FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One aspect that has stood out today at Gillette Stadium, from different perspectives, is the presence of Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez.
The sure-fire future Hall of Famer presents a difficult matchup for the Patriots.
"Tony not only makes our offense better, but he makes our entire football team better. He has the most unbelievable work ethic that I've ever been around," Smith said. "It not only rubs off on the other tight ends and offensive players, but it rubs off on everybody in the building and locker room."
Added Ryan: "He knows how to prepare, he works really hard, and I think that permeates down through the locker room. Other guys see what it takes to be at that level, and try to do some of the things he's done."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick discussed the challenge of facing Gonzalez, whom the Falcons acquired this offseason for a second-round draft choice.
"He looks like he's always looked, all the way back to when we played them here in 2000," he said. "They get him isolated on anybody and he goes to work on them. He's tough in the red area, tough on third down, a good play-action receiver everyone sucks up on the running game and he's open back there against whoever they have covering him. Corners are too small to cover him and the safeties and linebackers can't run with him, can't match his quickness and route-running ability. He kills everyone. It doesn't matter who is on him. A lot of times there are two [players] on him and it doesn't matter."