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Tom Brady misses practice with the flu

12.22.10 at 4:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Quarterback Tom Brady, offensive lineman Dan Connolly wide receiver Deion Branch and tight end Aaron Hernandez were among the eight players who did not take part in practice on Wednesday for the Patriots. Here’€™s a look at the complete injury report:

Did Not Participate
LB Tully Banta-Cain (groin)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot/flu)
WR Deion Branch (knee)
G Dan Connolly (concussion)
DL Brandon Deaderick (shoulder)
TE Aaron Hernandez (hip)
NT Myron Pryor (back)
DL Mike Wright (concussion)

Limited Participation
DL Ron Brace (concussion)
LB Jermaine Cunningham (calf)

Full Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (elbow)

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Take that, Terrell Suggs! Fans love Tom Brady

12.22.10 at 3:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — He may not have been the choice of Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs but Tom Brady was a clear winner in the fan-balloting portion of the Pro Bowl vote released Wednesday by the NFL.

The Patriots quarterback – in the midst of a spectacular season – received 1,877,079 votes to lead all NFL All-Stars in fan balloting for the game to be held on Jan. 30, between the end of the conference championships and Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 7 in Arlington, TX. It’s Brady’s hope that he’ll be unavailable to take part because of preparations for the Super Bowl.

Fan voting ended on Monday, with Brady not only leading the AFC but the NFL among the top 10 Pro Bowl vote-getters. Brady topped a list that included – in order – Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew and Matt Ryan.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski finished fouth among the NFL’s top five rookie vote-getters with 205,948 votes. There was a record 98.59 million votes cast on, on wireless phones and on Facebook. Fans cast 89.52 million votes on, 8.50 million votes on their wireless phones and 570,000 votes on Facebook.

The AFC and NFC All-Star squads, which will be announced at 7 p.m. on the NFL Network on Dec. 28, are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each counts one-third towards determining the 43-man rosters that represent the two conferences in the Pro Bowl. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes on December 22-23.

Not surprisingly, the Top 5 is dominated by quarterbacks as Vick (1,522,437) leads all NFC All-Stars and ranks second overall. Peyton Manning (1,130,399 votes), Rivers (1,039,618 votes) and Brees (971,731 votes) round out the top five.

The 2011 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 and televised live on FOX at 7 p.m. ET at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The voting process in the NFL is unique in sports since it’s the only league that combines voting by fans, coaches and players to determine its all-star teams. It was the first professional sports league to offer online all-star voting in 1995.

The Big Nickel: The Bills are aware of Dan Connolly’s kick return skills, Vince Wilfork likes the locker room and Stevie Johnson finds redemption

12.22.10 at 2:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Here are the five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Wednesday:

1. Kicking away from Dan Connolly. The big offensive lineman was nowhere to be seen on Wednesday, but was a big topic of conversation nonetheless. He was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his 71-yard kick return in the second quarter of the win over the Packers ‘€” the longest kick return by an offensive lineman in NFL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

‘€œI got asked [about him] here too ‘€” were going to kick away from him,’€ said Buffalo coach Chan Gailey with a laugh. ‘€œI think that’€™s a good story. I don’€™t know when’€™s the last time that happened, probably not ever. We probably won’€™t kick it to him. I hope we don’€™t kick it to him, to be honest with you.’€

Connolly, who suffered a concussion later in the game and was not available to the media on Sunday or Wednesday, wasn’€™t around to comment, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick smiled when he was asked about the possibility of the Bills deliberately kicking away from Connolly on Sunday.

‘€œYeah, I bet Chan’€™s really worried about that,’€ Belichick said with a smile before turning serious.

‘€œIt was an excellent run on his part,’€ Belichick said of Connolly’€™s effort. ‘€œIt was timely, and he did a good job with the opportunity. One thing about Dan is, we worked on that play a lot in practice. We squib kick every week, and I’€™d say he probably handles the ball if not every week, I’€™d say at least every other week. Sometimes they go to Alge [Crumpler]. Sometimes they go to Rob. But we work on that on a regular basis.

‘€œDan’€™s always well prepared. He has been throughout his career. He was on the practice squad, released by a couple of teams, but kept working, kept getting better, has developed a role for himself and has been a very productive player for us this year,’€ added Belichick. ‘€œEven though he’€™s played a lot on offense, he still took a lot of pride in the kickoff return. We’€™ve had a lot of production on the kickoff return unit with him being a part of it as the middle guy there in the wedge. His opportunity came up to handle the ball, and he did a nice job with it. He found some open space and picked up a couple blocks and turned it into a big play. [It was a case of] preparation meets opportunity, and he delivered.’€

2. Connolly, Tom Brady, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez were among those who weren’€™t on the field at the start of practice on Wednesday afternoon, held on the lower fields behind Gillette Stadium in sweats and shells. In addition, linebacker Tully Banta-Cain and defensive linemen Brandon Deadrick, Myron Pryor and Mike Wright were also not present, while Ron Brace returned to practice for the first time since suffering a mild concussion two weeks ago against the Bears.

The only no-show that was something of a surprise was the absence of Banta-Cain, who has been a fairly regular presence the last few weeks and has not been listed on any recent injury reports. More should be revealed when the injury report is released at 4 p.m.
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Brandon Deadrick, Chan Gailey

Pats practice: Tom Brady, Dan Connolly among 8 not spotted

12.22.10 at 1:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady, Dan Connolly, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez were among the eight players not seen at Patriots practice as on-field practice began for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in Orchard Park.

Brady has received Wednesday off the last several weeks while Connolly suffered a head injury late in the first half Sunday night and did not return for the second half. Branch has been nursing a sore knee.

Also not seen were defensive linemen Brandon Deadrick, Myron Pryor and Mike Wright as well as and linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. Ron Brace returned to practice for the first time since suffering a mild concussion two weeks ago against the Bears.

The team practiced outdoors in sweats and shells on the lower practice fields.

Read More: Buffalo Bills, Dan Connolly, New England Patriots, nfl

Terrell Suggs may have just lit a fire under Tom Brady

12.22.10 at 12:46 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It would make for great playoff theater. Baltimore against New England. Not because it would be a rematch of last January’s playoff match. Not because it would be a replay of October’s thrilling Patriots comeback, won by the Patriots, 23-20, in overtime.

But simply because of Tom Brady vs. Terrell Suggs.

Brady may be having one of his best seasons ever but that’s not good enough to even land a spot on one AFC player’s Pro Bowl ballot. Suggs – Baltimore’s perennial Pro Bowl linebacker – told Yahoo’s Michael Silver he voted for Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers and Ryan Fitzpatrick but not Brady for the game to be played Jan. 30 in Hawaii.

Brady and Suggs have a past of exchanging shots at one another. The two have had big battles in the last year, including the playoffs last January when the Ravens won, 33-14, and on Oct. 17, when the Patriots prevailed in overtime, 23-20. It was after the game in October that Suggs made fun of Brady’s supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, and Brady replied, “They talk a lot for only beating us once in nine years.”

Asked if he was forgetting about Brady’s prolific season in omitting the Patriots quarterback, Suggs replied, “I’m pretty sure he didn’t vote for me either.”

As an aside, fans not only voted for Brady, he was the top Pro Bowl vote-getter at any position with 1,877,079 votes. Brady was followed by Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers in results released by the NFL.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Gisele, New England Patriots, nfl

Pats add DL Landon Cohen

12.22.10 at 11:12 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots made another move to add depth to their injury-ravaged defensive line on Wednesday when they announced the signing of Landon Cohen. To make room for Cohen on the roster, the team released DL Louis Leonard, who was signed last week.

The defensive lineman was a seventh-round selection of the Detroit Lions out of Ohio University in 2008 and has played for Lions and Jaguars.

After being drafted by the Lions, Cohen spent his rookie season as a backup defensive tackle. He was elevated to a starting position in 2009, but was released on the day of final cuts in 2010 and subsequently signed by the Jaguars. He spent two games with Jacksonville before being released. Cohen has since worked out for a number of teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles.

Dan Connolly wins AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors

12.22.10 at 9:25 am ET
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Patriots offensive lineman Dan Connolly has been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Connolly returned a first-half kickoff 71 yards to the 4-yard line in the second quarter. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it is the longest kickoff return by an offensive lineman in NFL history. The run by Connolly topped the 48-yard touchdown return by Atlanta’s Mal Snider in 1969. The previous longest kickoff return for a Patriots offensive lineman was a 27-yard return by Stephen Neal on Nov. 30, 2008 vs. Pittsburgh. Connolly’€™s previous best was a 16-yard return vs. Miami on Nov. 8, 2009. Connolly’€™s return set up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez that cut the Packers‘€™ lead to 17-14.

Connolly is the second offensive lineman to ever be named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Oakland’€™s Langston Walker won the award in Week 12 of the 2004 season after blocking a field goal attempt.

New England has now been honored four times with Player of the Week Awards in 2010. James Sanders was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week following the Patriots 39-26 victory over Pittsburgh in Week 10. Brady earned the award in back-to-back weeks, following the 45-24 win at Detroit in Week 12 and the 45-3 win vs. the Jets in Week 13. In addition, Connolly’€™s honor is the first Special Teams Player of the Week for New England since Stephen Gostkowski was honored in Week 9 of the 2009 season.

Read More: Dan Connolly, James Sanders, Langston Walker, Stephen Gostkowski
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