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Bill Belichick on Steelers: ‘Good’ as always

11.10.10 at 3:34 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick has seen this act before. And like an actor that knows his part, Belichick knows how to play the Steelers. How is this year any different? What about the kicking game now that Stephen Gostkowski is now lost for the season on the injured reserve? And what has made the Steelers so good for so long? This and more from the Patriots head coach Wednesday. Thanks to the superb work of Patriots P.R., here are his answers.

BB: The Steelers look about like they always do: good. I’€™ve been real impressed watching them on tape. [They'€™re] a real physical football team offensively, defensively [and] in the kicking game. They’€™re strong. They’€™re tough. They do a real good job. They’€™ve got an explosive offense. [Mike] Wallace has certainly added a lot to them in terms of the deep ball [and] his ability to stretch the field, along with all their other outstanding players: [Rashard] Mendenhall and [Mewelde] Moore and the receiver, tight end group, Heath Miller, [Hines] Ward and [Antwaan] Rande El and all that. [They have] a lot of familiar names on defense. [They'€™re] a tough, physical football team. We know what kind of game we’€™re in for on Sunday night. Hopefully we’€™ll have a good week here at practice and be ready to go Sunday. These guys are good. They’€™re good at home; tough at Heinz Field. So it will be a big challenge for us. I’€™m looking for to it, but we understand what’€™s ahead of us there. They’€™re a good football team.

Q: Can you comment on today’€™s moves in the kicking team?

BB: They’€™re pretty self-explanatory. We placed [Stephen Gostkowski] on injured reserve, signed Shayne [Graham] and brought in Matt [Katula] for Jake [Ingram]. We just decided to make a change there, so we’€™ll go with that.

Q: How much has Shayne’€™s history in the AFC North, playing at Heinz Field, had a role in this?

BB: I think just his performance in the league is definitely a positive for him. He’€™s had a good career ‘€“ an outstanding career. I thought he performed well this year when he’€™s had an opportunity. Scott [O'€™Brien] had him, so he’€™s got a background with him. I think all those things were favorable for him. But he’€™s a good kicker. He’€™s had a real good career.

Q: How long does it normally take for a kicker, snapper and holder to come together?

BB: Well we’€™ve got a few days, so it doesn’€™t really matter. We’€™ll do the best we can in the time that we have. I know those guys have gotten started on it already. We know there’€™s a lot of work to do, so we’€™ll get at it. But, you know, they’€™ve all played in the league. They’€™re all hardworking guys and I’€™m sure they’€™ll do what they can in the next few days to get it the best that it can be. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl, Pittsburgh Steelers

Fred Taylor: Don’t want to get rolled by the Steel train

11.10.10 at 3:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — He may have returned to practice for the first time in over a month but running back Fred Taylor doesn’t want anyone jumping the gun quite yet.

He is coming off a serious injury to his toe, similar to ‘turf toe’ that has forced him to miss the last five games since rushing six times for 16 yards against Buffalo on Sept. 26.

“In this particular case, it was some tendons and ligaments and lot of other stuff,” Taylor said before taking the field Wednesday. “I guess that’s the reason for me being out the time I was out,” Taylor said Wednesday before practice. “I’m actually a lot better. So, I’m looking forward to just trying to improve, continue to improve and get back, whenever that is.”

Would the light at the end of the tunnel be Sunday night at Heinz Field?

“Light at the end of the tunnel? You’ve got to be careful,” Taylor cautioned. “I don’t know if it’s a train. You’re dealing with a pretty intense game but I’m closer and I’m just happy to be at the point that I am because the past six, seven weeks have been pretty frustrating. But I just have to keep grinding it out.”

Taylor is more than aware that the Steelers are by far and away the stingiest run defense in the NFL and on-pace as one of the best run-stopping unit in the history of the NFL. It’s been that way ever since Taylor was with Jacksonville and he ran against them twice a year in the old AFC Central.

“I understand this team,” Taylor said. “I know them really well. You look over and it’s the same guys, with the exception of a starter [Aaron Smith] that’s out and [Brett] Keisel, he’s a little banged up [hamstring] but everybody else on that defense has been the last seven or eight years. The personnel doesn’t change and what they do. Coach [Dick] LeBeau does what he does and he is a great coach. If the opportunity is there I’d love it but it starts today and me going out there and trying to do the best I can.”

So while it would be nice to have another weapon to take on the latest incarnation of the “Steel Curtain”, Taylor doesn’t want to get hopes up until his passes his first test in practice this week.

“I don’t want you guys [media] to jump too far ahead and say, ‘Oh, Taylor is coming back this week.’ I’m not sure. We’re going to start slow and go from there and see how it feels,” he said.

Read More: Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Fred Taylor, New England Patriots

The Big Nickel: Shayne Graham, Matt Katula check in, plus Fred Taylor makes an appearance

11.10.10 at 2:43 pm ET
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A collection of the five most important things from Gillette Stadium on Wednesday:

1. New kicker Shayne Graham was greeted by a group of media five-deep when he arrived at his locker during media availability on Wednesday morning. The 32-year-old, who will wear No. 5, talked about joining a team in midseason and the idea of replacing someone like Stephen Gostkowski, who became the 10th player the Patriots put on injured reserve when he went on IR Wednesday morning because of a thigh injury.

‘€œI think the fact that I haven’€™t been on a team every game this year makes me a little hungry, and makes me look forward to getting my career going on again and doing what I can to help this team win,’€ said Graham, who will be just the third kicker the Patriots have used in the regular season since 1996. ‘€œThere’€™s always going to be speed bumps and you can control what you can control. My job is to play, and I don’€™t make the decision as far as roster, so when things work out the way they do, you take the bumps as they come and control what you can control.’€

Early reports had Gostkowski missing a week or two, and, as a result, it was initially thought Graham would be a replacement who could keep the position temporarily until Gostkowski returned. With Wednesday’€™s announcement regarding Gostkowski’€™s injury, it appears Graham will have the job the rest of the season if he performs well. Before this season, Graham kicked for Buffalo, Carolina and Cincinnati. He was 23-for-28 with the Bengals in 2009, and was most recently in New York, spending two days with the Giants when kicker Lawrence Tynes had an ankle injury.

‘€œIt’€™s definitely big shoes to fill, but I feel that I’€™m going to be able to play my best, and hopefully the team won’€™t skip a beat and hopefully the team won’€™t miss a beat.’€

The media informed quarterback Tom Brady at his Wednesday morning press conference that Gostkowski will be out for the season.

‘€œI didn’€™t realize that ‘€” that’€™s news to me. That’€™s a bummer,’€ Brady said. ‘€œHe’€™s been a hell of a player here and a great kicker. We’€™ve had a few guys put on IR this year that are really great, dependable players that have worked hard ‘€“ Kevin [Faulk] and Ty Warren. He will be missed.’€

2. The new long snapper has the right idea.

‘€œThe whole goal of this position is to not have to talk to you guys,’€ said Matt Katula, who will wear No. 48 and replace Jake Ingram on the roster. ‘€œIf your name’€™s not mentioned, you’€™re doing your job. That’€™s what we all try to do: stay out of the limelight. The limelight is not good.’€

Katula, an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin who signed with the Ravens in 2005, spent five seasons with Baltimore before being cut in training camp. He’€™s been around the league long enough to understand the realities of the situation.

‘€œEverybody’€™s fighting for a job, and some decisions are out of your hands,’€ Katula said. ‘€œYou just try to do your best, and do your job to the best of your abilities and that’€™s what I hope to do here.’€

Instead of handing the long-snapping duties to someone already in the locker room ‘€” both linebacker Rob Ninkovich and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork have some experience at the position ‘€” the Patriots decided to bring someone in from the outside, a specialist whose one job is to snap for punts, extra points and field goals. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, an old center himself from his prep school days, said it didn’€™t used to be like that.

‘€œThat’€™s the way of the world now. It certainly didn’€™t used to be like that, but you could say the same things about the other positions as well. Not that long ago ‘€” in our lifetimes ‘€” you had punters who did other things besides punt, you had kickers who did other things besides kick, and you had snappers that played other positions in addition to long snapping. But you don’€™t see it much in college, and therefore, that’€™s where our players come from, you don’€™t see it too much professionally,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œIt truly is a specialty. If you do it well, you can have a 10-year career. And you don’€™t have to do a whole lot else. You just do that well, you can have a 10-year career.’€

3. The trio of Graham, Katula and punter Zoltan Mesko now has five days to get ready for their first game as a group. As a specialist, being thrown together can be a little difficult at times. However, there is some familiarity between Katula and Graham ‘€” the two were together briefly during the 2010 preseason in Baltimore ‘€” so it’€™s not like they are completely unfamiliar with each other.

But the trio now has to work together on the fly to get ready for game action.

‘€œWe’€™ll do the best we can with what we have,’€ Belichick said of the trio. ‘€œI know those guys have gotten started on it already, but there’€™s a lot of work to do. We’€™ll get after it. But they’€™ve all played in the league. They’€™ve all worked. They’€™re all hardworking guys. I’€™m sure they’€™ll do what they cam the next few days to get it the best it can be. We’€™ll see where that is.’€
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dick LeBeau, Jake Ingram, Matt Katula

Tom Brady: Bill Belichick has given us ‘quite a beating’

11.10.10 at 2:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady was only too happy to inform everyone who would listen Wednesday in the media work room that the Patriots have been ripped a new one by Bill Belichick for their dreadful performance of Sunday in Cleveland. What were his impressions of the Steelers in their 27-21 win over the Bengals Monday night? What will it take to beat them this Sunday night and what does he remember most about their meetings of the past? Thanks to the Patriots P.R. department, here were his answers.

Q: What were your impressions Monday night of the Steelers? I know you watch a lot of film, too’€¦

TB: They’€™re a tenacious defense. I think they’€™ve got a lot of real playmakers over there: James Harrison and what he’€™s done [and Troy] Polamalu. They’€™ve got a lot of leaders on that defense. [James] Farrior has been there for a long time; we’€™ve competed against him. It’€™s a tough place to play at Heinz Field, but we’€™ve got to go out there and start working on it today. We’€™ve got a lot of crowd noise out there. We’€™re kind of ready to get back on the practice field ‘€“ everybody is ‘€“ after last week.

Q: Is last week totally gone and behind you when you get back out on the practice field?

TB: Yeah. It always is. I think we took quite a beating from our coach here the last couple days. [It was] well deserved and we need to start playing better, start playing more the way that we need to in order to execute better. You go into every game thinking these [things] are what we need to do to win, and it’€™s frustrating when you come out of the game and you don’€™t do those things. And it’€™s great when you come out of the game and you do do those things. It will be great to try to get back on track this week.

Q: Of the games you guys have played against the Steelers in the last few years, is there one that jumps out at you? A win or a loss?

TB: Well, we’€™ve had some great battles against them. The ‘€™04 championship game was a great game. That was as meaningful as they come. It was freezing cold weather. I think I have a lot of great memories because we won the game. Earlier that year we got our butt kicked in Pittsburgh. We got beat 31-nothing I think ‘€“ something like that ‘€“ and then had an opportunity to go back and redeem ourselves. It’€™s been a great rivalry for us. They’€™ve got a lot of great players. They’€™ve got great coaching. They’€™ve been one of the most successful franchises for a long time, so we need to be at our best. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl, Pittsburghj Steelers

Pats practice: No Tom Brady but Fred Taylor returns

11.10.10 at 1:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was not spotted at the open portion of practice on Wednesday, the first day of on-field preparation for the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday night at Heinz Field.

In addition to Brady, Jarrad Page (calf), James Sanders and Myron Pryor were also absent. Running back Fred Talor (toe) and safety Patrick Chung (knee) did return to practice. For Taylor, it was the first time he has been spotted in several weeks on the field with the team. He suffered ligament and tendon injuries in his toe during the win over Buffalo on Sept. 26 and has missed the five games since. Chung injured his knee in the win over San Diego on Oct. 24 and has missed the last two games.

The team practiced on the upper practice fields on Wednesday.

Read More: Fred Taylor, New England Patriots, Patrick Chung, Pittsburgh Steelers

Patriots make a flurry of moves official

11.10.10 at 12:14 pm ET
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The Patriots have announced a flurry of moves, signing kicker Shayne Graham, long snapper Matt Katula and cornerback Thad Turner, moving kicker Stephen Gostkowski to season-ending injured reserve and releasing long snapper Jake Ingram.

Here’€™s the full statement from the team on the moves:

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. ‘€“The New England Patriots announced today they have signed K Shayne Graham and LS Matt Katula. In addition, the Patriots announced that they have placed K Stephen Gostkowski on injured reserve with a thigh injury, released LS Jake Ingram and signed CB That Turner to the practice squad.
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Read More: Jake Ingram, Matt Katula, Shayne Graham, Stephen Gostkowski

Patriots place Stephen Gostkowski on IR

11.10.10 at 11:26 am ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots have announced via their Twitter feed that they have placed kicker Stephen Gostkowski on season-ending injured reserve with a thigh injury. Gostkowski, a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in 2006, was injured last Sunday against the Browns.

To take his place, New England will sign free agent kicker Shayne Graham. Before this season, Graham, 32, kicked for Buffalo, Carolina and Cincinnati. He was 23-for-28 with the Bengals in 2009, and was most recently in New York, spending two days with the Giants when kicker Lawrence Tynes had an ankle injury.

“Anytime a team loses a player, it’s hard for a team to go through,” Graham said. “No one wants to see a player go down with injury, no matter how long the time is, especially a player the caliber of Stephen.

“He’s a great player and he’s done such a good job for this team. My goal is to come in here and perform at my best and perform well for the team and help us win games and help the team make all the goals they set for themselves.”

Following his release by the Bengals after their playoff loss to the Jets last January, Graham was picked up by Baltimore and then signed by the New York Giants, where he subbed for the injured Tynes for one game.

“I think the fact that I haven’t been on a team every game this year makes me a little hungry and makes me look forward to getting my career going on again and doing what I can to help this team win,” Graham said. “There’s always going to be speed bumps and you can control what you can control. My job is to play and I don’t make the decision as far as roster, so when things work out the way they do, you take the bumps as they come and control what you can control.”

“It’s definitely big shoes to fill but I feel that I’m going to be able to play my best and hopefully the team won’t skip a beat and hopefully the team won’t miss a beat.”

Read More: Shayne Graham, Stephen Gostkowski,
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