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Notes from Wednesday morning’s walkthrough

08.10.11 at 12:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots held their last walkthrough prior to the opening of preseason games when they conducted a practice in shorts and shells that lasted around two hours on Wednesday. The Pats will kick off their preseason schedule Thursday night when they host Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars at 7:30 p.m.

Here are a few notes from the walkthrough:

— Among the players not in helmets or practicing were Brandon Tate, Ras-I Dowling, Shane Vereen, Kevin Faulk, James Sanders, Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Chris Morris, Matt Light, Albert Haynseworth, Shaun Ellis, Ron Brace and Mike Wright.

Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco was present, though he wasn’t on the field much, if at all. He stayed on the bench with teammates. Second-year tight end Rob Gronkowksi did not practice Tuesday, but was on the field for Wednesday’s walkthrough.

— Once again, first-round pick Nate Solder saw a healthy amount of action at left tackle with the first unit. With Light out, the rookie faces far less stiff competition in trying to protect Tom Brady‘s blindside in the early going of the preseason, though Sebastian Vollmer, who was lined up at right tackle, has enough experience playing both positions that he could see a fair amount of time on the left side.

— All sorts of special teams plays were practiced, with tight end Will Yeatman doing a good job of falling on an onside kick. Among other things, the safety kick was also practiced.

— While Brady, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett all got their snaps under center, it was teenager Harry Kraft, son of Jonathan Kraft and grandson of Robert Kraft, who stole the show at the quarterback position. Wearing a light blue T-shirt, shorts and a Dean Ween haircut, the youngster (who ESPN’s Chris Mortensen noted attended Peyton Manning‘s camp) worked out of the shotgun and hit Wes Welker with a bullet (relatively speaking) in the end zone. Another pass was just out of Deion Branch‘s reach, though he sold play action flawlessly.

The young Kraft seemed to mean business out there, but unfortunately for him, so, too, did some players. Defensive back Kyle Arrington tipped a pass intended for Vince Wilfork (yes, Vince Wilfork), making Harry Kraft probably the youngest person to experience their “welcome to the NFL” moment. He later went back under center and Malcolm Williams did the unthinkable by actually picking off one of the kid’s passes.

Read More: Deion Branch, Malcolm Williams, Ryan Mallett, Tom Brady

Randy Cross on D&C: Jets are team to beat in East, Steelers are AFC favorite

08.10.11 at 9:07 am ET
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CBS football analyst Randy Cross joined the Dennis & Callahan show with Dale Arnold and Rob Bradford filling in Wednesday morning to discuss the Patriots and their recent acquisitions as well as the upcoming season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Cross was asked what he thinks of the AFC East heading into the first preseason game for the Patriots Thursday night. With the Jets winning last season’s playoff game vs. the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, he said the Jets are the team to beat in the AFC East ‘€” adding it may not be a bad thing for the Patriots.

“If I were going to handicap the AFC East right now, I think you have to start with the Jets in the 1 spot,” Cross said. “That is based only on what happened in this stadium last January and the way they played against the Patriots and the sort of a bad match at times they can be for this team, which makes them right now going in kind of the team to beat in the AFC East, which is a perfect position for the Patriots to be in, especially coming off of a 14-2 season.”

Asked for an early Super Bowl prediction, Cross went with the Steelers vs. the Packers in a rematch of last season’s title game. “I’m going to go with the Pittsburgh Steelers ’til proven otherwise,” he said of the defending AFC champions. “They’re doing nothing but getting better. They’re a tough, physical defense, and that’s always been the key.”

The Patriots currently have 20 players who play on the defensive line. Cross said this is unusual for the Patriots as they are usually a team that has extra linebackers on their roster. He notes that it could have an impact on special teams as well.

“It does present a compelling difference philosophically as far as how do you stock a roster when it comes to cutting the last 53 guys,” he said. “This has been a team defensively that has always highlighted the linebackers, and it seems to be a shift of of way and a year linebackers won’t be at the premium that they have been in the past. Down linemen will take up an extra roster spot or two. That also kind of raises an interesting story from a special teams standpoint. You’re light a few bodies on the special teams side that maybe play linebacker.”

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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Randy Cross, Tom Brady

Patriots dedicate the 2011 season to Myra Kraft

08.09.11 at 9:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€“- The Patriots will be dedicating the 2011 season to the late Myra Kraft and will be honoring her memory with a patch on each uniform, the team announced Tuesday.

Myra was the wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who had to attend her funeral in the closing days of intense collective bargaining negotiations with NFL players.

Mrs. Kraft passed away on July 20 after losing her courageous battle with cancer.

This Thursday, when the Patriots kick off the 2011 campaign against the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium, every Patriots player and coach will honor Myra’€™s memory by wearing a patch with her initials on it in recognition of her lifelong contributions to the local and global community and her influence on the charitable mission of the entire Patriots organization. The patch will be worn on the left chest of every player throughout the season.

At halftime of Thursday night’€™s regional broadcast of the game, a segment will air featuring Patriots greats ‘€“ past and present ‘€“ reflecting on Myra’€™s memory and the lasting legacy she created. Also in honor of Myra Kraft’€™s lifetime commitment to philanthropic service, the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation will focus its season-long initiative in 2011 on recognizing and rewarding volunteerism.

Included in that focus will be the recognition of the nation’€™s largest volunteer organization: the United States military. That season-long initiative will formally commence at the regular season home opener on Sept. 18. Prior to that game, the organization will honor Myra with a moment of silence. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boys and Girls Club of Boston, Jacksonville Jaguars, Myra Kraft, New England Patriots

Gerard Warren is a student of Bill Belichick and Charles Darwin

08.09.11 at 8:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Now entering his 11th NFL season, Gerard Warren has been around long enough to know his responsibilities as an NFL defensive lineman.

If you’re not strong and agile, you’re going to get pushed around and intimidated in the trenches.

And that is probably why Pats head coach Bill Belichick was so willing to have him back in a crowded group of D-linemen in camp this summer. He knew Warren – once voted as one the Top 100 players ever in Florida high school football – could handle all the competition without it getting to him.

“Only the strong will survive,” Warren said after Tuesday’s final full practice before Thursday’s preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium.

So we can assume he’s not intimidated by Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis, Mike Wright, Mark Anderson, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace,Eric Moore, Steve Williams, Kyle Love and Vince Wilfork. Even for a four-man front, that’s a lot of bodies to contend with for a roster spot.

As a matter of fact, Wilfork’s friendship was one big reason he decided to come back to New England, as was the 28-21 playoff loss to the Jets last January.

“It didn’t finish the way we wanted it to but I know the purpose and the direction this team wants to go and I want to be a part of it,” Warren

What is it about New England Warren likes so much?

“Preparation, attention to detail, camaraderie and the will to not give in,” Warren said. “Just chemistry, to be able to feed off what they do well and they feed off what you do well, and be able to mix together and make a masterpiece.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 training camp, Bill Belichick, football, Gerard Warren

Quick notes on Patriots’ Tuesday afternoon practice

08.09.11 at 6:09 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Under cloudy and occasionally humid conditions ‘€” with a spot of rain thrown in for good measure ‘€” the Patriots held a practice session in shorts and shells that ran for almost three hours on Tuesday afternoon on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. Here are a few quick notes on what happened:

‘€¢ The following players were not on the field: Eric Kettani, Ryan Wendell, Rob Gronkowski, Albert Haynesworth and Mike Wright. In addition, the following players were in T-shirts: Brandon Tate, Ras-I Dowling, Shane Vereen, Kevin Faulk, Ross Ventrone, James Sanders, Josh Barrett, Brandon Spikes, Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Chris Morris, Brandon Deaderick, Matt Light, Shaun Ellis and Ron Brace. The full session was held in shorts and shells.

‘€¢ The Patriots held their annual ‘€œpig drill’€ for the rookies prior to the start of practice. Each one of the first-year players was forced to run a muddy gauntlet while being hosed down by quarterback Tom Brady while chasing down the football. (The rookies who weren’€™t in a helmet or shells were hosed down by Brady nonetheless.) Brady appeared to take great delight in soaking Ryan Mallett ‘€” however, the rookie would gain a small measure of revenge later when the quarterbacks took turns in one drill pounding on each other with blocking pads. The drill, ostensibly to improve concentration, feature Mallett getting in a few good-natured shots at Brady’€™s expense.

‘€¢ Without Gronkowski in the lineup, tight end Aaron Hernandez got more reps than he had previously throughout camp, and looked like he had a good afternoon. No. 81 caught just about everything thrown in his direction ‘€” including a nice grab from Brady in a 7-on-7 passing drill ‘€” as he was leaned on heavily by the offense throughout the session. Hernandez has been overshadowed by Gronkowski throughout the early stages of camp, but really shone Tuesday afternoon.

‘€¢ Without Light in the mix, Nate Solder continued to get good reps at the left tackle spot (and appeared to mix it up with defensive end Mark Anderson at one point in what could be termed a very minor dustup), although it appeared to be a good rotation at the position, with Sebastian Vollmer flip-fliopping from right to left and back again throughout the practice. Vollmer’€™s versatility could play a big role in the development of this offensive line throughout the season ‘€” he has serious experience on the left side, having played there as a rookie when Light went down ‘€” and could really be an valuable piece if there are personnel questions at either tackle spot in 2011.

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Read More: 2011 training camp,

Chad Ochocinco on dropped passes in camp: ‘I’m human’

08.09.11 at 5:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco addressed the handful of dropped passes he’s endured through the first week or so of training camp on Tuesday, saying that it’s all part of the learning process.

“I’m human, right? All of us are human,” said Ochocinco, who was acquired from the Bengals on July 28. “Balls are going to be dropped. It’s part of the game.”

At the same time, he feels confident with where he is roughly two weeks into the transition.

“Very. Very. Very confident,” he said. “Again, the reason I’m able to have the confidence ‘€” the little bit that I do have right now ‘€” is that I have been able to consume a lot of information in a short period of time and I’m able to go with the ones, and that’s it. I’m feeling very comfortable, but I’m nowhere near where I need to be to be part of this offense in a good way. But I’m on the right track.”

Ochocinco said the combination of Wes Welker and Deion Branch have really been a huge help with the transition.

“Most definitely. Most definitely,” Ochocinco said. “They’ve probably made it the easiest with so much verbiage as far as signals and other things in the offense, it’s hard for me to get. Wes and Deion have been able to somewhat catch me up to speed on that. With those two, including Tom [Brady], they’ve sped up the process to even where the game is being played very soon, I could probably go out there and play at full speed without having to think.”

Read More: 2011 training camp, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Tom Brady

Chad Ochocinco maintains that he wants to live with a Patriots fan, and talks about his adventures in Boston

08.09.11 at 4:57 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” New Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said Tuesday afternoon he’s going to pick one fan to stay with “for the first two [or] three weeks of the season” to live with until he gets “acclimated” to the area.

“I’m going to do something different ‘€” I’m going to stay with a fan, probably for the first two, three weeks of the season, so that should be fun until I get myself acclimated and learn my way around and just find a place,” Ochocinco said after the Patriots held a nearly three-hour practice on the fields behind Gillette Stadium.

There are some prerequisites, however.

“I’m not sure how many Boston fans I have, but I’m just going to pick someone. I’m not sure how it’s going to work, They have to have Internet and they have to have Xbox. That’s about it,” he said.

Ochocinco also discussed some of his adventures in and around Boston over the last couple of weeks since the Patriots picked him up in a trade. He showed up at last Sunday’s Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway, and has explored the city in his Prius.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “I haven’t used the GPS purposely. The way I learn a new city is by traveling out, venturing out and getting lost on purpose. But this past weekend I was a little frustrated because I lost about an hour, an hour and a 30 minutes, and I couldn’t get where I needed to. And that’s it. Other than that, Boston ‘€” actually, heaven ‘€” has been good.

“People have been fun. People have been fun. A lot of people are not too fond of the Prius that I drive ‘€” I find that hard to believe. Not sure what that’s all about. But other than that, people have been great. People have been great. I got to meet a couple of fans at the Red Sox game, and I wasn’t able to please everybody because I’d have to talk to the entire stadium, but it’s been cool.”

Read More: 2011 training camp, Chad Ochocinco,
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