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Bill Belichick welcomes NCAA Final Four lacrosse teams to Gillette Stadium at banquet Thursday night

05.26.17 at 12:44 pm ET
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The NCAA lacrosse Final Four for both men’s and women’s will be at Gillette Stadium this weekend.

It’s been well-documented how much the sport means to Bill Belichick and his family with him playing it growing up as well as his three kids, and his daughter Amanda is now the head coach at Holy Cross.

Belichick took in a few men’s practices on the field Friday, but on Thursday he invited the BC women to Patriots practice and then at night spoke at the NCAA Division 1 banquet.

“It’ll be a great venue, exciting weekend, having both the men and women for the weekend, it’s going to be awesome,” Belichick said. “So congratulations on all the great success you have had to get here. For us, fortunately we have been to a lot of these games. We’ve come out on the good side on some and not on the good side on others. But just the experience, the competition of playing at this level and against this type of competition for what’s at stake this weekend, it’s just an awesome experience for you and your families.”

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If offense stays healthy, Patriots could be unstoppable in red zone

05.26.17 at 10:28 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady will be hard to stop in the red zone this season. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady will be hard to stop in the red zone this season. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Last season the Patriots scored touchdowns in 64 percent of their red zone trips, which was good for 10th in the NFL — a bit surprising given they were third in points per game, but with the offseason additions they made, they will be even better this year.

Watching the offense run plays in the red zone at Thursday’s OTA session showed just how many different options Josh McDaniels and Co. will have inside the 20-yard line. This will have opposing defensive coordinators losing sleep just thinking about it.

Of course it starts with Tom Brady, but the quarterback has so many different options in the passing game.

For starters, Rob Gronkowski is arguably the best red zone receiving target in football when he’s on the field, which he only was for eight games last season with the first couple just getting caught up to speed and not really used as a target in the passing game. While the team lost Martellus Bennett, it added Dwayne Allen, who had six receiving touchdowns with the Colts in 2016.

Teams will likely double-team Gronkowski in the red zone, which means the Patriots will likely use a lot of two tight end sets and allow Allen to be covered by a smaller player. Expect Allen to have a big season in the red zone as long as Gronkowski stays healthy.

Not only do the Patriots have two great tight ends, they also have a number of receivers who can get open in tight windows.

The touchdowns haven’t been as high as Julian Edelman likely would like, but he can get open anywhere on the field, as can Danny Amendola, who showed what he could do in the late stages of Super Bowl LI. Also, don’t sleep on Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell, both of whom have solid chemistry with Brady.

While some teams utilize their receivers on fade routes in the end zone, the Patriots use their receivers with quick outs and pick plays. Gronkowski is more of the fade player.

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Read More: Brandin Cooks, Dion Lewis, Dwayne Allen, James White

Brandin Cooks likes NFL relaxing rules when it comes to player celebrations, but his own still may not fly

05.26.17 at 6:00 am ET
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Brandin Cooks may not be able to do his signature bow-and-arrow celebration. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Brandin Cooks may not be able to do his signature bow-and-arrow celebration. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — The NFL announced this week it is cutting back its penalties for celebrations, allowing players to celebrate more.

This appears to be a good thing for the players, including Brandin Cooks and his signature bow and arrow celebration.

“I love it,” Cooks said.

Except Cooks may not be able to do that celebration after all as the NFL appears to consider it a “violent act,” and he could be subject to a penalty and/or fine. (Josh Norman was fined $10,000 last year for doing the act.)

Cooks adjusted his celebration last year so he doesn’t get penalized.

“It’s for God, so if that’s threatening, then I think we’ve got a problem, but I’m going to be respectful,” Cooks said. “If it’s a penalty, it’s a penalty. I’m not going to do anything to hurt the team.”

Cooks did celebrate a touchdown on Thursday during OTAs when he pretended to take an arrow out of his quiver.

“A little something, you know?” he said. “I didn’t want to shoot it. But I was just having fun out there with the guys, competing, and that’s what it’s all about.”

The new Patriots receiver has been on record saying the celebration has a biblical origin.

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Bill Belichick curiously doesn’t get asked about Tom Brady concussion story at press conference

05.25.17 at 4:09 pm ET
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Bill Belichick wasn't asked Thursday about the Tom Brady concussion story.  (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

Bill Belichick wasn’t asked Thursday about the Tom Brady concussion story. (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

The biggest Patriots story last week was Gisele Bundchen’s claim that her husband, Tom Brady, suffered a concussion in 2016. But when Bill Belichick stepped up to the podium at OTAs Thursday, he wasn’t asked a single question about it.

According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, Belichick answered 18 inquiries at press conference, four of which were about lacrosse. The Patriots media didn’t even broach the topic of concussions.

Now, Belichick might not have entertained a question about Bundchen’s remarks. Brady’s agent Don Yee issued a denial last Friday and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did the same earlier this week. If asked to comment, conventional wisdom says the Patriots head coach would’ve probably demurred.

But then again, Belichick has opened up about certain hot button topics in the past –– especially when they threaten his legacy or reputation. He morphed into a science professor the week before Super Bowl XLIX, when he dispelled Deflategate with a detailed recitation of the Ideal Gas Law. Since it’s against NFL policy for teams to not disclose injuries, Belichick has a vested interest to clear his name.

When I was working on a piece last year about covering Belichick, several Patriots reporters told me his surly attitude can’t dissuade media members from asking him about the news of the day. “A lot of people don’t want to be person who messed up and gets Belichick all pissed off. But then you’re kind of letting him win, and you can’t let him win, because we have a job to do, too,” Ben Volin of the Boston Globe said.

But that appears to be what happened Thursday. Even if Belichick refused to answer the question, there’s still news value in the way he would have evaded it. The NFL’s concussion crisis is one of the biggest ongoing sagas in sports. If the most successful coach in the league issued a terse “no comment” when asked about it, that would be a big story.

Instead, Belichick was able to coast through his first noteworthy press appearance of the year. His first victory is on the board well before training camp even starts.


Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,

Despite claiming team was 5 weeks behind after Super Bowl, Bill Belichick declares Patriots caught up

05.25.17 at 3:36 pm ET
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Bill Belichick says the Patriots are caught up after winning Super Bowl LI. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick says the Patriots are caught up after winning Super Bowl LI. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — The morning after winning Super Bowl LI Bill Belichick said the Patriots were five weeks behind the rest of the league, as teams that didn’t make the playoffs had a head start on the offseason.

Speaking prior to Thursday’s OTA session at Gillette Stadium, Bill Belichick declared the Patriots caught up.

“I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now,” he said. “I think it’s the being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing. I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it.”

The Patriots will hold two more OTAs next week before mandatory minicamp June 6-8, and then three more OTAs in the middle of June before breaking off until training camp.

Belichick also addressed the team added Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore this offseason for the first time.

On Cooks: “Well, Brandin’s got – we did a couple years ago in the draft – a good player. We’ve worked against him here. We’ll see how it goes.”

On Gilmore: “He’s played well against us. In our division, we see quite a bit of him. We’ll see how it goes.”

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Thursday Patriots OTA observations: Rob Gronkowski impresses, Cyrus Jones struggles

05.25.17 at 1:48 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski was impressive at Thursday's OTA session. (

Rob Gronkowski was impressive at Thursday’s OTA session. (

FOXBORO — The Patriots held their third OTA session of the offseason, but first open to the media on Thursday morning on the grass fields behind Gillette Stadium.

The conditions were not great, as temperatures were in the 50s with rain coming down for most of the session.

Most of the work done was situational, but there was some 11-on-11 work done towards the end of the session.

There were six players missing from the session entirely (OTAs are not mandatory): Dont’a Hightower, Malcolm Mitchell, Stephen Gostkowski, Alan Branch, Joe Cardona and Max Rich.

Also, offensive lineman Andrew Jelks and safety Duron Harmon were present, but did not participate, and Jonathan Freeny wore a red, non-contact jersey.

Here are some observations from the nearly 2.5-hour session:

— Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo got most of the reps (roughly 15) during team work, with Jacoby Brissett getting about half as much. Brady showed no signs of being 39 years old, as he made a number of good passes despite the conditions. Garoppolo held the ball a bit too long early on, but picked up the pace as he went. He seems very comfortable with fade passes.

— Rob Gronkowski was a full participant, including making one of the better catches of the day on a pass thrown by Brady. Although OTAs are non-contact, it’s a good sign that he’s participating after back surgery cut his season short last year.

— Brandin Cooks looks like he will fit in well with the offense, as he made a few highlight worthy catches over the course of the session. He went up against Malcolm Butler on a few occasions.

— The team worked on falling on fumbles with the wet conditions where they all gathered together and players went individually, with even Brady participating.

— Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Cyrus Jones and David Jones all saw action returning punts. Cyrus Jones had issues once again, as he dropped a few of them and had others where he couldn’t find the ball. Obviously, the conditions were not ideal, but other players were dealing with them too with no issues.

— D.J. Foster stood out in team drills, making a few great catches.

— Overall, it was a fairly sloppy session with the defense winning the majority of the plays, but that should be expected given the conditions and time of the year.

Read More: Cyrus Jones, Jimmy Garoppolo, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady

Malcolm Butler addresses long-term future with Patriots: ‘Can’t predict the future. Whatever happens, happens’

05.25.17 at 1:25 pm ET
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Malcolm Butler addressed his long-term future with the Patriots. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler addressed his long-term future with the Patriots. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Malcolm Butler spoke to reporters for the first time this offseason following Thursday’s OTA session and was asked on multiple occasions if he wants to be a Patriot beyond this season.

The 27-year-old cornerback didn’t give a strong indication one way or another, but that is telling in its self.

“Can’t predict the future,” Butler said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

Added Butler: “I can’t control any of that. Everything is one day at a time. Just take it one day at a time. You can’t predict the future, so just have to go with the flow.”

Butler is under contract as a restricted free agent making $3.91 million this year. The cornerback was reportedly upset this offseason after the team signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year contract, and even visited the Saints with the hope of the Patriots and Saints working out a deal.

“Nothing much, really,” Butler said when asked what his reaction was when the team signed Gilmore. “Nothing much, really. We got a better plater. We got another player. We got another good player on this team. Anything to help the team win I am down with it.”

“The past is the past,” he added. “I am just here to do a job and do anything to help the team win. Just moving forward. Whatever happens, happens.”

Butler will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Even though he may not have liked how the offseason went, he said he is committed to the Patriots for 2017 and will be part of a very good secondary, led by he and Gilmore. He said he’s excited for what is to come.

“Great group,” Butler said. “We’re all learning from each other. We still have a lot of building and communication to do together. Looking forward to it.”

Read More: Malcolm Butler,



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