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Report: Marcus Cannon receives 2-year, $9 million extension from Patriots

12.11.14 at 8:15 pm ET
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Marcus Cannon

Marcus Cannon

The Patriots didn’t want Marcus Cannon hitting free agency.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the fourth-year lineman out of Texas Christian and the Patriots have come to an agreement on a two-year, $9 million contract extension. He was due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season after signing his four-year, $2.338 million rookie contract with New England in July 2011.

Cannon is being rewarded for his versatility and the depth he provides on the Patriots’ offensive line. But the bigger factor could be the upcoming fifth-year option of $7.43 million potentially due left tackle Nate Solder. Cannon started the first three games of the season at left guard before moving to his current role as third tackle and tackle eligible, a role he shares with Cameron Fleming. With Fleming having missed eight of the last nine games with finger and knee injuries, that role has fallen primarily to Cannon.

The Patriots drafted Cannon in the fifth round of the ’11 draft, with the 138th pick, acquired in a trade from the Houston Texans. Cannon was diagnosed with a non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the pre-draft process. His value dropped, allowing the Patriots to take a chance on the big lineman. At TCU’s pro day in March 2011, Cannon was measured at 349 pounds. Although he played offensive tackle throughout his TCU career, the Patriots listed Cannon as an offensive guard when announcing the pick.

Weighing in at 358 pounds at the NFL Combine, Cannon was the heaviest player ever drafted by the Patriots, and the second-heaviest player in team history after nose tackle Ted Washington.

Cannon began the 2011 season on the Non-Football Injury list as he recuperated from his chemotherapy treatment, which took place during the NFL lockout.

Cannon was activated to the 53-man roster after the Patriots’ Week 10 game against the New York Jets, and saw his first snaps in the NFL at right tackle on the Patriots’ final drive against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11. Cannon was selected as the Patriots’ recipient for the Ed Block Courage Award.

After Sebastian Vollmer went on injured reserve in late October 2013, Cannon started the rest of the season at right tackle.

This season, Cannon has provided even more depth on the exterior of the line, serving as a tackle eligible when the Patriots got into their “jumbo” sets.

Read More: Marcus Cannon, Nate Solder, New England Patriots, non-hodgkin's lymphoma

How have Dolphins been able to (mostly) contain Rob Gronkowski over the years?

12.11.14 at 7:52 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski has occasionally struggled against the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski has occasionally struggled against the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — If there’s one team that — at least statistically — seems to get the best of Rob Gronkowski, it’s Miami.

In seven career games against the Dolphins, Gronkowski has 28 catches on 47 targets for 379 yards and four touchdowns. Good numbers, but that averages out to a per game average of four receptions for 54 yard, well under his career per game averages. (By way of comparison, Gronkowski has averaged five catches, 67 yards and almost a touchdown a game in his 63 career regular-season contests as a professional.)

Arguably, his best game against Miami came in his rookie year, when he has six catches (on 10 targets) for 102 yards and a touchdown in a 38-7 win over the Dolphins Jan. 2, 2011 at Gillette Stadium. Since then, his stat lines against the Dolphins have been occasionally underwhelming, including a one-catch game as a rookie and contests in 2012 and 2013 when he had just two receptions in each of his two outings against Miami.

Miami coach Joe Philbin wasn’t taking a victory lap this week when talking about the work the Dolphins have done in the past against Gronkowski, saying “he looks outstanding” coming into Sunday’s matchup.

“The guy has 10 touchdowns — he’s averaging almost 14 yards a catch,” Philbin said. “They do a great job of utilizing him within the scheme. As we all know, number one, he moves extremely well for a man of his size, and two he catches the ball well, and number three he’s not easy to bring down. He’s one of their outstanding weapons that they utilize well, and it sure looks like he’s playing as well as ever.

“There are a lot of great players in the National Football League. Every week, it seems like the opponents have good players. Certainly, he’s one of them,” Philbin added. “He’s had production in this league for a long time and he is somebody that we’re going to have to really have focus in on Sunday.”

Part of Gronkowski’s statistical dip against the Dolphins can be explained away using situation and scheme — if there are three guys on Gronkowski and none on another potential target, it just makes sense to throw to the open man. In addition, with Gronkowski’s recent injury history, there’s likely a timing element involved. There have almost certainly been occasions over the last couple of years where Gronkowski has either been injured, or coming off a long-term injury (like this year’s opener) and been less than 100 percent.

After practice on Thursday, the big fella was asked why the Dolphins have occasionally managed to get the better of him.

“They’re a good team and a good defense,” Gronkowski shrugged. “I just have to go out there and I feel like any time I can be covered if I’m out there not doing the right technique. I have to go out there — zone, man, whatever it is — and have to do my job and do it right and make plays when my number is called and go out there and execute.”

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Read More: Dion Jordan, Joe Philbin, Rob Gronkowski,

Rob Gronkowski gets some grief from teammates about photoshoot

12.11.14 at 5:08 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After the pictures of Rob Gronkowski posing with kittens hit the web earlier this week, it was only a matter of time before he was going to come in for some grief in the locker room.

According to several players, the shots were on full display in the Thursday morning meeting, which kept things light.

“Bill brought it up this morning in team meeting, and we had a couple chuckles about it,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said with a smile. “It was pretty funny this morning. I guess Gronk has a soft side to his personality.

“Bill does a great job of trying to soften the mood sometimes, and he did this morning,” Revis added. “Guys had a little chuckle about it, and then we moved on. But it was pretty funny.”

As for Gronkowski, he smiled when asked about the photoshoot.

“Aw, man,” Gronkowski he replied with a grin. “I’m just here to talk about the Dolphins. I’m just worried about the Miami Dolphins.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Darrelle Revis, Rob Gronkowski,

LeGarrette Blount returns to practice, Rob Ninkovich (heel) remains one of 10 limited

12.11.14 at 4:09 pm ET
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LeGarrette Blount. (Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — LeGarrette Blount was back at practice on Thursday while Dominique Easley (knee) was the only player not participating, per the Patriots injury report of Thursday afternoon.

Blount was in court in Pittsburgh Wednesday morning, explaining his absence from practice on Wednesday. Easley has been battling a knee injury all season but has missed just one game.

Rob Ninkovich (heel) continues to headline the limited players, as this is the first time he’s appeared on the injury report this season. Chandler Jones (hip) and Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), who both missed Sunday’s game, were limited. Offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (ankle), who has missed the last three games, was also limited. Julian Edelman (thigh) was again limited, as has been the case in recent weeks.

Here is Thursday’s complete practice report:

Did not practice

DL Dominique Easley (knee)

Limited participation

LS Danny Aiken (concussion)
OL Dan Connolly (ankle)
WR Julian Edelman (thigh)
OL Cameron Fleming (ankle)
LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder)
DE Chandler Jones (hip)
WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder)
DE Rob Ninkovich (heel)
RB Shane Vereen (ankle)
LB Chris White (ankle)

Full participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle)

Read More: Dominique Easley, LeGarrette Blount, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

Dominique Easley lone Patriot absent at start of practice

12.11.14 at 12:29 pm ET
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According to reports, rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley was the only Patriots player not present at the start of practice on Thursday. He missed Wednesday’s practice with his lingering knee injury.

LeGarrette Blount (non-injury) returned after missing Wednesday’s session, as he was in court in Pittsburgh regarding a marijuana possession charge over the summer.

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Read More: Dominique Easley,

Rob Gronkowski opens up about injuries, relationship with Tom Brady, dance moves

12.11.14 at 8:51 am ET
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Everyone sees Rob Gronkowski on a weekly basis on the field and sees his outgoing personality to go along with his dominating play, as the tight end has 73 catches for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

In an interview with ESPN’s Lindsay Czarniak for the Dec. 22 issue of ESPN The Magazine, Gronkowski opened up about a number of different things off the field, including his relationship with Tom Brady and just how tough his injuries were to deal with, as well proving his doubters wrong.

The tight end also appears on the cover, photographed with kittens, something that is sure to be joked around about in the Patriots locker room this week.

“Not yet, but I’m sure it will pick up,” Devin McCourty said on Wednesday.

Here are a few highlights from the interview:

Who is the favorite person he has ever caught a pass from?: “Tom Brady, no doubt about it. I still remember that I was shaking the first time he threw me a pass. I was like, “I’ve gotta catch this, I’ve gotta catch this.” It was just a 10-yard pass, a little dumper in warm-ups. I almost dropped it because I was so nervous. It took a couple of practices to get the nerves out of the way.”

On the best advice the quarterback has ever given him: “He always used to yell at me and get on my case. I was like, “Man, this dude, why is he coming at me like that?” He would always be making sure my routes were on point, yelling at me to be where I’ve gotta be. Then he came up to me one day and he was like, “Yo, Rob, you know I love you. I just see a lot of potential in you. I’m just trying to get on the same page. I want your max performance out there.” And when he said that, it all clicked. I was like, “Oh, now I know why he’s being like that.” That actually made me more motivated. I’ve gotta get on the right step. If Tom Brady believes I can ‘€¨do it, then I believe. It was meaningful when he said, “I love you and I see so much potential in you.”

On their relationship: “We have a great relationship. We goof around in the locker room. Out on the field, we have great chemistry and a great connection. We’re good friends for sure, and we feel like we’re way different now than where we were my rookie year.”

What is the hardest part of missing games with injuries?: “The hardest part was just sitting at home and not being able to do anything about it. I’m not a guy who just sits there on the couch and watches TV all day long. I need to get up, I need to be active, I need to be doing things around the house — working out, playing a sport, whatever. Just sitting there, I’m thinking, “Man, I just wish I could shoot hoops right now, or anything.”

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Read More: ESPN The Magazine, Rob Gronkowski,

Patriots seeking revenge Sunday against Dolphins

12.11.14 at 7:00 am ET
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FOXBORO — Week 1 of the regular season did not go as planned for the Patriots when they took on the Dolphins, and 13 weeks later they haven’t forgotten.

Miami came back from a 20-10 halftime deficit to beat the Patriots, 33-20 in South Florida. It was the first time the Patriots lost a season-opener since 2003. Devin McCourty and the rest of the team have “revenge” on their minds this Sunday when the Dolphins come to Gillette Stadium.

“I guess you could call it that,” said McCourty. “You don’t want to lose. All athletes and competitors hate to lose. If you get a chance to play a team that beat you before, you want to go out and play a lot better than you did the first time.”

McCourty couldn’t point to one particular thing that went wrong in the second half, but the Patriots did get badly beaten on the ground, as Miami finished the game with 191 yards rushing.

“We just didn’t play as well as we should have in that second half,” McCourty said. “There was a bunch of different things throughout the second half that went wrong, but overall we didn’t come out and finish the game the way we should have. It’s rare in this league you’re going to play one half and get a win.”

It has been over three months since the Week 1 game, and a lot has changed for both teams with injuries, players returning from injuries, signings, etc. The Patriots are a completely different team as after starting 2-2, they have won eight of their last nine games.

The defensive captain has noticed a difference in the way the team prepares.

“I think we are playing good football now, but for us the key is maybe we didn’t understand then because we were just starting out, but I think we have a greater understanding now how we play Sunday starts today,” McCourty said. “Starts how we practice throughout the week and I think that is what helped this team and what our focus is — coming out today, having a good day of practice and then letting that push throughout out the week and that really prepares us for Sunday.”

The Patriots also have a chance to win their sixth straight AFC East title with a win, but that isn’t something on McCourty’s mind.

“To me our focus is beating a team that beat us,” he said. “I think as a team we want to make sure we end the season the right way against a division team. We know it is going to be tough. They have a lot to play for towards the end of the season just like us.”

Read More: Devin McCourty, Miami Dolphins,
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