FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Don't expect any of the New England Patriots' locker room leaders to make a Knute Rockne speech aimed at avoiding a third straight loss when the team visits Houston on Sunday night.
''I think it's overhyped that a couple of guys that are leaders that played for a while can give a magic speech or something like that,'' safety Devin McCourty, one of seven Patriots captains, said Thursday. ''You just gotta go play football and make sure everyone's sticking to what we do around here and just keep going.
''We know how to win. We won games in the past, so make sure everyone sticks to that and at this time of year you gotta do some extra stuff, whether it be for your body, whether it be preparing.''
The defending Super Bowl champions, who had people thinking just two weeks ago they were on their way to an undefeated season, have lost two straight for the first time since 2012.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, one of several injured players this team has been dealing with, was back on the practice field Thursday, 11 days after suffering a right knee injury in the loss at Denver. He was wearing a knee brace and there was no indication on his availability for Sunday night's game.
The team's injury report for the day had Gronkowski as one of nine players who had ''limited participation'' in the practice. The Friday report is more definitive.
The Patriots haven't lost three in a row since 2002, and that includes a 2008 season that saw Brady lost for the year in the first game. But the current leaders gave no indication of worry.
''We're not going to create an atmosphere of panic, or distress or anything like that - that's not what we need,'' said special teams captain Matthew Slater. ''We just need to do what we do and trust our process. Our process has allowed us to have success here and there over the years, so we're going to trust that process.
''Adversity is something that you have to deal with in life, and football. We have a character group of guys around here. Adversity is going to make people either tighten up and fold, or allow you to fall back on your character and your work ethic and the things you believe in, and have a chance to have success moving forward. And I believe this group is going to respond well.''
Added defensive end Rob Ninkovich: ''You've got to stay the course. You've got to continue to prepare hard. Every team in this league is good and talented across the board, so you have to really prepare the best you can each week, and prepare for the all the talented guys that they have.''
NOTES: A visit to Houston means not only seeing five former Patriots on the Texans coaching staff, but also ex-Pats Vince Wilfork and Brian Hoyer on the field. Talking about Wilfork, McCourty said the nose tackle was ''vital'' in the locker room. Asked about Hoyer, a backup quarterback in New England for three years, McCourty said, ''He was a leader on the team. He was obviously behind Brady, but a guy that when he was in there you knew he wasn't going to be a guy that ... didn't know what he was doing or be unprepared. He was always prepared, ready to go. His second year was my rookie year and when I came in he was a leader in the group, and a mentor. I think a lot of guys looked up to him for really his hard work and the time he put in as a pro.''
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