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Tuesday Practice Notes

08.24.10 at 2:48 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Just finished up another soggy practice down here at Gillette. The Patriots were inside the practice bubble for the second straight day for a practice that ran for roughly two hours. Practice was in shirts and shells. Here are a few quick notes:

•The following players were in sweats: wide receiver Matthew Slater, linebacker Eric Alexander, tight end Aaron Hernandez, linebacker/defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and wide receiver Darnell Jenkins. The following players were absent: wide receiver Julian Edelman, defensive back Bret Lockett, offensive linemen Nick Kaczur and Logan Mankins and defensive back Josh Barrett.

•Running back Laurence Maroney, offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka and defensive back Ross Ventrone all drew sizable media crowds after the workout.

•It wasn’t what you would necessarily call a high-intensity practice session. Lots of families were in attendance, including the Wilfork and Morris families. There seemed to be a real emphasis on scout team work, as both sides continued prep work for Thursday’s preseason game against the Rams.

•Ojinnaka lined up at both guard and tackle throughout the session, but spent most of his time with the backups.

•Lots of woofing between the offense and the defense today. The offense reacted with a shout when the defense jumped before a snap, and inside linebacker Gary Guyton had to run a lap. Late in the practice, it was clear there was something wrong with the defense, and they were forced to run a pair of laps together as a unit. (It’s worth mentioning that assistant coach Pepper Johnson and Eric Alexander were the only two guys who ran outside the lines around the entire field.) After the second lap, the entire defense was called together and received a talking-to from assistant Matt Patricia.

•Without Hernandez on the field, it was another day for Rob Gronkowski to shine. The rookie out of Arizona made several nice catches from both Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer. Tight end Rob Myers — who spent last season on the practice squad — also made a couple of nice catches.

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Bill Belichick Q&A, 8/24

08.24.10 at 2:45 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the full transcript of today’s Q&A between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the media:

BB: We’re kind of finishing up our preparations here for St. Louis today and then we’ll have a walkthrough tomorrow. We had a couple roster moves. I think everybody has those. So we’re just trying to push ahead here and take advantage of this week’s opportunity against the Rams. They provide some – again, kind of like Atlanta – different looks [and] things we don’t really do. They have a little different style of play, so that will be good for us in all three phases of the game. I think our team will benefit from playing a different type of team than what we are or what we saw more from New Orleans. So that’s where we’re at.

Q: What challenges does Sam Bradford present and did you do any work on him in preparation for the draft?
BB: No, we didn’t think he would be in there when we picked. He had a good junior year [and] a tough senior year with the injury and all, but [he’s] a very talented player. Like all rookies, I’m sure he’s learning a lot, like we all do our first year in the league. [He’s] a talented guy, [they have] a really good running back, a couple of interesting tight ends, good returners, good receivers, so I’m sure we’ll see a lot of people in there like we’ll have ourselves.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, training camp,

Belichick likes what he sees from No. 39

08.24.10 at 12:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — If Laurence Maroney were a manager in major league baseball, maybe he would be worried today.

After all, a vote of confidence is often thought as a precursor to the axe coming down on your job in MLB. But of course, this is the NFL, and based on what Bill Belichick said Tuesday morning, it sounds like Maroney is in pretty safe in terms of job security midway through the preseason.

Belichick, asked if the running back in his fifth year out of Minnesota, had tackled his fumbling issues from last season, indicated that he was pleased with what Maroney has shown so far in camp.

“Every guy has always got something he can work on and do better,” Belichick said. “I think Laurence has worked hard and has been out there every day and taken his reps and I think he’s ready to go.

“He’s been out there every day. I think he’s worked hard, is in good condition. I think he’s improved daily because he’s been out there and been able to get the work.”

[Click here to listen to Bill Belichick talk about how Maroney has worked hard to improve holding onto the ball.]

After fumbling just once in his rookie season, Maroney didn’t fumble a carry in 2007 and 2008. But last season, Maroney fumbled four times, losing all four. Maroney is in a battle with Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and BenJarvus Green-Ellis for playing time as a lead tailback.

All four could see significant playing time Thursday night as the 2-0 Patriots host St. Louis in the third preseason game at Gillette Stadium.

Other tidbits from Tuesday’s session with Belichick:

  • Belichick addressed the addition of offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka: “Quinn’s got some versalility, he’s played tackle, played guard, started a number of games in this league. He’s played both sides of the [offensive] line. He gives us some flexibility and we felt he could fit into our system.”
  • As for Ojinnaka’s pending one-game NFL-imposed suspension for a domestic issue in May 2009, Belichick said they did they’re background checks as they do with every player. “We do it on every player. Everything is part of [the evaluation].”
  • On facing a Steve Spagnola-coached Rams team this Thursday, the same coach who, as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants in 2007, designed a scheme to upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. “I think [defense] is similar to what we’ve seen from Philadelphia and the Giants, so it’s just another version of that, like the West Coast offense, going from one team to another. Different players, different individuals with a similar scheme. Same stuff, different people doing it.”
Read More: Patriots, Quinn Ojinnaka, Sammy Morris, St. Louis Rams

Nuggetpalooza’s Pats schedule preview: Minnesota

08.24.10 at 10:43 am ET
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nuggetpalooza-small12This is Part 1 of a series previewing each opponent on the Patriots’ 2010 schedule.  If you that are familiar with my game previews from the past two seasons, you will recognize the approach. Obviously, every team has made changes to personnel that will make last year’s stats less meaningful. But team philosophies generally don’t change overnight, and last year’s results are the only “facts” we have for now. At the very least, maybe you’ll come across something that will change the way you enjoy the games.

At any rate, let’s start with the Vikings:

The Patriots meet the Vikings on Oct. 31 at 4:15 p.m. in Foxboro.

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What The Vikings Did Well Last Season:

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* – Set the Early Defensive Tone: Minnesota was the only team that did not allow a TD on any of their opponents’ 16 game opening drives last season. They allowed just 2 FG while forcing 3 turnovers (all fumbles), 10 punts, and a missed FG attempt.

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* – Set the 2nd Half Offensive Tone: The Vikings scored points on their opening drive of the second half an NFL-high 11 times in 16 games last season. Those scores totaled 57 points, by far the highest total in the league:

57 – Minnesota Vikings
40 – New York Giants
39 – New England Patriots
39 – Denver Broncos

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* – Stripped the Ball: The Vikings forced a league high 35 fumbles last season. It came out to a fumble caused on 2.28% of opponent touches, easily the highest rate in the NFL:

2.28% – Minnesota Vikings
1.99% – Denver Broncos
1.92% – New England Patriots

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* – Cashed In Following Turnovers: While they only forced 24 turnovers last season (23rd), they turned them into 106 points, an average of 4.4 points per turnover, the highest average in the NFL.

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* – Cashed In On Long Drives: By scoring touchdowns on 55% of their 10+ play drives (highest percentage in the league), the Vikes also led the NFL in points scored per 10+ play drive (4.8). They were even better down the stretch, scoring TDs on 64% and averaging 5.4 points on their long drives over the final four weeks of the season.

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* – Didn’t Bend Often and Didn’t Break When Bendt: The perfect compliment to the above. Minnesota allowed just 19 drives of 10+ plays (tied for 2nd fewest) and allowed an average of just 2.5 points on those 19 possessions, best in the NFL.

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* – Picked Apart Defenses That Didn’t Blitz: 71% completions (1st) and 25 TD (2nd) versus just 6 INT when no extra rushers.

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* – Put Points Up Despite Poor Starting Field Position: Minnesota started 36 drives inside their own 20 yard line last season but scored 69 points on those drives, an average of 1.92, the highest in the NFL:

1.92 – Minnesota Vikings
1.86 – San Diego Chargers
1.83 – Green Bay Packers

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* – Stopped the Run Near the Goal Line: Minnesota’s opponents ran for touchdowns on just 1.4% of rushing plays last season, the 2nd lowest percentage in the league:

1.3% – Green Bay Packers
1.4% – Minnesota Vikings
1.5% – New England Patriots

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Read More: Patriots schedule preview,

Rookie Bradford will get the start vs. Pats Thursday

08.23.10 at 7:58 pm ET
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bradford-ap

Rookie Sam Bradford will start at quarterback Thursday against the Patriots. (AP)

FOXBORO — Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo announced Monday that rookie quarterback Sam Bradford will get the start in Thursday’s preseason game against the Patriots. Noted Patriots’ killer A.J. Feeley, who had been starting for St. Louis, will not practice this week because of thumb and elbow injuries he sustained last week in a preseason game with Cleveland.

Prior to the news that Bradford would get the start, the Patriots were facing some uncertainty about which quarterback would be getting the call — the first pick in the 2010 draft and former Heisman Trophy winner; or Feeley, who has performed well against the Patriots in three career games against New England (including a 345-yard effort in a narrow Nov. 2007 loss to the Patriots when he was with Philadelphia).

That dilemma is one of the more unique aspects of playing a preseason game — because teams aren’t required to file injury reports with the league, an opponent must prepare for everyone because they really don’t know who will play.

“We prepare for all the players,” Belichick said when asked about the challenges of the Patriots preparing for either Bradford or Feeley.”We don’t know if they’re going to play or not. There’re no injury reports, so whoever is there…We’ll prepare for all of them. If they play they play; if they don’t they don’t.”

And that goes for more than just quarterbacks.

“It’s just more of an awareness of knowing which quarterback is in there and how they play, which receiver is in there, which tight end is in there, which running back is in there, and what the skills are of those players and how we would want to defend them or attack them if we’re on the other side of the ball, whatever it happens to be.

“If they play, they play; if they don’t play, they don’t play, he added. “But we prepare for all of them as if they are going to play, just like we would in the regular season. Unless we absolutely knew somebody was out, we prepare for all the players that are on the roster and should be aware of whichever ones come into the game.”

For his part, in two preseason games, Bradford has gone 12-for-27 for 81 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, and he’s been sacked four times.

Read More: A.J. Feeley, Bill Belichick, Sam Bradford,

Pats officially announce Okinnaja deal; drop Johnson, Weston

08.23.10 at 6:36 pm ET
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The Patriots have just announced that they have acquired offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka and re-signed defensive back Ross Ventrone, and have released defensive back Terrence Johnson and defensive lineman Kade Weston.

Weston’s case is an interesting one — he’s actually been waived because of injury reasons. As we reported last night, if the seventh-round pick does actually clear waivers, he is free to return to the Patriots.

Here is the full release issued by the team on the series of moves:
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Read More: Kade Weston, Quinn Ojinnaka, Ross Ventrone, Terrence Johnson

Belichick: ‘No secret’ Pats hate the Jets

08.23.10 at 6:20 pm ET
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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick joined The Big Show on Monday to discuss the pre-season, the Logan Mankins saga, and of course, HBO’s Hard Knocks.

“I’m sure it’s good,” Belichick, who noted he hasn’t seen the show, said. “If NFL Films does it, I’m sure it’s good.”

Asked about quarterback Tom Brady’s “I hate the Jets” comment on Dennis & Callahan earlier in the day and Rex Ryan’s admission that he hated the Patriots, Belichick confirmed both sides’ feelings while downplaying their significance.

“I don’t think its any secret that the Patriots and the Jets don’t have a great affection for each,” Belichick said. “I don’t think any two teams in any division do. I don’t think that’s a big news-breaking story.”

On the subject of Mankins, who remains a no-show as the team prepares for its third pre-season game, Belichick said there was nothing new to report and that he doesn’t see there being any date or “tipping point” at which something concrete must be done.

Read More: Bill Belichick,
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