New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick speaks to the media at a Super Bowl LII press conference at North Atrium area of the Mall of America on Wednesday in Bloomington, Minn. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo
The New England Patriots had their first practice of the week in Minnesota on Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles, and tight end Rob Gronkowski was limited as he tries to recover from a concussion. Cornerback Malcolm Butler, who had an illness earlier in the week, also practiced on a limited basis.
"Feeling really good," Butler said later Wednesday.
The practice at the Minnesota Vikings' facility was a full-padded practice, the only one New England will have this week. The two-hour long practice also saw defensive end Deatrich Wise (concussion) and safety Brandon King (knee) limited.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick confirmed that Gronkowski still hasn't been fully cleared in the concussion protocol. Safety Devin McCourty said Gronkowski looked good during practice.
"Gronk's on that Tom Brady type of plan," McCourty said. "Whenever he's out there, he looks great. I would say he looked awesome, but I don't know many times Gronk looks bad. He doesn't have many bad days."
Brady practiced while wearing only black tape on his injured throwing hand. He had his familiar black glove on later while talking to reporters.
Pederson turns 50
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson celebrated a special birthday Wednesday as he turned 50 years old. One of the items on his birthday agenda was overseeing Philadelphia's first practice of the week.
The Eagles' team Twitter account shared a video wishing their coach a happy birthday and alluding to his love of ice cream. Several of Pederson's players were asked Wednesday what they would get their head coach for his 50th birthday -- besides a Super Bowl win on Sunday, of course.
"Probably a cane, just to make him old," said right tackle Lane Johnson.
Fletcher Cox had perhaps the best gift idea for his coach: "A hug."
Patriots left tackle Nate Solder is preparing for Sunday's game, but his thoughts don't stray far from his 2-year-old son, Hudson. Hudson was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 when he was just three months old.
Nate, who survived testicular cancer, is thankful to be playing in his fourth Super Bowl knowing what's most important to him.
"It's put so many things in perspective," Solder said. "It's reoriented my priorities with my family being right at the top of those things. I think it does put things into perspective, but you don't not appreciate what you have and the opportunities you're given, so I'm so thankful for everything."
Solder credited his wife and family in being able to go through the process together.
"People have given me credit for being strong, but I don't feel strong at all," Solder said. "I feel like I'm just doing what God's told me to do and he's the one that carries me through it."
Favre to meet with Eagles on Saturday
Pederson confirmed on Wednesday that Hall of Fame and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Brett Favre, Pederson's former teammate in Green Bay, will address the Eagles at Saturday morning's team meeting.
Like Favre during his career, Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles has been described at times as a gunslinger. Foles said Wednesday that he grew up watching Favre, who first played in the NFL when Foles was just 2 years old.
"He's one of the greatest to ever play the game," Foles said of Favre. "Any time you have an opportunity to listen to someone like him speak, it's huge. So I can't wait to listen to what wisdom and knowledge he gives us. I know everyone on our team will be excited to hear him speak."
Brady hopes for another keepsake
Brady's jersey was infamously stolen after last year's Super Bowl win. He plans to keep a close eye on this year's jersey, as long as the Patriots win.
"I'm taking it with me, man," Brady joked. "If we lose, I'm throwing it in the garbage. If I win, I'm taking it."
Shop 'til they drop
During Super Bowl week, both the Eagles and Patriots are staying in hotels connected to the Mall of America, the largest mall in the United States. Located in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington -- and on the site of the Minnesota Vikings' first home, Metropolitan Stadium -- the Mall of America is also the site of both teams' media appearances.
That's given players from both sides some options for what to do in their down time in chilly Minnesota. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the popular activities has included shopping, as Mall of America has more than 500 stores located inside.
Right tackle Lane Johnson showed off one of his purchases from Mall of America on Wednesday: a new pair of Air Jordan shoes.
"They look pretty cool to me, so I just got them," Johnson said.