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Stevan Ridley’s priority: ‘Hold the ball, man’

09.16.13 at 5:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Stevan Ridley acknowledged Monday he has to do a better job when it comes to ball security. The Patriots running back, who lost one fumble in the opener and was benched for the rest of the game as a result, has now fumbled the ball six times in the regular season and twice in the playoffs over the course of his career.

He said Monday afternoon it’s clear what his priority is going forward.

“Hold the ball, man,” he said. “Holding the ball. I’ll start with myself and say that.

“But it’s a lot of work we have to do. That’s the thing — it’s early in the year, man. It’s early in the year, so nobody is going to be perfect. We just have to come in here and keep our nose in the dirt and keep grinding. That’s all that we can do, is take it one day at a time, one week at a time, and not get too far ahead.”

Ridley, who finished last season with a career-high 1,263 rushing yards, is off to a slow start this season with 86 yards on 25 carries. He said Monday he’s not happy with where is at this point in the season.

“Absolutely not. I don’t think anyone on this team is happy with where they are, starting with myself,” he said. “I definitely didn’t get off to the start that I wanted — I’ll man up and say that. For me, I’ve got to do better for my team. Also, this team has got to work that much harder. We don’t put the blame on anybody. We’re a unit and it takes 11 of us out there — that’s who has to stick together if we plan on improving in the coming weeks.”

Ridley is part of a New England offense that has gotten off to an uncharacteristically ragged start through the first two games of the year. Without tight end Rob Gronkowski (who has missed both games) as well as wide receiver Danny Amendola and running back Shane Vereen (both of whom were sidelined for Thursday’s game against the Jets), the Patriots have struggled to move the ball consistently. While the Patriots are 2-0 after two games, they’re averaging 18 points per game. That’s a considerable dropoff from the league-best 34.8 points per game they averaged last year.

“We’re not scoring as many points as we’d like to either,” he said. “For us, it’s a struggle, man. We’re going into Week 3. Like I said, I din’t think any football team in the league is where they want to be right now. That’s not making any excuses for us — that just tells us we have to come in here and work a little bit harder and try to fix the things we missed up this past weekend. That’s why it’s a week behind us — we have time to prepare for what’s coming up. And hopefully improve and get better.”

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Danny Amendola at practice with Patriots, but moving gingerly

09.16.13 at 4:04 pm ET
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Danny Amendola was at practice with the Patriots on Monday, but according to reports, he appeared to be extremely limited in what he could do. The wide receiver, who reportedly has some sort of groin or abdominal injury, was present, but cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib and special teamer Matthew Slater were not there for practice, which was held on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium in shells.

The nature of Talib’s injury is unknown, but he was part of the scrap at the end of last Thursday’s Jets game, and could be dealing with some of the residual effects of what happened on the play where New York offensive lineman Nick Mangold dove at his legs after the cornerback jumped out of bounds after a late-game interception. Dennard was not expected to be present as he was in Nebraska dealing with a legal issue, while Slater reportedly is suffering from a broken hand.

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Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater

Inside Man: Chandler Jones bringing pressure from defensive tackle spot

09.16.13 at 1:17 pm ET
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Since Mike Wright left the game in 2011 because of concussion issues, the Patriots have lacked a steady pass-rushing presence on the interior of their defensive line. But the sight of Chandler Jones working part-time on the interior for the first two games of the 2013 season may offer some hope that New England may have found — at least on an occasional basis — someone on the interior who can get after the passer.

Over the last year-plus, the Patriots have utilized several possibilities along the inside in hopes of finding someone who could push the pocket and get after the quarterback. From Albert Haynesworth to Jonathan Fanene to Jermaine Cunningham, no one has been able to consistently pick up the role of interior pass rusher in New England.

But on nearly 20 occasions last Thursday against the Jets, the Patriots were able to move Jones from defensive end to defensive tackle. (That’s on the heels of doing the same thing in the regular-season opener against the Bills.) And on almost every occasion, New England was able to see positive results from the move — Jones was able to consistently create havoc for the offensive lines, which struggled to match up with him, and he frequently got into the backfield after the quarterback, coming away with a pair of sacks on Geno Smith.

It was clear the longer, leaner Jones presented a unique challenge for the interior linemen of Buffalo and New York, who were more used to seeing stouter, more physical play from the likes of Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Joe Vellano.

“I think anytime you move those defensive ends inside, they obviously are a little bit smaller physically,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, “but the quickness and the length they have over most traditional defensive tackles can cause those inside guys ‘€“ guards and centers ‘€“ some problems in protection just because they’€™re not used to seeing that type of player inside.”

‘€œObviously when he’€™s inside, those guards just start sweating, because it’€™s not easy for a tackle to block Chandler. Then, you put him on a guard who’€™s not used to somebody who can move and has those ‘€˜Go-Go Gadget’€™ arms from about five feet away,’€ defensive end Rob Ninkovich said on WEEI Monday.

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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, chandler jones, Jermaine Cunningham

Rob Ninkovich on M&M: Jets ‘always talking a little bit too much before the game’

09.16.13 at 12:33 pm ET
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Defensive end Rob Ninkovich appeared on Mut & Merloni on Monday to discuss the Patriots’€™ dominant defensive performance in their 13-10 win over the Jets on Thursday.

Ninkovich contributed to New England’€™s win at Gillette Stadium by recording six tackles, including two tackles for a loss and one quarterback hit.

‘€œIt’€™s one of those things where, you’€™re playing the Jets, you’€™ve been rivals for years and years and years and since I got here it’€™s always been a tough game,’€ said Ninkovich. ‘€œWe know them, they know us, so it’€™s just a great game to watch and a game to play in.’€

Ninkovich earned the nickname the ‘€œJets Killer’€ — a nickname bestowed upon him by Bill Belichick — because of his work against New York in the past few years.

Last year, he secured a 29-26 Patriots home victory on Oct. 21 by sacking Mark Sanchez, forcing a fumble and then recovering it in overtime.

On Oct. 9, 2011, Ninkovich recorded six tackles and half a sack in New England’€™s 30-21 win over New York. Then, he picked off Sanchez twice, returning one of his interceptions for a touchdown, in a 37-16 road triumph over Gang Green on Nov. 13.

‘€œI feel like anytime we play the Jets, I just really like getting after them,’€ said Ninkovich. ‘€œIt’€™s always a fun game. They’€™re always talking a little bit too much before the game anyway.’€

On Thursday, the defense carried the team, as that unit snagged three interceptions, recovered one fumble and added four sacks. Two of those sacks came from second-year defensive end Chandler Jones, upon whom Ninkovich heaped praise for his flexibility.

‘€œChandler, obviously when he’€™s inside, those guards just start sweating, because it’€™s not easy for a tackle to block Chandler, then you put him on a guard who’€™s not used to somebody who can move and has those ‘Go-Go-Gadget’ arms from about five feet away,’€ said Ninkovich. ‘€œObviously you have to have change up in this league so people don’€™t see you’€™re running the same thing over and over again.’€

The Patriots practiced with their Week 3 opponent, Tampa Bay, before meeting the Bucaneers in a preseason game. Ninkovich said those experiences should help New England in preparation for Sunday’€™s game.

‘€œI would say a little bit, yeah, you practice against the guys and you know the personnel a little bit more if you’€™d never practiced against them or played them in the preseason,’€ said Ninkovich. ‘€œWe don’€™t see the Bucs often, so it helps to know their personnel.’€

To hear the  interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

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Alfonzo Dennard admits to violating probation but remains free after court appearance

09.16.13 at 12:23 pm ET
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Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, appearing in a Nebraska courtroom Monday morning, admitted to violating the terms of his probation when he was arrested for DUI on July 11.

According to reports out of Lincoln, Neb., Dennard told the judge he drank two beers at 9 p.m. and then drove his girlfriend’s car 4½ hours later.

The judge agreed that Dennard violated his probation and ordered an updated investigation on Dennard’s behavior, allowing the player to remain to remain on probation until sentencing on Dec. 5.

Dennard is scheduled to appear in court for the DUI case on Oct. 8.

In February, Dennard was found guilty of assaulting a police officer in Lincoln in an incident from April 2012. He was later sentenced to 30 days in jail to be served next March along with probation.

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Bill Belichick: Bucs two plays away from being 2-0

09.16.13 at 12:20 pm ET
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Bill Belichick is disregarding any talk of the Buccaneers being an easy mark because they’ve started the year 0-2, saying that, in truth, Tampa is two plays from being 2-0.

“They’€™ve been really close the last two weeks, and have come up short,” Belichick said of the Bucs, which have lost two games on a pair of late field goals. “But a couple plays that just turn out a little differently, wouldn’€™t have taken much, we’€™d be looking at a 2-0 team.

“I have a lot of respect for the way that they play. They’€™re a tough, physical team, he added. “They play hard on every play in all three phases of the game. I think that the work we did against them in training camp was good for our development as a team, but I’€™m not really sure how much carryover that will have into the game other than just the familiarity with some of the players that we went up against.”

Rumors of unrest have swirled around the Tampa Bay team over the last few weeks, with quarterback Josh Freeman allegedly making trade demands and players reportedly upset, believing that head coach Greg Schiano rigged a captains vote. However, based on his experience with them in training camp — the Bucs came to Foxboro for joint practices this summer in the days leading up to a preseason clash — Belichick doesn’t believe the off-field drama will prevent Tampa from offering anything less than its best this weekend.

“We would have expected Tampa’€™s best no matter what happened in the first two games and that’€™s what we’€™ll expect this week,” he said. “From working against them, we played against them twice in preseason and worked on the field with them, we have a lot of respect for their players, their coaching staff, their toughness, their effort, their competiveness. I think that that’€™s a team that I would expect to get their absolute best performance every week. That’€™s what we’€™ll be preparing for this week in all three phases of the game.”

On the Monday morning conference call with the media, Belichick was also asked about the health of tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Danny Amendola. Belichick said that other than running back Shane Vereen — who was placed on short-term injured reserve recently with a wrist injury — the rest of the players could be classified as “day-to-day.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen

Adam Schefter on D&C: Rob Gronkowski back ‘maybe as early as this week’

09.16.13 at 11:46 am ET
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ESPN’€™s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’€™ lack of offensive weapons and New England’€™s Week 3 opponent, the Buccaneers.

The Patriots are coming off of a 13-10 win at home against the Jets on Thursday night. The win disappointed some because of the lack of production from the offense. Tom Brady completed just 19 of his 39 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown.

With tight end Rob Gronkowski (back) and wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin) sidelined with injuries, New England has been forced to turn to inexperienced playmakers like Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman at the skill positions.

Schefter was quick to remind fans that as bleak as the offensive outlook looks, a few teams have it worse.

‘€œEven for the Patriots’€™ injuries or free agent defections, whatever it may be, they still don’€™t compare to other teams,’€ said Schefter who mentioned the Browns, Raiders and Jaguars as teams with worse offensive weapons than New England. ‘€œThere are some teams that really have so few offensive weapons. ‘€œBut saying that, [the Patriots] wouldn’€™t rank particularly high with the depth they’€™re playing with right now.”

On Thursday, rookie wide receivers Thompkins and Dobson combined to catch five passes, despite a whopping 17 targets, for 103 yards. Even more concerning, no tight end registered a reception.

Schefter mentioned that reinforcements could be on the way for the Patriots.

‘€œNow say that at some point here, maybe as early as this week, Gronk is going to come back, at some point, Danny Amendola, maybe a few weeks, will come back, and let’€™s just say Gronk and Amendola are on the field at the same time, then all of a sudden it’€™s not as bleak and as desperate as people think. So there’€™s still some hope that some of these guys can get back, to me,’€ Schefter said.

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Read More: Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Greg Schiano, Josh Freeman
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