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Woody Johnson to Bob Kraft: Sorry about that ‘wall’ charge

12.23.10 at 1:01 pm ET
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In a report by the New York Daily News, Jets owner Woody Johnson placed a call to Patriots owner Robert Kraft this week, apologizing for the accusation by Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff that the Patriots employed a special teams ‘wall’ along the sideline similar to the one that led to a coach tripping a Miami Dolphins player.

In the Dec. 12 game, Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi stuck his knee into Dolphins kick returner Nolan Carroll and was suspended indefinitely after general manager Mike Tannenbaum said new evidence had come to light. That evidence was that Alosi instructed the players to line up on the sideline to create a wall. Westhoff insisted that he did not give the order to Alosi and then went on a Chicago sportsradio station and accused the Patriots of doing something similar.

“A number of teams do it,” Westhoff said. “There is a pretty good team up north that lines their whole defense up when they do it, so it’s something that just kind of happened.”

Westhoff wouldn’t say definitively the Patriots were breaking the rules, but went on to suggest specifically what it is the Patriots do on the sidelines during kicks.

“Well, if you watch them — their defense when the opponent’s punt team is out there — they’re up there pretty close to the line so it looks like they are trying to do it,” Westhoff said. “Now are they doing anything illegal? Are they tripping anybody? Heck no. I’m not saying that. That’s not the point. But, yeah, they’re lined up there. Is it making a difference? I don’t know. I really don’t know, because to tell you the truth, before this happened, I never really looked at anybody’s sideline in all my years.”

The Daily News also reported that Johnson apologized to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for the actions of Alosi.

“I apologized to Mr. Ross. It’€™s not a problem for him [but] it’€™s a problem for me,” Johnson said. “We’€™re not perfect. But once we’€™ve made a mistake, we’re pretty good at trying to make remedies.”

Read More: Miami Dolphins, Mike Westhoff, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Deion Branch: ‘Whatever it takes’ to get Tom Brady healthy

12.23.10 at 12:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After missing his media availability for the second straight day, it appeared Tom Brady would miss practice with flu-like symptoms as the Patriots continued preparations for the Bills on Sunday in Orchard Park.

But low and behold, there was the Patriots quarterback on the main stadium field at 1 p.m. getting ready for the game that could clinch the AFC East title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs if the Patriots come out on top.

“We have to do what we have to do, whatever it takes to get Tom up to full steam,” Patriots receiver Deion Branch said before Thursday’s practice. “If he needs to rest two or three days, that’s what he has to do.”

Adding to the mild surprise of seeing Brady on the field was the fact that Thursday’s practice was outdoors on the Gillette Stadium main field. Speculation was rampant that since Brady missed his media availability for a second straight day and was no where to be seen during locker room availability, he was staying home again with the flu.

“We’ve been speaking a lot about it a lot now that the weather’s been changing,” Branch said. “I think I couple of you might be sick later on. We’re noticing not as many reporters in here. Right about now, with the weather changing, there’s going to be a lot of illness running around, we’re trying to make sure we’re pumping in the fluids in our bodies, getting the proper rest, eating the right foods, trying to be more of a true professional right now.”

One way of assuring more rest is beating Buffalo this weekend. If they do, they will not only win the AFC East but they’ll get the No. 1 seed, meaning the weekend of Jan. 8-9 off and no plane travel throughout the playoffs.

“That’s every team in the league,” Branch said. “We don’t get an exception. Nobody gets an exception. I think the thing is now just take advantage of the opportunities that we have in front of us and hopefully we can go out and get the job done this week and rest some guys.”

Brady is expected to address the media on Friday before the team leaves on Christmas Day for Sunday’s road game against the Bills.

Read More: Brady flu, Buffalo Bills, Deion Branch, New England Patriots

Brian Billick on D&C: Tom Brady deserves MVP

12.23.10 at 7:53 am ET
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Fox Sports NFL analyst Brian Billick made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning, joining guest hosts Bob Ryan and Chris Mannix to talk about the Patriots and news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Billick, who formerly coached the Ravens, was asked about Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs‘ proclamation that he was leaving Tom Brady off his Pro Bowl ballot. Said Billick: “I hate it when the players use something like this, because I think it discredits the rest of those that are deservingly, obviously. in the Pro Bowl. You understand the back and forth; they’ve been battling each other all year long and it’s kind of amusing. But I really do hate to see it come out in this way, because that is something that is important to players.”

Billick said Brady is his MVP pick, because of how critical he is to the Patriots. “I’m not sure New England without Tom Brady is a playoff-caliber team,” he said. “That’s the difference-maker for me.”

Turning to the Jets and their recent struggles, Billick said oft-criticized quarterback Mark Sanchez isn’t the key reason for the drop-off. Rather, it’s the defense not being as dominant as it was through the first half of the season.

“I think the surprise is defensively,” he said. “They’re still very good, make no mistake. They seem to be having trouble putting pressure on the quarterback with a standard four-man front. Now, Rex [Ryan] has a remedy for that now. He’s going to bring guys in a very creative way. They’re going to bring pressure. And they’ve got the back end that can write those checks and match up man for man. But their lack of ability to put pressure on you with just a four-man front I think is probably the biggest Achilles’ heel I see right now.”

Looking at Ryan’s issues with foot-fetish videos apparently featuring his wife that surfaced this week, Billick said it could be a big problem for the team. Said Billick: “Particularly this time of year, every second, every minute you’re not focused on your opponent, you leave yourself vulnerable. ‘€¦ For Rex and [wife] Mickey to have to deal with this, it’s unfortunate. It is an invasion of privacy, in my opinion. But that’s the world we live in right now. They’ll rally around it and they’ll hold it at arm’s length and say it’s not something that’s going to affect them. But as I said, every second you’re not focused on your opponent is an advantage for your opponent.”

Read More: Brian Billick, Rex Ryan, Terrell Suggs, Tom Brady

Vince Wilfork biggest reason Patriots have woken up

12.22.10 at 4:34 pm ET
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FOXBORO — He has been the anchor of the defense all season long. If the Patriots’ statistics were even in the middle of the pack in terms of yards allowed, Vince Wilfork would garner and deserve serious consideration for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.

If you don’t believe that, just read what Bill Belichick had to say during his Tuesday conference call.

“I thought Vince did a terrific job for us [Sunday] night,” Belichick began. “He was out there for a lot of plays ‘€” 74 plays or whatever it was ‘€” I forget the exact number, but it was a lot. I thought he played hard. He really had an outstanding game. They had a lot of attention directed at him, which is understandable, but he had a bunch of double teams and slides on the protection coming his way and those types of things.

“He really played hard, played well and did a lot of things to help us win. I thought he was outstanding – probably one of the best games he’€™s played. He’€™s played a lot of good ones, but I’€™d say that’€™s one of the best ones he’€™s played around here.”

While the Patriots may rank 28th in yards allowed (374.6 per game), one statistic Belichick, Wilfork and the rest of the Patriots will point to is turnover ratio. New England is by far and away the NFL leader this season with a plus-20 margin. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are next at plus-14. And Wilfork doing his job in the middle and on the ends of the defensive line is a big reason for it.

Wednesday, Wilfork pointed to one game in particular when it all seemed to turn around for the Patriots. Following the team’s woeful performance in a 34-14 loss to the Browns, Wilfork said the team regained their focus. Wilfork talked about the lessons learned since their loss in Cleveland on Nov. 7. The Patriots have since won six straight.

“Cleveland was a wakeup call for us,” Wilfork said. “They put it to us. We had a gut check. I don’€™t think there is one guy who left that game happy with anything he did that day. And I think we came together as a team and started putting more emphasis on little things. It’€™s not the big things; it’€™s all about the little things because the little things take care of the big things in the end. Ever since then I think we’€™ve just been focused in and one of our goals has been finishing, watching more film, watching to see what our opponents do in certain situations.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, nfl

Three miss practice for the Bills

12.22.10 at 4:17 pm ET
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The Bills had three players miss practice on Wednesday. Here’s a look at their complete injury report:

Did Not Participate
T Demetrius Bell (knee)
C Geoff Hangartner (knee)
LB Chris Kelsay (knee)

Read More: Bills, injury report,

Tom Brady misses practice with the flu

12.22.10 at 4:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Quarterback Tom Brady, offensive lineman Dan Connolly wide receiver Deion Branch and tight end Aaron Hernandez were among the eight players who did not take part in practice on Wednesday for the Patriots. Here’€™s a look at the complete injury report:

Did Not Participate
LB Tully Banta-Cain (groin)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot/flu)
WR Deion Branch (knee)
G Dan Connolly (concussion)
DL Brandon Deaderick (shoulder)
TE Aaron Hernandez (hip)
NT Myron Pryor (back)
DL Mike Wright (concussion)

Limited Participation
DL Ron Brace (concussion)
LB Jermaine Cunningham (calf)

Full Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (elbow)

Read More: injury report, Patriots,

Take that, Terrell Suggs! Fans love Tom Brady

12.22.10 at 3:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — He may not have been the choice of Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs but Tom Brady was a clear winner in the fan-balloting portion of the Pro Bowl vote released Wednesday by the NFL.

The Patriots quarterback – in the midst of a spectacular season – received 1,877,079 votes to lead all NFL All-Stars in fan balloting for the game to be held on Jan. 30, between the end of the conference championships and Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 7 in Arlington, TX. It’s Brady’s hope that he’ll be unavailable to take part because of preparations for the Super Bowl.

Fan voting ended on Monday, with Brady not only leading the AFC but the NFL among the top 10 Pro Bowl vote-getters. Brady topped a list that included – in order – Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew and Matt Ryan.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski finished fouth among the NFL’s top five rookie vote-getters with 205,948 votes. There was a record 98.59 million votes cast on NFL.com, on wireless phones and on Facebook. Fans cast 89.52 million votes on NFL.com, 8.50 million votes on their wireless phones and 570,000 votes on Facebook.

The AFC and NFC All-Star squads, which will be announced at 7 p.m. on the NFL Network on Dec. 28, are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each counts one-third towards determining the 43-man rosters that represent the two conferences in the Pro Bowl. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes on December 22-23.

Not surprisingly, the Top 5 is dominated by quarterbacks as Vick (1,522,437) leads all NFC All-Stars and ranks second overall. Peyton Manning (1,130,399 votes), Rivers (1,039,618 votes) and Brees (971,731 votes) round out the top five.

The 2011 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 and televised live on FOX at 7 p.m. ET at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The voting process in the NFL is unique in sports since it’s the only league that combines voting by fans, coaches and players to determine its all-star teams. It was the first professional sports league to offer online all-star voting in 1995.

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