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Players battle the heat – and each other – in Friday’s practice

08.03.12 at 8:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Two days after Nate Solder and Brandon Spikes got into a notable scuffle during practice inside Gillette Stadium at Wednesday night, there were multiple incidents during Friday afternoon’€™s session out on the practice field. However, the temperature rising up into the 90s in the mid-afternoon sun may have been as much as an instigator as the players themselves.

Linebacker Bobby Carpenter and offensive lineman Ryan Wendell got into an early, uneventful tussle before a fracas between defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick and offensive lineman Darrion Weems opened the door to nearly the whole team mobbing the center of the field. That group ended up sticking together as coach Bill Belichick, having seen enough, sent the entire squad ‘€“ plus a few coaches ‘€“ to run three laps.

‘€œAs it goes every year, it gets hotter, days get longer.’€ Carpenter said. ‘€œWe’re at about nine, 10 days now. Guys start getting a little irritated, agitated, and things get a little hot sometimes, but fortunately, that’€™s what those laps were for, to cool us off.’€

The wind did little to lessen the effect of one of the hottest practices so far this year. The heat combined with a higher stakes environment for many players, as the Patriots move ahead with the new 90-man roster put into place by the new CBA, leading to even more players fighting for the same number of roster spots.

‘€œIt’€™s hot out there. It’€™s long days of practice, coaches are in your ear, been cooped up in meetings all day, watching film,’€ second-year running back Stevan Ridley said. ‘€œIt’€™s just battling. We have competition going out here. Any time you have people out here competing for a spot, competing for a job, tempers are going to flare. But we’€™re a team. We’€™re trying to get better as a group and sometimes that happens. But there’€™s nothing you can do about it besides move forward, take the coaching and move on.’€

By the team the team began to take their laps, the heat had taken a visible toll on the players beyond just their frustrations. Shortly after the players began running, offensive lineman Dan Connolly was taken to the sideline with a trainer, who treated him with wet towels as he attempted to recover.

The Patriots now prepare to welcome the New Orleans Saints to Foxboro next week for a series of practices prior to their first preseason game. The arrival of a new batch of players will be a welcome respite for the Patriots, who have been going up against the same teammates since camp first opened.

‘€œYeah, we’€™ve been getting after each other a little bit the past couple of days,’€ wide receiver Jabar Gaffney said of the team’€™s frustrations in camp. ‘€œSo it’€™ll be good to see another color jersey come in here this week.’€

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Bobby Carpenter, Stevan Ridley

Tom Brady delivers a birthday message with some punch

08.03.12 at 7:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — This wasn’t the birthday message Tom Brady wanted to deliver.

But after watching his teammates endanger themselves with two dog piles in the period of five snaps in training camp practice Friday, and being forced to run three laps on his 35th birthday, the quarterback had enough.

After Bill Belichick yelled at the team and had them run three laps the length of the field, Brady had his chance to get his unique message across.

“We need everybody here, everybody that’s on the field, we need them,” Jabar Gaffney said of Brady’s central message. “We can’t have foolishness out there like fighting and somebody get hurt.”

Why was Brady the right man to deliver the message?

“Brady’s our leader,” said running back Stevan Ridley, who had a great view up close of both the fights and Brady’s speech. “It’s Brady’s show out here so for him to say something, to voice his opinion, that’s nothing we haven’t heard before. He’s only going to tell us what’s best for this team and for us to get better. So, we all listen, we all key in when he talks because we all know that at the end of the day he’s just trying to get to another championship. And that’s what we want to do. We all buy into what he has to say.”

Added Gaffney, ‘€œHe’€™s still the leader of this team and he goes out there and shows that and proves it every day.”

Friday’s foolishness was a scrum started when linebacker Bobby Carpenter charged in on center Ryan Wendell during a running play. Carpenter lost his balance and was dragged to the ground by Wendell, who then pinned him on the ground. Rob Ninkovich and Patrick Chung jumped on the pile and a dog pile ensued.

Belichick spoke to the team after the laps and quarterback Brady called for a players-only huddle.

“It’s the same stuff it always is,” Carpenter said after Friday’s practice. “It’s guys trying to go all the way through the whistle and things get a little heated and one thing leads to another and before you know it, there’s 60 guys out there. But Coach Belichick talked to us. Hopefully, that won’t happen again. We can’t be fighting ourselves. We have to be working to improve.”

This came two days after Nate Solder and Brandon Spikes fought before 22,000 fans inside Gillette Stadium.

Moments after the Carpenter-Wendell scrap, Dane Fletcher and Donald Thomas threw their arms and elbows at each other after getting entangled during a running play. The final fight involved backups, as defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick got into it with offensive lineman Darrion Weems. Belichick then interceded and told the players he had seen enough and sent them off to laps.

“There were a few choice words in there,” Carpenter said of Belichick’s disciplinary message at the end of the penalty laps. “But that was the general message… Competition is good, fighting is not. There’s a fine line between taking it to the whistle and taking it a little bit beyond. As it goes every year, as it gets hotter and camp gets longer, we’re in about nine, 10 days now, guys start getting a little irritated, agitated and things get a little hot sometimes but fortunately, that’s what those laps are for, to cool us off.

“That’s the first time I’ve done three laps probably since high school so that definitely was a surprise for me.”

After practice, Brady made his way off the field and accepted many birthday well wishes with a smile. It was as if he was relieved he could finally enjoy the rest of his special day.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Bobby Carpenter, Brandon Deaderick

Ten things we learned from Day 8 of Patriots training camp

08.03.12 at 5:08 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Friday was more of the same for the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, as it featured more football and more fighting.

The fighting yielded some serious discipline and lectures (see below), but ultimately it was a positive day for the Pats as they looked much healthier from an attendance standpoint.

Fifth-round pick Nate Ebner, who has been out with an undisclosed injury, made his first appearance of training camp Friday. Receivers Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Deion Branch, all of whom have missed some time over the last few days, were present as well. Jonathan Fanene was absent for a third straight day.

Here are nine other things we learned from Day 8 of training camp:

MORE FIGHTS, MAJOR LAPS

Bill Belichick finally had enough of the fighting in training camp. After the second of two fracases Friday, the coach yelled for the team to start running, and every player — and even coaches, including Pepper Johnson and Dante Scarnecchia — ran three laps. For what it’s worth, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett were the fastest of the bunch.

The first dustup started between Bobby Carpenter and Ryan Wendell. Carpenter lost his balance while shooting the gap, and Wendell emphatically threw him down. After the two got into it, Patrick Chung jumped in. After another fight, this time between Brandon Deaderick and Darrion Weens, Belichick ordered the laps.

“Coach Belichick talked to us,” Carpenter said after the practice. “Hopefully that won’t happen again. We can’t be fighting ourselves.”

THE BIRTHDAY BOY SPEAKS UP

The coach wasn’t the only one to talk. After the players finished their three laps, Belichick addressed the huddled players. Tom Brady, celebrating his 35th birthday, then kicked the coaches out and addressed his teammates in a player-only huddle.

SPEAKING OF LAPS, NATE SOLDER IS GETTING USED TO THEM

Two days after his cheap shot on Brandon Spikes caused a scuffle and earned him a penalty lap, second-year tackle Nate Solder once again had to take a jog around the practice field. It was unclear what the infraction was that caused the lap, as he was beaten in a one-on-one battle, but that rarely warrants punishment from coaches.

FOR HIS BIRTHDAY, BRADY GOT SOME HEALTHY WEAPONS

The Patriots’ receivers have gone in and out over the last few days, but Friday saw the return of Lloyd, Gaffney and Branch. There didn’t seem to be much of a re-acclimation process for the veteran receivers, as they participated regularly in passing drills.

THE WIND WASN’T ANYONE’S FRIEND

There was a stiff wind blowing from the west that made things difficult for special teamers. Punter Zoltan Mesko shanked his punts at times, and punt returners Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez all muffed their catches at different points of drills.

Somewhat strangely, kicker Stephen Gostkowski pushed his kicks wide right (against the wind) routinely in practice, though he may have been aiming to hit the right post.

YOU READ THAT RIGHT: AARON HERNANDEZ WAS RETURNING PUNTS

The third-year tight end fielded punts Friday along with Edelman and Welker. He got off to a good start when punt return work began, as he was the last of the three to fumble. He let the ball bounce out of bounds on his first turn, but muffed one later in the drills.

WE ONCE AGAIN DIDN’T LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT BRIAN WATERS

Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio was asked prior to the practice whether there was any update on the veteran guard, to which he replied, “No update there.”

Waters has yet to make an appearance in training camp thus far. The team has the 35-year-old on the reserve/did not report list.

HOYER SHINED

Brady’s primary backup turned in an impressive day. Hoyer let ‘er rip Friday, launching a couple of bombs that drew some loud cheers from a crowd that had already sung Happy Birthday to another quarterback.

The first of Hoyer’s impressive passes came on a play action play in 11-on-11s in which he hit Gaffney, who beat James Ihedigbo. The second was to Britt Davis on a deep route against no defenders.

MALLETT STILL HASN’T

While Hoyer has continued to look like he could potentially lead an NFL offense, Mallett hasn’t done anything to suggest he could leapfrog Hoyer on the depth chart. The Patriots seem to see it that way as well. While Brady and Hoyer threw to receivers in passing drills midway through practice, Mallett participated in a drill with running backs, working out of the shotgun and hitting backs with screens and short passes.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Brandon Lloyd, Nate Solder, Ryan Mallett

Ten things we learned from Day 7 of Patriots training camp

08.02.12 at 6:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€“ After the much-talked about scuffle between left tackle Nate Solder and linebacker Brandon Spikes during Wednesday night’s practice inside Gillette Stadium, the Patriots returned to a more regular routine outside on the upper training fields Thursday on the hottest day of camp so far. Solder and Spikes were both in attendance and there were no fights this time as the team worked out in shorts and shells.

BRADY UP AND DOWN, AND UP AGAIN

Tom Brady started practice well enough, completing crossing patterns to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But in 7-on-7 drills, he started a trend of over-shooting receivers on the deep ball. Brady overthrew a wide open Britt Davis on a post route. Later, in 11-on-11, Brady struggled to find Gronkowski on a post and Jabar Gaffney down the left sideline. Later, on a bubble screen, Brady fired a pass that went through the hands of Wes Welker.

“It’s good to see he’s human sometimes,” Welker said. “Everybody has bad plays out there. It’s how you bounce back from them and how you go out there and compete and keep fighting and really get after it out there. And he’s always doing that, and understanding that if he makes a bad play he’s going to come back and make one ten times better the next time. That’s the type of mentality he has and it really rubs off on all the other guys out there.”

Brady appeared to recover quickly in the two-minute drill, marching the team down the field, but was picked off by safety Steve Gregory on a pass over the middle intended for Julian Edelman. Brady finished his day by leading the troops down the field in hurry-up for a Chris Koepplin field goal from short range.

ROLL CALL

Brandon Lloyd, Visanthe Shiancoe, Tony Fiammetta, Jamey Richard and Will Allen all missed their second practices of training camp on Thursday

Others who did not practice on Thursday were Alfonzo Dennard, Tracy White, Nick McDonald, Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, Jeremy Ebert, Daniel Fells, Myron Pryor, Nate Ebner, Markus Zusevics and Jonathan Fanene.

Brian Waters and Jake Ballard were absent again, while Ebner, Ebert, Zusevics, Dennard, McDonald, Mankins, Vollmer, Lloyd, Fells and Pryor were all seen wearing shorts on the sideline.

Offensive lineman Dan Connolly returned to the practice field — and to his customary spot at left guard — after missing his first practice of camp on Wednesday. Connolly’€™s absence Wednesday made four potential starting linemen who have missed at least one day of training camp this year, as Waters has not arrived at camp while Mankins and Vollmer have not practiced due to injury.

STEVE GREGORY CONTINUES TO SHINE

Safety Steve Gregory continues to impress. In addition to the above mentioned pick of Brady, Gregory teamed with Tavon Wilson to break up a Brady pass in the end zone intended for Jesse Holley. Gregory is spending most of his time on the field with Patrick Chung, as it appears this is the early safety pairing that Bill Belichick likes in the secondary.

DONTE’ STALLWORTH FILLS IN AGAIN ON FIRST TEAM FOR BRANDON LLOYD

With Lloyd absent again on Thursday, Donte’€™ Stallworth spent most of his time in 11-on-11 drills running outside routes between the sidelines and the numbers. In 7-on-7 drills, he made several catches running intermediate routes over the middle.

BRANCH, GAFFNEY MAKE EARLY EXITS

Just over an hour into practice, Deion Branch jogged off the field holding his helmet and wearing a smile. It didn’t appear to be serious but he did not return. The news was slightly more concerning with Gaffney, as he walked slowly off the field 15 minutes later with a member of the Patriots medical/training staff, showing a slight limp as he made his way down the stairs and into the Patriots locker room.

HIGHTOWER STEPPING UP

With rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower coming into the NFL with a reputation as a linebacker strong against the run but not so much against the pass, the Patriots are giving him a chance to improve upon his pass coverage skills. On Thursday, Hightower spent all of his time on the field with Jerod Mayo learning Patriots pass coverage schemes and techniques in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, New England Patriots, nfl, Tom Brady

Patriots continue to shuffle offensive line with additions of Derek Dennis and Dustin Waldron

08.02.12 at 6:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — An offensive line that’s been in a state of flux since the spring continues to see some moving parts, as the Patriots on Thursday added two offensive linemen on Thursday and moved another to season-ending injured reserve. In addition, another offensive lineman reportedly passed his conditioning test, allowing him to start practicing.

First, the team announced they had signed free agent Derek Dennis, a 24-year-old rookie who was cut by the Dolphins at the end of last month. The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder started all 13 games of last season at left guard for Temple. He also saw action at center and tackle during his college career.

That was followed up by the news that the team has claimed offensive tackle Dustin Waldron on waivers from Miami. Waldron was originally was signed by the Miami Dolphins as a rookie free agent on May 4, out of Portland State. (He was released by Miami on Aug. 1.) The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder was a three-year starter at left tackle and earned all conference honors as a senior.

In addition, the team announced they have placed offensive lineman Jamey Richard on injured reserve with what is believed to be a concussion he suffered in the early days of training camp. Richard, 27, signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent from Indianapolis on May 29. A veteran of four seasons with the Indianapolis, Richard originally joined the Colts as a seventh-round draft pick (236th overall) in 2008 out of the University of Buffalo.

And a Boston Globe report indicated that interior lineman Nick McDonald has passed his physical, clearing him to practice with the team. The 25-year-old McDonald, who is entering his second season with the Patriots, started two games for New England last season.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp,

Patrick Chung: No better way to prepare for the regular season than by facing Tom Brady

08.02.12 at 5:32 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patrick Chung knows that you’€™re a defense that’€™s trying to prepare for the regular season, you could do a lot worse than face Tom Brady and the Patriots on a daily basis.

‘€œGoing against him will definitely make you better. Hands down. You guys know it. Everybody knows it. We just have to keep stringing [good practices] along,’€ Chung said after Thursday’€™s practice, one where the defense appeared to get the better of the offense on several occasions. ‘€œJust keep stringing them along and keep getting better. [Brady is] going to make us better. Our offense will make us better.’€

Chung and the rest of the New England defense had a good day on Thursday, disrupting Brady’€™s rhythm on several occasions and even forcing a pick when safety Steve Gregory came away with an errant Brady pass. It’€™s all part of an effort to develop the consistency and continuity that is often found in the most successful secondaries.

‘€œConsistency is No. 1,’€ Chung said. ‘€œYou have to be able to make plays consistently: boom, boom, boom, boom. It can’€™t just be good play, bad play, good play, bad play. Being consistent is No. 1 on the back end, because if you mess up on the back end, it’€™s a touchdown. We have to be on the same page and everybody has to know what they’€™re doing to make it happen.’€

While the offense is considered to be among the league’€™s elite, questions remain about the state of the defense. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Chung, who is heading into his fourth season with the Patriots, says that when it comes to the defensive backs, they pay their critics no mind.

‘€œWe don’€™t pay attention to it. We haven’€™t even played a game yet. We’€™re just going to play ball, play to the best of our abilities and then we’€™ll see what happens after that,’€ Chung said. ‘€œ[Criticism goes] in one ear and out the other. That’€™s how we like it back there. People are going to say what they want to say — everybody has their opinions. It’€™s in one ear and out the other. Get better, play ball and go from there.’€

The Patriots added several new faces in the secondary this season, both in the draft (Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner) and in free agency (Gregory, Will Allen, Marquice Cole).

‘€œIt’€™s good to have a lot of guys out there, because better competition will only make the group better,’€ Chung said. ‘€œIt will only make the group more competitive. It’€™s going to get us better. I like the bunch of guys we have in that room. A bunch of athletes who can play ball.’€

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Patrick Chung,

NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi on D&C: Seamless transition from Bill O’Brien to Josh McDaniels at offensive coordinator

08.02.12 at 10:14 am ET
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NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to talk about the Patriots season, the transition at offensive coordinator from Bill O’Brien back to Josh McDaniels, and the outlook on Brandon Lloyd. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

McDaniels, who was the team’s offensive coordinator from 2006-08, returns to take over from O’Brien, who left for the Penn State head coaching job.

“The uniqueness of this team will be vastly different than last year,” Lombardi said. “They’ll be able to control the pace of the game much better. People talk about all the points they scored, which is wonderful and they were up and down the field, but they could never could get control of the game. … With Josh McDaniels I think they’re going to have an emphasis on running the football more in terms of later in the game and being a power football team, something I think they really needed.”

Added Lombardi: “Now that Josh is back, I think you’ll get to see a little bit more of the 2004-05 Patriots.”

When asked about the Patriots’ prospects of winning the AFC East, Lombardi started with the quarterback position but cited some question marks in Tom Brady‘s protection.

“They should [win the division],” he said. “They have the best quarterback, and typically the team that wins the division always has the best quarterback. I think that carries on. I think the Patriots have to get their offensive line fixed without Logan Mankins in there right now. Brian Waters, hopefully he will come back because he played at a high level last year. Then where is Sebastian Vollmer in terms of his health and durability? Can he play 16 games at right tackle?”

The Patriots signed Lloyd in the offseason to a reported three-year, $12 million contract with the hope of replacing Chad Johnson as the team’s deep threat. Johnson’s one-year tenure with the Patriots was a disaster, as he only caught 15 passes for 276 yards.

“[Lloyd] knows the playbook probably as well as anybody,” Lombardi said. “Not a chance [he’s as bad as Johnson].”

Read More: Brandon Lloyd, Josh McDaniels, Michael Lombardi, Sebastian Vollmer
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