FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There was so much happening from a media perspective Wednesday at Gillette Stadium, that it was almost too much.
Coach Bill Belichick, guard Logan Mankins, safety Devin McCourty, defensive end Chandler Jones and special teams captain Matthew Slater held news conferences. In the locker room, there were large media scrums around several players, with running back LeGarrette Blount and backup quarterback Ryan Mallett two of the biggest.
One player walked into the room and said, "The circus is here, huh?"
Another player said he was instructed to be available for at least five minutes.
It's hard to imagine any media member walking away disappointed, and here were a few things (some from the lighthearted department) that stood out:
1. Extra hand-sanitizer stations set up: On a day where quarterback Tom Brady and long snapper Danny Aiken were sent home sick, and the Patriots were attempting to control illness from spreading, it was notable to see 3-4 new hand-sanitizer stations positioned throughout the locker room.
2. Players instructed not to talk about Brady: Several players said they were instructed not to talk about Brady's absence. Receiver Julian Edelman said more than most. "I mean, it's your guy. When he's not out there, of course it's a little different," he relayed. "But Ryan [Mallett] came in and he ran the offense." Those who know Brady realize how much he loves practice, so while there shouldn't be an overreaction to his absence, it also shouldn't be swept under the locker-room rug.
3. Altitude more of a mental challenge: Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga, who was with the Broncos in 2011-2012, said this of the altitude factor: "We're all in shape. Right now, it's just a mental aspect. It may be a little bit harder, but it's not going to be too hard where it's going to affect our play."
4. Talib on the chess match: Cornerback Aqib Talib was among the most entertaining interviews, as he drew laughter with his "cash that check, baby" remarks on former teammate Marquice Cole signing with the Broncos. He also discussed part of the strategy of going against Peyton Manning. "It's definitely a chess match," he said. "He hard counts to try to get you to move [and] see what you're in as a defense. You've just got to not show him what you're in and do a great job of disguising."
5. What surprised teammates most about Blount: Blount was among the most popular players in terms of drawing a media crowd, with one local news reporter asking him about a line of "Blount Force Trauma" T-shirts that have generated some momentum. Football-wise, Mankins was asked what has surprised him most about the 250-pound Blount. "For the linemen, I think his speed has surprised us," he answered.
6. Mulligan's link to Hulk Hogan is catching on: Tight end Matthew Mulligan, whose Hulk Hogan-issued championship belt generated some buzz in recent weeks, appears to be taking his Hogan connection to a new level. As Mulligan walked out of the locker room, he turned to one teammate and in his best Hogan impersonation said, "Oh yeah, brother!"