INDIANAPOLIS — Even the usually dour Bill Belichick was joking around as the New England Patriots arrived in Indianapolis for Super Bowl week.
At his opening news conference Sunday night, Belichick was asked if he expected some Hoosier hospitality.
"I never had too much hospitality here," he said, noting that the Patriots aren't exactly popular in Colts country, "until I went for it on fourth-and-2."
His gamble on that play at the New England 28 with 2:08 to go failed and led to the Colts' winning field goal in a 2009 regular-season game.
"Fans greeted us lots more and were awfully friendly" after that, he added.
All-Pro receiver Wes Welker wasn't familiar with the term when asked the same question.
"What is Hoosier hospitality? What does that consist of?" Welker asked to laughs before getting a full explanation from a local television reporter. "I think it will be a little strange practicing at the Colts' facility. I don't know how many people like that, but we'll be calm and polite and not try to rub it in, so I hope everyone is appreciative of it."
Belichick, dressed in a suit — no hoodie for the coach this time — also said All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski is "day to day" with a high left ankle sprain for next Sunday's NFL title game against the New York Giants. Gronkowski has been wearing a walking boot since being injured in the AFC title game.
"You've got to prepare for every one of these situations that come up," quarterback Tom Brady said of the possibility Gronkowski will be limited for sidelined. "You always have to have some contingency plans."
Brady knows the Giants will bring lots of heat with their pass rush, but for now he was more comforted by not having to face a local rival who frequently has put Brady on his back.
"I see Dwight Freeney's picture up there (on the stadium)," Brady said. "When you come to Indy and don't have to play him, we are very fortunate for that."
The Patriots drew about 25,000 fans to Gillette Stadium earlier Sunday for what Brady termed "a pep rally." Team owner Robert Kraft, who has had an emotional year — his wife passed away last July and he was instrumental in resolving the NFL's lockout of the players — was thrilled by the turnout.
"We had 25,000 people come to our stadium today to send the team off," Kraft said. "At the stadium today it was so special, the time we are in now, to have 25,000 of our fans cheer our team is a very emotional experience."
This is Kraft's sixth Super Bowl as owner, and he vividly recalled the days when the team was lucky to draw 25,000 for a game.
"I sat with those crowds. I sat in the stands for 34 years and we had one home playoff game, in 1978, which we lost to Houston," Kraft said. "And last Sunday, we were privileged to host our 15th playoff game."