Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Patriots fend off distractions (again) before facing Chiefs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots would have loved to spend the week with nothing else to worry about except today's playoff game against the Chiefs.

But Pro Bowl defensive lineman Chandler Jones wandered over to the local police station on Sunday, shirtless and disoriented, leaving his house reeking of burnt marijuana. Suddenly, the defending Super Bowl champions were back on defense.

Fortunately, they're pretty good at it.

"I mean, are there any more questions about the Chiefs here?" coach Bill Belichick said Thursday after nine straight unanswered questions about Jones' unusual weekend. "The rest of it, I'm done talking about. We issued a statement, that's it."

Jones apologized to teammates and fans, saying he made a "pretty stupid mistake," but didn't elaborate. Belichick refused to say whether Jones would be benched for fear of revealing valuable strategic information to the Chiefs.

Patriots players said they would have no trouble putting the incident aside. And it's hard to doubt them, after what they have gone through over the last 12 months and beyond.

Hours after New England's 45-7 victory over Indianapolis in last season's AFC Championship Game, the team was accused of illegally deflating footballs. Even before a league investigation found them guilty, the Patriots plugged their ears and dug in their heels.

And went on to win the Super Bowl.

A season earlier, New England recorded its now-customary 12-win season, AFC East title and trip to the title championship game despite releasing tight end Aaron Hernandez over the summer, shortly before he was charged with first-degree murder. (The former Florida Gator was convicted in April 2015, a few months after his former teammates' Super Bowl victory.)

"I think Coach Belichick does a great job of really just, like, brainwashing us," defensive back Duron Harmon said this week. "We just try to ignore all the distractions, whether it's that situation or 'Deflategate,' or any other distraction. We just try to ignore the noise."

The Patriots will need to give Kansas City their undivided attention. The Chiefs won 10 in a row to close the regular season, then trounced Houston 30-0 in the wild-card round. The winning streak is the longest in team history and longest active streak in the league.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he isn't worried about Spygate, Deflategate or any other allegations of Patriots misdeeds.

"You concentrate on getting better at your fundamentals, techniques and those great players you've got to play against," Reid said. "All that other stuff (is a) distraction."

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has knee and back injuries that have limited his ability to practice. Receiver Julian Edelman and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer are also listed as questionable.

Chiefs offensive linemen Mitch Morse and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif are out with concussions, but their big question is whether leading receiver Jeremy Maclin, who did not practice all week and is listed as questionable, will be available after suffering a mild high ankle sprain.

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