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Tom Brady, Logan Mankins talk locker room culture and knowing how far is ‘too far’

11.06.13 at 3:12 pm ET
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Several of the Patriots were Tuesday asked about the situation in Miami. We already covered the comments from special teams captain Matthew Slater, but here are some of the responses from Tom Brady and Logan Mankins.

Tom Brady

I’€™m sure you’€™ve heard about the situation in Miami.  As a captain of this team and a leader, what kind of responsibility do you have to create a respectful atmosphere and not go over the line? “We’€™ve never dealt with ‘€“ we have our own locker room and every locker room is different I’€™m sure. I don’€™t know really anything that happened down there.”

But I’€™m asking about your locker room. “We’€™ve got a great locker room. We’€™ve got a lot of great guys. Everyone is just trying to do the best they can for the team. We take Coach [Bill] Belichick‘€™s cue and try to go from there. But everyone has a role to play and everybody’€™s role is important. You can’€™t do someone else’€™s job. You show up every day trying to figure out what you can do to help the team win. That’€™s the most important thing for anybody in our locker room.”

Logan Mankins

When you look at the camaraderie of your locker room, it seems like a mature group with a simple way of doing things, this is a workplace. Why is it that some places are different? “It’€™s a tough question, but I think it always starts at the top. When the guy at the top lets you know it’€™s a business and we’€™re here to work and everything like that. We have tons of time in there where we’€™re doing a lot of joking around, messing around. We have a lot of fun with each other, too, but I don’€™t think it’€™s ever taken too far.”

Is that something you learned ‘€“ not to go over a certain line? “Yeah, I think it’€™s human nature not to take it too far.”

Read More: Logan Mankins, Matthew Slater, Tom Brady,

Bye-week breakdown: Special teams

11.06.13 at 1:59 pm ET
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With the Patriots off this weekend, we’€™ve got our Bye-Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the Patriots. We kick things off with a look at the special teamers.’€¨’€¨

Overview: A really good start to the season for the specialists. Stephen Gostkowski has become one of the best and most consistent kickers in the league — he’s only missed one of his 23 field-goal chances, and his 95.7 conversion rate is second-best among all kickers with at least 20 field-goal attempts. There have been no residual effects from the loss of Zoltan Mesko as the holder, and while rookie Ryan Allen hasn’t reinvented the position, he’s been pretty consistent, dropping 16 of his 49 punt attempts inside the opposing 20-yard line. His 39.9 net is 16th in the league, and hasn’t had a punt blocked. Julian Edelman is one of the best in the league when it comes to punt returning — his career average of 12.7 is best in franchise history and third in NFL history. We’re still not sure what the deal is with the LeGarrette Blount Return Experience — perhaps he’s just keeping the seat warm until Leon Washington is completely healthy — but all in all, a good start to the season for Scott O’Brien’s crew.

Depth chart: Gostkowski (22-for-23 on field goals, 24-for-24 on extra points), Allen (49 punts, 2,273 yards, 46.4 average, 39.9 net, 16 inside the 20), long snapper Danny Aiken, Edelman (26 returns, 299 yards, 11.5 average), Blount (15 returns, 349 yards, 23.3 average).

Best moment: Lots of of good moments for the specialists to this point in the season. Gostkowski connected on one game-winning field goal (against Bills), one at the end of regulation that forced overtime (against Jets) and a career-best 54-yarder against the Saints. Edelman has had punt returns of 43 and 38 yards, and his 11.5 average is second among all punt returners with at least 25 opportunities.

Worst moment: It wasn’t one of the specialists, but the breakdown at the end of the second Jets game — where Chris Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on a late field goal attempt from Nick Folk — was likely the biggest letdown of the season for the season on special teams.

By the numbers: 4.2. According to Team Rankings, the average number of touchbacks per game for Gostkowski over the course of the first nine games. It’s third-best in the league, trailing only Denver (5.8) and Carolina (4.4).

Money quote: ‘€œI think Steve has had a real solid camp and a real solid year. He’€™s kicked off extremely well, not only distance but even the hang time kicks. Some of the balls that have been returned had quite a bit of air under them so we had a chance to cover them. He’€™s made a lot of big kicks for us and he’€™s given us a lot of dependability there at that position, even though we’€™ve had some transition with the punter and the snapper over the last three, four, five years. But Steve is very focused and he’€™s got a lot of mental toughness. He doesn’€™t let other things bother him. He just tries to do his job and he’€™s done it pretty well. He’€™s a solid football player too.” — Bill Belichick on Gostkowski, Oct. 18.

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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

11.06.13 at 12:20 am ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Nine weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2013:

RB Stevan Ridley: 127 (118 rushes, 9 catches), 9 negative rushes, 1 negative reception, 2 fumbles lost
RB LeGarrette Blount: 70 (70 rushes, 0 catches), 8 negative runs, 1 fumble lost
RB Brandon Bolden: 55 (38 rushes, 17 catches), 3 negative runs, 1 negative reception
WR Julian Edelman: 51 (2 rushes, 49 catches), 6 dropped passes
WR Aaron Dobson: 31 (0 rushes, 31 catches), 1 negative reception, 7 dropped passes
WR Danny Amendola: 24 (1 rush, 23 catches), 1 negative reception
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 23 (0 rushes, 23 catches), 7 dropped passes
QB Tom Brady: 23 (23 rushes, 0 catches), 25 sacks, 14 kneeldowns, 2 fumbles lost
RB Shane Vereen: 21 (14 rushes, 7 catches)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 19 (0 rushes, 19 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 9 (0 rushes, 9 catches)
WR Austin Collie: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches)
FB James Develin: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Leon Washington: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)
TE Matthew Mulligan: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
WR Josh Boyce: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)

Some offensive notes: The Patriots ran 71 plays on Sunday against the Steelers and 17 of them were in shotgun, a rate of 24 percent. To this point in the season, the Patriots have been in shotgun formation on 262 of their 633 offensive snaps, a rate of 41 percent. (Last year through nine games, the Patriots were in the shotgun for 352 of their 710 plays, a rate of 50 percent.) ‘€¦ Against the Steelers, the Patriots were in no-huddle for 19 of their 71 snaps, a rate of 27 percent. On the year, the Patriots have operated in a no-huddle on 105 of their 633 plays from scrimmage ‘€” 17 percent of the time. ‘€¦ New England has run 633 offensive plays this year in eight games. Not counting kneeldowns, 48 have been for negative yardage. Of the 71 plays on Sunday against the Dolphins, four went for negative yardage ‘€” three sacks of Brady, as well as one negative run from Ridley.

By way of comparison, here’s the same breakdown of the first nine games of the 2012 season.

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Bill Belichick doesn’t plan on ‘doing anything differently’ in light of John Fox, Gary Kubiak health issues

11.05.13 at 9:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Coaching in the NFL can be all-consuming. It can also be hazardous to one’s short and long-term health.

One needs to look no farther than this past weekend’s developments with John Fox and Gary Kubiak to see proof of that.

Texans coach Kubiak was released from a hospital Tuesday after suffering a transient ischemic attack during Sunday night’€™s game against the Colts. According to the Broncos, Fox remains ‘€œon track’€ to a full and complete recovery after undergoing surgery Monday to replace an aortic heart valve.

Bill Belichick, who normally gets away to a home on Nantucket, was asked Tuesday if the Fox and Kubiak cases make him think more about taking care of himself and taking extra time to rest during the bye.

“No, I don’€™t feel that way,” Belichick answered.

His daily routine would suggest the 61-year-old Belichick still takes superior care of himself, preparing for the rigors of the day-to-day demands of the job. He arrives early, runs and exercises regularly before beginning his day of planning, preparation and coaching.

“I’€™m comfortable with the schedule that I’€™m on and what I’€™m doing. I feel about what I feel normally at this time of the season which is good but it’€™s not like you feel on July 28 when you start the year or whenever it is. I feel good. I’€™m planning on making it through the rest of the year. I don’€™t really see, I don’€™t really plan on doing anything differently.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Gary Kubiak, John Fox, New England Patriots

Foot Note: Rob Ninkovich sounds upbeat despite leaving Sunday’s game early

11.05.13 at 3:46 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Despite the fact that he went down in the second half of Sunday’s 55-31 win over the Steelers with a foot injury, defensive end Rob Ninkovich sounded an optimistic note about his health when asked after practice on Tuesday.

“In the game there, I had a little something there. [I] just don’t really want to get into the specifics of it, but it’s something that with having a week off, I’m sure I’ll feel even better next week and running around and doing whatever it is as far as a week of recovery,” he said after taking part in a padded practice with the rest of the team on Tuesday.

After Ninkovich left the field Sunday because of the injury, he went to the locker room, but was back on the field down the stretch, and it appeared he would have been able to play if the game was closer. (He was seen on the sidelines on several occasions going through drills and apparently trying to test the fitness of the foot.) In the end, the Patriots decided that it would be better safe than sorry when it came to Ninkovich — veteran Andre Carter took most of the snaps in his place — who will also get the bye week to continue to try and rest up.

With the staggering amount of injuries New England has had to deal with on the defensive side of the ball — defensive linemen Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, along with linebacker Jerod Mayo are all on season-ending injured reserve — Ninkovich has become especially important to the success of the Patriots’ defense. The 6-foot-2, 260-pounder has taken on more responsibility when it comes to an on-field presence. In addition, he was named a captain in the wake of the losses of Wilfork and Mayo.

Coming out of the bye, the Patriots begin a key stretch of games, with the first coming against the Panthers in Carolina on Nov. 18. Ninkovich says there’s a lot to work on between now and then.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “If you look at the two games we didn’t win, there’s a lot of things in those games that are kind of similar as far as not starting fast and not coming out in the third quarter and finishing games.

“Really just trying to have a full four-quarter victory is something that we’re still trying to have and I don’t think we’ve done it yet,” he continued. “So we’re going to continue to work to come out and start fast [in] all three phases, then at halftime come out in all three phases, work together, all four quarters.”

Read More: Rob Ninkovich,

Stevan Ridley on fumble against Steelers: ‘I hated it … It made me sick’

11.05.13 at 3:27 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Stevan Ridley wasn’t going to sugarcoat it.

When asked Tuesday after practice about his feelings following a fumble against the Steelers last Sunday, he didn’t hold back — in his own assessment of the play, or in the faith the coaches showed by keeping him in the game.

“That was definitely the low point of my night, for sure,” recalled Ridley when asked about the play where Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu ripped the ball from his hands. “[But] for the coaches to stick with me and ride it out, it said a lot.

“I think my team ‘€¦ really, everybody has made their mistakes at different times. That’s something I’ve had to work on and focus on since I’ve been here. But for me, I just couldn’t hang my head. It wasn’t time for me to hang my head. It was a time for me to go out there and try and close the game out, because that’s what our team needed me to do. That’s really what I did — I just leaned on my offensive line. They made some creases in there for me the whole night and that was a tough defense that we went against.

“I hated it. Like I said, it made me sick. But I really think that it motivated me more to go out there and finish the game strong.”

The turnovers was his second lost fumble of the season. Following his first — which came early in the regular-season opener against the Bills — he was benched for the rest of the game. But on Sunday, the coaching staff went back to him, and he responded, running for a season-high 115 yards on 26 carries. He added a pair of touchdowns for good measure in the victory, a 55-31 triumph against Pittsburgh.

“I think we played well as a unit. When we go out there and put up 55 points, we’re doing something right. And a lot of things right, but that doesn’t mean we were perfect,” said Ridley. “For us, I think this is something we have to build on. We showed flashes of what we can do and how good we can be, but that doesn’t say anything for the next couple of weeks. We have some opponents who are going to try and defend us and shut us down. Coming back with Carolina — that’s not a team that’s going to lay down for anybody. For us, enjoy the win — we’re going to sit on it and be thankful for it. But we’re going to have to move on from it. For us, it was definitely a step in the right direction.
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Mike Petraglia and Chris Price break down the Patriots at the bye week

11.05.13 at 2:11 pm ET
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Read More: Chris Price, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots, nfl



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