Pats starters say they want to play
With a playoff berth clinched, several Patriots players say they
still want to play in the regular-season finale Sunday at
Coach Bill Belichick hasn’t disclosed what he’ll do, but guard
Logan Mankins said if Belichick rests his starters and New England
loses, ending the playoff chances of other teams, those teams put
themselves in that position.
“We put ourselves in this position by winning games throughout
the year and if (other teams) didn’t want to have to count on us to
win games, they shouldn’t have lost,” Mankins said. “I think we
were in the same position last year, needing another team to lose,
and that was no one’s fault but our own. Anytime you have to count
on other teams to win for you, you’re in a bad situation.”
That’s exactly what happened to the Patriots last season when
they went 11-5 but needed help to make the playoffs. They didn’t
get it and were home for the postseason for the first time since
But now they’re 10-5 after clinching the AFC East for the sixth
time in seven years.
Seven teams, including Houston (8-7), are battling for the two
AFC wild-card playoff spots.
The Patriots could rest their starters to allow nicks to heal
and avoid other injuries. Or they could go all out, knowing a win
would give them the No. 3 seed. Then, if Indianapolis and San Diego
– the top two AFC seeds – lose in the conference semifinals and the
Patriots win, they would host the AFC championship game.
Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley said Wednesday that he
thought the Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals, both already in the
playoffs, would “lay down” in their final regular-season games to
prevent the Steelers, who need to win and get help, from making the
The Patriots were not aware of Woodley’s comments at their
Wednesday practice, but two of New England’s four players selected
for the Pro Bowl said they expect the team to try its best.
“Anytime you go out there as a professional, you want to play
to the best of your ability,” wide receiver Wes Welker said.
“Every given week, this is what we live for. We want to go out
there and play every Sunday. We look forward to going out there and
playing, whatever the case may be.”
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who said he expects to return
“sooner rather than later” after missing the last two games with
a foot injury, said the Patriots want to win the game.
“We want to win,” he said. “I’m pretty sure my teammates feel
the same way. That’s how we’re approaching this game. We’re going
to go out there, prepare, practice hard, don’t keep any bad habits
and hopefully put it together on Sunday. Whatever happens after
Mankins and quarterback Tom Brady also were picked for the Pro
Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, who leads New England with 9 1/2
sacks, said he would have no trouble getting worked up to play
“I don’t think it’s that hard because any time the lights come
on and you’re in uniform, you’re going to want to play,” he said.
“You want to play your best. You don’t want to embarrass yourself.
We have a challenge that we have to address and we’re trying to
improve and get better going into the postseason, so this is a big
Running back Fred Taylor, who returned last Sunday after missing
10 games with an ankle injury, was more direct.
“Personally, I hate losing,” he said. “I want to win
everything, I guess that’s the most I can say about that.”
When asked how he’ll use his players on Sunday, Belichick said
he’d do what’s best for the team.
Brady, who has been nursing rib and right finger injuries, did
not practice Wednesday. He missed practices the past two weeks but
still played. Wide receiver Randy Moss’s absence from practice was
non-injury related, a designation given frequently to him this year
when he has not practiced on Wednesdays.