Merriman, Chargers = Nuts and Bolts

Jackie MacMullan talks to members of The Club – Patriots who have been with the team for all three Super Bowl victories. The membership is dwindling rather quickly, but the remaining members continue to be a proud, competitive group.

Mike Reiss takes a look at the Patriots receivers, a group that has been criticized all season, but has certainly raised their level of play as the season as gone on. Shalise Manza Young notes the respect that the receivers have for Tom Brady, and how Bill Belichick says that the group listens to Brady better than they do to the coach. Albert Breer also has a look at the receivers. John Tomase has Tom Brady and the Patriots welcoming a blitz from the opposition and looking forward to finding ways to burn it. Mark Farinella has Brady preparing hard for the Bolts blitz challenge. Christopher Price says that getting off to a fast start is key for the Patriots.

Bill Reynolds says it doesn’t matter if the Patriots players hate Bill Belichick or not. The key is whether they respect and listen to him. Really. Buddy Thomas decides to root for the locals. Not the Patriots, but players on the other team with local roots. Jeff Howe has the Patriots getting the respect theme out again. Tom King notes that Tom Brady will be short a couple of big targets should Benjamin Watson and Daniel Graham be forced to stay inside and block for the Patriots QB.

Rich Garven looks at Asante Samuel hitting his stride at just the right time for him. Steve Buckley talks to Benjamin Watson about making this a more successful postseason than last year. He has a bit longer piece on Tully Banta-Cain, who has stepped up into a more prominent role this season after four years as a developing player. David Brown also has a piece on the fourth year linebacker who stepping into a starting role when Junior Seau went down. McHugh says that the last Chargers game taught the Patriots some painful lessons.

Michael Brindley has a follow up to the Chargers restriction on ticket purchases, as the team attempts to shut out Patriots fans from attending the game. Tomase reports on Andre Tippett being named a finalist for the Hall of Fame. Young has more on Tippett as a finalist for the Hall.

According to Dan Pires’ notebook, there is a report that Rodney Harrison sustained a slight tear to his ACL and will not play the rest of the way. Reiss’ notebook as word that Rodney Harrison will miss this weekend’s game against his old club. Tomase’s notebook has more on the absence of Harrison this week. Young’s notebook has Harrison winning the teams’ Ed Block Courage award. Garven’s notebook has another report on Harrison. Parente’s notebook looks at Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees and the job he has done in his first year in the position. Farinella’s notebook has more on Harrison both being out and honored by his team.

Chargers

Christopher L Gasper has Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman predicting victory for his club, and going so far as to say that the Chargers will win if they only score a single point, safety or field goal. Karen Guregian has more on the San Diego linebacker, who might be tougher for the Patriots to stop than Jason Taylor. Alan Greenberg focuses on the challenge that Antonio Gates will present for the Patriots. Michael Parente notes that LaDainian Tomlinson is a threat with both his hands and feet.

Joe McDonald has Marty Schottenheimer praising the Patriots up and down. Rob Bradford says that “Marty Ball” might be the Chargers toughest foe on Sunday. Mark Blaudschun has a look at Bolts QB Phillip Rivers, who some perceive to be a weak link in the San Diego offense, but his teammates have plenty of confidence in him and are looking forward to seeing how he performs on Sunday. David Brown has more on Rivers, whom the Patriots expect to be ready for them on Sunday. Eric McHugh has experts believing that Rivers will be just fine on Sunday. Ian Clark reports on the Chargers’ stout defense.

Blaudschun reports that Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo, who has been inactive for a month, has been cleared to play this weekend. Blaudschun’s notebook has the Chargers working on getting their timing back after the two week layoff. Guregian’s notebook has Rivers saying that his sprained foot will be fine for Sunday’s game.

Check in with what’s being said around the Chargers with the following links:

Celtics

Things just keep getting worse for the Celtics. One of the few bright spots thus far this season has been the play of Tony Allen, who emerged into a player with some star quality to his game. However, last night Allen’s season likely came to an end after the guard injured his knee as he landed after completing a dunk that was made after the whistle had blown. The Celtics also lost Brian Scalabrine to a knee injury last night as well. Paul Pierce, Wally Sczcerbiak and Delonte West were already sitting this one out with their various ailments. As an afterthought, the Celtics also lost the game, 97-84 to the Indiana Pacers.

Steve Bulpett has Doc Rivers and the Celtics shocked and chagrined at the latest turn of events. Peter May has more on the disastrous night at the Garden for Allen and the Celtics. Kevin McNamara says that the Celtics hard luck season was crystallized last night. Bill Doyle has the Celtics not even wanting to consider who is going to get hurt next.

Get the Pacers view in the Indy Star.

Matt Kalman has the Celtics hurting in a lot of ways right now. Mike Fine has more on Sczcerbiak, who is just another injured guy right now.

Bulpett’s notebook has more on the pain that the Celtics are feeling. May’s notebook has more updates on the injuries for Pierce and Sczcerbiak. Doyle’s notebook has more on the injuries, but has Rick Carlisle saying he sees progress in the young Celtics.