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Bill Belichick wins AP Coach of the Year honors

02.02.11 at 8:07 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year Wednesday night. It is the third time Belichick has been honored as a head coach ‘€” he also won the award in 2003 and 2007.

‘€œIt’€™s a tribute to our ownership, our assistant coaches and certainly the players,’€ Belichick said in an interview with the NFL Network after he won the award. ‘€œThey’€™re the ones who’€™ve stepped up and made the plays this year. We had a lot of new people on the team, young players that contributed, and it’€™s certainly an honor to receive this award on behalf of our performance in the regular season. Unfortunately, we weren’€™t able to carry that over into the playoffs.’€

Belichick guided the Patriots to an NFL-best 14-2 record in 2010. He became the first head coach ever to win at least 14 regular-season games in four separate seasons (2003: 14-2, 2004: 14-2, 2007: 16-0 and 2010: 14-2). Only four other coaches ‘€” San Francisco’€™s George Seifert (3), Washington’€™s Joe Gibbs (2), Chicago’€™s Mike Ditka (2) and Miami’€™s Don Shula (2) ‘€” have more than one 14-win season.

Belichick received 30 votes, while Tampa Bay’€™s Raheem Morris and Kansas City’€™s Todd Haley got 11½ votes each. Meanwhile, Atlanta’€™s Mike Smith, Philadelphia’€™s Andy Reid, Chicago’€™s Lovie Smith and St. Louis’€™ Steve Spagnuolo all got one vote each.

Under Belichick, the 2010 Patriots set and tied numerous NFL records. They set a league mark for fewest turnovers in a 16-game season with 10, set an NFL record by playing seven straight games without a turnover, set an NFL record with seven straight games with 30 points and no turnovers, tied an NFL record with eight straight games of 30 points or more and tied an NFL record for fewest interceptions in a season with five. The 2010 team also set a franchise record by finishing the season with a turnover differential of +28, forcing 38 turnovers while allowing just 10 turnovers. The turnover differential of +28 is the second-best since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, trailing only the +43 posted by the 1983 Washington Redskins.

In addition, the 2010 Patriots finished first in the NFL in scoring (518 points for a 32.4 average) and eighth in the NFL in fewest points allowed (313 points for a 19.6 average).

‘€œWe had a lot of different challenges this year,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œI just have to give a lot of credit to the players. They adapted. They adjusted. We had some tough weather conditions, like the snow out in Chicago for example, but the players did a good job of staying focused and playing through those conditions. And we were able to get a lot of turnovers defensively at the end of the year, and offensively, we had a lot of points and special teams was good for us early in the year, so it all kind of balanced itself out one way or another during the course of the season.’€

Read More: Andy Reid, Bill Belichick, Don Shula, George Seifert

Larry Fitzgerald ‘a fan’ of Bill Belichick, Patriots

02.02.11 at 3:06 pm ET
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Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald spoke glowingly of the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick in an interview with, describing himself as “a fan” of Belichick and suggesting that, thanks to their wealth of draft picks, New England should remain a force to come for years. Fitzgerald told the website that he met Belichick prior to the 2004 draft (in which the receiver was taken by Arizona with the No. 3 overall pick), and that the Pats‘ emphasis on “a cerebral kind of football player” has paid remarkable dividends over the long haul.

‘€œI think it all starts with the head coach [Bill Belichick]. He does a fantastic job, week in and week out, keeping his guys mentally prepared to go out there and play,’€ Fitzgerald told ‘€œHe’€™s the only coach in history to have four seasons with 14 wins, and that alone, speaks volumes of what he’€™s able to accomplish, especially in that [AFC East] division. I think you’€™re looking at the NFL’€™s strongest division, from top to bottom. If Buffalo played in the NFC West, they’€™d probably win the NFC West. That’€™s a strong, strong division and he’€™s found a way to win it [eight] times. It’€™s astonishing.”

Fitzgerald has one year left on a four-year, $40 million deal signed after the 2007 season. The deal prohibits Arizona from using its franchise or transition tag on him, and so Fitzgerald, 27, could become an unrestricted free agent after the 2011 football season. He and the Cardinals have reportedly opened talks on a new deal, but Fitzgerald told that his decisions about his future will be guided by a straightforward motive.

‘€œI’€™m under contract with Arizona for another season, and I would love to be there winning a championship,’€ he said. ‘€œThat’€™s where I started and I love it out there. But my goal, of course, is to win. I want to win at all costs.’€

Fitzgerald had 90 catches for 1,137 yards and six touchdowns in 2010. In his seven NFL seasons, he has averaged 88 catches, 1,172 yards and nine TDs per season.

Read More: Arizona Cardinals, Bill Belichick, Larry Fitzgerald,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Villanova OT/OG Benjamin Ijalana

02.02.11 at 2:44 pm ET
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Benjamin Ijalana

Position: Left Tackle

School: Villanova

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 320 pounds

Achievements: 2010: Selected for the 2011 Senior Bowl and was the only player in FCS to be on the Outland Trophy watch list. 2009: Helped Villanova win the FCS National Championship by earning a spot on both the Sports Network and Walter Camp All-America teams. A durable two-time, first team All-CAA selection, Ijalana started all 39 games of his Villanova career.

What he brings: A future beast on the left side to possibly replace restricted free agent Matt Light, who will be 33 next season and may not return in 2011. Ijalana dominated FCS competition with his size, strength and quickness on left tackle. Pro scouts love his ability to dominate defensive ends on most plays with great length with athleticism and his ability to quickly set and get his hands and long arms on his opponent and stay on them. He is rated across the board as a top-10 offensive lineman, who could play either tackle or guard.

Ijalana has shown impressive foot quickness to mirror his opponent on the other side of the line. Most scouts also feel he has the bulk, length and footwork to be a very effective run blocker. Blocking for the likes of Matt Szczur, he displayed the ability to seal the edge for cutbacks on zone plays and bootlegs.

There are some negatives as he lets up on hesitation moves and after initial contact at times, allowing his man to pressure the passer or get downfield to make a tackle. Most critically, scouts feel he must improve his awareness of end-tackle stunts and inside blitzers, as his quarterback takes too many direct hits. Teams likely to be willing to overlook extra weight in his mid-section if he can maintain his quickness and agility.

Ijalana projects very well to former UMass left tackle Vladimir Ducasse, who impressed scouts enough through his career and in Mobile for the 2010 Senior Bowl to earn a second-round draft slot with the Jets. Ijalana joined Ducasse on the All-Colonial Athletic Association first team in 2009 but beat out Ducasse for a spot on the Walter Camp FCS All-American squad.

And remember this: Bill Belichick likes multi-sport athletes, especially those who wrestled in high school and college. Remember Stephen Neal? Ijalana was a star high school wrestler in New Jersey and has shown the ability to use his very strong hands.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 28 or in the second round.

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Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Benjamin Ijalana, FCS, Matt Light

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Alabama RB Mark Ingram

02.02.11 at 12:07 pm ET
By   |   Comments will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.

Mark Ingram

Position: Running Back

School: Alabama

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 215

Achievements: All-SEC second team (2010), Heisman Trophy winner (2009), AP All-America, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, set school record for rushing yards in a season (1,658) and all-purpose yards (1,992), All-SEC Freshman Team (2008).

What he brings: A powerful, low-built runner, Ingram led Alabama to the national championship as a sophomore in 2009 and won the Heisman Trophy in the process, becoming the first player in school history to win the award. Ingram missed the Tide’s season-opener in 2010 after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and saw his rushing yards cut in half while splitting time with Trent Richardson, but he still averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Ingram is also a good receiver out of the backfield with 60 receptions for 670 yards in his three-year college career.

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Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Mark Ingram, Potential Patriots,

Roger Goodell: Bill Belichick ‘deceived’ me with no public apology over Spygate

02.02.11 at 11:23 am ET
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reveals in this week’€™s edition of ‘€œSports Illustrated’€ that he wanted Patriots coach Bill Belichick to make a verbal apology in front of the press in the wake of the 2007 video scandal, and when Belichick didn’€™t, he felt ‘€œdeceived.’€

Goodell fined Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 and deducted a first-round draft pick for secretly videotaping an opposing team’€™s coaching signals. Owner Robert Kraft thought the penalty was too severe, but Goodell told Kraft that, as part of the disciplinary action, Belichick also must make a verbal apology in front of the press. Instead the coach issued a printed statement and refused to answer any questions on the topic.

‘€œI was given assurances that [Belichick] would tell his side of the story,’€ Goodell says. ‘€œHe went out and stonewalled the press. I feel like I was deceived.’€

‘€œI did not make any assurances about thoroughly discussing the subject publicly,’€ Belichick responded in the story. ‘€œI said I would address it following the league’€™s review. I then did that in a way I thought was appropriate. I don’€™t think that was deceptive.’€

The statement Belichick issued in the wake of the fine read as follows: ‘€œAlthough it remains a league matter, I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players. Following the league’s decision, I will have further comment.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, Rodger Goodell,

Complete transcript of Q&A Tom Brady did with NFL Network on Tuesday

02.01.11 at 9:54 pm ET
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Here’€™s the compete transcript of Tom Brady‘€™s Q&A with the NFL Network from Tuesday night, when he accepted the AP Offensive Player of the Year Award:

On what the award means to him: ‘€œI appreciate it, Fran. Obviously, we had a great regular season as a team. We just didn’€™t really take advantage of our opportunity in the month of January. The two teams that are there playing this week certainly have earned it, and they should be very proud. It’€™s going to be a great game.’€

On his injured foot: ‘€œI had surgery about a week ago … actually, about 10 days ago. It’€™s just something that’€™s been lingering a little bit. Over the course of the season, a lot of players throughout the league, a lot of players on our team deal with these type of injuries. I think … part of having a little bit of mental toughness is putting those things aside and still going out and trying to perform your best, you know, each week. I have a great training staff and my friend Alex [Guerrero] that works with me weekly. So I’€™m in great hands and they were able to get me out on the field feeling good and I was able to go out there and help our team win the AFC East, which we’€™re all very proud of.’€

On the difference for him over the second half of the season that allowed the Patriots’€™ offense to take off:
‘€œWell, it’€™s definitely a collective effort by the group of skill players that we have and the offensive line. I think there was … when you trade away a talent like [Randy Moss], a guy who’€™s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, other guys have to step in and do their job and fill the void left by a great player. BenJarvus (Green-Ellis) rushed for 1,000 yards, Danny Woodhead made up for the loss of Kevin Faulk, who was one of the best players we ever had on the team. But Danny stepped in. The group of receivers, with Deion (Branch) and Wes (Welker) and Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate, they did an incredible job of really committing themselves to the passing game ‘€” we were going to do what we needed to do. And the tight end position with two young tight ends ‘€” Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and then with Alge [Crumpler] ‘€” we had a great group of skill players. It was a lot of fun each week, trying to find different ways to utilize all those guys so that we can go into the game feeling really good, feeling really prepared with the game plan and understand if we just executed well, we were going to score some points.’€
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, aaron rodgers, Alge Crumpler, Ben Roethlisberger

Tom Brady acknowledges he underwent surgery on right foot

02.01.11 at 8:45 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady acknowledged he had surgery on his right foot ‘€œabout 10 days ago,’€ and said the injury was ‘€œsomething that’€™s been lingering a little bit.’€

In a Q&A with the NFL Network on Tuesday night after he was presented with the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year Award, Brady, talked about the injury and how he managed to play through the problem.

‘€œOver the course of the season, a lot of players throughout the league, a lot of players on our team deal with these type of injuries,’€ he said. ‘€œPart of having a little bit of mental toughness is putting those things aside and still going out and trying to perform your best each week.

‘€œI have a great training staff and my friend Alex [Guerrero] that works with me weekly. I’€™m in great hands and they were able to get me out on the field feeling good and I was able to go out there and help our team win the AFC East, which we’€™re all very proud of.’€

According to reports, before his taped interview, Brady entered the room on crutches.

It is the fifth surgery for the 33-year-old Brady, who acknowledged at the start of the 2010 season that he went under the knife for work on his shoulder, groin and knee, as well as one other one he did not disclose. He also finished up the 2009 season with a variety of injuries, including a rib injury and a broken right ring finger.

He is expected to be ready for training camp.

Read More: Alex Guerrero, Tom Brady,
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