|08.30.11 at 3:31 pm ET|
FOXBORO ‘ One of the first things Tiquan Underwood did when he was acquired by the Patriots was text his college buddy Devin McCourty with the good news. Initially, McCourty thought he was being pranked by his former college teammate.
‘They were about to fly to Detroit [for Saturday’s preseason game], and he thought I was joking around,’ said Underwood. ‘He got word of it and we spoke about it. He said, ‘Come up here ready to work, it’s a great opportunity for you.’’
A 6-foot-1, 183-pounder out of Rutgers, the 24-year old Underwood joins the Patriots with experience as a kick returner and wide receiver. He’s appeared in 19 games over two seasons with the Jaguars, primarily as a kick returner (he averaged 23.4 yards per return on 24 kicks last season). Underwood also had eight receptions for 111 yards last year. He was released by Jacksonville on Aug. 25.
‘It’s part of this business,’ he said when asked about getting cut by the Jags. ‘It’s going to happen to each and every one of us at one point. I wouldn’t say surprised, but you get down when something like that happens. But one door closes and another opens. I’m just looking forward to the next opportunity I have, which is here with the New England Patriots.’
‘He’s a later draft choice,’ coach Bill Belichick said on Monday when Underwood was first acquired. ‘A player that I think is improving. Obviously he didn’t make their roster, but we felt like we might have a chance ‘ well we do have a chance now to take a look at him. And so we’ll see what that looks like. Good sized receiver. Played with (Kenny) Britt at Rutgers. He hasn’t had a lot of playing time and production in the NFL, but he’s had some.’
‘When you think about the Patriots, you think about coach Bill Belichick and the team. Great tradition here … and winning. Winning ballgames,’ he said. ‘When you get the opportunity to play with a quarterback of that caliber, just to be a part of an organization this caliber, it’s very exciting. I’m looking forward to it.’
Underwood, who will be wearing No. 10 with the Patriots (he has the locker and number of former Patriots wide receiver Darnell Jenkins, who was released on Monday), says he hasn’t talked much about what his role will be in New England.
‘I’m just here trying to help the team win the best I can, whether it’s special teams or offense. Right now I’m just learning this playbook and just taking it day by day,’ he said. ‘I haven’t spoken to anybody much, they told me to come in ready to work, learn the playbook, and then go out there and fight for a position. Just go hard.’
|08.30.11 at 3:14 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Maybe it’s simply because he’s more comfortable or maybe he genuinely wanted to reassure Patriot Nation that he’s just fine, but on Tuesday, Chad Ochocinco showed more of the personality that made him Ochocinco.
So Chad, two catches in eight targeted chances, only 14 yards and one touchdown in two preseason games with Tom Brady. You realize the expectations are greater than that, right?
“They’re supposed to be, high profile, flashy flamboyant player coming and I’m supposed to come in a certain way, point blank,” Ocho said. “There is no room, you know what I mean? I understand that.”
But you know this is Boston, right Chad? If the results aren’t there, it could get ugly.
“I know y’all going to kill me, I know y’all going to kill me, especially here. Boston loves their sports. If I’m [expletive-ing] up, you’re going to get me. Excuse me, but seriously.”
Then there was this.
“I’m here because of who I am,” Ochocinco said. “If I’m not me, that means I’m not playing my game, because that’s always been a part of me and for me to change my entire style at this point, I’d be a dead duck. Y’all would be on me every week.
“I don’t know. I’m just different, different. I’m someone against the grain. I love the game. I don’t play it the way it should be played. Guys don’t have a problem with me. I just want to have fun. Opposites attract that’s reality, the way it’s always been. Therefore, I will mesh well here with my teammates, coaches, especially [media].”
Ocho wanted to reassure everyone in New England that he is making plenty of progress learning the Patriots offense and he’ll be ready once the season begins on Sept. 12 in Miami.
“The transition has been good, it’s been fun. I’ve heard small little rumblings of I haven’t caught on yet, but I’ve been just fine,” Ochocinco said. “Coming from any place you’ve been 10 years and to come here and learn the verbiage and learn as much as I’ve learned the past two weeks. I’ve done extremely well.’
Tom Brady has targeted Ochocinco eight times so far in two preseason games, with just two catches, 14 yards and one touchdown to show for his work. Read the rest of this entry »
|08.30.11 at 2:41 pm ET|
FOXBORO ‘ The Patriots just opened their Tuesday afternoon practice on the fields behind Gillette Stadium under bright sunny skies and in shorts, shells and helmets. Making a return to practice were linebackers Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher and defensive lineman Mike Wright.
The following players were not in attendance: wide receiver Taylor Price, running back Stevan Ridley, cornerback Leigh Bodden, running back Kevin Faulk, running back Eric Kettani, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, offensive lineman Ryan Wendell, offensive lineman Dan Connolly, defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, wide receiver Wes Welker, linebacker Jermaine Cunningham and defensive lineman Ron Brace. Welker (neck) and Connolly (ankle) both left Saturday’s preseason game against the Lions with injuries.
|08.30.11 at 2:17 pm ET|
“Patrick’s one of our young players that’s really worked hard. He’s very diligent. He’s a hard worker,” Belichick said. “I mean, you really can’t outwork Chung ‘ he’s here early, he stays late. He’s in top condition. He can play all the plays that he needs to play. He’s been very productive for us in the kicking game [and] defensively. I think there’s still room to grow with him, but he works hard at it. He’s had a good camp and he’s had two solid years behind him.”
When asked later what he thought of the compliment, Chung smiled and shrugged.
“I have to keep working. I have to prove [Belichick] right,” Chung said before practice on Tuesday afternoon. “[I] have to keep working and do what I have to do to help him, help the team. Get to the best of my ability so I can help the team to the best of my ability.”
The safety position has been in a state of flux since the start of training camp. The latest move came Monday when the Patriots cut ties with veteran safety James Sanders, a move that leaves Chung as one of the most senior defensive backs on the team.
“[It was a] coaches’ decision. I don’t make those decisions. I don’t put my input into those things. All I know was he’s a good friend, a good player and my hat’s off to him,” Chung said of Sanders. “He helped me a lot. He was like a coach out there. But that’s in the past now. We have to move forward. He’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. We just have to keep working with the team we have out there now and get better.”
The 24-year-old out of Oregon is coming off a season where he finished with 72 solo tackles and three interceptions. Entering his third season in the league, in the wake of Sanders’ release, it’s likely that more responsibility will be on his shoulders this season. Not that Chung seems to mind.
“I’m not worried about that leader stuff right now,” he said. “Right now we have to get what we have to get done. Period. Execute. Get together. Communication. We’re all in the same room. We’re all out there doing the same thing. We have to go from here and get better from here.”
Chung said he wants to play in the preseason finale Sunday against the Giants for several reasons, not the least of which is to erase the memory of Saturday’s ugly loss to the Lions.
“We’re on to the Giants right now. We have two days to get preparation in and execute what we have to execute, and just play our game. They’re on a short week too, so we’re both over the last game and move on to the future,” he said. “I want to play, [but] whatever coach wants. That’s not my decision. If I play all the snaps, half the snaps. It doesn’t really matter to me.”
|08.30.11 at 12:17 am ET|
The Patriots have taken a look at the film of Saturday’s 34-10 preseason loss to Detroit, and on Monday, the players who did get a chance to speak with the media said the onus was on them to learn from their mistakes and move on to the next challenge.
‘We were out there ‘ we knew how bad the game was. We just didn’t make a good game plan,’ said linebacker Jerod Mayo. ‘We learned a lot from the film and that’s one thing that we’ll take with the loss. We learned a lot, and hopefully we can move forward in a positive direction.’
‘It was just one of those games that unfortunately we didn’t play to the best of our ability in. We didn’t play on a level that we expect to play on,’ said defensive end Andre Carter. ‘It was just one of those games that you learn from it and just move on. That’s something that we’ve done.
‘Whether it’s a win or a loss, the most important thing is that you continue to strive for perfection, and where your strengths and weaknesses are, whether it is you’re successful or unsuccessful, and just continue to go on from there,’ Carter added. ‘Despite the loss that we had ‘ it’s a loss. It’s a loss, so from a player or from a coaches’ perspective all you can really do is say, ‘OK, these are the things we need to work on and continue to grow, and these are the things we should never do again,’ and that’s the best way to put it.’
Wide receiver Deion Branch discussed what happened on the offensive side of the ball, where the Patriots scored just 10 points after putting up a combined 78 points in the first two preseason games.
‘Overall, it wasn’t the best performance by [anybody],’ said Branch, who has yet to catch a pass this preseason. ‘Everything is based off execution. If you don’t go out and execute, then that’s what happens. You know, [if] you go out and do the things the coaches ask you to do, play-by-play, every play, you’ll see a positive output. If you don’t go out and execute every play ‘ and another thing, eliminate negative plays ‘ that’s another thing that kind of sets your offense back as a whole.’
|08.29.11 at 9:44 pm ET|
Well, at least the Patriots aren’t going to be playing preseason games three apart.
But getting an extra three days of rest went out the window with Hurricane Irene, as they lost power, along with thousands of others, at Gillette Stadium, forcing them to an off-site location on Monday to catch up on film and paper work.
They did manage to cut 11 on Monday, add three players and now are trying to settle into a more normal workflow, beginning with moving back into Gillette on Tuesday.
“Quick turnaround here with the Giants — not as quick as theirs, but still pretty quick,” Bill Belichick said Monday, referring to the fact that the Giants hosted the Jets Monday night at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. “We’ve got to get the film from Detroit out of the way and get ready for the Giants and be ready to go Thursday night.
“So hopefully we’ll be able to get the people that were out there practicing last week and maybe add a few more to that and increase our numbers of participants on the roster. So we’ll see how that goes tomorrow and hopefully that will be the case. That’s about it. We weathered the storm and we should get back hopefully into a normal flow of things here tomorrow.”
With Gillette unavailable, how were Belichick and his staff affected on Monday?
“We shuffled down a little bit here,” he said. “We’re working outside of the stadium, but we should be back there in a little while and it sounds like we’ll be back to normal.”
Belichick actually pointed to the two West Coast road trips of 2009 as good experience for handling things on the fly.
“We’ve been on the road before ‘ been away for weeks, a week at a time, whether it was the west coast trips a couple of years ago, the London trip, or whatever it happened to be, so we’re managing,” Belichick said. “We’re okay.”
Deion Branch said he weathered the storm fairly well once he got back to his North Attleboro home early Sunday morning after the 34-10 loss Saturday night in Detroit.
“I’m pretty good,” Branch said of his home. ” [In] North Attleboro, everything has been pretty cool. I don’t know about everybody in the area. My family is just now getting back, so they were stuck in Detroit. That may be the only scare that I really had. Other than that, the wind was blowing pretty good, like they said, like they predicted, high winds. Other than that, it was pretty smooth. [Monday was] a beautiful day. Hopefully we can get out and clean up some of the mess that [Hurricane] Irene caused and left behind.”
How disruptive was it to move work operations away from the stadium on Monday? Read the rest of this entry »
|08.29.11 at 8:45 pm ET|
Safe to say, James Sanders wasn’t the only one in the Patriots locker room stunned by his release on Monday. But veterans and rookies alike know that the unpredictable is the norm in the NFL and while Sanders was likable and respected by everyone in the locker room, he was given his walking papers primarily because he was scheduled to make $2.8 million in 2011, a lot to pay your third or fourth safety on the roster.
On Monday, shortly after Sanders got his walking papers from the Pats, word quickly spread to his teammates that he was looking elsewhere for work.
Linebacker Jerod Mayo played with Sanders for the last two seasons and got to know Sanders and appreciated his leadership on and off the field.
“James is a great player,” Mayo said Monday after getting the news. “It’s not really my job to evaluate guys and how they do on the field. Coach Belichick made the decision, and did what he thought was the best decision for the team. I have all the respect in the world for James.”
“Tough release there with James Sanders,” Belichick said. “James has been a good guy to have on this team. A hard-working kid. He really has developed from the time he came to us as a draft choice from Fresno [State] and he’s been a really solid team player for us but we just, part of the move, needed to release people. But he was a tough one.”
“Well, we just did what we felt was best for the football team at this time,” Belichick said. “That’s the best way I can answer it. Not a lot of negatives with James, but we have to select the players that we feel like are best for our team.”
As for Sanders, he did what any savvy professional athlete would do given Monday’s circumstances; he took to twitter to thank New England fans and teammates, and ask anyone if they knew of anyone needing a safety.
Odds are, given his reputation he won’t be unemployed long. He certainly has good references in New England.