. “[The Razorbacks had] two great backs [Darren McFadden and Felix Jones], and the Dolphins have two great backs [Brown and Ricky Williams].
Thomas, who is an NFLPA representative, said the rumors, which were reported on profootballtalk.com, were untrue.
“Why someone would strike during the playoffs is dumbfounding to me because it’s stupid,’’ Thomas said. “I don’t know any other way to put it. You work all this time to get somewhere and you get to there and then you’re not going to play? It’s totally absurd. I don’t know who put it out there, but it was a lie. But our focus right now is on Miami. That right there will take care of itself.’’
Thomas added that he was unsure of where the rumors originated.
“Right now, that’s so far away, how it would come up now is kind of crazy,’’ Thomas said. “If there’s not any football being played it wouldn’t be because of a strike. Maybe because of a lockout, but it wouldn’t be because of a strike.’’
Belichick said the team is aware of the virus and continues to take precautions.
“There’s nothing more important than the health of your team,’’ he said. “This is the time of year when - whether it’s that particular one or the colds that go around every year that get picked up - it can spread pretty quickly.
“A team that eats together and showers together and is in the locker room together, definitely those are important issues for us, all year round, every season.’’
“No question,’’ Porter said, per profootballtalk.com. “When a guy can tell a ref when to throw a flag, and he gets it, he’s got his own rules. They made the rule that you don’t go at the legs for Tom, so when he feels that someone is going at his legs, he just points to the ref and he gets a flag. So I can honestly say that he gets his own rules.’’
Porter went on to add that “[I] still don’t care for New England. That hate’s been there for a while, especially after all the cheating they did back in the day. They can sweep it under the rug if they want to, but just like anybody else that’s cheating that gets caught, you put an asterisk by it. But nobody puts an asterisk by those championships they won.’’
Albert Breer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.