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Six Patriots named to AFC Pro Bowl squad

12.28.10 at 7:36 pm ET
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Six Patriots were named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster on Tuesday night, as quarterback Tom Brady, offensive lineman Logan Mankins and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork were named Pro Bowl starters, while inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, rookie cornerback Devin McCourty and safety Brandon Meriweather were got the nod as backups, the NFL announced Tuesday night.

The six is tied for fourth most in franchise history. It is the sixth Pro Bowl selection for Brady (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010), third for Mankins (2007, 2009 and 2010), third for Wilfork (2007, 2009 and 2010) and second for Meriweather (2009 and 2010). Meanwhile, Mayo and McCourty were named for the first time in their careers.

Read More: Brandon Meriweather, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Logan Mankins

Nick Caserio knows Patriots have bigger goals than Pro Bowl

12.28.10 at 4:14 pm ET
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The Patriots have been here before. A sensational season with a remarkable record and not a lot of Pro Bowlers on their roster.

With top vote-getter Tom Brady the only Pro Bowl certainty for the Patriots, Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio said that’s just fine by the organization and the players, despite their tremendous 13-2 season.

“I think it’€™s hard to reward every player that’€™s here,” Caserio said Tuesday. “The Pro Bowl, it is what it is. I think we all kind of know how that’€™s voted. It’€™s a fan vote. It’€™s a player vote. There are a number of things that go into it. I’€™d say that there are a number of players this year that have made a significant contribution to our team in some capacity. So I mean, that’€™s the most important thing and I think the players will probably tell you that as well.”

On the defensive side, nose tackle Vince Wilfork is expected to receive serious consideration. Other names to consider are receiver Wes Welker, tight end Rob Gronkowski – who leads all rookie tight ends with nine touchdowns – and guard Logan Mankins, even though he missed half of the season in a contract dispute.

Then there’s defensive captain Jerod Mayo, who has anchored the Patriots linebackers unit through inexperience and injury to become a force in the last half of the season.

“Jerod’€™s played very well for us,” coach Bill Belichick said hours before the teams were to be announced. “He’€™s done a very nice job as a captain, providing a lot of plays on the field and a lot of leadership and preparation off the field.

“I haven’€™t seen all the players play – just the ones we’€™ve played against ‘€“ and I’€™m familiar with them, but I know there are a lot of other outstanding players in the league. If I could vote for our own players, I’€™d vote for a lot of them, but, again, the people that see them all play’€¦ We’€™ll see how it all comes out. But, he’€™s certainly done a good job for us and he’€™s had a real good season.”

The AFC and NFC squads will be announced on the NFL Network during a special selection show tonight at 7 p.m. ET.

“It’€™s nice to be recognized league-wide, but the most important thing is the recognition they receive and the respect that they receive from the players that they are with on a day-to-day basis,” Caserio said. “That’€™s the most important thing. There have been a number of players who have made contributions at different points of the year, and in the end, that’€™s the most important thing.

“There are a lot of great players that play in this league and unfortunately, they don’€™t have the opportunity to go to the Pro Bowl, but a lot of that is sort of out of their control. I think our players’€¦you can ask them what they think, but I think it’€™s nice just when you get contributions from as many players and you can within your program, and you want them to do well and be successful.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Jerod Mayo, Logan Mankins, nfl

It may be freezing outside but there’s no draft with these Patriots

12.28.10 at 3:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — They have arguably been the story of the Patriots roster this season. Yes, Tom Brady is having an MVP-caliber season. Yes, rookies Devin McCourty, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham have all played significant roles in the team’s success leading to a 13-2 record and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming AFC playoffs.

But without the 21 undrafted free agents on the club’s roster, the Patriots would not have had the depth to deal with injury after injury to the rest of the roster. And even some of those undrafted players were injured themselves, leaving other players passed over by the annual April talent exercise to step in and fill the void.

Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio – with the input of coach Bill Belichick and senior football advisor Floyd Reese and a slew of scouts – is responsible for helping to put the roster together using any and all means.

“I think really any player that’€™s on your roster, you’€™re looking for production in some capacity,” Caserio said Tuesday. “A lot of it is contingent upon who’€™s available and who’€™s healthy to play that week. I think every team during the course of the year has to manage the roster. I don’€™t think we’€™re any different than any other team.”

What is different is that few teams have managed a rash of injuries any better in recent memory than these 2010 Patriots. The 21 undrafted players are the most of any team in the NFL.

Of the 21 players not drafted on the current Patriots roster, no fewer than 12 have found themselves not only playing but starting and playing significant roles, with significant defined by playing more than half of their potential snaps in a game.

The defensive side of the ball has been particularly hard hit this year, with the losses of DB Leigh Bodden early, and continuing with safeties Bret Lockett and Brandon McGowan, all three undrafted and all three landing on season-ending injured reserve.

Add to that another undrafted starter in defensive lineman Mike Wright, who’s been out battling a concussion since Oct. 31, and the losses of Myron Pryor and Ron Brace at various points, and you have a remarkable strain on the depth of the defensive roster.

No worries. Kyle Love steps in and fills a void against the Bills and records his first career sack in a 34-3 laugher on Sunday.

Brandon Spikes is suspended for the final four games of the season because of a violation of the league’s substance policy. No worries, thanks to the undrafted pair of Dane Fletcher and Tracy White. It was Fletcher you might recall who had a sack and a couple of key pressures on Packers QB Matt Flynn as the Patriots held on, 31-27. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dan Connolly, Floyd Reese, Gary Guyton

Bits from Bill Belichick

12.27.10 at 4:31 pm ET
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Here are a few quick notes from Bill Belichick’s conference call with the media from earlier Monday afternoon:

On Alge Crumpler and his contributions this year: “He’s made a great contribution to this team all year and I think the fact that he’s one of our captains, with this being his first year on the team, really is a testament to the amount of respect that he has from his peers and his teammates. He’s a hard working guy. He’s really smart. He understands the game. He knows what’s important. And he’s very team oriented. Totally focused on winning and not looking at his personal statistics or achievements. Just whatever he can do and whatever we need to do as a team to win. He’s right at the front of the line in doing those things. I think his personal rewards come in the final score and in the team record, and he contributes in a lot of ways from Monday to Saturday, and then on game day, it’s whatever his role is, whether it’s blocking or pass protection or the opportunity to handle the ball. He just does a lot of things for us. He’s a very important part of the team and the offense.”

Tom Brady broke Bernie Kosar‘s record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception on Sunday. Belichick coached both players ‘€” Kosar was with him in Cleveland when he set the old record of 308, and is Brady’s coach now that the Patriots’ quarterback has extended the new record to 319. He talked about coaching both quarterbacks, and the similarities between the two:

“I think probably more the other way around, I think I’m fortunate to have been the coach during those two periods where my starting quarterback didn’t turn the ball over. I think a lot more of that is a reflection and a compliment to the player throwing the ball instead of the coach. They’re the ones who have to make the decisions, see the defenses and make the throws and take the hits from the pass rush and all that, so … certainly Bernie and Tom deserve credit for those streaks, not the coach. But the way I remember it about Bernie, Bernie, like Tom, was very diligent in his preparation. He studied everything ‘€” the schemes, the players, the individual tendencies as well as the overall teams schemes and tendencies. I’d say both players are very well prepared and neither one make a lost of mistakes in terms of misreading something or not knowing who was going to run a certain route or who was hot or getting fooled by different defensive looks. Things like that. So Bernie’s preparation was excellent, and he was a good decision-maker ‘€” very careful about where he threw the ball in terms of not turning it over and making throws like that and making good decisions and knowing when he was pressured, not taking a sack and turning it into an interception and things like that. Trying to make plays that were impossible. I think Tom’s kind of the same way. He reads things. Even when plays break down for one reason or another, a receiver gets jammed or there’s a breakdown in protection, or sees a good coverage that matches up particularly well against a pattern you have called, that’s when a quarterback really has to be his most sharp and most alert and not let that become a turnover or a worse play than what’s already not a good play. I’d say Bernie and Tom throughout their careers, do a good job of that ‘€” better than a lot of quarterbacks do. It’s not only taking the plays that are there, it’s taking the plays that aren’t going to work out well, and keep them from being bad plays or turnovers.”
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Read More: Alge Crumpler, Bernie Kosar, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady

Tom Brady on D&C: Logan Mankins ‘wants to maul people’

12.27.10 at 1:02 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady joined guest hosts Bob Ryan and Troy Brown on Monday morning’s Dennis & Callahan show for his weekly Patriots Monday appearance.

Brady was speaking from Rochester, N.Y., where the Patriots were snowed in following Sunday’s 34-3 rout of the Bills in nearby Buffalo. He spoke about the victory that clinched the top seed in the AFC and reminisced about his favorite memories of playing with Brown.

Following are highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, check the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On his NFL-record streak of 319 consecutive passes without an interception:

As much as everyone points to me for that, so much of that goes into what we’re doing offensively. With the protection that I get from the offensive line, I’m really never forced into rushing throws. Also, we’ve been ahead a lot of these games, so you really don’t need to jam the ball into those tight areas that you would if you were really desperate in the second half, trying to get back. The receivers have done a great job of securing the catches. There’s a lot that goes into it.

It’s been pretty great ‘€” we were talking about it this morning ‘€” for the last, I think, seven games or something like that, we’ve gotten the ball 22 times off turnovers and haven’t given it up once. I think that’s a pretty impressive stat just from an overall team basis. All the guys work pretty hard at it. As you know, Troy, that’s something that’s preached every day, is turnovers and securing the ball. I think that’s really why we’ve been winning these games. So, that’s going to need to continue.

On what Bill Belichick’s approach will be for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins:

I’m not sure, obviously, but I’ll tell you this: It’s not going to surprise me one bit for us to go out there and to do everything we can to win this game. I think that’s just the way [Belichick] has been approaching things all year. I would really expect nothing different from that.

On him wanting to play every minute of every game:

Of course. That’s the best part of the week, to be out there playing. To have a game where we don’t play this week or the following week ‘€” you really won’t play a meaningful game for three weeks. I don’t think Bill thinks that’s good.

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Read More: Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch, Logan Mankins, Randy Moss

Vince Wilfork on D&H: Sick Patriots wouldn’t let down teammates

12.27.10 at 12:11 pm ET
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Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork made his weekly Patriots Monday appearance on the Dale & Holley show Monday morning with guest hosts Mike Mutnansky and Chris Price. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Wilfork acknowledged that the flu had left him and some other Patriots in bad shape for Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Bills. “It had a couple of us pretty messed up,” Wilfork said, adding: “We fought through it. We knew how important this game was to us. The last thing we wanted to do was let down some of our teammates. I think we gave what we had to give.”

Wilfork was asked how he will prepare the young players for their first postseason, now that the Patriots have clinched the top seed in the AFC. “Every game is like a championship game,” he said. “Whatever you can think about from Little League to college, whatever it may be when you played championship football, this is what it’s going to be about. The games are getting tougher, the opponents are a lot tougher. This is where you have to put 60 minutes of football in. Most of the time you won’t see blowouts in games like that.

“It’s just everybody focusing and doing what we’ve been doing the past couple of weeks ‘€” just playing focused, focusing for 60 minutes and playing good football. And we’ll be all right.”

Read More: Vince Wilfork,

Brandon Meriweather on D&H: Secondary takes pride in physical play

12.27.10 at 11:55 am ET
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Defensive back Brandon Meriweather joined the Dale & Holley show Monday morning, with guest hosts Mike Mutnansky and Chris Price, for his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Patriots Monday. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

The secondary had a couple of big hits on Bills receivers Sunday and helped force seven Buffalo turnovers in the Patriots’ 34-3 victory. “We try to do that every game,” Meriweather said. “That’s one of our goals, to go into the game and be physical. We like to say that we’re the most physical secondary in the NFL. [Jerod] Mayo’s been a part of that, and the linebackers have been a part of that secondary, too, I think. Every week we go into a game, that’s what we’re aiming for, to be the most physical secondary on the field.”

Added Meriweather: “We just want to punish you. Whenever you come across the middle, or you catch a pass anywhere downfield, we want to make you feel it. Anytime you can make somebody feel it and you can establish they’re coming across the middle, then people stop throwing across the middle. Once you can eliminate places where you know people aren’t going to throw, then that’s when all the picks start coming.”

Read More: Brandon Meriweather,
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