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Pats practice: Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham, Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch return

12.24.10 at 12:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Linebackers Tully Banta-Cain and Jermaine Cunningham returned to Patriots practice on Friday on the lower practice field outside Gillette Stadium. Banta-Cain missed Wednesday and Thursday with a groin injury while Cunningham had been battling a calf injury that forced him to miss practice Thursday.

Also back on the practice field after missing on Wednesday and Thursday were Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez. Branch has been nursing a sore knee while Hernandez missed two days with a hip injury.

However, after returning on Thursday, defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick was again missing on Friday. Also absent were Mike Wright, Dan Connolly and James Sanders. The team practiced in sweats and shells as they had their final workout before Christmas. They leave Saturday for Western New York and their Sunday match-up with the Bills in Orchard Park, NY.

Read More: Brandon Deaderick, Buffalo Bills, Jermaine Cunningham, New England Patriots

Tom Brady has nothing but love for Terrell Suggs

12.24.10 at 11:07 am ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady was back in the building on Friday, ready for a second straight day of practice after battling the effects of a mild flu bug. He was also in the Christmas spirit when asked about his reaction to Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs leaving him off his Pro Bowl ballot earlier this week.

“No reaction,” Brady said. “I think he is a great player, he really is. I didn’t get to vote, actually. I left everybody off my Pro Bowl roster this year because I was sick. I would’ve voted for Terrell. He gets my vote, such a nice guy.”

Brady said the flu also didn’t affect his planning for the upcoming game on Sunday against the Bills in Orchard Park, NY. Brady is currently riding one of the best streaks in the history of NFL quarterbacks, having not thrown an interception in 292 attempts, third-best of all-time behind Bernie Kosar (308) and Bart Starr (294).

“None,” is what Brady said when asked what impact being under the weather in the early part of the week had on his preparations for the Bills.

There have been comparisons this week to the AFC Championship in Jan. 2005, when Brady had a 103-degree temperature and managed to make it to Heinz Field for the game.

“No, I wasn’€™t quite on my death bed that day either,” Brady said. “No it wasn’€™t anything like that. Just the normal flu.”

So what does Brady do when he isn’t at practice?

“Everything. All that stuff: treatment, film, still getting prepared, finding different things to do other than run around,” Brady said. “You still use the time to prepare, certainly [to] get caught up on some other things that maybe you don’€™t get a chance to do when you’€™re out there practicing. It’€™s maybe a little more rehab, stuff like that.”

Nuggetpalooza’s Patriots vs Bills Preview!

12.23.10 at 4:41 pm ET
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This is what Andy Williams meant when he sang of “the most wonderful time of the year”! All the Christmas hustle and bustle followed by Week 16 of the NFL season! Don’t sleep on those Bills. They’re competitive…


* – New England’s defense is allowing an average of 374.6 yards per game, on pace for the second highest average in their history (since 1960):

375.0 – 1972
374.6 – 2010
364.2 – 1981
360.3 – 1995
356.1 – 1990

What makes this so interesting? Well, this year’s team enters their game Sunday with a record of 12-2. The other four teams on that list combined to go 12-50, a winning percentage of .194.


* – So far in 2010, the Patriots have scored 446 points while gaining 4,970 yards, an average of 11.14 yards per point scored. Check out the best averages in the NFL since 1990:

11.14 – Patriots, 2010
11.17 – Patriots, 2007 (16-0 regular season, Super Bowl)
11.27 – Vikings, 1998 (15-1, #1 seed)
11.87 – Chargers, 2006 (14-2, #1 seed)

All hail the value of an efficient offense and defensive/return touchdowns!


* – On the flip side, the Patriots have allowed 303 points while giving up 5,245 yards, an average of 17.31 yards per point allowed. It would be the seventh season in the last eight in which New England has posted an average if 16.00 or higher. No other team has more than five such seasons in that span.

All hail the value of “bend but don’t break”!


* – Wanna know one reason how the Patriots can look so pedestrian on defense and still win? Make your opponent drive the whole field. New England has allowed their opponent to begin a drive on the Patriots’ side of the 50-yard-line only six times this season, on pace for the fewest in a season by any team since at least 1995:

6 – Patriots, 2010 (on pace for 7)
9 – Dolphins, 2008
9 – Giants, 2008
10 – Done five times since 1995 (two by the Patriots: 2007 and 2009)

Note this: The Patriots are on the verge of leading the league in this category for the third time in four seasons.


* – New England (8) and Buffalo (3) have combined to score 11 defensive/return touchdowns this season, but have allowed only two between them (one each).


* – The Patriots have yet to allow any points in the final two minutes of the second half this season, the only team in the league that can make that claim. If they can finish the season with such a shutout, they would become the fifth team to do it since 2006 (including the 2006 Patriots).

Note this: Since 2001, the Patriots have allowed an average of 9.7 points PER YEAR in the last two minutes of second halfs, easily the best mark in the NFL in that 10-year span:

9.7 – Patriots
13.2 – Bears
15.0 – Jets
15.5 – Redskins


* – Since the start of the 2004 season, the Bills are 1-17 at home when they lose the turnover battle (including losses in their last 10 such games. Compare that to 16-4 in that same span when they win the turnover battle at home (and 8-9 when turnovers are equal).

Note this: New England is 35-1 on the road since mid-2001 when they win the turnover battle.

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Bills only list three on injury report

12.23.10 at 3:57 pm ET
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The Bills only listed three players on their Thursday injury report, with a pair of offensive linemen and a linebacker. Here’s the complete report:

Limited Participation
C Geoff Hangartner (knee)

Full Participation
T Demetrius Bell (knee)
LB Chris Kelsay (knee)

Read More: Bills, injury report,

Six absent from Patriots practice, including Dan Connolly and Aaron Hernandez

12.23.10 at 3:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots had six players absent from practice on Thursday, including, linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, wide receiver Deion Branch, offensive lineman Dan Connolly and tight end Aaron Hernandez. Here’s the complete report:

Did Not Practice
LB Tully Banta-Cain (groin)
WR Deion Branch (knee)
G Dan Connolly (concussion)
LB Jermaine Cunningham (calf)
TE Aaron Hernandez (hip)
DL Mike Wright (concussion)

Limited Participation
DL Ron Brace (concussion)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot)
DL Brandon Deaderick (shoulder)
NT Myron Pryor (back)

Full Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (elbow)

Read More: injury report, Patriots,

The Big Nickel: Deion Branch on blocking, Tom Brady is back at practice and the Bills are impressed by the turnover-free Patriots

12.23.10 at 1:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things to know about the Patriots on Thursday:

1. On Sunday’€™s broadcast of the Patriots-Packers game, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth lauded the blocking of Deion Branch after the wide receiver delivered a pancake block on Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams, which helped spring running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 33-yard first-half touchdown run.

Branch clearly takes pride in his blocking, and he said on Thursday morning that he views it as a reciprocal relationship, especially when it comes to clearing the way for someone like Green-Ellis.

‘€œI think what’€™s important is that the guys don’€™t get a lot of credit for the things that they do for us when they catch a pass,’€ Branch said. ‘€œI know if BenJarvus is doing everything he can for me to give [quarterback] Tom [Brady] time to thrown me the ball, we have to do that in return. Each game, everybody wants to go out and throw the ball 100 times, but we can’€™t do that. I think the biggest thing is that I’€™m here to do whatever coach asks me to do. I want to catch some balls too, but if I have to block 20 times a game, 20-30 times, that’€™s what I have to do.’€

2. In fact, the Wes Welker-Branch duo has become one of the best blocking wide receiver tandems in the NFL, with their biggest highlight coming when they helped clear a path for Danny Woodhead‘€™s 36-yard touchdown run in last month’€™s win over the Colts. (The two helped knock Indianapolis defensive back Kelvin Hayden out of the picture, which allowed Woodhead to reach the end zone.)

The two have become competitive in trying to one-up each other. That goes for every aspect of the game.

‘€œEach game is going to be something. Mentally, we have this competition thing in our heads: ‘€˜I’€™m going to try and outdo you, you do the same thing.’€™ That makes our team [better] ‘€” each one of us trying to outdo one another,’€ Branch said of Welker. ‘€œIt’€™s not a competition thing or a jealousy thing if he gets 10 balls and I get three. I’€™m going to try and make the best of those three balls, and he’€™s going to do the same with his 10. It’€™s a good thing.’€
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brandon Deaderick, Chan Gailey

Pats practice: Tom Brady return, Dan Connolly, Deion Branch miss

12.23.10 at 1:29 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Dan Connolly, Deion Branch and Tully Banta-Cain were among those missing at Patriots practice on Thursday on the main Gillette Stadium field. Tom Brady did report and was present at the start of practice.

Also out Thursday were tight end Aaron Hernandez, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, and defensive lineman Mike Wright. The Patriots did get three defensive linemen back as Ron BraceBrandon Deaderick and Myron Pryor returned on Thursday. Pryor has missed the last six games with a back injury.

Read More: Buffalo Bills, Dan Connolly, Deion Branch, New England Patriots
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