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Patriots announce change in kickoff time for preseason finale

08.23.12 at 1:38 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Thursday that the kickoff time for next Wednesday’s preseason finale vs. the Giants at MetLife Stadium has been moved from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The time change was initiated due to television coverage of the Republican National Convention.

Vince Wilfork, Devin McCourty pay their respects to Greg Schiano

08.23.12 at 1:11 pm ET
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The joint practices between the Patriots and Buccaneers are giving some Patriots a chance to catch up with Greg Schiano. Schiano, a former head coach at Rutgers and assistant at the University of Miami who became head coach in Tampa Bay this past offseason, has connections to New England cornerback Devin McCourty, as well as defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

‘€œI wasn’€™t a guy that had any other offers; I only had Rutgers,’€ said McCourty, who played for Schiano at Rutgers from 2006 through 2009. ‘€œEven with that being said, he was always trying to change the program around with the right things and was all about winning and being competitive.

‘€œI think myself and a lot of other guys that play in the NFL now that went to college around that time, really believed in him [and] in his belief in turning that program around. I think it was great for us to be there and be a part of something new that changed the culture of a whole football program.’€

Prior to becoming the head coach at Rutgers, Schiano helped recruit Wilfork to Miami.

‘€œVery, very intense,’€ Wilfork said of Schiano, who was with the Hurricanes as their defensive coordinator in 1999 and 2000. ‘€œHe loves doing what he’€™s doing and that’€™s coaching football. It wasn’€™t a surprise to see him at this level someday — it was just a matter of time.  He went to Rutgers and had a very successful reign up there and turned that program around and got guys to buy into his program because he’€™s all about winning and I’€™ve seen it first hand.

‘€œHaving some guys from Rutgers on our team, Devin [McCourty] and Justin [Francis] and guys like that, they say the same thing. He’€™s a great, great guy. He’€™s a hell of a coach and I think he’€™s going to be around for a while.’€

Schiano told us back in February that McCourty will bounce back after an occasionally rough 2011 season, and this week, McCourty returned the compliment, saying Schiano will ‘€œdo well’€ as a coach in the NFL.

‘€œI remember all the times when we were in college, he used to tell us, ‘€˜A lot of things we’€™re doing here will prepare you to play at the next level.’€™ He [ran] things like an NFL team,’€ said McCourty, who was a first-round pick of the Patriots in 2010. ‘€œWhen I got to the NFL I was like, ‘€˜You know, he was right.’€™ We did a lot of things similarly, so I think he’€™ll transition pretty well. He was a coach in Chicago before and he spent a lot of time in college getting the different aspects and just going through it, helping kids grow into grown men. But as far as coaching football, I think he’€™ll do a great job.’€

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Highlights from Bill Belichick’s Thursday morning Q&A with media

08.23.12 at 11:05 am ET
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Here are some of the highlights from Bill Belichick‘€™s Thursday morning press conference in Tampa.

How is today’€™s regimen going to be different than yesterday?
‘€œWell, it’€™s the day before the game, so we’€™ll tempo it down a little bit. We have some specific situations that we want to get covered, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game ‘€“ a little more emphasis on those today than yesterday. Yesterday was more kind of the core stuff: first, second and third down. Today we’€™ll work on some specific situations: end of game things, kicking situations that might only come up once or twice a season, but we work against those things against each other, but we know what we do and we know what we do, so if you work against another team, you see a different play or a different defense or a different punt rush or whatever it is, so it just makes you better prepared for those situations whenever they come up because they’€™re so critical when they do happen.’€

I know it was just one day, but how do you think Jeff Demps fared in his first practice?
‘€œIt looked like his first practice. He has a long way to go.’€

You’€™ve done these joint practice several times, and Greg Schiano talked about how you don’€™t want to do them with just anyone, it has to be someone you have a good relationship with. What are some of the criteria that go into choosing who to do joint practices about?
‘€œI’€™d say just the number one thing is that it’€™s not about beating somebody in practice; it’€™s about working with somebody and getting better. We’€™re not here to try to win a drill or trick Tampa on something. That’€™s not the point of it; the point is to work on what we want to work on and work on what they’€™re working on so that we can become better and when we walk off the field we’€™re a better team than we were when we walked on it. That’€™s the way we practice against each other: we compete against each other, but we compete in a way that we can improve each other ‘€“ not get guys hurt, not a bunch of piles, not fight, and get all caught up in did he gain five yards, did he gain two yards, did we sack the quarterback, did we not sack the quarterback? We pull off, we don’€™t hit the quarterback, we don’€™t hit guys that are ‘€“ the same way we wouldn’€™t hit our guys in practice. We take care of each other but we work hard and we set up the drill so that they’€™re fair, competitive drills. It’€™s not tilted one way or the other so that you can have an equal competition and equal evaluation. We made some plays out there, they made some plays out there and both teams can learn from both those situations. But it’€™s not about going out there and winning the practice; it’€™s about going out there and improving your team and making sure that when the players are on the field, they’€™re kind of of comparable levels, too. We want to compete both athletically and also schematically with players that are their experienced players and that are their best players. At the same time, our younger guys and some of our less experienced guys just aren’€™t ready to handle some of the things that ‘€“ but they should compete against simpler plays, simpler formations. They could do something formation-wise or blitz-wise that we just aren’€™t ready to handle with that group of players and so what good is that? We’€™re not ready for it, so okay, they did it because we’€™re not ready for it. So we want to try to compete on an equal level and let the players play and then as they develop and grow then obviously they’€™ll be able to move to that higher level. But you have to evaluate them on what they know how to do first. A lot of things like that go into it and it’€™s just again, working together.  And not just Greg, but the entire staff has just been great to work with ‘€“ the assistant coaches and coordinators working together and so forth. We’€™ve tried to create game-like situations but structured in a way that we know what we’€™re doing and we can get the right people on the field, we can be competitive with each other and not get into a situation where somebody is overmatched or under-matched.’€
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Following the flags: Which Patriots have been penalized the most this preseason?

08.23.12 at 9:53 am ET
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Our weekly “following the flags” feature drew a lot of attention last season, so we decided to bring it back this year. Through two weeks of the preseason, the Patriots have been flagged for 12 penalties for 141 yards. Here’s a look on how things break down through two weeks, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
OT Nate Solder: two penalties (two offensive holding), 20 yards
OT Marcus Cannon: two penalties (false start, offensive holding), 15 yards.
*S Tavon Wilson: one penalty (pass interference), 46 yards.
OL Donald Thomas: one penalty (personal foul), 15 yards
DE Jake Bequette: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
CB Marquice Cole: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
CB Sterling Moore, one penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
DL Brandon Deaderick, one penalty (defensive offsides), 5 yards
Team: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards
WR Jesse Holley: one penalty (false start), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Offensive line: Five penalties for 50 yards
Safety: One penalty for 46 yards
Defensive line: Two penalties for 20 yards
Cornerback: Two penalties for 15 yards
Wide receiver: One penalty for 5 yards
Team: One penalty for 5 yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
Offensive holding: Three
False start: Two
Illegal block above the waist: One
Pass interference: One
Personal foul: One
Roughing the passer: One
Defensive holding: One
Defensive offsides: One
Encroachment: One

(*We’ll leave the penalty next to Wilson’s name, but a closer look at the film reveals that it was Sterling Moore who should have been called for the infraction.)

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Tom Brady: Time in Tampa is no Florida vacation

08.22.12 at 2:21 pm ET
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Here are some of the highlights from Tom Brady‘€™s Q&A with the media on Wednesday:

Do you feel like you’€™re getting enough reps in practice to mesh with all the new people? You don’€™t seem to be getting many in games.
‘€œOnly time will tell. We’€™ll see when we kick off, but the goal is to be ready and prepared when we need to be. Coach Belichick has been through this quite a bit and so have I, so I’€™m sure when the time comes to play, we’€™ll be as prepared as we can possibly be.’€

How do you feel about the offensive line?
‘€œThey’€™re doing their job and I have to worry about my job. I think part of what our team has always been built on is guys having trust in each other to do what they need to do to be competitive and that’€™s what we’€™re trying to do out here in practice. It’€™s not like you come out here and the second you’€™re practicing, you have every problem solved. That’€™s why we’€™re out here practicing every single day: to try to make improvements, to try to get better. That’€™s what we’€™re trying to accomplish. This is a tough game and it’€™s for the mentally tough. I think you have to build on your good plays and try to eliminate the bad plays, and that’€™s what we try to do.’€

Do the joint practices feel like an extension of training camp?
‘€œWell, I think we came down here to get better as a football team. I don’€™t think it’€™s a vacation or a nice trip to Florida; this is for us to come down here and be a better football team when we leave. There are no activities planned. We have work to do this afternoon and tonight. We’€™re going to wake up tomorrow and come practice and then work tomorrow night and get ready to play the game.’€
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Jeff Demps: ‘I have a long way to go’

08.22.12 at 2:12 pm ET
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Running back and kick returner Jeff Demps saw his first practice action with the Patriots on Wednesday morning, and the Olympic silver medalist was thrown right into the fray, going at it in one-on-one drills in a joint practice session with the Buccaneers in Tampa.

For Demps, who said he hasn’€™t touched a football since Florida beat Ohio State in the Gator Bowl back on Jan. 2, it was good to get back to the field.

‘€œToday is my first time, so I have a long way to go,’€ Demps told reporters. ‘€œBut I just want to come out each and every day and work hard.’€

Running backs coach Ivan Fears said Demps was a ‘€œgreat guy,’€ but indicated that it will take some time to get back into football form — particularly for a rookie who wasn’€™t a part of the spring or summer sessions, and hasn’€™t even touched a football in almost eight months.

‘€œJust going back to his college history, the guy was extremely productive in college. [But] this is the first day we’€™ve seen him. Not a whole lot we can tell you, other than he got tired running two runs,’€ Fears added with a laugh, ‘€œso I was kind of a little pissed off at him.

‘€œFor [Demps], it’€™s mostly just getting his feet up under him, getting a little wind back in his lungs, getting used to catching the ball,’€ Fears added. ‘€œYou know, he hasn’€™t touched it in six months or more. And getting the feel of what he did when he was back in college. I’€™m sure it won’€™t take that long for a guy like him. He’€™s such a great athlete, just based on what I’€™ve seen on film. He’€™s starting. We’€™ll see.’€

The 22-year-old Demps, who checks in at 5-foot-9 and 181 pounds, had a standout career with the Gators, finishing with 2,470 career rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in four seasons. However, he didn’€™t participate in any of the spring pre-draft workouts because he was focused completely on track, and was undrafted.

While the focus on track paid off with a silver medal at the London Olympics, it set him back as a football player.

‘€œHe didn’€™t go to the combine. He wasn’€™t in any of that stuff. He set his mind that he was going to be in Olympic training,’€ Fears said. ‘€œI had a nice conversation with him. It was an interesting mindset. He felt he couldn’€™t do both.

‘€œBut it’€™s kind of exciting to see him. I haven’€™t had anyone I could say had world-class speed.’€

The Patriots beat out several other suitors for Demps, and signed him late last week to a contract that, according to’€™s Brian McIntyre, includes a signing bonus of $11,000 and a fully guaranteed $200,000 of the $390,000 base salary Demps would earn if he makes the 53-man roster. (According to McIntyre, the total of $211,000 in guaranteed money is the second-largest sum given to a 2012 undrafted free agent, exceeded only by the $214,000 the Cowboys guaranteed offensive lineman Ronald Leary.)

While the contract was nice, Demps said Wednesday there were other reasons why he signed with New England.

‘€œEverything was just family based,’€ he said of the Patriots. ‘€œ[I felt] like I was already a part of the team.’€

Long-term, he figures to contribute both as a running back and kick returner, and one thing that should help ease the transition is that Demps was with former Patriots’€™ offensive coordinator Charlie Weis when Weis was the Gators’€™ offensive coordinator in 2011.

In the short term, Fears noted that Demps was ‘€œcourageous’€ for being tossed right into action on Wednesday. However, Demps said that might have been the easiest part of the transition, noting it was one he made all the time in college … with one exception.

‘€œWell, I always had a football background. I’€™m a football player first, so I’€™m used to just jumping right into it coming off of track season,’€ he said. ‘€œSo it was basically the same transition, except the guys are a lot bigger.’€

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Highlight’s from Bill Belichick’s Wednesday morning Q&A in Tampa

08.22.12 at 11:58 am ET
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Here are some of the highlights of Bill Belichick‘€™s Q&A with the media Wednesday morning in Tampa:

On if there is a limited number of snaps in the preseason he would like to see Tom Brady play:

‘€œWe’€™d rather get everybody up to their full potential. Everybody’€™s got to re-establish himself this year ‘€“ every player, every coach ‘€“ and that’€™s what training camp and the preseason games are for, to work our performance back up as high as we can and build on into the season. We’€™ve all got a long way to go. I don’€™t think anybody’€™s even close to where we need to be, and that includes all of us ‘€“ coaches calling plays; players doing their jobs, working with new teammates, getting new timing; new opponent; different look. We haven’€™t even started the season yet. We have a long way to go.’€

On his relationship with Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano:
‘€œI’€™ve known Coach for a long time, and gotten to know him better since he was at Rutgers. Of course, we would go down and scout their players and work them out, that type of thing. We both have a defensive background, so I think we have a lot in common there. He’€™s coached some of our players, going back to Vince [Wilfork] at Miami, guys like that. So we have a long relationship. My son went to Rutgers; I spent more time there watching him play lacrosse but also being around Coach. He’€™s come up to our practices and spoke to our team and observed us on the field, and vice versa. We’€™ve had a good relationship. I have a lot of respect for him and I think this is a great opportunity for him. I’€™m sure he’€™ll do well.’€

On the benefits of having a controlled practice environment as opposed to a game:
‘€œI don’€™t think there’€™s a whole lot of stopping and running it again. I think it’€™s just you run plays against your own team, and that’€™s great, but at the same time we’€™re going to see different looks besides the ones that we have. In all honesty, there are certain plays that we can recognize. Our offense can recognize certain blitzes that we run, our defense can recognize certain formations and motions. They start to anticipate and play the plays, and things like that. We kind of know who are go-to guys are. When you play against a different team, you don’€™t recognize those things as quickly. You have to learn who the go-to players are on the other team and that type of thing. It changes the whole dynamic of the game really, the matchups and the recognition, the anticipation, the communication. It just puts more stress on those areas. And that’€™s the way it is in game conditions. This is really good for us because we just played Monday night and we went through the film yesterday on our game with Philadelphia, so we don’€™t really have much of a scouting report. We haven’€™t watched any film on Tampa. We just know some of the basics and we’€™re going to have to figure it out as we go. But that’€™s good because that’€™s a realistic situation in games: How they’€™re using a particular player, what adjustments we have to make, what looks they gave us, how we would identify and handle those different looks the next time we go out there. This will be a real good learning experience for us on the field in practice, just like it is in a game. We’€™ll do some other stuff tomorrow, other situations, but all those things, they’€™re game experiences without all the game contact and all that. Mentally, technique-wise, communication, coaches having to coach ‘€“ again, [that’€™s] something we haven’€™t had a lot of time to prepare for. That’€™s good for us, too. It sharpens our skills.’€

On if he has to make allowances for players who played in the game on Monday:
‘€œLook, it’€™s training camp. The coaches are tired, the players are tired, but we’€™re going to have a short week during the season. We’€™ve got a Sunday-Thursday game during the season. That’€™s what training camp is for, to suck it up. It’€™s to be mentally tough and whatever situations you have ‘€“ you’€™re tired, you’€™re sore, you didn’€™t get enough sleep, you travel, whatever it is ‘€“ you block that out and you focus on what you can control, which is your performance and your effort. You go out there and you work through it, as a team and individually. That’€™s the way it’€™s going to be during the season. There’€™s going to be plenty of weeks during the season that somebody’€™s going to be tired or somebody’€™s going to be sore or some positions going to be a little short on numbers or whatever it is. You build your toughness and your resiliency and those types of things through training camp and it serves you well during the season. Then you look back during the season and say, ‘€˜You know what? Maybe this alright. We went through a lot tougher stretch than this in camp.’€™ You have the confidence you can do it. I’€™m not really worried about that. These guys came to camp in good condition, we’€™ve had a good camp, they’€™ve worked hard. We’€™re going to put a challenge in front of them and I expect them to meet it.’€
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