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Andre Carter is aiming to be ready by training camp

06.12.12 at 9:04 pm ET
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In an interview with CBSSports.com, Andre Carter expressed optimism that he will be ready for training camp next month. Carter, who suffered a season-ending quad injury in a win over the Broncos in December, told Jason LaCanfora that ‘€œoverall, I feel great,’€ and says he is ‘€œheaded in the right direction.’€

‘€œAs you know, this quad injury is something that is not too common; you always hear about ACLs or MCLs, but to have it pop off the bone like that, I was like, ‘€˜Damn, I must have been doing some big thangs out there,’€™’€ he said between rehab session near his home in California.

‘€œBut I had a follow-up last week and the doctors are pretty impressed with how I’€™ve come along, and as you know when it comes to rehab there’€™s a certain timetable where you’€™re supposed to be, and I’€™ve surpassed that. I’€™m ahead of the game and headed in the right direction. Even though I know this injury takes a long time, my goal has been to be back for training camp. That’€™s my focus.’€

Carter’€™s agent told WEEI.com in February that the defensive end would welcome a return to the Patriots after a season where he finished with 10 sacks.

‘€œI think that everything turned out the way we wanted, except for the injury,’€ said Carl Poston. ‘€œHe wanted to go to a quality team and obviously, New England is that. He wanted to go to a contender. He wanted to go to a team where he could work well in the system and go to the Pro Bowl. All those things happened. It’€™s just that he got hurt. That’€™s part of the game.

‘€œI hate to put it in football terms, but it’€™s like carrying the ball, and you’€™re on the five-yard line, and the time runs out. He didn’€™t get a chance to carry it over the goal line ‘€” in spirit, he did. But I would like to think that if he were healthy, it would have made a difference in the Super Bowl because it was such a close game. I just think that Andre would have made that kind of difference, because he’€™s a difference maker.’€

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Rodney Harrison on The Big Show: NFL ‘trying to protect their butts’

06.12.12 at 8:48 pm ET
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NBC football analyst and former Patriot Rodney Harrison appeared on The Big Show on Tuesday and discussed his thoughts on concussions in the NFL. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

Harrison said that while he thinks the NFL is taking action to cut down on concussions to help the players, it is also doing its best to help itself in the public eye.

‘€œReally what the NFL is doing is they’€™re trying to clean up the game,’€ Harrison said. ‘€œThey know that they’€™re getting a lot of lawsuits with all of these different concussions and things of that sort and they are trying to protect not only the players, but they are trying to protect their butts because people are looking to sue them. Obviously with all these different guys lined up and filing these cases against the national football league it is very difficult right now for them.

‘€œI think they are doing the right thing by cutting out all of these physical padded practices, these minicamps and things of that sort because if I played in the time when they would have cut all these back I could have played 20 years.’€

Harrison went on to say that while it is on the NFL to help protect the players’€™ long-term health, the players themselves should understand the risk involved with playing in the NFL.

‘€œI think [the NFL is] doing the best job they can, but we as players, we have to understand that if we hit a 250-, 300-pounder helmet to helmet, guess what? It’€™s going to hurt,’€ Harrison said. ‘€œThere is a chance that you are going to have headaches, concussions. There is going to be physical damage, not just now but later on down the line when you get older. It’€™s the risk that you assume when you’€™re playing in the National Football League. You would have got to be a complete idiot not to sit back and understand that there are going to be repercussions running into a guy for a matter of three, four, five or 10 years. It is what it is. I’€™m not one of those guys.

‘€œI have experienced headaches and I have experienced dizziness and these things, but I’€™m not trying to file a lawsuit because I pretty much knew that. Guess what? I play a pretty tough sport. And guess what? It hurts, and it’€™s painful, and you’€™re going to have headaches and there are going to be long-term consequences to everything that you’€™ve done. And that is all part of the game.’€

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Wes Welker: After marriage to a supermodel, is a long-term deal next?

06.12.12 at 8:29 pm ET
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FOXBORO — These are exciting times for Wes Welker.

He’s about to get married. He’s back in training camp with the Patriots after agreeing to a franchise tender in May that guarantees him $9.5 million for the 2012 season.

And he may get a long-term deal by the time he see the practice fields of Gillette Stadium in late July.

Listening to him on Tuesday, on the first day of mandatory minicamp, his focus is totally on 2012.

The clock is ticking toward a deadline to agree to terms on a contract extension with Patriots receiver Welker. The star receiver signed his franchise tag tender in March, guaranteeing him $9.5 million for the 2012 season. Under the terms of the NFL collective bargaining agreement, Welker, his agent David Dunn and the Patriots have until July 16 to reach an agreement on a long-term contract or be forced to wait until next offseason.

“I don’t really expect anything. I expect for me to go out there and do my job to the best of my ability,” Welker said after Tuesday’s first of three minicamp workouts and practices at Gillette Stadium. “I’m not worried about that all. Right now, I’m here and I’m happy. I’m just here to help our team win here in 2012.

“I think I’ve said everything I need to say as far as anything about my contract. I’m just looking forward to the season and helping the team get better.”

Welker was asked his thoughts on tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s six-year, $54 million contract signed last week and whether it might impact his status.

“I thought it was a great deal,” Welker said. “You need a guy like that around here for a long time. And he’s such a great player for us, and having him around for a while is a great deal for us and the organization. I’m very happy for him.”

Welker said he is not bitter about the Patriots signing Gronkowski before getting a potential deal with him completed.

“No, not at all,” Welker said. “I’m always pulling for the players, especially a guy like Gronk who does such a great job for us, works so hard and deserves every bit of that contract.”

As for the July 16 deadline, Belichick said he and the team will do what is best for the organization.

“It is what it is,” Belichick said. “Whatver the rules are, we’ll comply with them.”

Speaking of complying, Welker will soon have someone else to answer to as he is getting married to Anna Burns, the woman who walked away with top honors at the 2005 Miss Hooters International competition.

“I’m very much looking forward to it,” Welker said. “Get these last two days, have some really good days of practice. I can train and then turn my focus toward that for a week or so.”

Is Tom Brady the best man?

“He’s pretty close,” Welker said. “He’s up there but no, he’s not the best man.”

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Aaron Hernandez ‘happy’ that Rob Gronkowski landed his big payday

06.12.12 at 8:27 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Aaron Hernandez has no problem with fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski getting a chance to cash in before him.

Gronkowski signed a six-year contract extension last week worth almost $54 million. But despite the fact that he and Gronkowski came in as part of the same 2010 draft class, he’€™s not going to complain. Talking with reporters after the Patriots’€™ Tuesday afternoon minicamp session, he said he’€™s happy for his teammate.

‘€œI don’€™t know who could be mad about that,’€ Hernandez said. ‘€œI’€™m happy for him. He deserves it.’€

One of the reasons Hernandez might not be mad is the fact that his teammate likely set the market for talented young tight ends, which means that if Hernandez has another year like he did in 2011 (79 catches, 910 yards, seven touchdowns), he could be next in line for (possibly) a bigger payday before he’€™s scheduled to hit free agency in two seasons.

‘€œYeah, but I’€™ll leave that up to my agents,’€ Hernandez said when asked about the possibility of a big payday in his own future. ‘€œAnd that’€™s that.’€

It has been an odd spring for New England’€™s tight ends. In the three OTA sessions open to the media, Gronkowski hasn’€™t practiced as he continues to work his way back from the high ankle sprain he suffered in last year’€™s playoffs. In addition, newcomer Daniel Fells has also been absent from the practice field throughout the spring practices. And rookie tight end Brad Herman suffered an Achilles injury in last week’€™s OTA session and was placed on injured reserve.

In the meantime, the Patriots have added free agent Bo Scaife and claimed veteran Jake Ballard off waivers on Tuesday.

‘€œI think we’€™ll be fine,’€ said Hernandez, who returned to field Tuesday after missing last Thursday’€™s OTA session. ‘€œObviously, Gronk, he’€™s going to come back strong. He’€™s a hard worker and he’€™s obviously freakish with his ability. We’€™re missing him out there, but obviously, he’€™ll be ready when we get back.’€

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Stevan Ridley wants to be the man, but knows he has to earn it

06.12.12 at 7:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots locker room was ecstatic after their 45-10 thrashing of the Broncos in last season’s divisional playoff round. The maligned defense put together a staunch effort and the offense scored at will.

Still, despite the win, rookie running back Stevan Ridley sat at his locker confounded and upset, not at anyone else, but just himself. It was the second straight week the 23-year-old had fumbled, and he knew the coaching staff wouldn’t be inclined to give him opportunities during the rest of New England’s playoff run due to his ball security issues.

“As a running back, you never want to see the ball on the ground,” Ridley said following the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. ” You can either hang your head on it, or you can move forward and continue to be a better player. That’s what I have to do. That was last year, it’s a new year, I’m not looking back. All I’m going to do is look at what’s in front of me, try to be a better player, and not make the same mistakes.”

The late-season fumbling woes aside, Ridley’s rookie season is best described as enticing. He showed spurts of power and breakaway speed, hit the hole hard, and developed nicely without the benefit of a normal training camp because of the lockout. The departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the Bengals during the offseason created an opening for the 23-year-old to grasp the spot as the Patriots primary ball carrier. The catch is Green-Ellis’ enduring legacy being that he never fumbled the football in over 500 rushing attempts in his time with the Patriots.

Not once.

“You can’t make excuses for the ball being on the ground,” Ridley said. “[Green-Ellis] was very fortunate to have the career he had. But that’s what I learned from him, to hold onto the ball, squeeze it high and tight, and bring it back to the huddle every play.

“I wouldn’t say it’s my time, because I’m not the coach,” Ridley continued. “I can’t make that call, but it’s my time to go out there and work hard, I know  that. I’m going to have go out there and bust it everyday if I want to see the playing field.”

The Patriots notoriously use the passing game to set up the running attack, and often feature multiple running backs. The team filled the void left by Green-Ellis with veteran Colts running back  Joseph Addai. Ridley and Addai both went to LSU and have trained with one another previous offseasons in Baton Rouge. While Ridley is chomping at the bit to become New England’s lead rusher, he also values strength in numbers approach the Patriots utilize, and realizes he can learn a great deal from Addai.

“It’s wide open,” Ridley said. “We’re not the ones who say who it’s going to be. We’re not really focused on who’s going to be the guy. We’re just trying to help each other out and learn together. One person is not going to get it done all the way through the season, and we know that, so we have to be able to depend on everybody.

“To have this time with [Addai], like I had with [Kevin Faulk], I’m going to cherish that, and try to learn everything I can from him. He’s an awesome guy, he’s a leader, somebody who has seen it all. He’s blocked for Peyton Manning, he’s run the ball, and he’s a well-rounded back. Joe is very willing to teach, he’s a vocal guy and open guy.”

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Agent: Patriots claim former Giants TE Jake Ballard

06.12.12 at 5:27 pm ET
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According to agent Blake Baratz via twitter, the Patriots have claimed former Giants tight end Jake Ballard. The Ohio State product, who is recovering from a torn ACL and micro fracture knee surgery, was waived after failing a physical on Monday.

Ballard went undrafted in 2010 and was signed by Giants before eventually becoming a starter in 2011. He had 38 receptions for 604 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season last year. He suffered his knee injury during New York’s victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

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Jesse Holley’s amazing football odyssey brings him to Foxboro

06.12.12 at 5:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Asked Tuesday what it’€™s like being a new receiver in the Patriots passing game, Jesse Holley had a quick answer.

‘€œHave you ever been to Japan?’€ he asked a reporter. ‘€œDo you speak Japanese?’€

No, responded the reporter with a smile.

‘€œThat’€™s it right there,’€ he said. ‘€œThere you go. It’€™s Japanese.’€

So how do you pick things up fast enough so you’€™re not overwhelmed?

‘€œI just ordered Rosetta Stone,’€ he said with a laugh.

Tuesday marked the first day in the New England offense for the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, who played for Dallas for the better part of the last two seasons. He said his first day was ‘€œfast,’€ but added that he was ‘€œready for the challenge.’€

‘€œI’€™m working my way through it, taking it one day at a time,’€ said Holley after a minicamp session that ran for roughly two hours on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. ‘€œI’€™m around a bunch of guys asking questions, paying close attention. My notebook will probably be filled by the end of tonight. So I’€™m just closing my mouth, opening my eyes, opening my ears and absorbing as much as I can.

‘€œLike I said earlier, it’€™s fast. They run a pretty fast system here, and they expect you to learn a lot, and I’€™m OK with that. I’€™m excited about it. I can’€™t wait to get to work.’€

Holley has a fascinating back story — the 28-year-old was undrafted out of North Carolina before spending some time on the Bengals’€™ practice squad. After a brief stint in the Canadian Football League didn’€™t work out, he was working as a security guard and cell phone salesman when he decided to try out for Michael Irvin‘€™s reality show ‘€œ4th and Long.’€ He emerged victorious, and that earned him an invite to Cowboys’€™ camp in 2009.

Holley spent the entire 2009 season and the first part of the 2010 season on the Dallas practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster. He finished the 2011 season with seven catches for 169 yards. The 28-year-old is a graduate of North Carolina, and has played in 28 NFL games over the course of his career.

He was recently released by the Cowboys, and was planning on taking some vacation time last week with a trip to Cancun. But after he landed, he turned his phone on, and his agent was on the other end of the line, saying he had to get to New England as soon as possible.

‘€œI just landed in Mexico and I turned my phone, and my agent said, ‘€˜Where are you at?’€™ I said, ‘€˜Mexico. Cancun.’€™ ‘€˜You’€™ve got to get back. The Patriots want to work you out,’€™ so I grabbed my bag and had to find a flight to get back here.

‘€œI got here in the wee hours of the morning, ready for a workout the next morning. It’€™s just another chapter in the book — hopefully, it’€™s going to be something I can tell my kids and my grandkids when I’€™m old and gray.

‘€œI was excited — this organization is a great organization and a winning organization, and I’€™m just blessed to truly be a part of it. I want to succeed here and hopefully, I can be here for a very long time.’€
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