|08.31.10 at 4:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s on days such as Tuesday that players look at things a bit differently. With rosters being cut down to 75 players at 4 p.m., the late-round youngsters, fizzled draft picks, and journeymen veterans can’t help but think about whether their time with their respective club has expired.
They’re not the only ones though, as plenty of the starters and respected veterans throughout the league were once in their shoes. Count Patriots guard Stephen Neal among them. A key member of the Patriots’ offensive line over the last six seasons, the first three weren’t so easy. A wrestler from Cal State-Bakersfield, Neal himself was once cut by the Patriots before playing on the practice squad of the Eagles and eventually rejoining New England in Week 12 of the 2001 season.
“I just came off the streets as a wrestler, and they brought me into the office,” Neal said of one of the more nerve-wracking experiences of his career. “We had a workout and they just brought me up and said, ‘Hey, we like the way you work, but you don’t know enough football to help us this year and we’d like to call you up for next year.’ I just said, ‘Thank you for the opportunity and it’s dream come true just to be here in practice.’”
Though he later wound up back with the team, that wasn’t the end of his worries. Cut time continued to be a stressful affair until establishing himself in 2004, when he played in all 16 games and served as the starter for four.
“It’s tough. You sit there and another cut day goes by. My first time I made it to play in the third game and didn’t make it to the fourth game,” Neal said. “The next few years it was like, ‘Man, that day is coming,’ so you just kind of wait for the phone to ring, and if it doesn’t, you’re a happy man.”
Though his phone did ring at times, even showing a restricted number at the hour that “your heart’s beating every time the phone rings.”
The problem, though, was that he would answer the phone to either nobody at the other end or his friends goofing around.
“At least they didn’t take the tires off my car and miss a meeting or something, that would have been worse,” Neal said, who added that the prank can be common among the “jokesters” in the league.
Neal’s current teammates wouldn’t be so generous with the cruel treatment of nervous players. Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, a seventh-round selection in the 2003 draft, said he was “never on the short end of that stick” but wouldn’t want to be.
“I’m pretty sure some guys have a worse humor than others,” Banta-Cain said. “It’s probably not the best time to be joking with peoples’ lives like that.”
Kevin Faulk never had to worry that much. A second-rounder in 1999, he came in with the expectation that he’d make the team. That didn’t give him any reason to scare those who were on the bubble.
“I don’t want to be [involved in those jokes]. I don’t think that’s too much of a prank.” Faulk said. “That’s like a bad headache, something that you don’t want.”
Neal laughed when asked if he was more comfortable shaving players’ heads than making them sweat it out on cut day.
“That’s the Patriot haircut,” he said. “You’re not a Patriot until you get that haircut. It’s a badge of honor.”
|08.31.10 at 3:44 pm ET|
FOXBORO — According to a report from the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport, the Patriots have cut running back Chris Taylor. The news comes on the same day that the team must cut down the roster to 75 players. The roster now stands at 79 players, meaning four more will get the axe or be placed on injured reserve prior to the top of the hour.
Taylor, 26, has played in a total of seven games in his NFL career, all of which came as a member of the Texans. This preseason, he picked up 39 yards on eight carries vs. the Saints. He had one reception for minus-7 yards.
[UPDATE: 4:24] ESPN’s Mike Reiss is tweeting that the transaction was never turned in and that the Patriots have since changed their minds.
|08.31.10 at 3:14 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For the second straight day, Bill Belichick had the look of an NFL coach primed and ready for the season to begin.
Several attempts were made to ask the Patriots head coach questions on various topics such as Tom Brady entering the final year of his contract and Vince Wilfork‘s feelings about an 18-game season.
Maybe he was just trying to set an example for his team like always but each time Belichick stayed focused on the task at hand – getting ready for the last tune-up before the bullets start flying for real on Sept. 12.
For example, on Wilfork’s comments to WEEI on Monday that he’s all behind an 18-game schedule as long as the players get paid, Belichick said, “Right now, my thoughts are on the Giants, getting ready for the Giants and the regular season. That’s where I’m at right now.”
Nothing more, nothing less.
“We’re winding down here in preseason, the last preseason practice,” was how Belichick opened his Tuesday briefing. “Looking forward to going down to New York, having a good experience here with the Giants in a new stadium and let it roll.”
Then there was this exchange between the well-respected Albert Breer of the Boston Globe and Belichick on a certain star quarterback for the Patriots entering the final year of his contract.
Q: With all the roster stuff that is going to happen in the next week or so, how important is it that you your quarterback is 10 days away from going into the final season of his contract?
BB: Everybody that is out there is under contract.
Q: Tom has never been this far [into a contract] before –
BB: Every player on the field is under contract.
Q: So you wouldn’t be concerned about someone being in the last year of his contact, even if it is Tom Brady?
BB: There are a lot of players on our team that are in the last year of their contract. There are a lot of players on every team that are in the last year of their contract. That’s not an unprecedented situation.
Q: Is his contract a priority for the team right now?
BB: We’re coaching the team. I’m coaching the team. Everybody out there is under contract.
Boom. Like perfectly picking up a blitz, Belichick wasn’t about to let anything or anyone get to his quarterback.
That’s the focus and execution he wants to see from his team starting with the final preseason game this Thursday against the Giants.
|08.31.10 at 2:11 pm ET|
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript of the Q&A between Bill Belichick and the media this afternoon at Gillette Stadium:
BB: We’re winding down here in preseason. [This is] kind of the last preseason practice. We’re looking forward to going down to New York and having a good experience here with the Giants [and] the new stadium and let it roll.
Q: How many practices have you had since camp started?
BB: I think it’s like 38, something like that. Thirty seven.
Q: Is that right on schedule the way you mapped it out?
BB: Yeah, it’s about right. It’s not the 50-something we would have back in the 80s, but it’s about what it’s been.
Q: By the end of the year, you’ll have about 200 practices?
BB: It would be nice to have 200. I think the top end would be about 120.
Q: Do you see how I set the bar high at 200?
BB: Well, we have certain restrictions on how many days we can practice and all of that.
Q: You’ve got question marks and unknowns every year, but are there more questions this year going in than there have been in the past?
BB: I don’t know. I couldn’t really rank one year with another or two years ago. [You] just deal with whatever you have to deal with the particular year and do the best you can with it.
Q: Any news on the five guys you have to cut today?
BB: No. That will be at 4:00.
|08.31.10 at 1:25 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After reporters were helped to a sweltering 10 minutes of the sun here in Gillette, here is what we came away with to begin Tuesday’s practice session:
- Missing from practice were receiver Julian Edelman, cornerbacks Leigh Bodden, Terrence Wheatley, Kyle Arrington and Bret Lockett, running back Chris Taylor, safety Brandon McGowan, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur, defensive linemen Brandon Deaderick and Darryl Richard, and defensive end/outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham.
- Among those in shorts were tight end Aaron Hernandez and nose tackle Ron Brace.
- The notable subtractions to the attendance report are Chris Taylor and Deaderick, while Myron Pryor returned to the field.
- Rosters must be cut down to 75 players by 4 p.m. today, so some of the players may be off the field due to their impending departure and not necessarily due to injury. The difficulty in gauging this is obviously made a bit more tricky by the Patriots’ secretive nature.
- Bill Belichick said before practice that if he “had to pick [the players who were cut] a month ago we would have picked them a month ago.”
Players will be made available following practice, so check back later for more.
|08.31.10 at 1:17 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Bill Belichick said Tuesday he’s not worried about Tom Brady entering the final year of his contract with the Patriots or any possible distraction it might present.
“Everybody out there is under contract,” Belichick said. “Every player on the field is under contract. There are a lot of players on our team in the last year of their contract, there are a lot of players on every team that are in the last year of their contract. That’s not an unprecedented situation.”
Pressed again about whether he would like to see a deal done with Brady before the season, Belichick focused again on the upcoming preseason finale with the Giants Thursday night and the season opener against Cincinnati on Sept. 12 at Gillette Stadium.
“We’re coaching the team,” Belichick said. “I’m coaching the team. Every player out there is under contract.”
|08.31.10 at 11:52 am ET|
Several media outlets are reporting that the Jets have waived quarterback Kevin O’Connell. O’Connell, a third-round pick of the Patriots in 2008 (94th overall), threw a pair of interceptions vs. the Giants in his lone 2010 preseason appearance.
The Patriots waived O’Connell on August 30, 2009. He was claimed by the Detroit Lions on September 1 and traded to the Jets five days later. O’Connell did not throw a pass for the Jets last season, but was a team captain in the club’s Week 2 win over the Patriots.
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