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Danny Woodhead on M&M: ‘We’re excited for the task at hand’

09.06.11 at 12:36 pm ET
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Running back Danny Woodhead joined the Mut & Merloni show Tuesday as the Patriots continue to prepare for their season opener against the Dolphins next Monday night.

Woodhead talked about the differences, or lack thereof, between preparing for a regular season game compared to a preseason game.

“We really are just trying to work hard every day,” Woodhead said. “Is it different? I don’t know if it’s necessarily different. … We try to approach every game the same.”

While there may not be much difference between preparing for a regular season game versus a preseason tilt, Woodhead said that the team is looking forward to getting the season started.

“We’re excited for the task at hand,” Woodhead said. “We’re excited to work every day, to prepare, and to do everything can do to get better and do everything we can do to make sure we’re hundred-percent prepared.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On his comfort level after having a full year of experience with New England: “Last year, I wouldn’t say I was thrown into it, but it was very quick. It’s definitely a better feeling knowing the locker room a little bit better and knowing the coaches. It’s not as much of a cram session, but there’s a lot of things I need to get better at. I’m just trying to do my best every day to make sure I’m ready whenever my name’s called.”

On playing with recently-released running back Sammy Morris: “He was a great guy, a great help for me, and it was a lot of fun playing with him. But we trust coach on every decision he makes.”

On Tom Brady’s leadership: “I think he’s a leader every single day. I don’t know if his leadership changes. That’s probably something about him, he’s willing to work hard every day and that’s what our team tries to do. We’re not going to change things, we’re going to do everything we can to get ready for this game, just like we always do for all games.”

On fantasy football: “My brother said that he was going to select me [in a draft], but he said he was going to wait until the last second because he didn’t know if I was worth it or something (laughs). I honestly don’t follow that stuff, though. I’ve got a job to do and I stay pretty busy with that.”

Read More: Danny Woodhead, Sammy Morris,

Transcript of Tom Brady on D&C: I’d welcome Randy Moss back ‘with open arms’

09.06.11 at 10:28 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had his weekly phone conversation with Dennis & Callahan Tuesday morning as New England prepares for its opener against the Dolphins next Monday night. Brady discussed a wide range of topics, including whether it would surprise him if he got to play with recently retired wide receiver Randy Moss again.

“Would it surprise me? I mean, you never know in the NFL,” Brady said. “I talked to Randy just before training camp started. I love Randy. He’s one of the greatest receivers in the history of the game, one of the greatest players I’ve ever had a chance to play with, and I love the guy.”

Brady said that he would support a decision to bring Moss back to the league and back to New England.

“Unfortunately, I don’t make personnel decisions,” Brady said. “I’d still have all my friends here. Troy [Brown] would still be here. David Patten would still be here. Deion [Branch] would never have left. a great friend of mine. I’ve seen so many guys move on over the years, and then guys come back. So, who knows? Who knows? You never know what situation we’ll be in here next week, for that matter. … But I love [Moss]. He’s a great friend of mine. If he ever did have the opportunity to come back, I’d certainly welcome him with open arms.”

Following is the transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Is baseball too slow for you these days?

Anything slow is tiresome when you’re sitting there as a spectator. I think that’s why football has been so popular because it’s non-stop action, and even on TV, with all those replays. When you watch baseball, it can be a little slow. I love the game so I enjoy watching it, and I enjoy golf. But there’s nothing worse than slow golf or slow baseball.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brett Favre, Brian Waters, Logan Mankins

Patriots, Brandon Meriweather are both moving on

09.05.11 at 8:58 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Less than 48 hours after the Patriots released safety Brandon Meriweather, it was clear both sides were putting the relationship in the rear view mirror: there was someone else at Meriweather’€™s old Gillette Stadium locker and a new person wearing his old No. 31. Meanwhile, Meriweather was meeting the media in Chicago and talking about a fresh start.

On Monday morning, Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed Meriweather’€™s departure for the first time since New England decided to part ways with the former first-round pick as part of Saturday’€™s cutdown to 53 active players.

‘€œI think each year is a new year, and I just don’€™t think you can pick teams, or pick your players based on what’€™s happened in the past,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œYou have to pick them based on what you think is going to happen this year, and that’€™s relative to the competition, to the make of your team, and player’€™s performance. All of those are obviously a part of it.

‘€œBrandon played a lot of good football for us. We kept the players this year that we felt would be the best make up for the 2011 team. It’€™s not the 2009 team; it’€™s the 2011 team, so those are the players that we’€™ve selected.’€

Meanwhile, in his first day with the Bears, Meriweather told reporters that it felt ‘€œtremendous’€ to come in and be a part of Chicago’€™s defense.

‘€œAll the guys showed me a lot of love when I got here,’€™’€™ said Meriweather. ‘€œTo be playing with an old teammate like Devin Hester [at the University of Miami], it just feels great.’€™’€™

In his four seasons in New England, Meriweather was a two-time Pro Bowler with 12 picks in four seasons, and the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder played in all 64 games with 40 starts over his first four NFL seasons with the Patriots. His best year likely came in 2009, when he earned his first Pro Bowl berth after finishing with career highs with 83 tackles and five interceptions.

Despite all that, he had what can best be described as an eventful career with the Patriots. The Miami product was a lightning rod for critics, who assailed him for his style of play (he admitted he liked to freelance) and his predilection for taking unnecessary risks.

However, despite the baggage, it was seen as something of a surprise because New England was perceived as being thin at the position when it made the move. The Patriots cut veteran safety James Sanders the week before, and are now left with just four safeties on the active roster: Patrick Chung, Sergio Brown, James Ihedigbo and Josh Barrett, and only one of them (Chung) have more than one year experience in the Patriots’€™ system.

Meriweather said he wasn’€™t shocked at the decision.

‘€˜’€˜That’€™s between me and coach,’€ Meriweather told reporters. ‘€œI have a lot of respect for that organization. I have a lot of respect for Bill and the rest of the staff there. But that’€™s behind me now and I’€™m focused on being a Bear.’€™’€™

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Devin Hester, James Ihedigbo

Will Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski be enough at tight end?

09.05.11 at 6:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski provided arguably the best 1-2 rookie tandem in New England since the “Gold Dust Twins” Fred Lynn and Jim Rice burst onto the scene with the Red Sox in 1975.

Their collective season in 2010 was so good that apparently Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are convinced that they can begin the season with them as their only tight end options on the team. Gronkowski played in all 16 games, with 42 catches, 546 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hernandez was even better before a hip injury limited him in the last month of the season. In his first season, Hernandez caught 45 balls for 563 yards and six touchdowns.

But whereas the Patriots had a wealth of tight end options on the roster in 2010 and even earlier in camp this summer, the depth is suddenly depleted.

The Patriots waived two tight ends during the final roster cuts over the weekend, letting go of 6-foot-6 Lee Smith, who was picked up by Bills, and Will Yeatman, another big, tall tight end who was scooped up by the Dolphins. Alge Crumpler is at home, still rehabbing after having surgery on both shoulders in the off-season.

So, while Hernandez and Gronkowski figure to be right at the top of the Brady target list every game, this is a different mix of receivers. The Patriots have brought in Chad Ochocinco, who is still adjusting. They still have Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman and Taylor Price.

But this year, it’s just Gronk and Hernandez at tight end, a role and responsibility both second-year players are embracing.

“Yes, definitely taking on a bigger role like that, having them rely on us like that,” Gronkowski said. “Definitely Crump helped out a lot last year, too. But I feel like having a year under our belt, we can handle this situation. Also, we have to rely on the coaches, too, telling us what to do, listening to the coaches, the quarterbacks and other players so we can go out there and do what we have to do.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Alge Crumpler, Nate Solder, Rob Gronkowski

Vince Wilfork: ‘I’m excited’ to see how defense operates in the regular season

09.05.11 at 2:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Last month, veteran defensive lineman Vince Wilfork alluded to the fact that it’s not just the rookies and newcomers who are learning new aspects of the Patriots’ defense, but the veterans as well. On Monday, Wilfork said he’s “excited” for the start of the season and see how the new-look defense does its job in a game that actually means something.

“I’m excited ‘€” who knows where it takes us?” Wilfork asked on Monday morning as the Patriots started preparing for next Monday’s opener against the Dolphins in Miami. “It’s one of those things that you can only tell when you get out and actually go 60 minutes and play a full game against a top opponent, which is the Miami Dolphins. Wherever it takes us, if we have to make adjustments, we will.

“But I’m looking forward to a great year, a successful year, hopefully. A good, healthy year for this ballclub. You go from there. We definitely have our hands full, I can tell you that. Opening up Monday night down there, it’s not an easy. But that’s something, that’s a challenge for us, early in the year, that’ll be a challenge. We’re going to have to get off to a good start this week.”

Over the course of the summer, the Patriots have utilized more four-man fronts and become more aggressive in their pursuit of opposing quarterbacks. Those defensive fronts, which include Wilfork and newcomers Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter, have given Wilfork cause for optimism as the regular season approaches.

“I’m happy I’ve got all those guys up front with me, I tell you that,” he said. “Just being able to be on the same field and play with the same team with those guys is a pleasure, and hopefully, we can just stay healthy and we can execute well together.

“That’s going to be the bottom line ‘€” can we execute well together, no matter who is on the field? Can we execute our game plan? Can we play together as a team? It’s not just going to be one or two of us that this defense is based around. It’s going to be all 11. They’re veterans, they understand that. We expect a lot of each other. We push each other. It’s going to be a growing year, and hopefully, we can grow fast. We’ll see.”

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis, Vince Wilfork

Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork react to the acquisition of Brian Waters

09.05.11 at 2:27 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Logan Mankins got a new neighbor in the Patriots locker room over the weekend when the Patriots signed veteran offensive lineman Brian Waters.

“I’ve been a fan of Brian’s for quite a while now, and he’s a good player, a good guy. We’re happy to have him,” Mankins said of Waters, who will wear No. 54. “He’s just a solid player. He plays hard, he cleans out the pocket. That’s something we like to do here.

“He’s a really good pass blocker, a good run blocker, and he’s consistent. He’s … what is this, his 11th year? He’s been a good player for a long time.”

“I’m glad he’s on this side, I tell you that. As a rookie, I remember going against (him),” said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. “I’m happy he’s here. I tell you that. Hopefully, he can come in to help us, which he will, and start this season off on a good foot.”

The 34-year-old Waters, a four-time Pro Bowler, is a 6-foot-3, 320-pounder who was cut loose late last month by the Chiefs after 11 seasons in Kansas City. The addition of Waters gives New England some added depth along the interior of the offensive line, particularly right guard. Last year’€™s starter, Stephen Neal, retired, and his de facto replacement, Dan Connolly, suffered an ankle injury in the Patriots’ preseason loss to Detroit last week. (He returned to practice for the first time on Monday.)

As for the rest of the possibilities, Rich Ohrnberger was placed on injured reserve this past weekend, ending his season, while Ryan Wendell has struggled to see the field since suffering an injury in training camp and potential guard Marcus Cannon was placed on reserve/non-football injury list on Saturday.

“We like depth, especially at practice,” Mankins said with a chuckle. “Yeah, you have five guys, and there’s always going to be injuries along the line at some point, so you have to have guys that you trust and are reliable to put in there.”

Going forward, Mankins will remain the starter at left guard, while Waters will move from left to right. Waters said he has played a “little” right guard over the course of his career, and while Mankins said Monday he’s never made the switch, but it’s probably just a matter of getting the footwork down.

“He plays like I do,” Mankins said of Waters. “We like that.”

Read More: Brian Waters, Dan Connolly, Logan Mankins, Marcus Cannon

Leigh Bodden and Dan Connolly among those back at practice for the Patriots

09.05.11 at 1:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots just started their Monday afternoon practice session on the fields behind Gillette Stadium under sunny skies as practice began in earnest for the regular season opener next week against the Dolphins in Miami.

Among the notables returning to practice included offensive lineman Dan Connolly and cornerback Leigh Bodden, both of who have been sidelined for extended periods because of injury. In addition, newcomer Brian Waters was also on the field for the first time with the Patriots ‘€” the veteran offensive lineman was wearing No. 54.

The following players were not present at the start of practice: wide receiver Taylor Price, cornerback Kyle Arrington, running back Stevan Ridley, running back Shane Vereen, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, defensive end Mark Anderson and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham

Read More: Brian Waters, Dan Connolly, Jeff Tarpinian, Jermaine Cunningham
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