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Jonathan Kraft on D&C: ‘I’ve never heard Bill [Belichick] say a bad word about Wes [Welker]’

11.22.13 at 9:54 am ET
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Patriots president Jonathan Kraft checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to talk about Sunday night’s showdown with the AFC-leading Broncos and other Patriots news.

The game marks the return of former Patriot Wes Welker, who is expected to play after suffering a concussion in Denver’s last game. Kraft said he has a special place in his heart for Welker, who played six incredibly productive seasons in Foxboro.

“How do you not, as a football fan, forget just being a Patriots fan, how do you not have huge admiration for Wes?” Kraft said. “The thing I always say about him, aside from the fact he’s a wonderful guy that I’ve had the privilege of knowing, when I stand next to him — and I’m no physical specimen — there’s really not a lot of difference in terms of what you look at when the two of us are standing next to each other. And then you watch him step on a football field and do what he does, it’s indescribable. If you love the game and you appreciate what the game is, and then you look at him and you look at what he was given in terms of just the basic physical attributes, and then you watch what he does, you have to be in awe of him. And I am in awe of him.

“Unfortunately, I watch him in a different color uniform and I’m still in awe of him and what he does on the football field. It’s exceptional and amazing.”

Welker departed the Patriots under mysterious circumstances, as New England did not appear to try its hardest to sign Tom Brady‘s favorite receiver. Kraft said he has no reason to believe it was anything personal between Welker and Bill Belichick.

“I don’t believe that’s the case,” Kraft said. “I’ve seen no sign of that from Bill. ‘€¦ Bill, when he’s building a team, leave emotion out of it completely. He truly does what he feels is in the best interest of the team. And he has a dollar value in mind and structures that can work for different people. And regardless of how he feels about you personally, not as a football player, because I know as a football player he has the utmost for Wes, a huge amount of respect, not just for physical toughness that he has, but Wes gets the game of football. He’s incredibly intelligent. You saw him walk in here in 2007 and instantly get our offense and get on the same wavelength with Tommy. And I think Bill values those things highly.

“I’ve never heard Bill say a bad word about Wes. And even if he did have emotions about him as a person — and I have no reason to believe that he does — that are the way [the WEEI hosts] are describing, I don’t believe he would let that impact a decision that was good for the football team.”

Belichick famously held Welker out of the starting lineup in the Patriots’ playoff loss to the Jets in January 2011 after Welker tweaked New York coach Rex Ryan in a press conference leading up to the game. Kraft said he does not question Belichick’s decisions on matters such as that — at least not professionally.

“You’ve got to have confidence in your head coach, and you have to let him do what he thinks is right. Bill has the ability to do that,” Kraft said. “As a fan, you can sit back and question anything. That’s why all of sports are fun to watch, but I don’t think anything is more fun to watch and follow than football, because there’s so much to discuss. There are more players, there are more situations, each play is scripted.

“You have those discussions, and I understand the question, but I would never question Bill’s ability to make the right decision. Is every decision he makes right? Obviously not. No one’s perfect. But to sit back and question what he’s doing isn’t something that I do, isn’t something that anyone up here does. His track record speaks for itself. That doesn’t mean that as a fan you don’t sit there and say things, but he know what he’s doing.”

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Wes Welker on returning to New England: ‘It’s a big game’

11.21.13 at 10:25 pm ET
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Thanks to the Broncos PR staff, here’s a transcript of the Thursday Q&A between Wes Welker and the Denver media.

On not going sleeveless in the cold weather: ‘€œNo, not for practice. Maybe for a game, but not for practice. Try and bundle up, stay warm.’€

On being excited for the Patriots game: ‘€œDefinitely excited. It’€™s a big game, a big matchup. Great environment and everything else. I really look forward to it.’€

On if it will be strange playing in New England as a visitor: ‘€œSince Miami, yeah, I’€™m sure it will be, a little bit. But it’€™s another game, another field’€”it’€™s still the same size and everything else. I’€™m familiar with it, so that’€™s an advantage for sure.’€

On whether he has shared some of his experiences from New England with players in the locker room: ‘€œTrying to the best I can, just try and enlighten those guys and help them out the best I can. And really just preparing myself.’€

On how he’€™s feeling: ‘€œFeeling good.’€

On whether he will play on Sunday: ‘€œThat’€™s what I’€™m hoping for. Just listen to what the doctors say and go from there.’€

On his recovery process this week: ‘€œJust meeting with the independent doctors and going through multiple tests and everything else.’€

On how he felt in practice: ‘€œI felt fine. I feel fine. I’€™m just preparing myself, getting ready and hopefully just get cleared for Sunday.’€

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Patriots injury report Thursday: No changes for Pats; Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Peyton Manning return for Broncos

11.21.13 at 5:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There were no changes on Thursday’s injury report for the Patriots but several big names returned to the practice field for the Broncos 72 hours before Sunday night’s big game at Gillette Stadium.

In an indication that he will likely be ready to play, wide receiver Wes Welker had a helmet on and took part in Broncos practice, but was limited. Welker sustained a blow to the neck in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s win over the Chiefs and appeared shaken on the field.

He was not expected to practice until Friday while undergoing concussion protocol, making Thursday’s appearance somewhat surprising. Welker will still have to pass concussion protocol and testing by doctors before being cleared for Sunday night.

Also returning Thursday for the Broncos were tight end Julius Thomas (knee) and quarterback Peyton Manning (ankle). Thomas was limited while Manning fully participated in practice and is expected to be a full go for Sunday.

For the Patriots, cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip), Alfonzo Dennard (knee), Kyle Arrington (groin) and safety Steve Gregory (finger) were again all limited on Thursday. The only player who was missing was Michael Hoomanawanui, who injured his knee in Monday’s loss to the Panthers.


Read More: Denver Broncos, Julius Thomas, New England Patriots, nfl

Patriots have same injury report, with Hoomanawanui the only absence

11.21.13 at 5:09 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” For the second consecutive day, the Patriots had the same series of players on the injury report, as tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was absent and several of the recently hobbled defensive backs — including cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip), Alfonzo Dennard (knee), Kyle Arrington (groin) and safety Steve Gregory (finger) — were all limited.

Here’€™s the complete report:

Did Not Practice
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)

Limited Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee)
S Steve Gregory (finger)
TE Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm/hamstring)
LB Brandon Spikes (knee)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)
RB Leon Washington (ankle)

Full Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
WR Matthew Slater (wrist)
RB Shane Vereen (wrist)

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Report: Gene Steratore will work as referee for Patriots-Broncos … again

11.21.13 at 1:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Gene Steratore will work as the referee for Sunday’s Patriots-Broncos contest, according to our friends at Football Zebras.

This will be the second Patriots game of the 2013 season for Steratore and his crew — they served as the officials for Patriots-Bengals on Oct. 6 in Cincinnati. The 50-year-old Steratore, who also works as a Division 1 men’€™s college basketball referee, has worked as an NFL official since 2003.

An interesting note: Sunday night will mark the third straight game Steratore has served as ref for a Patriots-Broncos game in Foxboro. He was at Gillette with his crew on Oct. 7, 2012 for the Patriots-Broncos game, a 31-21 win for New England. He also served as an official for the 2011 divisional playoff between the Patriots and Denver at Gillette Stadium (a game where New England crushed Tim Tebow and the Broncos, 45-10).

For more on Steratore’s history as an official, check out his page at Pro Football Reference.

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Michael Hoomanawanui only one missing from start of Patriots practice

11.21.13 at 12:32 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For the second straight day, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was the only player missing from the start of Patriots practice, a session held on the upper fields behind Gillette Stadium in sweats and shells. (Hoomanawanui suffered a knee injury in the loss to the Panthers.) The Patriots continue their prep work for Sunday night’s game against the Broncos in Foxboro.

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Tom Brady thinks Pats are ‘doing a little better’ spreading the wealth

11.21.13 at 12:04 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When dropping back to pass, Tom Brady has always used one principle in particular to guide his approach: Throw it to the open man.

That hasn’t always been the easiest thing to do in the first nine games as he was missing key parts of his arsenal at times, and appeared like a quarterback who sometimes tried to force the ball into narrow windows. But last Monday marked the first game he has had his full complement of receivers.

With Shane Vereen returning, Brady had Vereen, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola at his disposal, and made use of all of them. Throw in rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, and you begin to see the great potential for Brady to spread the ball around and “throw it to the open man.”

“We’€™re doing a little bit better in that sense,” Brady said. “I think our execution has gotten better over the course of the year and we have made a bunch of improvements. KT came in and what KT did the other night, I wasn’€™t sure how much he was going to play, [but he] made a couple huge plays in the game. You know, Aaron Dobson has done a great job. Julian’€™s continued to be a steady, solid, dependable player for us and then like you said Danny, Gronk, Shane. LeGarrette [Blount] ran hard, Rid [Stevan Ridley] runs hard. We’€™ve got a good group. We’€™ve got a good group. We’€™re getting better, so that is what I am excited about.”

While it may not compare on paper yet, that quartet could wind up being just as productive as Denver’s grouping of Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker.

All Brady has to do know, is start spreading the wealth and hope his receiving corps can stay on the field.

Thirteen different receivers have caught passes from Brady this season, led by Edelman’s 52 for 500 yards. How diversified is the passing game now? Vereen led all receivers on Monday with eight catches on 11 targets for 65 yards.

“Julian has had some production outside. Danny’€™s had good production when he’€™s been in there,” Brady added. “We’€™re trying to spread it around to find different guys. Typically whoever is open gets it. I think that spot has always been big in our offense. The tight end spot has always been a productive spot. But yeah, I think we overall can all do a better job. We’€™re going to need to going forward, this week especially. All those spots: the slot spot, the tailback spot, this is a team where we know we’€™re going to need to score some points.”

If you add catch totals of Amendola and Edelman, you get 81 catches for 841 yards but only three touchdowns. Welker enters Sunday with 61 catches for 648 yards but triple the number of touchdowns of Amendola and Edelman combined with nine.

“I haven’€™t really thought about it ‘€“ I haven’€™t put too much into that or evaluated that spot,” Brady said when asked to compare the Patriots and Broncos slot positions. “I’€™d say our offense right now is very different than it’€™s ever been in the past. Everything that we do has a different feel to it. We’€™ve had so many new players, like every team has new players, but we have a lot of new players. We have different schemes; we’€™re trying to find different things that work. For the first time last week, we basically had guys healthy so we don’€™t even know what we’€™re good at at this point. We’€™re trying to figure out ‘€“ we only scored 20 points so whatever we did couldn’€™t have been that good. We’€™re going to try to find ways to score more points than that this week.”

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Read More: Danny Amendola, New England Patriots, nfl, Rob Gronkowski



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