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Belichick puts the wraps on preseason, looks ahead to Cincy

09.03.10 at 5:43 pm ET
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Just wrapped up a conference call with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and here are a few quick highlights from the Q&A:

On Damione Lewis’ release: “I like a lot of things about Damione. He’s a solid guy, a good player. He’s smart [and] works hard. In the end, we just felt like we had some other people ahead of him. Really, that’s what it came down to. There really isn’t anything I don’t like about Damione Lewis. I just think there were other players we like just a little bit better for one reason or another.”

On the players’ schedule for the next couple of days: “They’ll get some time off, but we’ve got to get going on Cincinnati here too. I think once we get — I don’t want to say our preparation finalized — but once we get them to a point where we know what we want to do, we need to pass it along to them and get them pointed in the right direction. We’ll do that, I guess when the time is right. We’ll get that figured ourt here in a day or so.”

On the probability of the Patriots making a trade in the next day or two: “I have no idea. I have no idea. I’d say most of the calls relate more to exchanging information than, ‘Here’s seven players we want to trade. Which six players do you want to trade?’ and then turn it into some big blockbuster trade. It’s a lot more of just exchanging information.”
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Pats confirm release of Lewis, also cut Ghiaciuc

09.03.10 at 4:56 pm ET
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The Patriots have confirmed the release of defensive lineman Damione Lewis, and also announced that offensive lineman Eric Ghiaciuc. A 6-foot-4, 303-pounder, Ghiaciuc was signed by the Patriots on Aug. 4. He is a veteran of five NFL seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals (2005-08) and San Diego Chargers (2009). He originally joined Cincinnati as a fourth-round draft pick in the 2005 NFL Draft out of Central Michigan.

Read More: Damione Lewis, Eric Ghiaciuc,

Patriots release Butler, Myers

09.03.10 at 2:24 pm ET
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The Patriots have released tight ends Carson Butler and Rob Myers, according to a league source. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Butler, a 23-year-old out of Michigan, was signed by the Patriots on Aug. 2. Myers, 24, is a 6-foot-4, 240-pounder out of Utah State who was signed to New England’s practice squad last November. Both players have practice squad eligibility, and could end up there when the practice squad is assembled this weekend. The news on both was first reported by ESPN.

Read More: Carson Butler, rob myers,

Reports: Patriots cut Lewis

09.03.10 at 1:46 pm ET
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Multiple outlets are reporting the Patriots have released defensive lineman Damione Lewis. The 32-year-old Lewis. who was picked up by the Patriots as a free agent on April 2, is a 6-foot-2, 301-pounder who was a first round pick of the Rams in 2001. He spent five seasons with St. Louis (2001-2005) and another four with Carolina before signing a one-year deal with New England this past offseason.

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Stephen Neal on D&H: Moving on without Logan Mankins

09.03.10 at 12:12 pm ET
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Stephen Neal

Stephen Neal

Patriots lineman Stephen Neal joined the Dale & Holley show Friday. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley show audio on demand page.

Neal was asked about fellow lineman Logan Mankins, who remains at home in California embroiled in a contract dispute. “You’re definitely missing a Pro Bowl player, a tough guy and just a great guy to be around,” Neal said. “But we can’t really focus on that right now. Whoever’s here, [let's] all strap it up and go out together.”

Neal said he’s been impressed by tight end Alge Crumpler, who is in his first season with the Patriots after nine years in the league. “He’s a great addition to this football team,” Neal said. “We have a couple of young tight ends. … He’s giving them great words of insiration and really getting them on track. I think he’s going to be a great leader on this team, helping the young tight ends come along.”

Neal and guest co-host Troy Brown told the story of Neal’s first training camp in 2001, when the former collegiate wrestling standout barricaded himself in his dorm room at Bryant College as veterans including Willie McGinest and Bobby Hamilton tried in vain to break in and haze him with a rookie haircut. At about 2 a.m., after the players threatened to steal his playbook, Neal let them in, winning a measure of respect for his apparent feat of strength. “They broke my door handle,” Neal recalled. “So, I had to get the nightstand and put that up against the door. But all they could see in the mirror was my arm holding the door, so they thought I was [holding them off] with one hand.”

Prior to Thursday’s game against the Giants, Neal had a race with Tom Brady while the two were doing conditioning drills. “Tom got me,” Neal admitted, adding, “I figured it would be better for him to win.”

Read More: Logan Mankins, Stephen Neal, Tom Brady,

Which Patriots will crack the top 100?

09.03.10 at 12:07 pm ET
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Friday night at 10 p.m., the NFL Network will air the first of  a 10-part series counting down the top 100 players in the league’s history. You know it’ll be good, NFL Films is always the absolute standard for this kind of stuff.

Here’s a guess as to which former and current Patriots will land on the list …

Tom Brady

It’ll be interesting to see how the active players are ranked. A case could be made for Peyton Manning and Brett Favre over Brady, am I missing any other current players (at any position) who might slip ahead? Ray Lewis, I guess. But I think Manning will the only active player ranked ahead of Brady, and not by much.

Where will he rank?

20th, and fourth among QBs (behind Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas and Manning).

John Hannah

It strikes me that the image of Hannah has faded pretty dramatically over the last couple of decades in Boston. Probably a combination of the position he played and what has happened with the Patriots since Belichick and Brady got rolling. But there is no shame in thinking that Hannah — and not Brady — is still the greatest player in franchise history. Ten All-Pro Teams, a member of both the 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Team, and voted the top guard on the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. Think about it: How many players in Boston sports annals can seriously be considered the very best in history at the position they played? Larry Bird and Bill Russell, sure. Bobby Orr. Ted Williams. Brady. Hannah is right there with them, but his name just doesn’t hold near the same weight in Boston sports circles.

Where will he rank?

26th, and second among OL (behind Anthony Munoz).

Randy Moss

Hard to compare the stats of a WR today to those of 30 (or even 20) years ago, but Moss’ career numbers are so good that it’s impossible to doubt his rightful place among the all-timers. He’s second all-time in TD catches, fourth all-time in total TDs, sixth in receiving yards and 10th in receptions. He’s not going to catch Jerry Rice (208 TDs) but there is a chance that when Moss retires he will rank second all-time in total TDs scored (he has 149, four behind LaDainian Tomlinson and 26 behind Emmitt Smith). Just a TD machine, really, as we’ve seen in New England. Ozzie Newsome is a Hall of Fame tight end, caught over 650 passes in his 13-year career. He retired with 47 TD catches, or just one more than Moss has caught in his three seasons with the Patriots.

Where will he rank?

32nd, and fourth among WR (behind Rice, Don Hutson and Lance Alworth).

Junior Seau

OK, what he did to get on the list wasn’t accomplished while wearing a Patriots uniform, but we’ll allow it. There was always a small crowd that felt Junior was a little overrated — and I think playing for six or seven years past his prime combined with the multiple retirements has hurt his legacy — but this was a game-changing defender in the 1990s. Easy first-ballot Hall of Famer with seven All-Pro selections and a Defensive Player of the Year Award to his name.

Where will he rank?

68th, and eighth among LB (behind Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Ray Lewis, Mike Singletary, Ray Nitschke and Sam Huff).

Curtis Martin

Never the best running back in football during his career, but never outside of the top four or five, either. Martin’s worst season as a full-time starter was probably 2002, when all he did was rush for nearly 1,100 yards and catch 49 passes. Curtis Martin was as consistent a productive back as the game as ever seen. Never got close to 2,000 yards in a season, but put up so many 1,200-1,300 yard years that he now ranks fourth all-time in yards rushing. Here’s the rest of the top four, to give you an idea of the company he keeps.

Emmitt Smith

Walter Payton

Barry Sanders

I’m not saying he’s the fourth-best back in NFL history, but he’s somewhere in the top dozen. Still think it’s a shame he wasn’t in New England for the Super Bowls, he would have fit in perfectly with those teams, and was still a top RB until 2004 (led the league in rushing for the only time).

Where will he rank?

98th, and 12th among RB (behind Brown, Payton, Smith, Sanders, Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Tomlinson, Red Grange and Marshall Faulk.)

Also considered

Ben Coates

Mike Haynes

Rodney Harrison

Andre Tippett

Nick Buoniconti

Read More: NFL Network, NFL Top 100, Randy Moss, Tom Brady

Nuggetpalooza’s Pats schedule preview: Indianapolis

09.03.10 at 10:15 am ET
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nuggetpalooza-small8The Patriots play Indianapolis on Nov. 21 at 4:15 p.m. in Foxboro.

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What The Colts Did Well Last Season:

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* – Efficient Third Down Offense: The Colts converted a league best 49% of their third down tries last season.  They were also the league’s best at converting 3rd downs in the red zone, going 24-39 (61.5%):

61.5% – Indianapolis Colts
57.1% – Miami Dolphins
52.2% – Arizona Cardinals

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* – Lots Of Extremely Long Scoring Drives: Indy scored 7 different times on drives of 90+ yards last season.  The 49ers and Raiders each had zero such scoring drives.  Also, 39% of their scoring drives were 80+ yards (26 of 66), the highest percentage in the league:

39% – Indianapolis Colts
37% – Detroit Lions
35% – Tennessee Titans

I can’t tell whether this is related or not, but the Colts were the only team in the league that did not ALLOW a scoring drive of 90+ yards in 2009.

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* – Stopped 4th Down Tries: Opponents converted just 6 of 19 (32%) on 4th down last season, the 2nd best percentage in the league.  I recall one in particular.

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* – Forced Opponents Into Short Passes: Only 22% of passing yards against the Colts last season came on plays of 20 yards or more, the lowest percentage in the NFL:

22% – Indianapolis Colts
30% – San Diego Chargers
30% – Chicago Bears

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* – Kept Receivers In Front Of Them: The Colts allowed only 2 receptions with 21 or more YAC (yards after catch) last season, by far the fewest in the league:

2 – Indianapolis Colts
6 – Buffalo Bills
8 – Five teams tied

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* – Avoided Penalties: The Colts were penalized only 546 yards last season, 2nd fewest in the league (Jacksonville, 542).

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* – Converted Once In The Red Zone: Indianapolis averaged 5.30 points per red zone trip in 2009, the 2nd highest average in the NFL:

5.48 – Arizona Cardinals
5.30 – Indianapolis Colts
5.11 – Miami Dolphins

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