The Patriots braved the elements Wednesday at Gillette Stadium while practicing in advance of Saturday’s AFC divisional-round game against the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots are accustomed to the wintry temperatures, though. They’ll certainly be leaving their bathing suits at home this weekend.
“I just kind of wait to feel it out on game day,” Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said of his cold-weather wardrobe. “I usually wear sleeves. I kind of roll them up, just to see how I feel in warmups, and then after that, if I need to go thicker, then I’ll go thicker. But most of the time, I just wear half sleeves. That will probably be what I do (Saturday).”
Hightower noted he isn’t concerned about being a “tough guy.” It’s all about comfort for the former first-round draft pick, who said he learned his lesson in the past. However, others, like defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, plan to approach Saturday’s playoff contest as if it were played in the middle of the summer. Sleeves simply aren’t an option.
“I’ll do what I’ve been doing for 11 years — go out there like I’m playing in 80 degrees,” Wilfork said, laughing. “I’m a big believer that I’m not playing the weather, so I’m not going to switch my routine just because of what’s going on outside. Deal with it. I think at that point in the game, I don’t care if it’s minus-2 (degrees) or 98, you have to be able to play that football game.”
Big Vince, who checks in at 325 pounds, plans to go bare arms Saturday, which seems rather crazy on the surface. The logic is that so much else will be going on throughout the course of the game that weather will be an afterthought.
“I’ll tell you what, when it gets close to the end of the game, I’m ready to get inside,” Wilfork said. “But during the course of the game, with the heated benches and going on and off the field and moving around, as a player, you really don’t feel that coldness.
“You’ll be so focused and so pumped up that by the time you get a chance to feel it, you’re on the sidelines sitting on heated benches. For me, it’s never been a problem. And I’m not trying to make it a problem.”
Accuweather calls for Saturday to be cold with sunshine in Foxboro. Temperatures are expected to be in the high teens or low 20s, and the wind chill factor could make for an even more uncomfortable setting.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is one player who’s well-equipped to handle the conditions. He showed up to practice Wednesday sporting a bushy “playoff beard.”
“The ball’s harder. But it’s harder for both teams,” Edelman said. “There’s like a study where your grip strength goes down like 30 percent when it’s a certain amount of degrees out, I don’t know. We’re practicing out there and we’re going to get used to it, and I’m sure they’re doing the same.”
The Ravens, like the Patriots, have played their fair share of cold-weather games, so neither team figures to have much of an advantage based on Mother Nature’s plans. There will be plenty of time to catch a tan in the offseason, and neither squad wants its vacation to begin this weekend.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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