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LaDainian Tomlinson regrets calling Bill Belichick ‘classless’

09.03.13 at 11:24 pm ET
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During the season premiere of “A Football Life” on the NFL Network, LaDainian Tomlinson admitted that “we all say things we regret.”

Tomlinson was referring to the fact that he called the Patriots a “classless” organization after the bitter playoff loss in 2006 when the Chargers had the game won, only to fumble an interception when Troy Brown knocked the ball out of the hands of Marlon McCree.

The Patriots would go on to wipe out a 21-13 deficit and win 24-21 and advance to the AFC championship in Indianapolis. Shortly after the game, Tomlinson spotted some Patriots dancing on the Chargers’ logo at midfield. Tomlinson went after an unidentified Patriots player, yelling and pointing, and had to be restrained by a teammate and former Charger Reche Caldwell, who had a huge game for the Patriots.

“I would never react in that way. I was very upset,” Tomlinson said after the game. “When you go to the middle of our field and start doing the dance Shawne Merriman is known for, that is disrespectful. They showed no class and maybe that comes from the head coach.”

Merriman earned the nicknamed “Lights Out” from a wild dance to celebrate each of his 17 sacks that season. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said he saw some Patriots pointing to the scoreboard, mimicking the dance and stomping on the Chargers’ logo at midfield.

“I think what got LT, and I was right there, was just a little of the taunting,” Rivers said, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Hey, celebrate — we’d have been sprinting on the field, too, I guarantee you. But it was a little finger-pointing and I don’t know where it came from.”

On Tuesday night, Tomlinson formally apologized via Twitter.



Read More: A Football Life, Bill Belichick, LaDainian Tomlinson, nfl

Bill Belichick on Bills QBs: ‘Not a whole lot of film on either guy’

09.03.13 at 10:08 pm ET
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It’s not often that Bill Belichick finds it hard to prepare for an opposing quarterback. But in E.J. Manuel and Jeff Tuel, there isn’t much film to plan from. As a matter of fact, neither one has taken a snap in an NFL game so tendencies will have to come from their college game tape and the preseason.

When Kevin Kolb suffered a potentially career-ending concussion in his third preseason game, the Bills were in a big bind. Manuel had already tweaked his knee, an injury that required a scope. In stepped Tuel, who went 31-of-43 for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Manuel was 26-of-33 for 199 yards and also two TD passes before the knee injury. The team signed Matt Leinart and traded for Thaddeus Lewis.

Now, new Bills coach Doug Marrone is indicating that either Manuel or Tuel will be chosen on Wednesday to start Sunday’s season opener against the Patriots. What is Belichick to do?

“When both of them have had a chance to play, they’€™ve both been productive,” Belichick said Tuesday. “To be honest with you, there isn’€™t a ton of Buffalo film on either one of them. We saw them play in college and scouted them both coming out there, but that doesn’€™t really mean as much as what they do in this offense and how they do it. There’€™s not a whole lot of film on either guy. We’€™ll just have to go on what we’€™ve got and again, be ready once we really see, which is true of a lot of rookie players. Even though you watch them on film, once you actually see them in person and get on the field with them, sometimes they look a little different than what they look like on film. There’€™s always that whole element of it. I think in this case, we’€™ll go on what we have but that’€™s not a whole lot.”

With Marrone as the head coach, the Bills have installed a read option offense, with the anticipation of having the perfect quarterback in Manuel to run it. How much did Belichick see option or “Pistol”-based concepts in the preseason?

“They do some. Again, this is another thing where we know things that they’€™ve done in the past,” Belichick said. “Whether that’€™s part of this offense or they’€™ll do them against us or not, that’€™s part of the unknown. We’€™re ready for a variety of things. They’€™ve shown a number of things offensively, a number of different schemes, obviously a lot of no-huddle. It’€™s really all no-huddle but with different personnel groups, different formations, different combinations, things like that. We’€™ll have to prepare for all of that. But the quarterback as being part of the offense, either keeping the ball or running play-action, bootlegs off it, or things like that, pitching the ball, I think those are all elements that we’€™ll have to work on, sure.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, E.J. Manuel, Florida State

Josh McDaniels on Bills D: ‘They’re not going to give you a lot of easy yards’

09.03.13 at 8:57 pm ET
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While the Bills present a brand new head coach in Doug Marrone this Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, their defensive coordinator is someone very familiar to the Patriots, Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Mike Pettine was the Jets’ defensive coordinator hired in 2009 by Rex Ryan to run the defense that gave Brady and the Patriots fits in the 2010 playoffs. The year before that, Pettine was the man in charge of a defense that led the NFL.

Last year, with Darrelle Revis gone for most of the year with a torn ACL, the Jets defense suffered badly, including 856 yards in two games against the Patriots, highlighted by New England’s 49-19 throttling on Thanksgiving night.

Pettine was not brought back by Ryan after last season but was hired by Marrone to try and do the same with the Bills that he did with the Jets.

“He is a great coach, great coordinator, and it is always a great challenge when you get an opportunity to prepare and compete against one of his defenses,” McDaniels said Tuesday of Pettine. “They are well coached. They’€™re not going to give you a lot of easy yards. They have the ability to be very multiple when he wants them to be and change up their looks, their packages, their pressures and those kinds of things. I know a lot of times that got discussed when we used to talk about the Jets when Mike was there, but I also think that they are a very sound defense.

“They do a lot of things well and they force you to do a real good job of driving the football, staying on the field for eight, ten plays in a row in order to get points. They always make it hard on you on third down and in the red zone to stay on the field and finish drives. So, playing them in Buffalo on opening day will certainly make the challenge greater, and we’€™re excited to get this week going and get the season started.”

To McDaniels’ point, the Patriots had three scoring drives of 17 plays that ended in touchdowns and another of 15. While there’s been a lot of talk this week about whether EJ Manuel or Jeff Tuel will get the starting nod at quarterback, the bigger impact could well be the status of starting safety Jairus Byrd, who may not be ready because of plantar fascitis.

“I think it’€™s an impressive group,” McDaniels said of the secondary. “They’€™ve got good speed and they’€™re definitely a group that is going to stand in and challenge you. They play a lot on the line of scrimmage on the outside with their corners. We’€™ve played against and competed against [Leodis] McKelvin and [Justin] Rogers before and they do a good job of trying to disrupt timing at the line of scrimmage. They have good ball skills, and unfortunately we’€™ve seen that before too. [Ron] Brooks is a young guy in his second year that is a really physical player for a small guy, but he certainly plays much bigger than that. He can run well on the perimeter also and plays very aggressively in a physical style when he goes inside in the nickel packages that we’€™ve seen him in too.

“The safeties ‘€“ Byrd is a great player and [we] certainly have to be prepared for him to play. He’€™s made a lot of impact plays over the years, and is a very instinctive player who has great ball skills and awareness of what is going on in the secondary. And [Aaron] Williams is a young player that has moved position a time or two and now I think is really settling in on the back end as one of their safeties that is going to be out there starting and playing a lot of football for them. He has made some impact plays in the preseason as a downhill type of safety that really hits you. And again, like I said, I think this a really talented group with great ball skills that’€™s not afraid to stand in there and make it hard for you. So, we are anticipating a great challenge. We know we’€™re going to have to play very well to move the ball in the air, and again, it will be a good challenge for us to start the season this way.”

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Read More: Buffalo Bills, Josh McDaniels, Mike Pettine, New England Patriots

Age-old question: How young are 2013 Patriots?

09.03.13 at 3:53 pm ET
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While much has been made about the Patriots suddenly going younger this year with the inclusion of 14 rookies on the roster — seven draftees and seven undrafted free agents — in truth, this year’€™s team is no different than the one that opened the 2012 season.

With the understanding that rosters change and evolve over the course of an NFL season — and that it’€™s entirely likely that things could change before Sunday’€™s opener against the Bills — the average age of the New England team that opened the 2012 season against the Titans averaged 25.7. And with the Tuesday morning addition of free agent tight end Matthew Mulligan to the 53-man roster, the current average age of the 2013 team is 25.7. (For more on how the Patriots stack up by age, check out this comprehensive roster breakdown across the league from ESPN’€™s Mike Sando. In his study, the Patriots have the 11th youngest roster in the league, as of last weekend.)

It is worth mentioning that the Patriots will open the season with 14 rookies on the 2013 roster — as this piece from Andy Hart notes, that’€™s more than any other season in New England in more than a decade. (On the other end of the spectrum, the 2007 Patriots broke camp with just four rookies on their roster, while they had six in 2003, 2004 and 2005.) According to The Boston Globe, at this point New England has more rookies (14) and more undrafted rookies (7) than any other team in the NFL.

But when you take the average of the team across the board, the numbers are strikingly similar to last year. Here are a few interesting points by position:
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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities in preseason for Patriots skill position players

09.03.13 at 1:23 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Here’s a breakdown of the New England offense when it comes to offensive opportunities from the recently completed 2013 preseason:

RB LeGarrette Blount: 25 (24 carries, 1 catch)
RB Stevan Ridley: 22 (22 carries, 0 catches)
RB Shane Vereen: 18 (11 carries, 7 catches)
QB Tim Tebow: 16 (16 carries, 0 catches) 7 sacks, 2 kneeldowns
RB George Winn: 15 (15 carries, 0 receptions)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 15 (0 carries, 15 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 13 (11 carries, 2 catches)
WR Julian Edelman: 13 (0 carries, 13 catches)
WR Aaron Dobson: 11 (0 carries, 11 catches)
WR Josh Boyce: 9 (2 carries, 7 catches)
RB Leon Washington: 8 (5 carries, 3 catches)
TE Zach Sudfeld: 8 (0 carries, 8 catches)
WR Danny Amendola: 7 (0 carries, 7 catches)
FB James Develin: 6 (3 carries, 3 catches)
TE Daniel Fells: 5 (0 carries, 5 catches)
QB Ryan Mallett: 2 (2 carries, 0 receptions) 1 sack, 2 kneeldowns
WR Kamar Aiken: 2 (0 carries, 2 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 2 (0 carries, 2 catches)
WR Quentin Sims: 4 (0 carries, 3 catches)
QB Tom Brady: 1 (1 carry, 0 catches) 2 sacks, 1 kneeldown
FB Ben Bartholomew: 1 (1 carry, 0 catches)

Read More: offensive opportunities,

Rob Ninkovich on M&M: ‘We’ll be prepared and be ready to roll’ against Bills

09.03.13 at 12:49 pm ET
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Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday morning to discuss Sunday’s game against the Bills that marks the beginning of the season.

For Ninkovich, facing a division rival makes the first game of the season that much more energizing and exciting.

“Buffalo is always a fun place to play,” Ninkovich said. “There’s a ton of energy there. You get the beer cans and the eggs and everything on the bus when you’re coming in, so it’s really a fun atmosphere to play at. The fans always seem to really like us there and enjoy our presence.

“That first game is always a very exciting game and everyone has a ton of energy and it will be exciting. I’m ready to get to Buffalo already. It’s Week 1, it’s a great game to be at. … We’ll be prepared and be ready to roll there.”

Buffalo may feature a new quarterback in undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, but as Ninkovich noted, the Bills still feature a dangerous offensive core with weapons such as running back C.J. Spiller and wide receiver Stevie Johnson.

“They definitely have some weapons with Spiller, Johnson and [running back Fred] Jackson, so you definitely have to make sure that you have those guys contained. Every single one of those guys have big-play ability,” Ninkovich said. “You have to make sure that you have the edge [against Spiller] every single time, because you have to be aware of him being able to not only trying to get to the edge, but cutting back and running back across the field and test the other edge, so you just have to be super aware of him and where he’s at.

“The ball could be running away from you, but in a split second, it’s coming back to you, so you just have make sure that you have the ball contained and bring it back to all your buddies.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, check out

On the release of defensive ends Justin Francis and Marcus Bernard: “It’s the one unfortunate part of the business that you have to deal with. You know, guys coming and going. There’s guys that make those decisions for a reason and you just take it for what it is and you move on and you roll with what you’ve got. Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan are both great football players, so I’m happy to have those guys as teammates.”

On playing with a roster that includes 14 rookies, the most of any NFL team: “It’s definitely, definitely a young football team. Right now … you just have to really make sure that we prepare well and get those guys ready to go. It’s definitely a lot different from what it was five years ago when I first got here, I’m one of the only guys to still be around, so you just see the turnover there and these young guys just have to … get ready to play a long season here.”

Read More: Bills, C.J. Spiller, Patriots, Rob Ninkovich

Kyle Arrington on M&M: Bills WR Stevie Johnson an ‘extreme talent’

09.03.13 at 11:39 am ET
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Patriots defensive back Kyle Arrington joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday as the Patriots prepare to open the season Sunday against the Bills.

Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson made some interesting comments this week, saying that he doesn’t believe the Patriots have anyone who can stop him and then noting he has “a lot of respect” for his friend Patrick Chung, apparently not realizing Chung left New England as a free agent in the offseason, signing with the Eagles.

“I’m going to leave that for you guys to dissect,” Arrington said.

Added Arrington of Johnson: “Extreme talent. Very, very talented. One of those all-around talents that we see. He’s not only fast, not only just shifty, not only great hands, not only possession, run after the catch. We have a great challenge on our hands. We’re getting ready.”

The Patriots defense improved during the 2012 season after a slow start, and Arrington is looking for the defense to pick up where it left off.

“Our goal is always we want to be a fast, physical, dominant defense,” he said. “I think we’ve taken some good steps in the right direction, but I know we have a long way to go. It’s going to be a long season. Everything is focused on getting ready for Buffalo this week. I guess we’ll assess where we’re at after that.”

Arrington has been moved around the defensive backfield during the preseason. He said he’s just happy to be playing, no matter where he is.

“I just love being out there on the field, being able to go out there and play football. It’s fun,” he said. “I love being on the inside, I love being on the outside. I love, like I said, just going out there and being a football player. It’s a tremendous game. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

Read More: Kyle Arrington, Stevie Johnson,
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