FOXBORO, Mass. — A grab bag of notes from Tuesday’s New England Patriots media availability as they prepare to host the Houston Texans on “Thursday Night Football”:
— The Texans employ a host of notable ex-Patriots players and coaches, including head coach Bill O’Brien, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, special teams coordinator Larry Izzo and nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
At 34, Wilfork is the third-oldest player on Houston’s roster, behind punter Shane Lechler and kicker Nick Novak.
“They play him primarily on the nose, and he’s obviously a stout guy, a very experienced player, very good at recognizing schemes,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Wilfork, who spent his first 11 NFL seasons with the Patriots. “You don’t fool him on much. He has seen it all. He has got good playing strength. He’s a tough guy to move in there, a tough guy to block.”
— Despite reports to the contrary, O’Brien said in a conference call with New England reporters that he did not actually sleep at the Texans’ facility Sunday night.
“Down here in Texas, they’re still getting used to my sense of humor,” said O’Brien, who worked on the Patriots’ coaching staff from 2007 to 2011. “I was kidding about that. I know that (the Patriots) are working hard, and we’re working hard, and I know that it’s going to be a great environment up there.”
O’Brien said he did, however, work a few overnight shifts during his days as a low-level Patriots assistant.
“No question,” he said. “When I was quality control, I definitely had a few nights there.”
— The Texans have beaten the Patriots only once since their inception in 2002 and were bulldozed in their two most recent trips to Gillette Stadium, losing 42-12 in December 2012 and 41-28 in the divisional round later that season.
“The Patriots are excellent at home,” O’Brien said. “Probably the best home team over the last 15 years in this league. They don’t lose at home. So we need to understand the challenge, and I know our players do.”
— Two signs of quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s heightened popularity in the wake of Jimmy Garoppolo’s shoulder injury:
The rookie said he hasn’t changed his preparation, though, even as he readies for what could be his first NFL start.
“It’s the same preparation every week,” Brissett said. “Just going out there, preparing and getting ready for a game.”
— As The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin pointed out, the Patriots’ starting lineup has changed quite a bit since they last played the Texans just nine months ago.
Eight of those players no longer are with the team, two are on the physically unable to perform list (Sebastian Vollmer and Tre’ Jackson), one is banged up (Rob Gronkowski) and two are suspended (Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich).
— Something worth monitoring: The Boston Red Sox entered Tuesday a half-game back of the Cleveland Indians in the American League standings.
If the Red Sox finish ahead of the Indians but behind the Texas Rangers (while also winning the AL East), they would play Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Sunday, Oct. 9 in Cleveland.
Why are we mentioning this in a Patriots notebook? Because that just so happens to be the same day Brady is set to return from his four-game Deflategate suspension. In Cleveland.
Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images