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Bill Belichick: No one does the ‘little things’ like Tom Brady

12.15.10 at 2:29 pm ET
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FOXBORO — If Tom Brady thinks Bill Belichick is the best coach and teacher in football history, then Belichick believes Brady may be his best student – at least if you read between the lines Wednesday at Gillette Stadium.

Both sides of the coach-quarterback mutual admiration society were very apparent Wednesday and about an hour after Brady called Belichick the best of all time, Belichick said that Brady works as hard at his craft as anyone he’s ever coached.

“Tom works hard on all the little things,” Belchick began. “I think that’s one of the things you really respect and admire about Tom. He’s always working on the little things. It might be on one thing that comes up on one play and that one play might happen twice a season. Who knows?”

“He continually prepares at a very high level, both the opponent, the opponent’s scheme  and their personnel. He tries to have a better understanding of our offense, what options there are on certain plays, certain situations, the way a team plays it. You learn something every week, or every practice, or every game on that. He’s always striving to get better. He does a lot of things well but he knows there are things he can improve on and he’s always working to get better at those.”

And it’s that attention to detail that has paid off bigtime in the last month, as Brady has captured a pair of AFC Player of the Week honors after his performances against the Colts and Lions. He has led the team on a five-game winning streak. And he hasn’t thrown an interception since Oct. 17 against Baltimore.

“Sooner or later, you’ll see one come up in a game that maybe hasn’t come up in a month, six weeks or a year and then he’ll be able to make a play on that. And I think that’s a very satisfying thing for him. ‘This happened a year ago or whenever, and here we had a chance to get it and we got it.’ You feel good about that.

“I think that’s kind of what Tom Brady does, he does all the things you expect him to do and a lot of the little things and somewhere along the line, those little things help him make a play. It might be a long way back in the history books where you find it but there was a teaching lesson somewhere there that he picked up on.”

But if you think the 59-yard hitch-and-go to Deion Branch down the left sideline as time expired in the first half was one of those cases, think again.

“It’s a pretty basic play,” Belichick said. “Anytime you have a defensive in a split-safety coverage, I think probably every quarterback in the league has either looked outside to try and throw inside or looked inside to throw outside. It was a good play, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think we’re talking about anything that’s changed the game of football. I think that’s probably what every quarterback, every quarterback coach and every team teaches on plays like that.

“You’re looking off one guy to throw to somewhere else, it’s basically a 2-on-1 fast break and try to get the ball to whichever guy you can move the defender away from. It was good play, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t put it down as like the greatest read in the history of football. I think that’s a bit of a stretch.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Deion Branch, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots

Tom Brady, Devin McCourty 4 others miss Pats practice

12.15.10 at 1:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady was given another Wednesday off from on-field practice with the Patriots as the team began on-field preparations for the Green Bay Packers this Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

Cornerback Devin McCourty and four defensive linemen - Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Mike Wright and Ron Brace - were also absent from the open portion of practice on the lower practice fields at Gillette. The workout was held in sweats and shells.

McCourty is new to the list this week with a rib injury suffered Sunday in Chicago. Brace was also nicked up in the game with a head injury. Pryor (back) and Wright (concussion) have missed the last several weeks with their injuries.

Tom Brady explains why Bill Belichick best [teacher] ‘of all-time’

12.15.10 at 12:09 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady has always called it a thrill to play for Bill Belichick.

On Wednesday, the Patriots quarterback said he’s the best teacher he’s ever had.

“I just think our coaches hold us accountable and the players respond. I think there’s a good mix of players in here that are really listening to what our coaches are teaching. He wants us to be a smart, tough, physical football team that plays well under pressure. He preaches that to us.

“Every day that we come in, that’s what we’re trying to be. Guys take to coaching and you listen to the best coach of all-time, hopefully you learn something.”

Brady said that Belichick has about ’50 questions’ for the team every Wednesday morning before the team begins its formal preparations for the upcoming opponent.

“It’s just on a day-to-day basis with him,” Brady said. “Basically, when we don’t do things right, he lets us know. There’s nobody that’s off the hook. He holds us accountable on every single play and every single day. We come into a meeting at 8 o’clock on Wednesday morning and he’s got questions, 50 questions about the team that we’re going to play.

“Now, we haven’t had a meeting about the Packers or the Bears but he’s got questions. And basically he’s trying to make sure on Monday and Tuesday we’re doing what we need to do to be prepared for Wednesday morning.”

And just like in school, if a teacher asks you a question, and you’re unprepared, you feel and look silly in front of your classmates – or teammates as the case may be.

“And it’s pretty embarrassing if everybody is getting their questions right that he’s asking them and he asks you and you really don’t know the answer. So, everyone prepares pretty hard on Monday and Tuesday for his meetings on Wednesday and that’s the way it goes on Thursday and ultimately on Sunday and that’s our test for the week.”

And just like a pop quiz is designed to make sure that you know your stuff when the real test comes along, it’s the same with Belichick.

“When we come in Monday morning, he puts the tape on and if you’re not playing the way he expects you to play, you’re held accountable,” Brady continued. “And I think that’s the greatest thing about playing here is when you’re a player, you don’t have to ever have to hold your teammates accountable, the coach does that and I think that’s why everyone respects so much that he coaches an 11-year veteran quarterback the way he coaches a rookie tight end.”

Belichick, for his part, reciprocated about an hour later in his Wednesday presser.

“Tom works hard on all the little things, and I think that’s one thing as a coach, you really respect about Tom,” Belichick said.

“I think we give him plenty of ammunition. We give him plenty of reasons [to criticize]. I don’t think he makes anything up. He just tells us the truth.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, nfl

Jonathan Wilhite on IR; DL Louis Leonard signed

12.15.10 at 10:58 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots made room for their newest defensive lineman on Wednesday by placing cornerback Jonathan Wilhite on season-ending injured reserve. Louis Leonard is expected to be with the team this week for practice.

At 6-4 and 325 pounds, Leonard is in his fourth NFL season after playing with the Rams (2007), Browns (2007-08) and Panthers (2009-10). He originally joined the NFL as a rookie free agent with the San Diego Chargers in 2007 out of Fresno State.

Wilhite injured his hip against Pittsburgh and missed the last four games.

Read More: Jonathan Wilhite, Louis Leonard, New England Patriots, nfl

Cris Carter on D&C: ‘It’s easy to see now’ that Deion Branch is back

12.15.10 at 9:29 am ET
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ESPN analyst Cris Carter joined the Dennis & Callahan show on Wednesday morning to talk about the Patriots and explain his critical comments about Deion Branch. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

In an interview on The Big Show recently, Carter said Branch “disappears” against regular cornerbacks. Asked if he still felt that way considering how well Branch has performed since rejoining the Patriots, Carter clarified his analysis as being of Branch’s career, and it includes the fact that Branch has struggled with injuries.

“Deion is a very good route-runner. Exceptional quickness,” Branch said. “He hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He’ll be able to come back to New England, I believe, and salvage his career. This is not the same player who was in Seattle in Week 1 and 2. And this is not the same player who was in Seattle the last couple of years. Now, was that player inside of him? Absolutely. But you think Seattle, if they thought he could have provided that type of explosion to an offense, you think they would have let him go?”

Added Carter: “Me analyzing Deion is just not based on what he’s doing in New England. Yes, it’s easy to say Deion is 31, is having the year of his career. He is. It’s easy to see now.”

Looking at Randy Moss‘ departure from New England, Carter offered his take on the situation. “He made a mistake,” Carter said. “After he had talked with coach [Bill] Belichick and the Kraft family and as far as what they were going to do in the future. And they had said they were not going to give him a contract. So, Randy had taken that as, ‘I’m not going to be here.’ He made a vital mistake when he had that impromptu press conference [after the opening game] and he said those things. After that, it was over with. So, it wasn’t a whole bunch of stuff that happened, it was that right there.”

Carter said Moss wants to play in 2011, and he wouldn’t be shocked to see him return to Foxboro. “I put nothing past New England as far as really trying to get their team better,” Carter said. “If they feel like Randy Moss makes them abetter in 2011 at a certain price, I would’t be surprised at all. The one thing with New England: New England is likely to get the best out of him like they do with all the other players compared to going somewhere else. The thing with Randy is, he’s got a lot of bad video out there. I mean, there’s a lot of bad video. If you watch every game since he left New England, not impressive at all.”

Added Carter: “I think Randy still wants to play football. I know that for certain. And I know for certain that he realizes he made a mistake.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Cris Carter, Deion Branch, Tom Brady

Patriots remain one of the least-penalized teams in the NFL

12.14.10 at 9:44 pm ET
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One of the contributing factors in the Patriots’ recent success has stemmed from the fact that they’€™ve been playing close to penalty-free football. New England has committed just 11 penalties in the last four games (including just one penalty each in wins over the Colts and Jets), and is now fourth-best in the league when it comes to assessed penalties with 65, behind only the Falcons with 49, the Dolphins with 55 and Colts with 64. (The list does not include declined penalties.) In addition, the Patriots have lost 602 penalty yards, 12th in the NFL.

As a group, the most penalized position is defensive back, where the Patriots have taken 18 penalties for 229 yards ‘€” close to half the total yardage assessed against the team this year. The most frequently penalized defensive back is rookie corner Devin McCourty, who has been flagged five times for a total of 45 yards. However, Brandon Meriweather has lost the most penalty yardage for New England ‘€” the safety has been flagged three times for a total of 77 yards, including a 38-yard defensive pass interference penalty against Pittsburgh, the most penalty yards the Patriots have taken on one play this year.

The second-most penalized position for the Patriots is tight end, where the trio of Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski (five penalties for 40 yards each) and Aaron Hernandez (three penalties for 25 yards) has picked up 13 penalties for 105 yards.

When it comes to impactful penalties (penalties of more than 10 yards), Meriweather has three (a 15-yarder for a personal foul and two for defensive pass interference, one for 24 yards and another for 38 yards), as does cornerback Darius Butler (three defensive pass interference penalties for 23, 16 and 13 yards). In addition, linebacker Tully Banta-Cain has two, both of which were 15-yard flags for unnecessary roughness. McCourty also has two longer than 10 yards, a 16-yarder for defensive pass interference and an 18-yarder for the same reason.

The least penalized position? The defensive line, which has taken just one penalty for zero yards this season ‘€” a defensive offsides penalty on Mike Wright. Other than that, they have been clean. A close second are the running backs, who have picked up just one penalty, a 15-yarder on BenJarvus Green-Ellis because of a chop block against Pittsburgh.

When it comes to notable players who have avoided penalties, two names really stand out ‘€” defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo, two players who have played just about every snap this season who have yet to pick up a single penalty. In addition, running back Danny Woodhead, who has become an integral part of the offense since his arrival in September, has yet to account for a single penalty this season. Other key position players like wide receiver Wes Welker, safety Pat Chung and offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly have picked up only one penalty all season.

While the 65 penalties rank among the fewest by any team in the league, they won’€™t be the most flag-free team of the Bill Belichick Era. Remarkably, the 2008 Patriots finished the season with 57 penalties, the fewest since the strike-shortened season of 1982, when New England had 49 in nine regular-season games.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Alge Crumpler, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick

The Big Nickel: The Clay Matthews debate, a penalty watch preview and Louis Leonard’s arrival

12.14.10 at 3:08 pm ET
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Here are the five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Tuesday:

1. Expect a lot of Clay Matthews talk this week. The Patriots had a chance to take him in the 2009 draft, and decided to pass on the linebacker out of USC who has gone on to become one of the best pass-rushers in the league with the Packers ‘€” he had 10 sacks as a rookie last season, and has 12.5 sacks this year, good for second in the league. In hindsight, the idea of Matthews in a New England uniform is a tantalizing thought, especially for a team that has struggled to put together a consistent pass rush over the last two seasons.

‘€œClay is fast, quick. He’€™s got real good balance,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on a conference call with the media on Tuesday afternoon. ‘€œHe’€™s a guy with a high motor, so even at times when it looks like he’€™s blocked, he can still come out and get in on the play. He’€™s a good pursuit player, but I’€™d say his speed and his quickness are big assets.

‘€œHe’€™s a guy that’€™s never really out of the play. You can run away from him but he can run you down or you can run to him and it kind of looks like you might have him blocked, but he spins out of things and uses his quickness and his athleticism to get out of tight situations, stay alive and make plays. So, [he'€™s] a good football player.’€

It was clear the Patriots at least had an interest in Matthews for several reasons, not the least of which was that his father played 19 seasons in the NFL ‘€” three of which were for Belichick in Cleveland in the 1990s ‘€” and Belichick would later say he was ‘€œlucky’€ to have the chance to coach the elder Matthews. Before the 2009 draft, I spoke with the father (as well as the son’€™s high school coach, Charlie Wegher) about the possibility of the son playing for Belichick and the Patriots. (Check out the story here.)

‘€œI was always impressed with the way that Bill took a real thorough approach to the team. Everything was analyzed,’€ Matthews’€™ father told me. ‘€œFor a player, you were always put in position where you had the best chance to succeed. And speaking selfishly as a father, you always want to see your son put in a position where he will be successful. And you know Bill does that.’€

‘€œClay’€™s a good football player,’€ said Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said on a conference call with the media on Tuesday afternoon. ‘€œIf you go back and actually look at that USC defense, there are a lot of good football players on that team. They had [Brian] Cushing. They had [Ray] Maualuga. They had Matthews. They had [Kaluka] Maiava who the Browns had taken. I think the Packers are happy that they have Matthews. And we’€™re certainly happy with the players that are on our team.’€

2. Working on the numbers for a story that I’€™ll have later today, but I was looking at the Patriots’€™ penalties this season, and it’€™s clear that one of the reasons they’€™ve had so much success over the last month or so is the fact that they’€™ve come close to playing penalty-free football. New England has committed just 11 penalties in the last four games (including just one penalty each in wins over the Colts and Jets), and is now fourth-best in the league when it comes to assessed penalties with 65, behind only the Falcons (49), Dolphins, (55) and Colts (64).

Three notable names ‘€” Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Danny Woodhead ‘€” have yet to draw a single flag this season, while key positional players like wide receiver Wes Welker, safety Pat Chung and offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly have picked up only one penalty all season.

The most penalized position for the Patriots is defensive back, where they’€™ve picked up 18 flags for 229 yards ‘€” Devin McCourty (five penalties for 45 yards) and Brandon Meriweather (three penalties for 77 yards) have the worst numbers. Meanwhile, the least assessed position is defensive line, where they’€™ve been flagged once (Mike Wright for defensive offsides) for a total of zero yards.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Brian Cushing, Charles Woodson
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