"He's one of us," head coach Bill Belichick said. "He's here pulling for us. I appreciate that."
The Patriots held their final practice before Super Bowl LIII on Friday, a session that lasted a little bit more than an hour. The team wore helmets and jerseys (no shells) and practiced with more tempo than in Thursday's walk-through. Every player was a full participant, including linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who missed Thursday's practice with an illness, and defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who was limited on Wednesday with a calf injury.
"He did everything today," Belichick said of Hightower. "You could hear him talking out there, and that's usually a good sign with him. He has plenty of energy."
The Patriots were focused and business-like as the starting offense and defense alternated 11-on-11 periods against the scout team, working at about three-quarters speed. Belichick said today"s session was a "quick review" and similar to their regular Friday practice, just a little bit shorter. The Patriots covered both regular down and distance plays and also certain situations, including red-zone, two-minute, goal-line, short-yardage and two-point plays. The specialists already kicked at Mercedes-Benz Stadium mid-morning, so in the afternoon, they used JUGS machines to run through the different kicking situations during a couple special-teams periods.
"This is our sixth practice," Belichick said. "We have hit everything. I think we are ready to go."
The Patriots held one padded practice in Foxborough but did not work in pads during their week in Atlanta. "We went at a pretty good tempo. We've played a lot of football this year," Belichick said.
After the work on the field was done, Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels played a contest to see who could punt or throw the ball closest to the goal line without crossing it. Hoyer was the winner, landing a punt at about the 1-yard line. Belichick stopped to watch, enjoying a light-hearted moment with his assistant coaches and players.
The Patriots didn't have anything scheduled for their players for the rest of the day, following their normal Friday schedule. Belichick said players would be free to spend Friday evening with their guests. On Saturday morning, the team will have a meeting and then head to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a team photo and a get-together with family and friends.
"We've still got a few things to review and cover, but I would say everybody now needs to just gear up for how we want to play the game and be ready to go out there and play it that way," Belichick said. "I think the next 48 hours are going to be really important, like they always are. Fine-tuning it and really zeroing in. Being physically, mentally and emotionally ready to go Sunday night."