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INDIANAPOLIS -- As expected, Rob Gronkowski did not participate in New England's practice here on Monday. Patriots coach Bill Belichick confirmed that during his half-hour press conference late this afternoon. Belichick also said he had the Pats practice in full pads, which came as a bit of a surprise to the media who cover the team on a regular basis.

"We felt like it would be the best way for us to prepare for the game," said Belichick, who was 35 minutes late for the media session because of the longer practice.

The Pats arrived in Indy on Sunday, a day earlier than the Giants. Belichick felt it was important to have a regular week of practice, starting with Monday. "We're creatures of habit," said offensive guard Logan Mankins. "So we like to have everything going the same way every week. We don't want any interruptions, so that's very important to us, and I think Bill did a very good job of scheduling."

Gronkowki suffered a high ankle sprain when he was tackled by Baltimore's Bernard Pollard in the AFC title game a week ago. The Amherst native walked off the Pats' team plane with a protective boot on his left ankle. He is listed as questionable and expected to play on Sunday.

Belichick answered several questions about his days as an assistant coach under Bill Parcells with the Giants. He and current Giants head coach Tom Coughlin worked on the same staff. Belichick, in addition to his role as defensive coordinator, coached defensive backs at one point. Coughlin coached the receivers, so they worked hand in hand together a lot in practice.

"As an assistant coach, it was the best relationship I ever had with a counterpart in that way," Belichick said. "I wish every assistant coach had that relationship."

Belichick seemed amused that practicing in full pads this early was a big deal. He said he learned under Parcells that players had a lot more to give, both physically and mentally, than they might think. He said those teams practiced hard and it paid off in the big games -- including Super Bowl XXV.

"The way we ran the ball against Buffalo in that game, it started out in practice that week," Belichick said



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