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Deion Branch on M&M: ‘We’re always trying to help each other be successful’

08.15.11 at 11:48 am ET
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Deion Branch spoke with Mut & Merloni Monday at Gillette. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Branch said that his job as a veteran is to set an example for newer wide receivers such as Taylor Price.

‘€œWe have to go out and show these guys how to do it the right way, and then let their athleticism take over,’€ Branch said.

Branch said that he appreciates how Price asks questions and tries to make ‘€œthat extra step to not only just listen but also put it out on the football field.’€

Added Branch, ‘€œWe’€™re always trying to help each other be successful.’€

Branch said that one of the biggest differences between his time with the Seahawks and the Patriots is that in Seattle, ‘€œGuys didn’€™t understand what it took to go out and practice and try to put something together.’€ Branch said he appreciates New England‘€™s approach, especially the emphasis on practice.

‘€œIf we don’€™t do it right in practice, don’€™t try to do it in the game,’€ Branch said.

Branch said he thinks his ‘€œknowledge of the game’€ has improved since the Patriots traded him before the 2006 season.

‘€œI’€™m pretty much trying to think on the level with the quarterback,’€ Branch said. ‘€œI’€™m always trying to figure out what they’€™re doing, what are their signals, what the line is doing. Back in the day, my thing was just learning the receiver position. I’€™m trying to learn all the things around me now.’€

As for Tom Brady, Branch said that getting married has made Brady more ‘€œsettled,’€ and ‘€œso much more focused on the game of football.’€

‘€œYou can see now the love, the passion, the love for the game,’€ Branch said of Brady. ‘€œYou saw it back then, but you can really see it now.’€

Branch also said that the NFL lockout has disadvantaged every team across the league.

‘€œAll 32 teams are behind a whole lot,’€ Branch said.

‘€œI think in the beginning it may be a little slow for certain teams. Hopefully we can start pretty fast, and that’€™s our goal.’€

Read More: Deion Branch, New Engalnd Patriots, Taylor Price, Tom Brady

Tom Brady talks Chad Ochocinco, not playing, Albert Haynesworth and his most painful loss

08.15.11 at 8:57 am ET
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Tom Brady made his first of what will be weekly appearances on the Dennis & Callahan show this season Monday morning, touching on a variety of subjects, including the surprise of not playing in the preseason opener, the challenges facing Chad Ochocinco, the difficulty in dealing with last season’s playoff loss to the Jets, and how much he is looking forward to not having Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth on the other side of the ball.

(To listen to the entire interview, click here.)

THE DIFFERENCES IN TRAINING CAMP THIS SEASON: I think it’s certainly been different for everybody without the two-a-days. Everything happened pretty quick. Nobody was really sure what the schedule was going to be like, and the next thing you know everybody is reporting in two days. It’s been condensed. I think a lot of the guys have been working hard when we don’t have those practices, when we have downtime, to make sure we’re studying out playbacks, to make sure we’re getting the proper treatments to make sure we’re out there for the practices. The practices are so valuable because there’s not as many of them. ‘€¦ There’s been a lot of energy out there at the practices, so that’s been a lot of fun.

I think we’re all starting at the same point. We have a lot of new players, we’ve got new coaches, we’re doing different things offensively, defensively. Everyone, to me, is at the same point. The teams who will have the advantage come the regular season are the ones that have the best practices, that have the best preparation. It’s not the teams that have that have this guy who has played four more years than this guy. That doesn’t mean anything. The teams that win on opening weekend are the ones that play the best football.

ON NOT PLAYING IN THE PRESEASON OPENER: Coach [Bill] Belichick, he’s the coach and he tells us what he wants to do. I used to fight things probably a lot more but now you just kind of understand why he does things and I do my best to prepare no matter what the situation is. He told us earlier in the week, ‘Guys, everybody should be ready to play.’ We were ready to play. He told us the night before the game we weren’t playing, which I think shocked probably all of us, but it’s not like we can go put ourselves in the game. We made sure we had a good week of practice so we were ready.

ON THE PROGRESSION OF OCHOCINCO: With Deion [Branch] and Wes [Welker], I’ve played with them now for so long, they know exactly what I’m thinking and why I’m thinking it. WIth Chad he’s been in a certain place for a long time and he has his ‘€¦ the way he has played the game has been quite a bit different from the way we play the game. I think a lot of that is just trying to get him to understand what I’m thinking so we can always be on the same page because there’s a lot of things that happen in the game that don’t happen in practice. You can do your best to simulate it, but at the end of the day you have to play together, and you have to practice together, and throw the ball and make mistakes so you can make corrections. It’s really been a crash course in that because we never have played together and a lot of it is trying to get the point where he’s really comfortable out there and I’m comfortable so we can play with a lot of confidence with one another.

He’s doing as good as you could hope. It’s like an entirely new language. What he was doing in Cincinnati is very different than the way we do it here. It’s really a crash course. We’ve been at it for just over 2 1/2 weeks. You have to basically get rid of all the information he had to learn going on his 10th year and learn something new in two weeks. It’s certainly not easy but he’s a hard worker, he wants to do it, he’s very competitive and it’s fun to be out there with him because he wants the ball, he wants to practice and he wants to be out there and do it right because he really wants us to be able to rely on him.

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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco, Jets

Reports: Patriots set to host three free agents on Monday

08.14.11 at 10:06 pm ET
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Foxboro will be the place to be for free agents on Monday.

Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh will visit the Patriots on Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald. The veteran, a former teammate of current New England wide receiver Chad Ochocinco when the two were together in Cincinnati, has also played for Seattle and Baltimore over the course of his 10-year career. He has 616 career receptions for 7,091 yards and 43 touchdowns.

Houshmandzadeh is not a deep threat, but could provide depth at the position if the Patriots believe that their young receivers (Brandon Tate and/or Taylor Price) need another year of seasoning.

In addition, Len Pasquarelli of Sports XChange is reporting that safeties Darren Sharper and Renaldo Hill will also be in town to work out for the Patriots.

The 35-year-old Sharper is a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder who has played for New Orleans, Minnesota and Green Bay over the course of his career. He had perhaps the finest season in 2009 with the Saints when he had 71 tackles, 15 passes defensed and nine interceptions. Hill, 32, is a 5-foot-11, 205-pounder who has played for Denver, Miami, Oakland and Arizona over a 10-year career. He had 86 tackles, seven passes defense and a pair of interceptions with the Dolphins in 2006.

No surprise that the Patriots are kicking the tires on a pair of veterans ‘€” if there is one defensive position where New England appears a little thin, it’s safety. (The Patriots used a converted wide receiver Buddy Farnham at the position in the waning moments of the preseason opener against the Jaguars.)

Read More: Brandon Tate, Buddy Farnham, Chad Ochocinco, darren sharper

Logan Mankins is ‘ecstatic’ about his new contract with the Patriots

08.14.11 at 5:57 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Speaking for the first time since agreeing to a six-year contract extension worth an estimated $51 million, Patriots Pro Bowl offensive guard Logan Mankins said he was relieved the process is over and can now focus on playing his best for the Patriots.

“I don’t know. Stuff just falls into place sometimes,” Mankins said following Sunday’s practice.

Mankins and the team came to terms last Wednesday, just after owner Robert Kraft said Mankins would have a new contract if Kraft “had any say” in the matter. The contract, to carry him through the 2016 season, will pay him a guaranteed $30 million, inlcuding a $20 million signing bonus.

Is he happy with the money and terms?

“Yeah, I’€™m happy with it, I’€™m ecstatic,” Mankins beamed. “This doesn’€™t feel real yet, so I don’€™t know how to take it yet, but I’€™m very happy to be here. Looking forward, I’€™m hoping to have a good season and hopefully I can help this team win games for the next six years if I make it that long.”

All of this doesn’t happen without owner Robert Kraft stepping forward and making sure that one of the best offensive guards in football stays in Foxboro.

“It’€™s great. I’€™m really happy to be staying here for hopefully the rest of my career,” Mankins said. “I want to thank the Krafts and their family, coach [Bill] Belichick, and the guys upstairs. I’€™m glad this is done with; I am very happy.”

Mankins also took the opportunity Sunday to say how grateful he is to be playing the next six seasons in New England, including this campaign for long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.

“I think a lot of people probably take Dante for granted,” Mankins said. “He’s, in my opinion, the best O-line coach in the league. I’m glad I get to play for him a while longer. He works the dog out of us but we’re always in great shape during games so we really appreciate his work.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 training camp, Bill Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia, Fresno State

Sunday Patriots practice report: Still no Albert Haynesworth

08.14.11 at 5:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — While the Patriots coaching staff maintains that he is making steady progress toward returning to the practice field, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth again was a no-show on Sunday at a lengthy practice in full pads on the grass fields behind Gillette Stadium.

Also missing were receivers Julian Edelman and Taylor Price, with Edelman in shorts, as well as rookies Ras-I Dowling and Shane Vereen, defensive lineman Mike Wright and running back Kevin Faulk.

The practice was a long one but in unseasonably cool conditions as the coaching staff is clearly working at building up conditioning, a point Logan Mankins made to reporters after practice.

It was a good day to watch Tom Brady hook up with Chad Ochocinco, once on a long pass over the middle, beating safety Patrick Chung in down-and-distance work. Ocho later beat corner Devin McCourty cleanly in 7-on-7 drills a short while later.

Rookie Nate Solder was reminded of the attention to details Bill Belichick and the rest of the coaching staff demand as he jumped offside and ran a lap around the field midway through down-and-distance work. Steve Maneri took his place momentarily at left tackle. Also on the first-team offensive line were Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly and Sebastian Vollmer.

The reason Maneri was called upon is that Matt Light has not yet been placed in full offensive line practice mode. Light attended practice for the second straight day and was again limited mainly to one-on-one and individual skill work while being kept out of group situational work.

Belichick worked closely with his second and third units on Sunday, watching Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett work with the second team offensive line.

While the group work was taking place on the West practice field, Steve Gostkowski was showing that he still has a strong leg, attempting three from 60 yards. The first one hit the crossbar. The second fell about 15 yards short before back-up Chris Koepplin raised his two arms in approval on the third, prompting a Washington Redskins “Smurf” style celebration from Gostkowski, holder Zoltan Mesko and snapper Matt Katula.

Read More: 2011 training camp, Matt Light, Nate Solder, New England Patriots

Pepper Johnson says he can’t believe what he’s read about Albert Haynesworth

08.14.11 at 2:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Pepper Johnson wanted to make it clear in his briefing with reporters on Sunday that he has no preconceived notions about working with Albert Haynesworth. As a matter of fact, the Patriots defensive line coach said he couldn’t be happier to work with the man who came to New England in late July with a checkered and unflattering reputation as a troublemaker.

“He’s very unlike a lot of what you read about,” said Johnson, who took the place of coach Bill Belichick in the team’s daily press briefing. “I was thinking, ‘What am I really going to have to deal with?’ I’m coaching whatever player comes up in here, it doesn’t matter to me, but Albert is a great guy. It’s kind of hard to see some of the things you hear, negative about him, coming from that person.

“You need to know both sides of the story,” Johnson added. “I think Albert is a great person. He’s been trying to work his way out on the field. He’s been tremendous in the classroom to date. I’m expecting a lot from him.”

Johnson told reporters that his responsibility is to get the players along the defensive line ready to play the defense that Belichick wants to run. Johnson said that hasn’t been a problem with Haynesworth.

“I think he’s excited about being here,” Johnson said. “He’s excited about playing football, and of course, he’s one of the best defensive linemen in the league so I’m quite sure he’s going to make a big difference.”

Read More: 2011 training camp, Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Patriots add LB depth by signing Niko Koutouvides

08.14.11 at 1:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Adding more depth to their corps of linebackers, the Patriots Sunday announced they have signed veteran free agent Niko Koutouvides. Terms of the deal, which puts the Patriots at the 90-man roster limit, were not disclosed.

Koutouvides, at 6-foot-2, 238-pounds, has played seven NFL seasons with the Seahawks (2004-07), Broncos (2008) and Buccaneers (2010). He originally entered the NFL as a fourth round draft pick (116th overall) of Seattle in 2004 out of Purdue. After four seasons with the Seahawks, he signed with Denver as an unrestricted free agent in 2008. He was released by Denver after the season and signed with Tampa Bay in the 2009 offseason.

Koutouvides has played in 103 games with two starts and registered 101 special teams tackles and 54 total tackles on defense. He has also played in eight postseason games, including Super Bowl XL while with Seattle.

Koutouvides also has New England roots, as he was born in Plainville, Connecticut and attended Plainville High School, where he was a letterman in football and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. He was also an All-Conference selection, and an All-State Honorable Mention selection. Koutouvides attended Milford Academy, in 1999 and was a student and a letterman in football. leading the team in sacks and finishing second on the team in tackles.

Read More: 2011 training camp, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, nfl
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