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LB Jamie Collins (thigh) added to Patriots injury report

09.11.14 at 4:38 pm ET
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Jamie Collins

Jamie Collins

Linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh) was added to the Patriots injury report on Thursday.

There were no other changes for the Patriots, as New England had perfect attendance at Thursday’s practice when it came to its 53-man roster.

In addition to Collins, center Ryan Wendell, tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive linemen Michael Buchanan, Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones were listed as limited for the second consecutive day as the Patriots continue their prep work for Sunday’s game in Minnesota against the Vikings.

Here’s the complete injury report:

Limited Participation
LB Jamie Collins (thigh)
DE Michael Buchanan (ankle)
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)
DL Chris Jones (ankle)
DL Sealver Siliga (hand)
C Ryan Wendell (knee)

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Report: Tony Corrente will work as lead official for Patriots-Vikings

09.11.14 at 4:26 pm ET
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Tony Corrente will serve as the lead official for Sunday’s Patriots-Vikings game in Minnesota, according to Football Zebras.

Since the start of the 2013 season, no official has worked more New England games than Corrente: he was the lead official for the last year’s AFC title game between the Patriots and Broncos. In addition, he also worked the Oct. 13 game against the Saints in Foxboro and the Dec. 15 contest against the Dolphins in Miami.

Known as one of the more well respected officials in the game, he served as the lead referee for Super Bowl XLI. (He also gained a small measure of infamy in 2012 for accidentally uttering an obscenity at another official while his mic was on. He was docked a game check.)

For more on Corrente’s work as an official, check out his page at Pro Football Reference. For a complete look at this week’s officiating assignments, visit our friends at Football Zebras.

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Rob Gronkowski: Performance against Dolphins shows ‘there’s much room for improvement’

09.11.14 at 3:50 pm ET
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For Rob Gronkowski, last Sunday represented a starting point.

In his first game back since suffering a season-ending knee injury last December against the Browns, the big tight end had four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins.

Now, he wants to try and build on that going forward. One point of emphasis for Gronkowski is improving his catch rate — he did have four receptions, but on a whopping 11 targets.

“That obviously shows there’€™s much room for improvement,” he told reporters after practice on Thursday. “You don’€™t want to have only four [catches] when you had 11 thrown your way. It starts on the practice field, so we’€™ve just been working, getting chemistry down with the wide receivers [and] timing with the quarterback.

“I just have to keep improving, every single week. Keep on going out there during practice, running around more, blocking, and just overall improving throughout all areas of the game. Whatever the coaches have for me, that’€™s what I’€™ve got to go out there and perform.”

In his first game back in action — after not playing at all over the course of the preseason — Gronkowski finished with 38 of a possible 86 offensive snaps, a total Gronkowski referred to as “the perfect amount,” considering that he was still “just coming back and getting my toes wet and everything.” Despite the fact that he was worked all summer long (most of the time in individual sessions with quarterback Tom Brady off to the side in practice), it’s clear conditioning and football fitness will be an issue as he continues to get back to being somewhere near 100 percent.

“For myself, when I couldn’€™t be out there the whole time, [I was] working with the training staff,” he said. “I felt I was pretty good out there [but], you never can be too well-conditioned.

“You can never get enough of that, and you always want to be as well-conditioned as you can be so you can perform to the max of your ability out there.”

For what it’s worth, Gronkowski said it felt good to hit and get hit, and engage in a little smashing and dashing again with his teammates.

“It’€™s just like anything; I’€™ve been playing football for so long, so right when I got back out there, first time I got hit, it all comes back naturally,” he said. “It didn’€™t feel like anything, it just felt like playing football again, which was great.

“It’€™s the NFL — whenever you play a game you’€™re always sore, next day, next few days. You work it out during practice, you work through it and you get ready for the next week all the time.”

Going forward, Sunday represents his first career start against the Vikings, a team that represents a sizable challenge for a New England team seeking its first win of the year.

“They’€™re fast and they’€™re big,” Gronkowski said of the Vikings. “We’€™ve just got to execute as a team together, because they’€™ve got a pretty good defense for sure and they know how to play defense. Their guys are always in the right spot at the right time, they know how to read the quarterback well [and] so we’€™ve got to be prepared to our max ability and work together as a team to get some yards.”

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NFL Week 2 picks: Lions, Jaguars, Bears, Eagles solid underdog plays

09.11.14 at 2:48 pm ET
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Last week I got a back-door cover from the Colts, I got a Derek Anderson-led Panthers victory, and I took the Chargers getting three points before the line moved to even. A normal person would be happy with one of the luckiest 3-1-1 weeks, but I am better than far from normal. In my head, luck had nothing to do with those wins; rather, I earned them. In fact, why would I be happy with last week? The Patriots got dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage and are in last place in the AFC East.

Also, I fell 10 points short of an 80-point Monday night fantasy comeback because I decided to start Danny Woodhead over Chris Johnson and Ryan Matthews. Why Woodhead? Because I read one article that said he has good value in a PPR league. One mention in one article, that’€™s all it took for me to anoint Danny Woodhead my starter, the sleeper pick who would carry me to fantasy glory. I can’€™t even remember where the article was from or who wrote it, but all of last week, I just knew Woodhead was the going to come up big. Just goes to show, don’€™t listen to random guys on the Internet for football advice. With that being said, on to my picks.

Lions +3 at Panthers

I don’€™t care what Christian Fauria says, Matthew Stafford is a solid NFL quarterback. I know the Panthers have one of the best defenses in the league, but the Lions have too many weapons for their offense not to put up points. The Panthers and Derek Anderson/Cam Newton (rib injury) won’t be able to compete, despite the fact they have my favorite and most productive member of the 7th Floor Crew, Greg Olsen, a.k.a. “G-Reg.” The Lions will win outright, and Christian will stop his complaining after we all get to see a Joseph Fauria TD celebration.

Pick: Lions +3

Saints -6.5 at Browns

The Saints have a well-earned reputation for scoring points. Know why? Because they score a lot of points. Brandin Cooks will continue to live up to the hype and Jimmy Graham is likely to find the end zone after being held scoreless last week. I don’€™t see this being a very interesting football game, and in fact I am rooting for a complete blowout. For one, it drastically increases the chances we see a Tomahawk Goalpost Jimmy Graham Jam. Secondly, it guarantees we hear our first “John-nee Foot-ball” chants from the Dawg Pound. If that doesn’€™t happen, at least we can root for Browns punter Spencer Lanning to get kicked in the head again.

Pick: Saints -6.5


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Why working with Bill Parcells gives Mike Zimmer valuable insight against Bill Belichick

09.11.14 at 2:12 pm ET
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Mike Zimmer will be looking to hold down Tom Brady and the Patriots offense once again on Sunday. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Mike Zimmer will be looking to hold down Tom Brady and the Patriots offense once again on Sunday. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

As one of the most respected defensive minds in the NFL, Mike Zimmer knows a good offense when he sees one.

And in New England, the Vikings new head coach sees an offense that put up 20 points in a half against a good Miami Dolphins defense before running out of gas and forgetting to protect its quarterback in the second half last Sunday.

Zimmer sees Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the backfield, Julian Edelman with speed on the edge and Rob Gronkowski in between, running seam routes or wreaking havoc in the red zone.

Oh yeah, he also sees Tom Brady.

“New England is a tough team to pressure,” Zimmer said. “Brady does a great job of getting the ball out, they do a good job in protection of knowing who to block, their backs do a great job in protection. They’€™ve got the screens that they use so often and the receivers [Julian Edelman] and Gronkowski, they know where to get to on the [reads] and hots. They do a great job.

“You know it’€™s never an easy thing, I know [Miami] played better in the second half, but the first half, New England did a good job. In the second half, [Miami] just made some plays. Against New England you have to make some plays from time to time in order to get them off the field. You have to be good on third downs.”

Zimmer worked with Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle when they were in Cincinnati together, with Zimmer working as the D.C. and Coyle in charge of the defensive backs.

“I don’€™t know exactly what Miami was trying to do defensively, I know obviously Kevin Coyle is a very good friend of mine but we have not talked about the game,” Zimmer said. “We kind of know each other’€™s systems well. It’€™s hard for me to know exactly what Miami was doing.”

Zimmer is not new to the Patriots, or their way of thinking. Before taking over as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator in 2008, Zimmer worked for someone pretty familiar with Bill Belichick. Zimmer was Bill Parcells‘ defensive coordinator in Dallas between 2003 and ’06. Zimmer installed a 3-4 look that Parcells preferred, despite Zimmer having never worked with it.

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Perfect attendance for Patriots active roster at Thursday practice

09.11.14 at 12:02 pm ET
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When it comes to their 53-man roster, the Patriots had perfect attendance at practice again Thursday, according to reports. The only player not present for the start of the session was practice squadder Kelcy Quarles.

The workout was held in shorts, sweats and shells on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. The Patriots continue preparations for Sunday’s contest in Minnesota against the Vikings.

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Shane Vereen on having balanced offense: ‘You have to execute in all areas’

09.11.14 at 7:00 am ET
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FOXBORO — The key to any NFL offense is being balanced.

In the Patriots’€™ 33-20 loss to the Dolphins, in which they were outscored 23-0 in the second half, the offense was anything but balanced.

Entering the fourth quarter, trailing just 23-20, the offense ran just three designed running plays. This after rushing for 61 yards in the first half and then running seven total rushing plays in the second half.

“You have to have execution in the run game, the pass game, the screen game, play action — everything needs to execute well,” running back Shane Vereen said. “€œIf not, then you become unbalanced and start getting away from one thing that’€™s maybe not working, as well and going to things that work, but you just have to execute in all areas.”

Vereen had a productive first game of the season as he finished with seven carries for 36 yards and a touchdown to lead the team and then caught five passes out of the backfield for 35 yards.

Some pointed to the number of different players seeing time on the offensive line and a few playing multiple positions as a possible reason why the offense and particularly the offensive line struggled — but Vereen was quick to shut that point down.

“It adds another level of complexity to the offense, but we’€™ve all been doing this since spring,” he said. “Personnel groups are nothing to do us or this offense. That’€™s no excuse for anything that’€™s going on right now.”

For the first time since 2003, the Patriots lost their season-opener, but the team is not even thinking about that. The Pats already have put Sunday’€™s loss behind them and are focused on the Vikings and the remainder of the season.

“We have a lot of football left,” said Vereen. “It’€™s just one week and you can never dwell on one week, especially the first week. We still have 15 games left to go and that’€™s what our focus is on now.”

On Sunday the Patriots will be looking to avoid going 0-2 for the first time since 2001, and Bill Belichick has only lost back-to-back road games twice in his career in New England. That streak is largely due in part to the team’s preparation leading up to each game and the ability to put the past in the past.

“You have to get to work,” Vereen said. “€œYou have to practice hard this week, have a good game plan, go in there and execute on Sunday.”

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