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Bill Belichick returns the love from Gregg Popovich: ‘I love to watch that team’

12.19.14 at 10:17 am ET
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Bill Belichick. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick has a mutual respect for NBA coaching great Gregg Popovich. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — On a day when Boston, New England and the basketball world is talking about Rajon Rondo heading to Dallas, Bill Belichick heaped a huge amount of praise upon Rondo’s new rival in the Western Conference.

Recently, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich praised Bill Belichick and the Patriots as a “fantastic organization.”

On Friday, Belichick accepted the praise and returned the favor.

“It’s flattering he would say that,” Belichick said of the five-time champion Spurs coach. “It means a lot coming from his stature and given the amount of respect I have for him and our organization has for that organization because I think it extends well beyond me. That’s a very flattering comment.

“Tremendous respect for Gregg. I think the consistency they’ve had there, the level that they’ve played at. I love the way he coaches that team. I love to watch that team. He’s really good, really good. It’s not like I watch a hundred basketball games a year or anything like that but I think he handles himself and his team, I admire it. I really do.”

Belichick has often interacted with other coaches in Boston, like former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, ex-Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Bruins coach Claude Julien and Boston College hockey coach Jerry York. In some cases, he’s even invited them into Gillette to speak to his team.

It’s not quite at that level with Popovich, at least not yet.

“We’ve had a lot of indirect conversation. Put it that way,” Belichick said.

Reminded that Popovich’s job just got a lot tougher with Dallas acquiring Rondo in a trade with the Celtics Thursday night, Belichick showed that single-minded focus he shares with Popovich.

“Right now, I’m really worried about the Jets. I can’t worry about everybody else’s team and what their challenges are and all that,” Belichick said. “I’m sure every team has a lot of challenges. We have a big one and that’s really my job to deal with that one.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Boston Celtics, Gregg Popovich, NBA

Rodney Harrison on D&C: ‘I guarantee the Jets won’t quit’ against Patriots

12.19.14 at 10:16 am ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison joined Dennis & Callahan to discuss the Patriots’ upcoming game against the Jets. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Jets are in the midst of one of their worst seasons in recent memory, going 3-11 through 14 games. The possibility at a high pick in the upcoming draft has some thinking the Jets might not be motivated for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Harrison said coach Rex Ryan and his staff will get his team to play its hardest.

“I think one of the strengths of Rex Ryan is his ability to motivate his players and really give them perspective. And he’s been really good at that, getting the most out of his players,” Harrison said. “As bad or as crazy as that may sound, I do believe that Rex Ryan is a heck of a football coach. Sometimes the in-game management is off a little bit — he doesn’t have that as a strength of his coaching ability. But at the same time, he’s one of those guys, he can motivate you, he’s very emotional, he cares about his players. So, he can tell his players, ‘Look, we’ve had success against the guys. We feel like offensively they don’t have the weapons they had before. Yes, they have Rob Gronkowski and some other things, Tom Brady, but we can compete with guys and we can beat these guys.’ Just like you said before, ‘We’re not afraid of the Patriots.’ He’ll have those guys pumped up.

“The main thing for the Patriots is, as a player, you never want to get into a situation where you overlook a team. I’ve been on a team where I played on a 1-15 team, a 4-12 team, and you’re still playing for your livelihood. Guys are playing for contracts, guys are playing not to get injured. So you have a lot guys who have a lot of stuff on the line and also the coaches evaluate and the general managers and other teams evaluate this team and see if guys are quitting. And I guarantee the Jets won’t quit. But the one way you make a team like the Jets get discouraged is you come out and you take a 14- to 17-point lead and all of a sudden you’ll see those guys shutting down.”

Harrison said Belichick has a few methods to make sure the Patriots won’t take the Jets lightly.

“I think one aspect is he’ll go back and he’ll probably grab some plays of just what the Jets can do, what can they can do offensively, how good they are from a defensive line standpoint,” Harrison said. “And he’ll continue to push the guys. In meetings, he’ll call out different guys in practice and making sure the guys hustle. And he’ll be tough this week. He won’t be one of those guys walking around smiling, he’ll be tough on the guys.”

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Read More: Darrelle Revis, Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison,

Fantasy Football: Week 16 starts, sits

12.19.14 at 9:15 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

 

 

It’s bowl week for most fantasy footballers, and we’re back with a fresh batch of starts and sits for your perusal. I’ve posted three starts for the four major positions and a player to avoid for each as well. As always, for information on players not listed in this article, I encourage you to check out my full lineup rankings at Rotobahn.

Don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett. If you have last-minute lineup concerns, you should check out my Sunday chat. It takes place right here at WEEI.com and it runs from 11 a.m. to noon.

If you want to keep track of all our fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh articles and chats as well.

QUARTERBACK

Start

Mark Sanchez, Eagles at Washington

The top nine quarterbacks are pretty well locked in by my math. After that, I see Sanchez as a good option because he has a nice matchup and because of the weapons around him.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks at Cardinals

He’s a big-game player, and he’ll make enough plays to give you QB1 output. The Cardinals are not fully loaded on either side of the ball right now, so stick with Wilson unless you have a higher-ranked option.

Eli Manning, Giants at Rams

The emergence of Odell Beckham has changed Manning’s fortunes for the better. He’s a viable quarterback this week in all leagues if you are in need. The Rams are tough, but I expect low-end QB1 output, so start him if you have the need.

Sit

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers vs. Chargers

There’s just too much going wrong in San Francisco to try him this week. The Harbaugh situation has gone from bad to worse, and it’s showing up on the field. You can do better on the average waiver wire. Check the Week 16 rankings for options.

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Read More: Colin Kaepernick, Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez, Russell Wilson

Shane Vereen on penalty-free streak of epic proportion

12.19.14 at 7:45 am ET
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Shane Vereen hasn't been flagged for a single penalty since he arrived in the NFL in 2011. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Shane Vereen hasn’t been flagged for a single penalty since he arrived in the NFL in 2011. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — In a year where penalty flags have been thrown at a record rate, Shane Vereen is one of the lucky ones.

The Patriots running back is one of four regulars on this year’€™s New England roster who has yet to be penalized. Vereen, Vince Wilfork, Devin McCourty and Chris Jones are the four players on the 2014 team who have played at least 475 snaps this season without being hit with a penalty.

But Vereen has taken that streak to the next level. The 2011 draft pick has yet to be flagged as a professional. That’€™s three-plus seasons in the league without a single penalty — per Pro Football Focus, 1,020 snaps as a professional without a flag.

Informed after practice on Thursday that he had yet to be penalized as a professional, Vereen was taken aback.

“€œShoot,” he said with a smile. “That’€™s crazy. Really?

“I don’€™t know. It’€™s interesting,” he said after a second. “I really don’€™t think about it. I just play and do the best I can. I really don’€™t think of penalties.

“Now you have me thinking I need to go get one. Get my rep up a little bit.”

Historically, running backs are some of the least penalized players on the team, because they simply have fewer chances to be flagged. (By way of comparison, in the same stretch, fellow running back Stevan Ridley — who arrived as part of the same draft class as Vereen — has only two penalties as a pro.) For a pass-catcher like Vereen, however, there’€™s always the possibility of him getting hit with an offensive pass interference call. In addition, his work in blitz pickup (holding) could also leave him susceptible.

Vereen said he’€™d “definitely been flagged in college” a few times when he was at Cal for offsides and holding, but was still amazed that he hadn’€™t been hit with a penalty since he arrived in the league in 2011.

“€œI guess technique is the best explanation,” when asked about the secret to his success. “We practice good technique. A lot of times, the stuff I’€™d probably get called for probably doesn’€™t get called too often. It has to be pretty blatant and out in the open, so as a running back, you’€™re able to get away with some of that sort of stuff. Really, the biggest thing is just practicing good technique and putting your hands in the right places so you don’€™t get called.”

Vereen is also making statistical waves in other areas as well. He’€™s currently only one of six running backs in the league who can boast of at least 85 carries and 45 catches, part of a group that includes high-profile backs like DeMarco Murray of Dallas, Matt Forte of Chicago, Le’€™Veon Bell of Pittsburgh, Fred Jackson of Buffalo and Andre Ellington of Arizona.

If he gets to the 50-catch/50-carry mark, he’€™d be the first New England running back to do it since Kevin Faulk had 83 carries and 58 catches in 2008. Only four running backs in franchise history have ever hit the 50-50 plateau — Faulk (2000 and 2008), Dave Meggett (1995), Leroy Thompson (1994) and Tony Collins (1985 and 1986).

Vereen said Thursday he takes pride in his work as a pass catcher.

“It’€™s huge. It’€™s huge. It means a lot to me,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in being able to do three things — running, catching and pass blocking. I take a huge amount of pride in all three, and the fact that they look to me to be able to make a play and make the offense go.”

Read More: Shane Vereen,

Live Chat: Talk all things Patriots, NFL with Chris Price, Friday at noon

12.19.14 at 12:38 am ET
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Join Chris Price of WEEI.com to break down all things Patriots and the NFL, Friday at noon. Price will help you get ready for the Pats‘€˜ Sunday showdown with the Jets, while looking at the landscape of the league heading into the regular season’€™s final stretch.

Live Blog Chris Price Live Patriots Chat
 

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Darrelle Revis gets a chance to connect with ex-Patriots CB Mike Haynes

12.18.14 at 4:57 pm ET
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Mike Haynes played for the Patriots from 1976 to 1982. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Mike Haynes played for the Patriots from 1976 to 1982. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

FOXBORO — When he was in San Diego recently, Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis had the chance to catch up with former New England cornerback Mike Haynes.

Haynes, who was drafted by the Patriots in 1976, played his first seven seasons with New England before finishing his career with seven years with the Raiders. Revis said “it was great” getting the chance to connect with a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

“Just picking his brain and asking him how he covered wide receivers, his techniques,” Revis said after practice on Thursday. “And some of them were similar in the things he was talking about and sharing. And some were different. I definitely took some of his tips and will hopefully try to use them in my game.”

Revis said Haynes — who currently lives in Southern California — was invited to spend some time with the Patriots by coach Bill Belichick.

“When I saw him at first, I was kind of like, ‘€˜I know I know that face.’€™ It looked familiar,” Revis recalled. “Then Bill brought him around the team and introduced him and said, ‘€˜Hey, this is Mike Haynes.’€™ I’€™m like, ‘€˜I knew it. I knew it was him.’€™ I just waited around afterward. A bunch of guys did. Me, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty and we actually got to talk to him.

“It’€™s just my position and being a fan of those guys,” he added. “They’€™re very successful at what they do, so why not ask questions, so see what answers you can get from those guys.”

Read More: Darrelle Revis, Mike Haynes,

Julian Edelman (thigh/concussion) remains among 12 Patriots limited

12.18.14 at 4:50 pm ET
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There were no changes to the Patriots’ injury report from Wednesday, as every player was present at Thursday’s practice in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.

12 players were limited though, including Julian Edelman (thigh/concussion). With Edelman staying the same as he did on Wednesday, it is a good sign for his availability on Sunday. A concussion popped up next to his name on the report on Wednesday. It is still unknown when he suffered the concussion. LeGarrette Blount (shoulder), Kyle Arrington (hamstring) and Danny Aiken (finger) are among the 12 players limited.

One small note is that Dan Connolly‘s ankle injury has been changed to a knee injury. He was limited.

Quarterback Tom Brady (ankle) remained a full participant.

Here is a complete practice report:

Limited participation

LS Danny Aiken (finger)
CB Kyle Arrington (hamstring)
RB LeGarrette Blount (shoulder)
OL Dan Connolly (knee)
WR Julian Edelman (thigh/concussion)
OL Cameron Fleming (ankle)
LB Dont’€™a Hightower (shoulder)
DE Chandler Jones (hip)
WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder)
DE Rob Ninkovich (heel)
RB Shane Vereen (ankle)
LB Chris White (ankle)

Full participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle)

Read More: Patriots practice report,
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