Sunday, December 16, 2012
Welcome to Gillette Stadium
By Mike Rodak
A tarp covered the Gillette Stadium turf early this afternoon.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Welcome to Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots (10-3) host the San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) on Sunday night.
Weather could be a factor. The Patriots are playing in their second prime-time game in six days, and like last Monday night against the Houston Texans, there is inclement weather in the forecast. As of 3 p.m., there was a light wintry mix falling at Gillette Stadium, with temperatures hovering just above freezing (34 degrees) and light winds. Temperatures are expected to rise slightly by kickoff, which could change any precipitation over to rain. The latest forecast calls for an 80 to 100 percent chance of rain during the game, with the potential for sleet to mix in.
Pregame ceremony for Newtown victims. As outlined in this earlier report from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Patriots will send up 26 flares during a league-wide moment of silence before tonight's game, remembering the victim's of Friday's tragedy in Newtown, Conn. They will also wear a white decal on the back of their helmets with a black ribbon and the Town of Newtown seal.
Eyes on Gronk. The Patriots come into tonight's game with 52 players on their roster, one shy of the 53-man limit. As such, they will only need to declare six inactives 90 minutes prior to kickoff. The biggest name to watch will be tight end Rob Gronkowski, who returned to (at least the start of) Friday's practice, four weeks after suffering a broken forearm. Otherwise, the Patriots have a season-high 19 players listed as questionable on the injury report.
Curtis Martin to serve as honorary captain. As part of the NFL's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Patriots will have three of their five Pro Football Hall of Famers as honorary captains tonight: running back Curtis Martin, cornerback Mike Haynes and linebacker Andre Tippett. Players will also wear a commemorative patch on their uniforms for the second straight game.
Hochuli gets the call. Perhaps the most recognizable NFL official, Ed Hochuli, will serve as tonight's referee. This will be his first Patriots game he officiates this season.
Scouts in the house. As expected, there are advance scouts from the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars scheduled to be in the press box tonight. Next week, the Patriots will travel to Jacksonville, while the 49ers will fly to Seattle.