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Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski again limited for Patriots at Thursday practice

09.05.13 at 3:58 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots practice report was the same for the second straight day on Thursday, as tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm/back) and wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin) were among the six players limited for New England. Offensive lineman Will Svitek ‘€“ seen this week in the locker room with a knee brace ‘€“ was the only player missing from practice and hasn’€™t practiced all week.

Here is Thursday’s complete report:

Did not participate:
OL Will Svitek (knee)

Limited Participation:
TE Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm)
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
WR Aaron Dobson (hamstring)
DB Nate Ebner (ankle)
DB Duron Harmon (hamstring)

As for the Bills, they also had the same injury report on Thursday: rookie quarterback EJ Manuel (knee) fully participated in practice, while starting safety Jairus Byrd was limited with plantar fascitis. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist), kicker Dustin Hopkins (right groin) and center Doug Legursky (knee) did not participate.

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Walt Anderson will work as referee for Patriots-Bills

09.05.13 at 1:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Walt Anderson will serve as the referee for Sunday’s opener between the Patriots and Bills, according to

Anderson, who will be going into his 10th season as an NFL referee, will be working his third New England game dating back to the start of the 2010 season — he also worked as the referee in an Oct. 31 contest at Gillette between the Patriots and Vikings, as well as the Sept. 18, 2011 game in Foxboro between New England and San Diego.

Accorded as one of the better officials in the league, he has worked as the lead official at Super Bowls XXXV and XLV, and has worked playoff games in every year of eligibility.

Read More: Walt Anderson,

Tommy Kelly: EJ Manuel is no Michael Vick

09.05.13 at 1:49 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots defensive lineman Tommy Kelly knows EJ Manuel is a quarterback who can run if he’s forced out of the pocket. But he’s not ready to take that next step and say the Bills rookie signal caller is the next Michael Vick.

“He runs a little bit but he tries to stay in that pocket,” Kelly said Thursday of the Florida State product. “He tries to stay in that pocket and get that ball out of his hands. He’ll run when necessary. But to say he’s like Michael Vick, nah. But he’ll run, he’s definitely a threat.”

Manuel attempted 33 passes in two preseason games, completing 26 for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He ran just four times for 29 yards, including a scramble for 24 yards.

Asked if he and the Patriots defensive line is looking forward to getting after a rookie quarterback, Kelly said he’s just looking to get after the passer, period.

“My eyes light up any time I get to play and get the chance to hit the quarterback,” Kelly said. “So, it really doesn’t matter who’s in there. We just have to do our job and stay in our lanes and try to collapse the pocket on either one, EJ or Jeff Tuel.”

Kelly will be playing with rookies of his own on the D-line, in Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, both undrafted.

“Keep it simple, keep it real simple,” Kelly said. “Don’t try and do too much. Just [get] hat and hands on everybody until you get a good read on them and then you try your moves on them. I just tell Joe and A.J. just keep it simple. It’s football at the end of the day, just a little bit faster.

“I have to say a little bit because they’re rookies and I don’t want to throw them off and intimidate them.”

Kelly will be playing for the first time with second-year stars Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower.

“The sky is the limit for both of them,” Kelly said. “Both of them have unlimited talent. Chandler as a pass rusher. Dont’a can do anything, play MIKE, outside linebacker, he’s a very versatile player. They just have to keep working and not get big heads, they’ll be just fine.”

“You know [they will] because Bill [Belichick] is going to keep the foot on your neck anyways.”

Read More: A.J. Francis, Buffalo Bills, EJ Manuel, Joe Vellano

Aqib Talib responds to Stevie Johnson: ‘I don’t watch NFL Network’

09.05.13 at 1:45 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Informed of Stevie Johnson‘s quote that he doesn’t feel like the Patriots have anyone who could stop him, Aqib Talib played it cool.

Asked if he had heard about Johnson’s boast, the New England cornerback responded by saying Thursday he hasn’t seen it.

‘€œI don’€™t watch NFL Network or read the newspaper during the season,’€ Talib said. ‘€œI’€™m a basketball fan. My TV pretty much stays on NBA TV. I don’€™t really read what nobody says.’€

Johnson said earlier in the week that he didn’t “think [the Patriots] have anybody to stop me.”

Talib was asked if a comment like that would get him fired up.

“Of course,” he said. “But I didn’t hear it so I didn’t really read into it. I guess it is what it is.

“He’s sharp in his routes. He’s really good on his releases,” Talib added of Johnson. “We just have to, you know, prepare for him.”

Johnson was actually pretty complimentary of Talib and the New England defense, even if he did get some of the names wrong. (He identified Patrick Chung as one of the Patriots’ defensive backs, even though Chung was signed as a free agent in the offseason by the Eagles.)

‘€œ[He’s] long, athletic, tries to play with vision,’€ Johnson said of Talib. ‘€œI have a lot of respect for [Patrick] Chung. [Devin] McCourty: he’€™s a Pro Bowl player.

‘€œI give a lot of credit to the Patriots. They play as one unit. ‘€¦ They’€™re aggressive. It’€™s going to be a test. It’€™s going to be a challenge,’€ Johnson added. ‘€œBut I still still think we can take advantage of their defense. ‘€¦ I’€™ll still ride with my boys over their guys.’€

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Stevie Johnson,

History major: If EJ Manuel wants to beat Patriots, he has to take a page from rookie QBs who have done it before

09.05.13 at 1:35 pm ET
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When it comes to facing rookie quarterbacks, it’€™s been a bit of a mixed bag for the Patriots as of late.

Rookie starting quarterbacks facing Bill Belichick‘s Patriots for the first time are 4-7 (overall, rookies are 4-13 vs. Belichick’s Pats), with Russell Wilson the most recent rookie to pull out a victory when he led the Seahawks to a win last season.

Rookies were actually in the midst of a very nice stretch against New England before the Patriots crushed Andrew Luck and the Colts last year. Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Mark Sanchez (2009), Colt McCoy (2010) and Russell Wilson (2012) all won as rookies in their first matchup vs. the Patriots. That streak stopped midway through the 2012 season when New England beat Luck and then added a win down the stretch over Dolphins rookie Ryan Tannehill.

Into this picture comes EJ Manuel. The 16th pick in the 2013 draft out of Florida State, he’€™ll be making the NFL start Sunday against the Patriots. It will be the first time New England has faced a rookie quarterback in its opener, and Manuel will be only the 12th quarterback taken in the first round of the draft since 2000 to start on Kickoff Weekend.

‘€œI think he brings a lot. We know he’€™s a real athletic guy,’€ Belichick said of Manuel, who missed the bulk of the preseason because of knee surgery. ‘€œ[He’€™s a] good passer, had a lot of production in college, played well in the Indianapolis game, scrambled well.’€

Said Manuel: ‘€œI’€™m very excited. I’€™m looking forward to the opportunity, [and] very excited to get the season kicked off going against a great opponent. It’€™s a great opportunity to show what we have.’€

Here’€™s a rundown of how rookie quarterbacks have done in their first start against Belichick’s Patriots teams (non-starters in italics):

2012: Russell Wilson (W): 16-for-27, 293 yards, 3 TD, sacked twice
Andrew Luck (L): 27-for-50, 334 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, sacked once
Ryan Tannehill (L): 13-for-29, 186 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, sacked three times
2011: None
2010: Colt McCoy (W): 14-for-19, 174 yards, 101.6 rating, three rush, 20
yards, TD
2009: Mark Sanchez (W): 14-for-22, 163 yards, TD, 2 rush, -2 yards
Josh Freeman* (L): 2-for-4, 16 yards, sacked twice, 1 rush, 5 yards
2008: None
2007: Trent Edwards** (L): 10/20, 97 yds, INT, sacked once
2006: Vince Young (L): 15/36, 227, 2 INT, sacked five times, two rush, 29 yards, TD
2005: None
2004: Ben Roethlisberger (W): 18-for-24, 196 yards, 2 TD
Luke McCown (L): 20-for-34, 277 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
2003: Byron Leftwich (L): 21-for-40, 288 yards, TD, 2 INT
2002: Joey Harrington (L): 22-for-44, 210 yards, 3 INT
2001: Chris Weinke (L): 15-for-36, 144 yards, 3 INT

* Freeman replaced ineffective Josh Johnson midway through fourth quarter
** Edwards replaced J.P. Losman after Losman injured on first series

When it comes to rookie quarterbacks who have had success against the Patriots, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Manuel can point to a handful of very good performances over the last decade. Here are four commonalities in the performances of the rookie quarterbacks who have beaten Belichick and New England.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, EJ Manuel,

Alfonzo Dennard has court date moved back to Sept. 16

09.05.13 at 12:31 pm ET
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Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard has again had his court appearance moved back, meaning his preparation for the season opener in Buffalo will not be affected.

According to the court clerk in Lincoln, Neb., the Patriots will now appear in court Sept. 16 to answer for an alleged violation of his probation. That means he would appear on the Monday after the home opener against the Jets and would not miss any on-field practice time.

Dennard was originally due to appear in court in Nebraska in August for a probation violation hearing, but the court date was moved to this Friday. On Thursday, that date was moved back again.

In April, Dennard was placed on probation and sentenced to 30 days in jail — to be served next March — after being convicted of assaulting a police officer outside a nightclub days before he was drafted by the Patriots in 2012. Then in July, Dennard was arrested for suspicion of DUI.

In a worst-case scenario, the judge in the case could order him to serve his jail term immediately for violating terms of his probation.

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, DUI, New England Patriots, nfl

Patriots practice Thursday: Rob Gronkowski catches TD, Tom Brady scrambles, Will Svitek absent

09.05.13 at 11:00 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots practiced in shorts and shells on the wet upper grass fields outside Gillette Stadium Thursday morning.

The highlight during the media availability was Rob Gronkowski catching a touchdown pass from Tom Brady in first team offensive drills with no defense.

Gronkowski was moving well in the short route over the middle and caught a pass as Brady was moving to his right. Gronkowski was officially listed as “limited” on the first injury report of the season on Wednesday as he continues his road back from forearm and back surgeries.

After catching the pass, Gronkowski moved on to work in the tight end group, working on his chip blocking and catching skills off the line of scrimmage.

Brady and Ryan Mallett also worked on scrambling techniques, trying to be prepared for the Bills defensive line, which Brady Wednesday called one of the best in the NFL. Brady worked on touch passes in the end zone with his wide receivers, with Kenbrell Thompkins again showing strong hands with a couple of slant catches with his arms outstretched.

The only player missing from practice Thursday was offensive lineman Will Svitek, who has been absent all week with a right knee injury.

The Patriots will practice once again on Friday before leaving Saturday for the season opener Sunday in Buffalo.

Read More: Gronk, Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski
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