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Assistant coach Pepper Johnson parts ways with Patriots

01.21.14 at 11:20 am ET
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Pepper Johnson, who has been a defensive assistant coach for the Patriots since 2000, is leaving the organization.

The linebackers coach sent a statement to ESPN’s Mike Reiss on Tuesday, two days after the team’s season-ending loss to the Broncos in the AFC championship game.

“Today marks a new day for me. Today is a new day full of promise and hope. It is also a day to reflect, as I embark upon a new journey. Today is the first day in 13 years that I am not a part of the New England Patriots, although I will always be a Patriot in my heart. Today also marks the first day in 26 years that I am not working in some capacity with one of greatest head coaches of all time, as well as my friend, Bill Belichick.

“Football is my life. From putting my body on the line, my hand in the dirt, to teaching others to do the same, this will continue for me. … I have big dreams and goals and they all involve football. So as I soak in this new day and embark on wherever my new path takes me, I shall embrace this new chapter in my life.

“I thank the entire New England Patriot organization for the last 13 years of my life. I am proud of all the things we have accomplished. The Kraft family is one of a kind and I will always be grateful to them and hold them in the highest regard. Bill Belichick and I have been working together in some capacity for 26 years and I am who I am because of it. To have five Super Bowl rings (two as a player, three as a coach) and all of them with Bill has been a blessing. I could never have asked for a better coach/boss/friend in those 26 years. Thanks for always supporting me and I know Bill will continue to support me no matter what.

“Thank you New England Patriot fans; I will miss you the most.”

Johnson, who won two Super Bowls as a linebacker with the Giants when Belichick was an assistant coach under Bill Parcells, also played for the Browns, Lions and Jets before retiring after the 1998 season. He joined the Patriots as assistant linebackers coach in 2000. He was the team’s inside linebackers coach from 2001-03, the defensive line coach from 2004-11 and the linebackers coach the past two seasons.

Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork released a statement on Twitter, reading: “Pepper Johnson will always be a part of my family. One thing about football is the bonds you make that go beyond what team you work for. In my 10 years of being a NEP he has always been a constant and a hell of a coach. But change is also a constant in life. All good things must come to an end. I wish him nothing but the best and I know he will continue to have an impact on football. It’s been an honor to be with him my entire career.”

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Tom Brady out of Pro Bowl, replaced by Chiefs QB Alex Smith

01.21.14 at 11:03 am ET
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One day after telling Dennis & Callahan in his weekly Patriots Monday interview that he was interested in playing in the Pro Bowl, Tom Brady was replaced by Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.

Brady, who reportedly played with ligament damage in his throwing hand this season, told D&C: “I’d love to be able to go. We’ll see. … I’ve got to kind of figure out what’s going on here in Foxboro. There’s a lot of things to talk about with our coaches. And then we’ll go from there.”

Smith had a career year, completing 308-of-508 passes for 3,313 yards with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His inclusion gives Kansas City a league-high 10 Pro Bowlers.

The players will be divided into teams following a draft led by Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders.

Brady was one of four Patriots selected for the game, joining cornerback Aqib Talib (out with a knee injury), offensive lineman Logan Mankins and special teams captain Matthew Slater.

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was added as a replacement for Denver’s Matt Prater after the Broncos won the AFC championship game.

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Donte’ Stallworth on D&C: ‘Bill [Belichick] was wrong to call out [Wes] Welker’

01.21.14 at 9:43 am ET
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Former Patriots wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to discuss the controversies coming out of Sunday’€™s AFC and NFC championship games. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Stallworth said the play between Aqib Talib and Wes Welker was a “typical play” that he’€™s seen “a million times.”

“What Talib was trying to do, and I guarantee if you ask him this, this is what he’€™ll tell you, he’€™s been coached to — every coach in the NFL has coached their defensive players to do this — he was coached to not let separation between his defender and Wes Welker. So his job is to come underneath Wes. Wes’€™ job is to make him go over the top, and that is why they collided with each other.

“It’€™s not a sense of Wes running into him and trying to take him out.”

Stallworth tweeted Monday that Patriots coach Bill Belichick was “absolutely wrong about Wes Welker‘€™s hit on Aqib Talib … and he knows it.”

“Bill, he knows what the offensive job is to do and he knows what the defensive job is to do,” Stallworth said. “He’€™s coached both sides. He understands that Wes’€™ job is to make a team go over the top and Aqib’€™s job is to not allow that to happen.

“So I can’€™t get into the mind of Bill and say why he said that, but the reason why I tweeted that is because I know that Bill understands the position that Wes was in and the position that Aqib was in and it was one of those unfortunate plays that Aqib did not come back in the game. I guess it was a turning point in the game, but at no point would I say that it was deliberate, and I just thought Bill was wrong for that.”

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, donte stallworth, Julian Edelman

Poll: What should be Patriots’ positional priority this offseason, either in free agency or draft?

01.21.14 at 7:00 am ET
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Poll: What should be the Patriots positional priority this offseason, either in free agency or the draft?

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Mike Petraglia, Chris Price wrap up 2013 Patriots, look forward to busy offseason

01.20.14 at 10:40 pm ET
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Read More: AFC Championship, Chris Price, Denver Broncos, Mike Petraglia

Knee injury will force Aqib Talib to skip Pro Bowl

01.20.14 at 9:43 pm ET
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Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib has bowed out of the Pro Bowl, and will be replaced by New York’s Antonio Cromartie.

Talib suffered a knee injury in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Broncos, and as a result, won’t get to make the trip to Hawaii. It was the first Pro Bowl invite for the 27-year-old, who finished the season with four picks.

The play on which the injury occurred has become a flashpoint, as New England coach Bill Belichick argued that Denver wide receiver Wes Welker made one of the “worst plays” he had ever seen when he deliberately crashed into Talib.

“It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open,” Belichick said. “I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that play, whatever they decide. It’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. That’s all I’ll say about that.”

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Read More: antonio cromartie, Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Wes Welker

Patriots sign 7 to future contracts

01.20.14 at 5:37 pm ET
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The Patriots signed seven players to future contracts on Monday: offensive lineman Braxton Cave, tackle Jordan Devey, wide receiver Reggie Dunn, offensive lineman R.J. Mattes, running back Sam McGuffie, wide receiver Greg Orton and linebacker Taylor Reed to future contracts today. All seven of those players ended the season on the New England practice squad.

Cave, 24, was claimed off waivers by the Patriots from Cleveland on Sept. 1 and released on Sept. 5 before joining the practice squad on Sept. 7. The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder was originally signed by Cleveland as a rookie free agent out of Notre Dame on April 30. He was released by the Browns on Aug. 30.

Devey, 25, was originally signed by the Baltimore as a rookie free agent out of Memphis on May 3. The 6-foot-6, 317-pounder was released by the Ravens on Aug. 30 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1 before being released on Sept. 2. He was signed to the New England practice squad on Sept. 3.

Dunn, 25, was originally signed by Pittsburgh as a rookie free agent on April 7 out of Utah. The 5-foot-9, 178-pounder was released by the Steelers after training camp and spent time on the practice squads of Green Bay, Cleveland and Miami before joining the New England practice squad on Jan. 7.

Mattes, 23, was originally signed by New England as a rookie free agent on May 13 out of North Carolina State before being released on May 23 and re-signed on June 3. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder was released again on Aug. 24 before being signed to the practice squad on Dec. 30.

McGuffie, 24, was originally signed by the Raiders on April 29 as a rookie free agent out of Rice. The 5-10, 200-pounder was released by Oakland on Aug. 26 and signed by the Cardinals to the practice squad on Sept. 3 before being released on Sept. 17. He was signed to the New England practice squad on Dec. 27. McGuffie began his college career at Michigan as a running back, seeing action as a true freshman, before transferring to Rice. After two seasons as a running back at Rice, he made a successful transition from running back to slot receiver as a senior in 2012 and finished with 54 receptions for 603 yards and five touchdowns.

Orton, 27, spent part of 2011 and all of 2012 on the Denver practice squad. The 6-foot-3, 199-pounder originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Bengals out of Purdue in 2009. He had stints with the Arena Football League’€™s Spokane Shock and the United Football League’€™s Omaha Knights before joining the Denver practice squad. Orton went to training camp with Denver last summer. He was signed by New England to the practice squad on Dec. 31.

Reed, 22, was originally signed by the Cowboys as a rookie free agent out of SMU on May 5. The 5-foot-11, 236-pounder was released by Dallas on Aug. 31 before being signed to the Cowboys practice squad on Nov. 18. He was released from the practice squad on Nov. 26. He joined the New England practice squad on Dec. 30.

Read More: Braxton Cave, Greg Orton, Jordan Devey, R.J. Mattes
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