Patriots pool report: Day of relaxation before Super Bowl

MINNEAPOLIS -- Shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday, a loud voice blared from the speakers inside U.S. Bank Stadium.

The bowl will be closed until noon, the voice told a stadium filled with event staff and security.

Clear out.

Minutes later, Patriots players donning their white jerseys and blue plants, and coaches dressed in all navy sauntered out of the tunnel and onto the field, heading toward the south end where a tower of bleachers awaited them at the 10-yard line.

After three days of practices at the Vikings' Winter Park facility, Saturday for the Patriots was photo and fun day, a time to gather with family, pose for a group shot and mingle after as Super Bowl LII neared. No practice was scheduled. No walkthrough, either.

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New England Patriots 2017-18 season recap
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New England Patriots 2017-18 season recap

Week 1: Patriots 27, Chiefs 42

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Week 2: Patriots 36, Saints 20

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Week 3: Patriots 36, Texans 33

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Week 4: Patriots 30, Panthers 33

(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Week 5: Patriots 19, Buccaneers 14

(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Week 6: Patriots 24, Jets 17

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Week 7: Patriots 23, Falcons 7

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Week 8: Patriots 21, Chargers 13

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Week 9: Bye

(Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Week 10: Patriots 41, Broncos 16

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Week 11: Patriots 33, Raiders 8

(Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Week 12: Patriots 35, Dolphins 17

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Week 13: Patriots 23, Bills 3

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Week 14: Patriots 20, Dolphins 27

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Week 15: Patriots 27, Steelers 24

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 

Week 16: Patriots 37, Bills 16

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Week 17: Patriots 26, Jets 6

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Wild Card round: Bye

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Divisional Round: Patriots 35, Titans 14

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Championship Round: Patriots 24, Jaguars 20

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"The families go through so much. They sacrifice so much for all of us, and the time that we spend away and the strain that a season puts on them," coach Bill Belichick said. "So it's great to have them all here and it's great to give them an opportunity to be with their sons, daughters, husbands and to bring their family in and take pictures on the field and just kind of enjoy the day.

"It's a nice event for everybody -- the players and families, and the team picture with the kids. Everybody will look back on this."

Planted in the middle of the Eagles' end zone was a ladder and camera screen.

One by one, the players and coaches, as well as team president Jonathan Kraft and chairman/CEO Robert Kraft, filtered onto the bleachers, awaiting direction from the photographer standing on the ladder.

"One. Two. Three," the photographer yelled from his perch.

The Patriots' logo flashed on the far big screen and, just like that, the team's Super Bowl LII trip was documented.

After a few extra snaps -- just in case -- Patriots staffers called for the players' children and spouses, who had been sitting in the stands above the opposite end zone.

The children, most wearing their fathers' jerseys, scattered in front of the bleachers. Receiver Chris Hogan, standing front and center just below Robert Kraft, cradled his young twins, one in each arm, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore did the same with two kids.

Then all looked ahead at the camera and smiled for the family photo.

A final, "Thank you very much!" from the photographer was their signal to disperse and for the team's remaining time inside U.S. Bank Stadium, they gathered to soak in the moment, reflect on the journey and take a few family selfies.

An hour later, the same voice that closed the stadium bowl ushered the Patriots players to the buses.

"This afternoon is a normal Saturday for us," Belichick said. "So it would either be traveling if we were on the road, or if we were home the players would have the afternoon off to relax, get a massage, just catch up on whatever. Then we meet tonight and play tomorrow. We're on as much of a normal routine as we can be on."

Back to football.

--By Nicki Jhabvala, Pro Football Writers of America

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