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Edelman, Price and Dowling back in full pads for Patriots

08.22.11 at 2:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling and wide receiver Taylor Price returned to practice today as the Patriots worked out in full pads on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. Dowling had been out since Aug. 3 while Price was banged up during the preseason opener against the Jaguars on Aug. 11. Joining Dowling and Price in full pads were Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate and James Sanders, all of whom have been dinged up at some point over the course of the preseason.

Meanwhile, the following players were missing from the start of Patriots practice Monday afternoon: Stevan Ridley, Leigh Bodden, Shane Vereen, Josh Barrett, Malcolm Williams, Eric Kettani, Jeff Tarpinian, Dane Fletcher, Brandon Spikes, Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell, Brandon Deaderick, Lee Smith, Albert Haynesworth, Jermaine Cunningham, Ron Brace and Mike Wright. In addition, the following players were in shorts: Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead and Gary Guyton.

Read More: 2011 training camp, practice report,

Vince Wilfork has ‘moved on’ from Nevin Shapiro scandal

08.22.11 at 1:37 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Speaking publicly for the first time since last week’s story implicated him in the Nevin Shapiro scandal, accusing him of accepting $50,000 in a lump sum payment during his junior season at the University of Miami, Vince Wilfork said he has moved on and is focused on football and the Detroit Lions this week.

“It’s tough,” Wilfork said before heading out to practice at Gillette Stadium on Monday. “I released a statement a couple of days ago and that’s where I’m at with it. I have moved forward. I’m done with that situation and I’m just focused on my football career. One thing I don’t want to do is be a distraction to this team, to this organization. I won’t be that. My teammates stuck behind me 100 percent. My family, the organization. I’ve moved forward. I’m definitely towards the Detroit Lions now and it feels good to be around a great group of guys, it feels real good.”

After the story broke last Tuesday, Wilfork gave his initial response via his twitter page:

I am aware of the report that has claims that involve me while at the U. While the NCAA and the U conduct their investigations [my wife] and I believe that it is not appropriate for us to comment.

Read More: football, Miami Hurricanes, Mike Babcock, Nevin Shapiro

Devin McCourty ready for the challenges that await

08.22.11 at 1:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” After one of the finest rookie seasons in Patriots’ history, cornerback Devin McCourty knows that the challenges will be even greater entering his second season.

Many believe that the biggest adjustment for an NFL player is not the move from college to the pros, but going from his first season in the league to his second. With the arrival of a sophomore season, teams have a book on each and every player ‘€” status as an unknown commodity is a thing of the past. There’s no sneaking up on anyone, especially for someone like McCourty who, as a rookie, started every game, made 82 tackles and ended the season with seven interceptions. (His seven interceptions in 2010 are the second-most by a Patriots rookie and were tied for second in the NFL in 2010.)

“There’ll be more challenges [this year],” McCourty acknowledged before practice on Monday afternoon. “I think the biggest thing [coach Bill Belichick] tries to remind you is to be focused and not really think as a second-year player or a veteran. Kind of lean more toward thinking you’re a rookie. You still have a lot to learn. I think that’s the biggest message he gives you ‘€” just continue to try and learn and do the things you did well last year and kind of fix the things you didn’t do well last year.

“I don’t think you can come back and be the same player, I think you can either get better or get worse, so my focus is just trying to get better as a player.”

This coming from a player who was selected to his first Pro Bowl, becoming the fourth Patriots player to be selected as a rookie. In addition, he was named to the Associated Press All-Pro Second Team. Where can the improvements come from? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, pat chung,

Dan Koppen on M&M: ‘We know what’s expected of us’

08.22.11 at 12:43 pm ET
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Dan Koppen spoke with Mut & Merloni Monday afternoon. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Koppen said the key to the Patriots’€™ offensive success in the preseason so far is that ‘€œwe’€™ve got a veteran core here, and we know what’€™s expected of us.’€

‘€œWhen we go out on the field, our job is to score,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œDoesn’€™t matter if it’€™s preseason or regular season.’€

Koppen was pleased with Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy‘€™s comments concerning the Patriots’€™ quick offense in their preseason game.

‘€œWe want to play fast, we want to play at our pace,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œIf we can get the defense feeling like that more on a consistent basis coming up, hopefully we’€™re winning some games.’€

Koppen also said it was unlikely any Patriot would ever make comments like that.

Koppen said with the Patriots, ‘€œThere’€™s no difference between how we evaluate regular preseason games and regular season games.’€

As for how playing actual football instead of just practicing felt, Koppen said, ‘€œIt’€™s nice to hit someone else in a different colored uniform.’€

Koppen said the team’€™s focus right now is on the Lions and Saturday’€™s third preseason game, especially elite pass rusher Ndamukong Suh.

‘€œIt will be a great challenge for us,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œReally, another step in our quest.’€

Read More: Dan Koppen, detroit lions, Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh

Fantasy Football 2011: Players to Avoid

08.22.11 at 3:10 am ET
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Knowing whom to draft in fantasy football is pretty darn important, but knowing whom to avoid is a pretty good thing too. Almost every player has some downside; just look at Chris Johnson and what his situation is doing to fantasy GMs. Johnson tops our current list of players to avoid, but he’€™s also a pen stroke away from being nowhere near it. CJ’€™s contract dispute is a perfect example of why holding your fantasy draft early stinks on ice.

With that eloquence out of the way, let’€™s take a look at Johnson and some other malodorous draft options.

Chris Johnson, Titans

He’€™s the best running back in football, but that won’€™t help you if he’€™s watching Titans games in hi-def like you and I. We’€™re not at all worried about the time he’€™s missed so far.   In fact, you could easily argue that his keeper owners are better off with no defenders anywhere near him. The problem is, as we near the season we approach the time threshold where good turns to bad. For us, this begins to hurt his value in a material way as soon as we hit the end of August. Two weeks is more than enough time to get him ready for the opener. So, if you draft in September, you will be able to make a better decision whether he is signed or not. For those drafting now, we are counseling avoidance. As much as it hurts, you just can’€™t risk taking a player in the top five and not have him in your week one lineup. As long as he is signed before the end Of August, we will be taking where we’€™d normally take him.

Michael Turner, Falcons

He’€™s a good back and he’€™ll probably have a solid year, but we see too many potential issues. He’€™s coming off of groin surgery, which is not a big deal alone, but it is a problem when we couple that risk with the risk we see as Atlanta’€™s offense continues to evolve. It’€™s quite possible that Turner’€™s snap count will fall as the Falcs try to get more receiving targets on the field. Both of Atlanta’€™s other backs, Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers, are far superior receivers. We still think Turner is the man when they want to punch it in at the stripe, and we assume he will lead the team in carries, but the ratios will be less favorable than in the past. Lastly, Turner’€™s running style lends itself to plenty of contact and at some point all players begin to shows signs of wear. Given that you need to use a first or high second round pick on him, we are not targeting Turner near his average draft position (ADP.)

Reggie Wayne, Colts

He’€™ll be a borderline Hall of Fame candidate in a few years, but he’€™s no longer a player we like for fantasy based on where we’€™d need to select him. Like Turner, Wayne will help any fantasy team. But near the end of round two, which is where he gets taken, we see some far more enticing options. We understand that some folks see Wayne as a safe option, but the path to fantasy glory is often not the safe one. He’€™s a better choice in PPR formats, and that is worth noting, but we still worry about his shrinking touchdown potential and his advanced age. There’€™s also the issue of all the other quality targets at Peyton Manning‘€™s disposal.

Jeremy Maclin, Eagles

This one is a tough one and I feel creepy writing it as Maclin has been battling real health issues. While we wish him nothing but continued good news as far as his health is concerned, we’€™re worried about taking him as a WR2. Like with Johnson, Maclin’€™s situation could change by the time most of us draft, but for now we recommend steering clear unless he slips into the 5th or 6th round. Better to look at guys like Santonio Holmes or Percy Harvin for the time being.

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos

He’€™s a good young back and John Fox likes to run, but he favors the power game. Denver has brought in Willis McGahee to pair with Moreno and we are very concerned that the former Raven may end up getting the lion’€™s share of goal line carries. If that happens, Moreno is a reach as a RB2 and that is where he’€™s being drafted. If you can get him as your 3rd or 4th back, then go for it, but targeting Moreno at the end of the 3rd round is bad business as things currently stand. Not enough upside and too many questions.

Ryan Mathews, Chargers

It’€™s no news flash that Mathews disappointed as a rookie. We advise that you don’€™t give him a chance to disappoint you in 2011, unless you can nab him as your 3rd or 4th option. There are two primary issues that we have with Mathews. First, he gets hurt getting out of bed. Second, even if he stays healthy, it appears that the Chargers are committed to using both Mathews and Mike Tolbert in equal measures. And, the kicker is that Tolbert was better on the goal line last year. We like Mathews’€™ ability and we see some real upside in his game, but as a third or fourth rounder, we need more. You can generally get a guy like BenJarvus Green-Ellis four rounds later, and we like his chances of getting goal line love a lot better.

Check us out at for all your fantasy football draft needs.

Read More: 2011 Fantasy Football,

Tight end Garrett Mills returns to New England while Patriots cut a pair

08.21.11 at 5:19 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Sunday they have signed tight end Garrett Mills and released safety Bret Lockett and rookie free agent offensive lineman Zach Roth.

Mills, 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick of the Patriots in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Tulsa and spent the majority of his rookie season with New England on the injured reserve list. Mills is a veteran of five NFL seasons and has played with New England (2006), Minnesota (2007-09), Philadelphia (2010) and Cincinnati (2010). In all, he’€™s played in 16 NFL games with three starts and has nine receptions for 110 yards.

Mills was also at the center of an interesting squabble between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and former Vikings coach Brad Childress. Days before the start of the 2007 season, Childress claimed Belichick called to ask him not to claim tight end Mills off waivers so New England could get him through to the practice squad. Childress even claimed that Belichick offered to avoid picking up a player the Vikings cut as a reward. Childress declined, and the Patriots responded by claiming linebacker David Herron. Neither player had any sort of long-term impact with their new club, but it was enough to stir some bad blood.

‘€œ[Belichick] didn’€™t really care for that,’€ Childress told Minnesota’€™s WCCO-AM after everything went down. ‘€œHe was trying to leverage, but you always find out who is honest and straightforward.’€

Lockett, 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, was claimed off waivers and awarded to the Patriots from the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 7, 2009. He originally joined Cleveland as a rookie free on May 4, 2009 out of UCLA. As a rookie with the Patriots in 2009, he played in 10 games and finished with two tackles on defense and five special teams tackles. He missed the 2010 season after being placed on injured reserve with a chest injury.

Roth, 6-foot-6, 319 pounds, was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent from Texas Christian University on August 13. Last season, Roth started 10 games at right tackle and helped anchor an offensive line that enabled TCU to set a single-season school record for touchdowns (73), points scored (541) and total offense (6,199 yards).

Read More: Bill Belichick, brad childress, Bret Lockett, David Herron

Andre Carter: Repeat after me, it’s all about the reps

08.20.11 at 9:32 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As Albert Haynesworth re-introduced himself to the practice field on Saturday afternoon – albeit as purely an observer of a walk-through – his once and current teammate Andre Carter spoke of one of the most important facets in the life of a defensive lineman.

“Reps, reps and more reps,” said Carter, who played his first game in a Patriots uniform on Thursday night in Tampa. “I think overall, it was great to just put my hand in dirt and do what I do best, just compete.”

After not starting against Jacksonville, Carter got the call to start the game against the Bucs. And while his name didn’t show up in the stat sheet, his force along the defensive front, along with Kyle Love and Vince Wilfork opened up gaping holes for Jerod Mayo to crash through to the quarterback.

“I went up against Lee once or twice,” Carter said of his first-half battle against Bucs projected starting right tackle James Lee. “I definitely had a feel for him.”

But more than that, Carter reflected on how much he’s learned in his 10 previous seasons.

“Like any player, especially when a young player starts to mature have a long sense of longevity in the league, their technique starts to change and that’s nothing against the opponent himself. But, we call it the “crafty vet.” I think it was just studying film and once you get a feel for your opponent and play-by-play, you have an idea of what you need to do.”

So, what did he think of Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis returning to the practice field on Saturday, with Ellis taking part in end-of-practice drills?
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 training camp, Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, New England Patriots
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