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Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Quick hits from the locker room

By Mike Rodak & Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick hits from the media-access period in the locker room (11:15 a.m.-noon):

1. An overload of players were available to reporters. In the locker room, RB Kevin Faulk, TE Aaron Hernandez, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Deion Branch, LB Rob Ninkovich, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty and CB Kyle Arrington drew large media crowds. One New York reporter spent time with RB Danny Woodhead, which is often seen around this time, with those media members in town targeting players who previously suited up for the team they cover (Jets).

2. In the media workroom, coach Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady, DL Vince Wilfork and LB Jerod Mayo held news conferences.

3. TE Aaron Hernandez touched on the competitive dynamic between him and Rob Gronkowski: "What's crazy is that we're not. Maybe in college I was competitive against him, or high school. I'd say now, we're so close, we're more like brothers. A lot of people say that to say it [but] we're really close. We love each other. We have a great relationship."

4. LB Brandon Spikes, who doesn't often speak to the press, on keeping his emotions in check in what will be the biggest game of his NFL career: "That is going to be key. Some of the guys on the team make sure because I can get a little crazy out there. It's all fun and games. I just have to make sure throughout the week I'm prepared -- mentally, physically, everything."

5. RB Kevin Faulk, the longest tenured member of the team, was all business. A writer asked him to reflect on his memories of seeing Tom Brady for the first time, and Faulk briefly touched on remembering the scrawny Brady before saying, "That doesn't even matter right now. What matters is us preparing for the game." Faulk then referenced how the environment around the team can be a "circus" in weeks like these and it's important to stay focused on the task at hand.

6. WR Deion Branch wore a red Louisville sweatshirt, representing his alma mater, and he described a different type of environment around the team. "These are times when coming to work is a lot of fun. There is a lot of joy coming to work," he said. "Early on when the season started, at the beginning of training camp, I wouldn't say that. But right now, the guys enjoy coming in. We're very relaxed. We enjoy waking up, coming in, getting the game plan and seeing what the coaches have for us."

7. CB Devin McCourty was asked about his former Rutgers teammate, Ray Rice, who led the Ravens in both rushing yards and receptions this season. The two spend time together in the offseason and grew up about 20 minutes from each other. "He's a great player. What he did for us in college, he's continued to do that in the NFL," McCourty said.

8. TE Rob Gronkowski on his trademark "boom!" spike after a touchdown: "All the fans liked it, so I just kept with it. .... I always wanted to spike and we couldn't do it in college and high school. I started it here, I guess it caught on and it's going pretty good. It's cool."