Butch Stearns led off Fox25’s Sports Sunday with Drew Bledsoe and the Buffalo Bills. Drew shown being a verbal leader, and taking and giving hits. Also Robert Edwards highlights from Miami. Manny’s choice of music was the lead baseball story, but the overall story is the apathy now surrounding the team. Rob Nikoleski called it “cadaver day” at Fenway. A bunch of clips from forlorn players followed. Cliff Floyd is excited though to play on a team that has a chance to win 90 games.
After a brief look at Pete Sampras winning the US Open, the Patriots were the focus of the second segment. Some of the talking between the Steelers and Patriots was shown, followed by a look at some other NFL highlights. The Touchdown Twins were in studio, (18 years together) Hobson said his guess is Ted Johnson will be active for the game tomorrow night. Mannix talked about his article comparing Johnson’s actions as being selfish and similar to Terry Glenn a year ago. As for this game, Mannix feels all the pressure is on the Steelers, they’ve focused so much on this game. Hobson mentioned the Patriots having a good defense giving them a great chance for another good year. Hobson noted he never saw Bledsoe as fired up and being a verbal leader as he showed today. Mannix said Bledsoe’s performance doesn’t put any pressure on Brady. The team isn’t going to win or lose on QB play.
Sunday’s best was a “The Fog” themed video montage looking back at the the meetings of these teams over the past few years, hoping for foggy weather tomorrow night. Instead of ending on a positive note, Butch criticized Manny for his selection of music…a story I’m sure we’re going to hear too much about in coming days.
NECN’s Sports Late Night was hosted by Chris Collins, and a feature was part II of the interview with Will McDonough. He still can’t believe the Patriots are the Super Bowl champions. It was so great because it was so unexpected. They built a good football team last year, and this year’s team is better. Coaching staff did outstanding job with all the distractions that they had last year. Guys they plugged in, Anthony Pleasant, Bryan Cox, Roman Phifer, Terrell Buckley made them a much better team. Lucky that Richard Seymour became a force by the end of the season. Collins asked about criticism Belichick got for drafting Richard Seymour instead of a Wide Receiver by saying he told Robert Kraft when he first bought the team that defense wins championships. As long as they play defense like they did last year they’re going to make the playoffs. Brady, the offense and defense were all great in the red zone last year which is where games are won. He said again that last year was an incredible coaching job from start to finish and sees a lot to like in the 2002 draft. Branch could be a big-time receiver. Graham looks good, a couple other guys look like they can play. Pittsburgh is favored because people think they’re a better overall team, last year they trailed only 30 minutes the entire season last year, Talking with Bill Cowher, the Pittsburgh coach talked about the Patriots only scoring one offensive TD against them, and still beating them, McDonough felt that Cowher was saying the Patriots were lucky. McDonough feels they’re back in the playoffs and will be battling the Jets for the division.
WHDH aired Sports Xtra live from a darkened Gillette Stadium parking lot. (Actually the 35 yard line of the old Stadium) Host Gene Lavanchy was joined by their football analysts Fred Smerlas and Tim Fox. The new stadium was of course a topic. Fox says having hot water is a big deal. Smerlas talked about the Patriots rise to champions and opening the stadium at the same time is amazing. A look at the Ted Johnson situation followed, clips from interviews during the week. Patriots used to these sort of distractions. Asked about being the underdog tomorrow night, David Patten says “What’s new?” Emphasis by the coach and players that this is one game out of 16.
On the Ted Johnson situation, Smerlas talked about the magnitude of this game and that Johnson should’ve taken anything this week in stride, and it’s unlike him to act this way. But he needs to understand his role and not let his feelings get in the way. Fox added that we don’t know everything that’s happened, but that Johnson did the wrong thing, but he’s back now and that’s the important thing. Bledsoe’s situation last year was brought up, and Fox noted that Belichick doesn’t seem to be good with people skills. Smerlas said players can’t be crying about things that happen. Lavanchy gave him credit for coming back and standing in front of the cameras and facing the music. It’s different from Terry Glenn because everyone in there like him.
A sit down interview with Adam Vinatieri followed, he addressed his fame, said he was in the right place at the right time, his kick was the frosting on the cake, but that the cake was already baked by the time he stepped on the field. Stated that while he always dreamed growing up of kicking a Super Bowl winner, but that the Oakland kick was a more difficult and will stand out as his best kick. He knew it was low, but that it was straight, and started praying, halfway there it started looking good. His route to the NFL (South Dakota, NFL Europe) has made him appreciate all the fame and success more.
After NFL highlights, Smerlas and Fox were back and made their predictions for the year. Smerlas talked about this team ending last year as the best team in the NFL, not most talented, but best team, they’ve added some pieces and should be a better team this year. Fox thinks Brady will do fine, even though he hasn’t shown he can throw the ball down the field like Bledsoe. He agrees with Smerlas that they’ve added talent, they’re a better team on paper, they’re motivated and that they all have bought into the Belichick system. Lavanchy brought up the offensive struggles in the playoffs and that they still have a lot to prove. Fox talked about the defense maturing, should be even less mistakes, that they’ll ride the defense as far as it will take them. Smerlas talked about the defense disguising it’s coverage better than anyone else. Fox agreed, giving examples, and noting that the have the great schemes as well. For predictions, Fox says 10-6, Smerlas says 11-5 and Lavanchy 10-6.
A mention of the Sullivan family and an interview by Kip Lewis with Patrick Sullivan. They talked about the stadium coming down, it was rather sad, but the bigger issue is that the team is still here, and has a new facility. Old footage of the stadium opening, and cars backed up on Route One was shown. (NFL Films?) Robert Kraft has been sure to include the Sullivans in the history of the team, gave them a tour back in December, and told a grandson of Billy Sullivan that without his grandfather, none of this would have been possible. Patrick Sullivan says Foxboro Stadium is going to be remembered as the home of champions.
WBZ’s Sports Final with Bob Lobel also aired from Gillette. A Larry Johnson cartoon of the Red Sox jumping into a grave, (“Honey, I’m home”) led off. Bills highlights from today followed. Scott Zolak and Steve DeOssie were in first to talk Drew. Zolak noted seeing Bledsoe reborn, coming out excited, exhorting his teammates. DeOssie brought out this being ideal for Patriots fans, Drew does well, Bills lose. Special teams killed. Zolak says that if the Bills won, there would have been a lot of pressure on Brady tomorrow night. DeOssie liked that the Jets were susceptible to the run. It’s been 3-4 years since they’ve seen Bledsoe play like that for the Patriots. DeOssie says since ’97, Zolak said once Coates lost it. DeOssie says sometimes players need a kick like this to get going again. A cut to a Will McDonough clip on the Ted Johnson situation followed. McDonough feels it must be a punishment issue, because Jerome Bettis has said that Johnson was one of guys who played him the toughest. This was followed by the interview earlier in the week with Johnson done by Steve Burton, as well as clips from Belichick’s press conference. DeOssie noted how well-chosen the words were on both sides. They dismissed McDonough’s punishment theory. Zolak said the coach is always right, he’s made all the right moves.
Gears shifted and a segment on September 11th and when the world was so naive. An interview with Joe Andruzzi by Steve Burton followed, preceded by the clips of Andruzzi last year tearfully talking about his brothers. It was rough year, roller coaster ride. Great to have his brothers along for the playoff ride. The Jets game last year, when he came out holding the flags, was an adrenaline rush, but after the coin toss it was back to work. A great theme last year of a team wearing red white and blue emphasizing team won it all. Then during the offseason, the mysterious virus, which they still don’t know what it is.
Nick Cafardo and Michael Felger were in next, asked about Bledsoe, Felger says this way this is going to be a great year, we’ll have two games to watch every week. Cafardo agreed that this was the best he’s played since ’97. Buffalo is better than he though, and makes it tougher for the Patriots. Leadership…Felger wants to see more of that. He didn’t have it here. Cafardo he wasn’t like that here because he had a lousy offensive line and got hit so often. Cafardo again talked about how tough things are going to be for the Patriots now, Miami scoring all those points. Brady and the Patriots can’t score like that. Tomorrow night Felger likes the Patriots. Big surprise says Cafardo. Felger says he isn’t like the Globe writers who won’t change their mind no matter what. Cafardo distanced himself from Borges on the Super Bowl game winning drive issue. Nick emphasized how good the Steelers are, and thinks they will win tomorrow.
A Red Sox segment was up next Lobel talked about the Dominican players Pedro and Manny usually going back home at this time of the year. Back at the studio with Burton, Dan Shaughnessy, Bob Ryan and Gordon Edes. Manny’s song today was the hot topic. Dan’s ears pricked up when he heard it being played. His son listens to that type of music. That 12 letter profanity has never been broadcast in Fenway before. Dan says Manny needs to know better than this. Edes says Manny likely picks music not on lyrics but on beat. Shaughnessy says it still doesn’t matter and action should be taken. He talked to the umpires after the game, and they’re going to file something with the American League. He did call it a minor thing. Ryan went off on Manny being comfortable, not running hard, and stupidly sliding headfirst into home. Pedro was the next topic…shut him down? Edes says it looks like he’ll be out there this week. What went wrong this year, Burton asked the panel…Ryan mentioned middle relief, third starter, situational hitting and defense. Edes mentioned Manny missing 39 games. Lobel said when they were 40-17 it was Dan Duquette’s team, now with the collapse, you need to blame Duquette and Harrington. Asked about Port, Little, coaches, what’s their future? Panel says that through no fault of his own, Port is gone. Not Lucchino’s guy. Little has a bit better shot, but depends on the GM situation. Ryan looked at the team’s health, it was good, the team’s numbers look good, Shaughnessy says it all doesn’t make sense. Edes says it’s the absence of depth in the bullpen and bench. Ryan says lack of comebacks is key. A video of Les Otten on the field at Fenway playing catch and taking ground balls was shown. The writers are disturbed because this is against protocol as Edes says. Ryan added that when the Titanic is going down, the captain shouldn’t be tap dancing on the deck.
Lobel had Jonathon Kraft on next, his dad is doing better than great. He’s in great shape and very excited. Surprises for tomorrow, banner unfurling tomorrow, lighthouse will play a big role, pregame will be in two parts, opening stadium and raising banner. The lighthouse is pretty amazing, and will be spectacular. They walked to the North end zone plaza where fans can stand during the game. Lobel noted people have said it’s like going to an away game now, with it all new. Kraft talked about trying to incorporate New England themes into it, and that New England deserves a first class outdoor venue like this. He’s proud that there are no personal seat licenses and no public funds used to build this. All the phases of the Patriots, the different owners, all the struggles and buying the team, tomorrow is the culmination of something special. A chance to celebrate the stadium and the championship.