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Bill Belichick: Pro Bowl is clearly ‘secondary’

12.29.10 at 11:44 am ET
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FOXBORO — All eyes are on the main prize at Gillette Stadium, not a Hawaiian vacation.

While Bill Belichick was happy for the six Patriots selected to the AFC Pro Bowl squad – announced on Tuesday night – he made it clear Wednesday that it’s hardly one of the main goals that are ahead of the team.

“I’m happy for those players,” Belichick said. “I think they’ve all had good seasons. I think we have a lot of other players on our team who have had good seasons. I appreciate what everybody does but I think we’re all here for the team goal. So, what ever other individual accolades, they’re nice but I think they’re secondary.”

Leading vote-getter Tom Brady and left guard Logan Mankins were selected to the Pro Bowl team on the offensive side and both were named starters. On the defense, nose tackle Vince Wilfork was selected as a starter, while linebacker Jerod Mayo and defensive backs Devin McCourty and Brandon Meriweather were taken as reserves for the game on Jan. 30 in Hawaii.

If the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl in Dallas, all six will be excused from their commitment to the game since the Pro Bowl is the week prior to the game for the second straight year.

Last year in Miami, the NFL experimented with moving the Pro Bowl to the Super Bowl site and holding it on Sunday night to kick off Super Bowl week but reverted to the more tropical venue this year.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo

Report: Patriots sign Buddy Farnham to practice squad

12.29.10 at 8:59 am ET
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Former Brown University standout Buddy Farnham was signed to the Patriots practice squad, according to an ESPN report. Farnham, a product of Andover, Mass., was with the team in training camp and was one of the final cuts at the end of the preseason. He fills the spot vacated on the practice squad when cornerback Tony Carter was promoted to the active roster Dec. 18.

Read More: Buddy Farnham,

WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 17

12.29.10 at 8:17 am ET
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The regular season is wrapping up, and for the first time this year, the Patriots are alone with the best record in the NFL. Tom Brady and his mistake-free Patriots are riding a seven-game winning streak and reside in the No. 1 spot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings for the seventh straight week.

The Ravens fly north to the No. 2 spot which was previously occupied by the Falcons (5). The Saints (3) come marching into the top five after a Monday night win in Atlanta. Joining them among the league’s elite are the Steelers (4). They’ll need a win against the Browns to clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye.

Week 17 promises to be exciting, with many of the games having playoff implications. The Packers (8) will play the Bears (6) for a chance to secure the final wild card spot in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Giants (12) will play the Redskins (25) and hope the Packers lose for their opportunity to reach the playoffs. The Sunday night game features the Rams (17) and Seahawks (26) fighting for the NFC West crown.

1. (1) 13-2 Home-field advantage is officially secured throughout the playoffs for the Patriots ‘€” giving them two weeks off from playing a meaningful game. The Pats will have the luxury of resting their starters Sunday if Bill Belichick chooses to do so. A well-rested, Belichick-coached, Brady-led Patriots team is a scary thing for any opponent that has to go into New England during the playoffs.

2. (4) 11-4 The Ravens are a Super Bowl contender for sure. They have veteran leadership on defense, have a great run game, and will go into the playoffs knowing they are the only team to beat a Brady-led Patriots team at Gillette Stadium during the postseason.

3. (7) 11-4 The defending Super Bowl champs will cruise into the playoffs with lots of momentum. The Saints have won seven of their last eight games and managed to give Matt Ryan just his second loss at home in three years. Drew Brees will have to protect the football better in the playoffs if the Saints want to have a real shot at reaching Dallas. Last year the veteran quarterback threw just 11 interceptions; he already has 21 in 2010.

4. (6) 11-4 The Steelers can clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye with a win against the Browns on Sunday. Don’t forget, Pittsburgh lost to Cleveland last year in December, preventing the Steelers from making the playoffs. You can be sure the Browns will be looking to beat their division rival again and knock them down a few seeds in the playoffs.

5. (2) 12-3 The NFC South title and the No. 1 seed in the conference can be wrapped up with a victory against the two-win Panthers on Sunday. The Falcons need to bounce back from their tough loss to the Saints. The reason why the Falcons have been so successful this year is because they protect the football and have a balanced offense. In Monday night’s loss they made a key turnover and had a lack of production from the run game.

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Read More: NFL Power Rankings,

Six Patriots named to AFC Pro Bowl squad

12.28.10 at 7:36 pm ET
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Six Patriots were named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster on Tuesday night, as quarterback Tom Brady, offensive lineman Logan Mankins and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork were named Pro Bowl starters, while inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, rookie cornerback Devin McCourty and safety Brandon Meriweather were got the nod as backups, the NFL announced Tuesday night.

The six is tied for fourth most in franchise history. It is the sixth Pro Bowl selection for Brady (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010), third for Mankins (2007, 2009 and 2010), third for Wilfork (2007, 2009 and 2010) and second for Meriweather (2009 and 2010). Meanwhile, Mayo and McCourty were named for the first time in their careers.

Read More: Brandon Meriweather, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Logan Mankins

Nick Caserio knows Patriots have bigger goals than Pro Bowl

12.28.10 at 4:14 pm ET
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The Patriots have been here before. A sensational season with a remarkable record and not a lot of Pro Bowlers on their roster.

With top vote-getter Tom Brady the only Pro Bowl certainty for the Patriots, Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio said that’s just fine by the organization and the players, despite their tremendous 13-2 season.

“I think it’€™s hard to reward every player that’€™s here,” Caserio said Tuesday. “The Pro Bowl, it is what it is. I think we all kind of know how that’€™s voted. It’€™s a fan vote. It’€™s a player vote. There are a number of things that go into it. I’€™d say that there are a number of players this year that have made a significant contribution to our team in some capacity. So I mean, that’€™s the most important thing and I think the players will probably tell you that as well.”

On the defensive side, nose tackle Vince Wilfork is expected to receive serious consideration. Other names to consider are receiver Wes Welker, tight end Rob Gronkowski – who leads all rookie tight ends with nine touchdowns – and guard Logan Mankins, even though he missed half of the season in a contract dispute.

Then there’s defensive captain Jerod Mayo, who has anchored the Patriots linebackers unit through inexperience and injury to become a force in the last half of the season.

“Jerod’€™s played very well for us,” coach Bill Belichick said hours before the teams were to be announced. “He’€™s done a very nice job as a captain, providing a lot of plays on the field and a lot of leadership and preparation off the field.

“I haven’€™t seen all the players play – just the ones we’€™ve played against ‘€“ and I’€™m familiar with them, but I know there are a lot of other outstanding players in the league. If I could vote for our own players, I’€™d vote for a lot of them, but, again, the people that see them all play’€¦ We’€™ll see how it all comes out. But, he’€™s certainly done a good job for us and he’€™s had a real good season.”

The AFC and NFC squads will be announced on the NFL Network during a special selection show tonight at 7 p.m. ET.

“It’€™s nice to be recognized league-wide, but the most important thing is the recognition they receive and the respect that they receive from the players that they are with on a day-to-day basis,” Caserio said. “That’€™s the most important thing. There have been a number of players who have made contributions at different points of the year, and in the end, that’€™s the most important thing.

“There are a lot of great players that play in this league and unfortunately, they don’€™t have the opportunity to go to the Pro Bowl, but a lot of that is sort of out of their control. I think our players’€¦you can ask them what they think, but I think it’€™s nice just when you get contributions from as many players and you can within your program, and you want them to do well and be successful.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Jerod Mayo, Logan Mankins, nfl

It may be freezing outside but there’s no draft with these Patriots

12.28.10 at 3:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — They have arguably been the story of the Patriots roster this season. Yes, Tom Brady is having an MVP-caliber season. Yes, rookies Devin McCourty, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham have all played significant roles in the team’s success leading to a 13-2 record and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming AFC playoffs.

But without the 21 undrafted free agents on the club’s roster, the Patriots would not have had the depth to deal with injury after injury to the rest of the roster. And even some of those undrafted players were injured themselves, leaving other players passed over by the annual April talent exercise to step in and fill the void.

Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio – with the input of coach Bill Belichick and senior football advisor Floyd Reese and a slew of scouts – is responsible for helping to put the roster together using any and all means.

“I think really any player that’€™s on your roster, you’€™re looking for production in some capacity,” Caserio said Tuesday. “A lot of it is contingent upon who’€™s available and who’€™s healthy to play that week. I think every team during the course of the year has to manage the roster. I don’€™t think we’€™re any different than any other team.”

What is different is that few teams have managed a rash of injuries any better in recent memory than these 2010 Patriots. The 21 undrafted players are the most of any team in the NFL.

Of the 21 players not drafted on the current Patriots roster, no fewer than 12 have found themselves not only playing but starting and playing significant roles, with significant defined by playing more than half of their potential snaps in a game.

The defensive side of the ball has been particularly hard hit this year, with the losses of DB Leigh Bodden early, and continuing with safeties Bret Lockett and Brandon McGowan, all three undrafted and all three landing on season-ending injured reserve.

Add to that another undrafted starter in defensive lineman Mike Wright, who’s been out battling a concussion since Oct. 31, and the losses of Myron Pryor and Ron Brace at various points, and you have a remarkable strain on the depth of the defensive roster.

No worries. Kyle Love steps in and fills a void against the Bills and records his first career sack in a 34-3 laugher on Sunday.

Brandon Spikes is suspended for the final four games of the season because of a violation of the league’s substance policy. No worries, thanks to the undrafted pair of Dane Fletcher and Tracy White. It was Fletcher you might recall who had a sack and a couple of key pressures on Packers QB Matt Flynn as the Patriots held on, 31-27. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dan Connolly, Floyd Reese, Gary Guyton

Bits from Bill Belichick

12.27.10 at 4:31 pm ET
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Here are a few quick notes from Bill Belichick’s conference call with the media from earlier Monday afternoon:

On Alge Crumpler and his contributions this year: “He’s made a great contribution to this team all year and I think the fact that he’s one of our captains, with this being his first year on the team, really is a testament to the amount of respect that he has from his peers and his teammates. He’s a hard working guy. He’s really smart. He understands the game. He knows what’s important. And he’s very team oriented. Totally focused on winning and not looking at his personal statistics or achievements. Just whatever he can do and whatever we need to do as a team to win. He’s right at the front of the line in doing those things. I think his personal rewards come in the final score and in the team record, and he contributes in a lot of ways from Monday to Saturday, and then on game day, it’s whatever his role is, whether it’s blocking or pass protection or the opportunity to handle the ball. He just does a lot of things for us. He’s a very important part of the team and the offense.”

Tom Brady broke Bernie Kosar‘s record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception on Sunday. Belichick coached both players ‘€” Kosar was with him in Cleveland when he set the old record of 308, and is Brady’s coach now that the Patriots’ quarterback has extended the new record to 319. He talked about coaching both quarterbacks, and the similarities between the two:

“I think probably more the other way around, I think I’m fortunate to have been the coach during those two periods where my starting quarterback didn’t turn the ball over. I think a lot more of that is a reflection and a compliment to the player throwing the ball instead of the coach. They’re the ones who have to make the decisions, see the defenses and make the throws and take the hits from the pass rush and all that, so … certainly Bernie and Tom deserve credit for those streaks, not the coach. But the way I remember it about Bernie, Bernie, like Tom, was very diligent in his preparation. He studied everything ‘€” the schemes, the players, the individual tendencies as well as the overall teams schemes and tendencies. I’d say both players are very well prepared and neither one make a lost of mistakes in terms of misreading something or not knowing who was going to run a certain route or who was hot or getting fooled by different defensive looks. Things like that. So Bernie’s preparation was excellent, and he was a good decision-maker ‘€” very careful about where he threw the ball in terms of not turning it over and making throws like that and making good decisions and knowing when he was pressured, not taking a sack and turning it into an interception and things like that. Trying to make plays that were impossible. I think Tom’s kind of the same way. He reads things. Even when plays break down for one reason or another, a receiver gets jammed or there’s a breakdown in protection, or sees a good coverage that matches up particularly well against a pattern you have called, that’s when a quarterback really has to be his most sharp and most alert and not let that become a turnover or a worse play than what’s already not a good play. I’d say Bernie and Tom throughout their careers, do a good job of that ‘€” better than a lot of quarterbacks do. It’s not only taking the plays that are there, it’s taking the plays that aren’t going to work out well, and keep them from being bad plays or turnovers.”
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Read More: Alge Crumpler, Bernie Kosar, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady
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