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Sebastian Vollmer misses third straight day, Sealver Siliga works on side as Patriots work in shorts, shells

08.20.14 at 12:49 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’s looking like Sebastian Vollmer won’t be in the lineup for the team’s most significant preseason game.

For a third straight day, the starting right tackle was not spotted as the Patriots worked in shorts and shells Wednesday on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium.

Vollmer started and played 22 of 91 snaps on Friday against the Eagles with the starting offensive line, as did starting left guard Logan Mankins. Friday night, starters are expected to play the bulk of the first half against Carolina, meaning the Patriots will have to find some alternate plan for their offensive line protecting Brady.

One option for right tackle could be Nate Solder, who has played both tackle positions in the past, including on Friday when he reported as a tackle-eligible on the right side. Vollmer is coming back from a gruesome broken right leg, suffered against the Dolphins last October.

Teams are not required to disclose medical or injury issues during preseason so it’s not clear why Vollmer has been out the last three days.

If Vollmer is dealing with a significant injury issue, then it’s likely Marcus Cannon, who played some left tackle against the Eagles, could step in and fill the void at right tackle.

One bit of possibly encouraging news was the sighting of defensive tackle Sealver Siliga working out with training staff on the lower practice field. Siliga injured his left hand in the joint practices with the Redskins and has not been cleared for full contact practices since. He missed the first two preseason games and headed back to Boston for an exam.

Other players missing again Wednesday were tight ends D.J. Williams and defensive lineman Chris Jones. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, linebacker Cameron Gordon and offensive lineman Chris Martin were also not spotted during practice, as he did on Monday and Tuesday, Hoomanawanui left after stretching and headed down to the lower practice field to work with trainers.

Read More: 2014 training camp, New England Patriots, Sealver Siliga, Sebastian Vollmer

Fantasy Football: Ranking the rookies

08.20.14 at 11:56 am ET
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Drafting rookies in fantasy football can be a very dicey proposition. Rarely do the year-end stats measure up to the preseason hype. In this piece I will be looking at some of the more intriguing rookie prospects for 2014 in terms of redraft value versus long-term value. These are players who, we feel, have a chance to earn substantive playing time in 2014. Obviously, circumstance comes into play, so there is a random nature to rookie breakouts, especially for the running backs, who all are in competition for snaps and carries. Having said that, this is one of the strongest rookie classes I have ever seen in terms of players who can make an immediate impact. You absolutely must be well versed in the top 15 options if you want to dominate your leagues in 2014.

If you’ve missed any of our prior fantasy content, I have indexed it below.

To keep up on any and all changes to our rankings and to access our cheat sheets and rookie scouting reports, check out The Rotobahn, where all of my 2014 content is indexed. I’ll be back later this week with an updated look at our high-value targets. And don’t miss the third episode of the Fantasy Football Hour this Sunday morning on WEEI 93.7. My co-host Jim Hackett and I will get into strategies for different leagues sizes and scoring formats. We’ll also talk with Eagles beat reporter Martin Frank, who spent last week watching the Patriots-Eagles joint practices.

1. Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans

Sankey is the one guy with a fix on a starting job and fantasy value starts with opportunity. Having said that, Sankey is a potential starter for a reason. If you are not familiar with the former University of Washington rusher, read his full scouting report. Sankey will cede some work to veteran Shonn Greene, and that will include a lot of goal-line action. You also have the new offense, which is a mild concern, though we have confidence that new OC Ken Whisenhunt will settle things down. Sankey should have low-end RB2 value in most 12-team formats, though he may be more of a RB3 early on as he gets his feet wet. Draft him accordingly.

2. Terrance West, RB, Browns

Yes, he’s not even starting, but when you do all the math on West, it’s hard not to conclude that he’ll be packing some serious weekly value at some point in 2014. We expect Cleveland to run the ball enough for two backs to work up a good lather. West could end up with some flex appeal in deep leagues even if starter Ben Tate stays healthy. However, if Tate misses time as he’s done most every season, West’s value could explode. There’s also the chance that West could simply steal the gig over time. He’s got enough upside to draft at his current ADP of 94 if you play in a 12-team league with a flex spot. If you’ve never seen the former Towson star play, do yourself a favor and digest his Rotobahn scouting report, and watch the film.

3. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints

The New Orleans offense is a well-oiled machine, and the Saints should be able to integrate Cooks in seamless fashion as they did with Kenny Stills in 2013. Cooks is an inside-outside option who can even line up in the backfield if you want him to. This is a kid who prides himself on yards after contact. Here’s what he said when we caught him at the combine: “For me, I like taking a short pass and breaking it for a run. Catch a shallow, catch a hitch, catch a slant and make one miss and go.” I think HC Sean Payton agrees. Look for Cooks to play a diverse role in 2014. He’ll be part Darren Sproles, part Lance Moore, and he’ll be more explosive than either one of them. We project WR3 value with WR2 upside. Read Cooks’ full scouting report. This a player who you simply must know for fantasy purposes.

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Patriots valued at $2.6 billion, second behind only Cowboys in NFL

08.20.14 at 11:47 am ET
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Robert Kraft has the Patriots pointed close to the top of NFL net worth, second only to the Cowboys. (Getty Images)

Robert Kraft has the Patriots pointed close to the top of NFL net worth, second only to the Cowboys. (Getty Images)

The Patriots continue to be one of the most valuable commodities in sports.

According to Forbes, the team held by Robert Kraft and his family is worth $2.6 billion, surpassed in the NFL by only the Cowboys, worth $3.2 billion.

The Cowboys are surpassed by only the soccer superpower Real Madrid ($3.4 billion) in terms of overall net worth among all global sports franchises. Thanks in part to Cowboys Stadium (a.k.a. “JerryWorld”), Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has seen his value rise by 36 percent over 2013.

The Cowboys top Forbes’ rankings by a healthy margin for an eighth consecutive season, having risen in value by $900 million over the last 12 months to become the only NFL team worth more than $3 billion.

Here’s the top 5 franchises in the NFL:

Franchise Value
1. Cowboys $3.2 billion
2. Patriots $2.6B
3. Redskins $2.4B
4. NY Giants $2.1B
5. Texans $1.85B

The Cowboys have the NFL’s highest revenue ($560 million) and operating income ($246 million). This year, Jones added something new and different – partnerships with a worldwide luxury watch and cruise line, an NFL first.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are seven teams are worth less than $1 billion: the Chargers ($995 million), Bengals ($990 million), Raiders ($970 million), Jaguars ($965 million), Lions ($960 million), Bills ($935 million) and the Rams ($930 million).

Read More: Dallas Cowboys, Forbes, Jerry Jones, Jonathan Kraft

Bill Belichick wants to see if this Patriots team (like several others) can show ‘mental toughness’

08.19.14 at 10:12 pm ET
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Bill Belichick leads the Patriots for a 15th season in Foxboro. (Getty Images)

Bill Belichick leads the Patriots for a 15th season in Foxboro. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick hasn’t seen much losing in his career as a head coach, especially in New England.

The only sub-.500 season Belichick has endured with the Patriots was his first, when the 2000 team went 5-11. The next season, his team started 0-2 but ended up as Super Bowl champions. He’s been a record-setting winner ever since.

In Cleveland, of course, it was different. He had losing seasons in four of his five seasons by Lake Erie and endured the most arduous end to a season imaginable. So, Belichick does remember what losing was like. And he remembers something else, a bad feeling in training camp and preseason usually is never followed by a successful regular season.

On Tuesday, he explained why.

“I think it’€™s probably just an overall feeling,” Belichick said. “Just the way that the team works, the way they respond to the things they’€™re asked to do in camp and how they handle some of the tests that they’€™re put through. It’€™s a grind. It’€™s tough. It’€™s a very competitive situation. It’€™s a challenge for the team ‘€“ not just the players – but the entire organization to handle all the things you have to handle in training camp, without something kind of internally being a problem and being ready to go.”

There was no bigger potential distraction than what the 2013 Patriots had to deal with heading into camp, when star tight end Aaron Hernandez was released after being charged with the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. But that was dealt with on the first day. There was the forearm injury of Rob Gronkowski and whether he would be ready to start the season. That actually became a bigger soap opera but eventually he returned and the team rolled to a second straight 12-4 season and a third straight trip to the AFC championship.

In 2011, owner Robert Kraft lost his wife Myra over the summer after helping negotiate the end of the labor impasse. That year, inspired from the start, the Patriots overcame the Ravens in the AFC championship and nearly overcame Rob Gronkowski‘s bum ankle in a heart-breaking Super Bowl loss to the Giants. The seed of toughness of the 2011 and 2013 teams were sowed in the summer.

“You have to be able to show some mental toughness, some ability to block out distractions and focus on your job and improving individually and as a team and all those things,” Belichick reminded everyone Tuesday. “If you can do those over a training camp period of, call it six weeks, then it’€™s probably a pretty good indication that you have a chance to do it during the year. If you don’t, then it’€™s probably an indication that when the pressure really comes on during the season, which the pressure is going to mount for the team as the season goes, I’€™d say the likelihood of it all just magically coming together without a legitimate foundation, I haven’€™t had a lot of great experience with that.”

In 2001, the Patriots started 0-2, lost their starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe to a life-threatening injury and had an offensive lineman in Joe Andruzzi, whose brother helped save lives at Ground Zero on 9/11. The Patriots somehow managed to overcome the distractions and play with the right kind of emotion, finishing 11-5 en route to a stunning Super Bowl win that started a dynasty.

Of course, Belichick has seen the flip side when his 1995 Browns were submarined by owner Art Modell‘s mid-season announcement he was moving to Baltimore in 1996. The City of Cleveland was devastated and that Browns team could never recover, finishing 5-11.

Read More: 1995 Cleveland Browns, Art Modell, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Devin McCourty hoping officials let up on throwing flags and let DBs ‘play a little bit’

08.19.14 at 9:21 pm ET
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Devin McCourty looks to lead the Patriots secondary with a hands-off approach this season (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Football fans, Devin McCourty feels your pain.

He tried to watch Monday night’s game between the Browns and Redskins just like a fan. And like a fan, he found it really hard to not change the channel with the number of flags thrown, especially on defensive backs.

“I think as a DB, you’re trained to never to look for a flag,” McCourty said. “It’s makes them throw it more. But even [Monday] night, watching the game, it’s just seems like every couple of plays, there’s another flag. It’ll be tough for people trying to watch the game who have work in the morning and stuff like that.”

All joking aside, McCourty has the unique perspective of having started out as a cornerback before transitioning to safety full-time last season. He knows he won’t be able to get away with as much tugging so technique, even for a safety, will be key this season.

“I think it’s a little different but we have some of the same issues as far as how we’re covering guys, too, like guys coming off the line of scrimmage, things that you might have gotten away with you may not get away with [this season],” McCourty said. “But I think it’s hard to try and change your whole game. We don’t want to start to giving up long passes and touchdowns just to say, ‘I didn’t want illegal contact.’ Hopefully, they reduce the [number of] flags and we get to play a little bit.”

Bill Belichick never stops playing mad scientist with his secondary, like on Friday night against the Eagles, when he had Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan taking snaps at safety.

“I don’t it’s that much tougher,” McCourty said of watching and playing with new players rotating at safety. “I think a lot of it is putting your rules and what you do as a defense into what they’re doing so it’s just guys just talking about it and seeing stuff the same way and being on the same page. As long as you can do that, you just put your rules toward that.

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Read More: 2014 training camp, Bill Belichick, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty

Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on Brandon LaFell, Darrelle Revis and ‘game-ready’ Patriots

08.19.14 at 6:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price assess the comfort level of Brandon LaFell, the readiness of Darrelle Revis and the “game-ready” approach the Patriots are taking toward Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in their third preseason game Friday at Gillette Stadium.

Read More: 2014 training camp, Brandon LaFell, Chris Price, Darrelle Revis

Bill Belichick backs idea of expanding practice squads from 8 to 10 players

08.19.14 at 5:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The NFL announced Tuesday that the practice squad for each team will be expanded from eight to 10 players in 2014. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that the idea of having a a couple of extra practice squadders on the roster is a good thing:

“I think the reality of it is that those are probably the players that are going to get signed in the first few weeks of the season when teams have needs at that position,” Belichick said Tuesday afternoon. “If they’€™re not with any team and they’€™re available then those are the kind of guys that you can go out and add on to your team — some of them.

“Now, there are some older veterans that you would do that with too, but certainly those first, second-year guys that maybe made the team last year so their practice squad eligibility is up and this year they don’€™t make the team or a team and you get into the season, three, four weeks into the season and instead of going with a rookie, you look at a player like that. So, ‘€˜Here’€™s what he did last year. He’€™s got six, eight, 10, 12 games of experience, whatever it is, didn’€™t quite make the roster.’€™ That guy might be the roster.

“That guy might be a guy over the rookie, might be over a rookie on your practice squad too. I think keeping those guys in the system, it’€™s probably a lot of the same guys that are going to be signed. The only reason they weren’€™t on the practice squad last year was because they weren’€™t eligible, not because they weren’€™t wanted but they just, by rule, you couldn’€™t do it. I would imagine a lot of those guys would show up there.”

The league has also announced some changes when it comes to practice squad eligibility. From the press release:

The criteria for Practice Squad eligibility has been expanded in two respects.

First, a player must have a minimum of six games –€“ up from the current three games –€“ on a Practice Squad in order for that season to count as one of the player’€™s three permissible seasons of Practice Squad service.

Second, each club will be permitted to sign a maximum of two Practice Squad players who have earned no more than two accrued seasons of free agency credit. Absent this exception, a player who has earned one or more accrued seasons would not be eligible for a Practice Squad unless the player spent fewer than nine games on a club’€™s 46-player active list in each of his accrued seasons.

All other practice squad rules under Article 33 of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement will remain in effect during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Read More: Bill Belichick,
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