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Pepper recalls introduction to Parcells

09.28.10 at 3:44 pm ET
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As a player, Pepper Johnson came of age under Bill Parcells. Parcells was the head coach of the Giants when Johnson was a second-round pick of New York in 1986, and the Ohio State product played for Parcells for five seasons, helping anchor a linebacking corps that was one of the best in the league. Johnson won a pair of Super Bowl rings while playing for Parcells, who is now helping guide the Miami Dolphins.

But their professional relationship started on an interesting note, Johnson recalled on a Tuesday afternoon conference call.

‘€œAll the draft picks, he got us into one room and he told us, ‘€˜[You'€™re] all a bunch of crap.’€™ He said, ‘€˜We won a lot of ball games around here and none you guys are really needed around here. You just join in wherever you can find a spot,’€™’€ Johnson said of his first meeting with Parcells. ‘€œAnd that was the end of the meeting and he got up and walked away.

‘€œHe was a hard and tough cookie to deal with from day one and he kept that going until my last year,’€ said Johnson, who would also play for Parcells for two seasons at the end of his career, 1997 and 1998, with the Jets. ‘€œYear 13 he was still hard on me. I thought I was going to get a break after the little span in between, but he was the same person.’€

Johnson, who has been a part of the New England coaching staff since 2000, said he’€™s tried to coach the same way.

‘€œIt’€™s the same [style], but I don’€™t think it’€™s because of Coach Parcells. I think it’€™s something that was just in me,’€ Johnson said of his own approach. ‘€œCoach Parcells was a nice guy compared to my high school coach and kind-of-sort-of my college coach. He’€™s a nice guy compared to those guys, especially my high school coach. When I got to the league some of the stuff that he was saying didn’€™t really bother me.

‘€œThe best thing I found out about Coach Parcells, I think it was maybe week 10 or week 11 of my rookie year, he brought Coach Bobby Knight out to one of our practices and one of our games. Seeing Bobby Knight over there on the sideline, that’€™s the type of guy I know I could work for. To see that those two guys were good friends, I just figured that [style] was Parcells’€™ philosophy, [and that] he carries friends around with the same type of philosophy.’€

Bits from Belichick, Caserio and Pepper Johnson, 9/28

09.28.10 at 3:27 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR department, here are a few of the highlights from this afternoon’s conference call between the media and Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and Pepper Johnson:

Bill Belichick

Q: Is the Wildcat Offense still a part of the Dolphins’€™ game plan?
BB: You know, I would never say it was a huge part of their game plan. I think it was something they have used and continue to use. As far as their offensive package, it’€™s just another thing they do to keep you off balance, make you work on it. They change it up. Last year, they ran a little different version of it with Pat White. But with him not there, it’€™s gone back to more of the original Wildcat with Ronnie Brown running it. Although, Ricky Williams ran it some last year too, so they do a good job with it. I think it’€™s part of their package like several other things they do. I would put it in that category, but it’€™s just one of them, one you have to prepare for. But, I don’€™t think they’€™re going to be in it for 40 plays or anything like that.

Q: Do you have a sense of what problems Zoltan Mesko may be having?
BB: Well, I thought he hit the ball really well there a couple times on Sunday. As a team, we’€™re all striving for consistency, individually and collectively, as a unit when we’€™re out there. So, I’€™d say I think he’€™s had some good ones and he’€™s had couple I think he’€™d like to have back. I think we can all pretty much go in that category.

Q: Is Brandon Marshall being used the same way as he was in Denver?
BB: Well, I think it’€™s similar in that he’€™s definitely one of their go-to guys, which he was in Denver. [Miami'€™s] passing game is a little bit different than Denver’€™s passing game last year, but a lot of the routes are similar. Marshall’€™s a big guy, strong. He’€™s hard to tackle; he can go up and get the ball. He can really attack you at all three levels ‘€“ deep, intermediate and short, catch and run type plays. He’€™s good at all those. He runs those routes, just like he did in Denver. [It'€™s] maybe a little different versions of it, but essentially, he’€™s effective at all three levels of the defense and he’€™s used there.
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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 4

09.28.10 at 8:40 am ET
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After many shocks and surprises across the league through three weeks, the “Steel Curtain” rises up and has asserted supremacy over the rest of the NFL in this week’s edition of the NFL Power Rankings. Behind Charlie Batch, the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers are ranked No. 1 as they have one more game to play until Pro Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returns. The Steelers have a huge test coming up against the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at home.

Peyton Manning and the Colts are breathing down the Steelers neck at No. 2 after their second straight dominating win. Falling to No. 3 are Drew Brees and the defending champs. The Saints are out of the top spot for the first time this season after kicker Garret Hartley missed a 29-yard field goal to win the game in overtime.

Rounding out the top five are the Green Bay Packers who fall from the No. 2 spot. Despite the loss to the Bears on Monday night, the Packers remain two spots ahead. Green Bay still had a good chance to take down “Da Bears” on the road despite turnovers and penalties. Additionally, the Bears close-call win over the Lions in Week 1 and the inconsistent play of Jay Cutler still makes them a suspect team. The boys from the “Windy City” climb to No.7.

The winless Browns and Bills remain in the basement going into Week 4.

Surely there will be many brash and passionate opinions this week as some 3-0 teams aren’t even in the “Fine 15,” and some teams who have won head to head matchups aren’t ahead of the teams they’ve beat. Leave your comments below.

1. (4) 3-0-0 The Steelers have the opportunity to be 4-0 before Roethlisberger returns from a four-game suspension. With a defense that is allowing just 11 points a game, Pittsburgh is looking more and more like the team to beat in the AFC.

2. (3) 2-1-0 Peyton Manning can make any receiver effective. Without Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez, Manning found backups Austin Collie and Blair White all over the field. Can anyone argue, barring an injury to Manning, that this team won’t win at least 12 games this year?

3. (Last week, 1) 2-1-0 The Saints need to improve their rush defense dramatically (they currently rank 30th). The way to beat the defending champs is to pound the ball on the ground and keep Drew Brees and the offense off the field. That’s what the Falcons did on Sunday and it turned out badly for New Orleans.

4. (11) 2-1-0 The Falcons showed that they are one of the top tier teams in the league after knocking off the defending champs in New Orleans. Atlanta’s only loss came in overtime against a great Steelers team. If Atlanta’s rushing attack can remain effective, the Falcons can do some damage in the NFC.

5. (2) 2-1-0 Eighteen penalties in one game is very alarming for a team many think is one of the best in the NFC. The Packers beat themselves Monday night and can’t afford to play like the way they did again if they want to contend for a Super Bowl. The good thing Green Bay can take away from the loss was the play of Aaron Rodgers — an unbelievable and gutty performance from a quarterback that has made his way into the conversation of best QB in the league.

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Bill Belichick on The Big Show: Dolphins ‘a lot to get ready for’

09.27.10 at 10:02 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined The Big Show on Monday to discuss Sunday’s victory over the Bills and the forthcoming Monday night tilt against the Dolphins.

Belichick said that the communication and technique of the team’s young defense is still a work in progress, but he isn’t making any excuses for the group’s youth. The coach also praised BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, two of the players who stepped up on Sunday in Kevin Faulk’s absence.

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.

Let’s get to the game. Some good things, some things not so good. How do you evaluate when you get a chance today to look back at it a little more up close and personal?

I think that sums it up. There were some things that we did well, and we did some things that we didn’t do so well or could do better. So we correct those and learn from them and hope that we can get better next week. There was some definite improvement from last week and the Jet game, we just still have a lot of things that we can work on and keep improving.

Should we expect that the progress is going to be slower on the defensive side of the ball? In that their is less experience and it seems like you’re experimenting a little bit more with people on that side of the ball. Do you expect that to take a bit longer? I mean, the offense has been around a lot of the same people.

My expectations are to go out there and improve every day. So that’s what practice and meetings are for and hopefully we’ll play better each week. We’ve got experienced guys on both sides of the ball, we’ve got inexperienced guys on both sides of the ball so from a team concept we just need to come together and execute as a unit.

How long does it take for a defensive back, new guys coming in to understand the concepts? What are the extremes you can go to make sure they understand what they should do?

Well I’d like to think that everybody has a pretty good understanding of it by the time they come out of training camp. That’s what the expectations are that you go through the spring practices and the OTAs and in training camp you work those things in camp and preseason games. You’d like to think everybody at that point would have a pretty good understanding of the offense, defense, special teams, whatever it happens to be.

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Patriots release Maneri

09.27.10 at 7:03 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Monday evening they have released offensive tackle Steve Maneri. Here’s the full text of the statement from the team:

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. ‘€“ The New England Patriots released rookie T Steve Maneri today.

Maneri, 6-6, 290 pounds, was claimed and awarded to New England off waivers from Houston on Sept. 5, 2010. He originally signed with Houston as a rookie free agent on May 7, 2010 out of Temple. Maneri was inactive for the first three games of the season for the Patriots.

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Bits from Belichick, 9/27

09.27.10 at 5:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Patriots coach Bill Belichick just wrapped up his Monday afternoon press conference, and touched on a number of topics, including the benefits of using a no-huddle offense, the personnel changes the team made for last Sunday’€™s game against the Bills and the death of Pro Football Hall of Famer George Blanda. Here are some of the highlights:

On using a no-huddle in the second half ‘€” was that to push the tempo?
‘€œNo, I thought we had a pretty good tempo the whole game. It was a little different look for the second half, something we did but didn’€™t do it a lot of in the first half, and didn’€™t do it consecutively. A little different look. But I thought our tempo was good the whole game. I think there were a number of plays where, I’€™d say for the majority of time, we had plenty of time at the line of scrimmage and didn’€™t make any adjustments. The tempo was better definitely than what it was the previous week in New York.’€

On the benefits of running the no-huddle:
‘€œThey don’€™t substitute, but we don’€™t substitute either, so. Whoever is out there is out there, and that’€™s the matchup. I think it just ‘€˜uptempos’€™ the offense a little bit, and can give the quarterback more time at the line if he wants to audible, I guess. Just a little different style of play.’€

Were the changes to starting lineup performance-related?
‘€œWhat the starting lineup usually is the reflection of is what the personnel matchups are on that particular play. You can put up whoever you want on the first play and you’€™ll probably get a different combination of people based on what that is and who the matchups are. You saw that the whole game. Whatever that first play is, whoever matches up on him, if you want to call them the starters, then they’€™re the starters.’€
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Vince Wilfork on D&H: ‘A positive step’

09.27.10 at 1:37 pm ET
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Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork joined the Dale & Holley show on Monday. He believes that situational game planning and a solid week of practice was the key in the Patriots edging the Bills 38-30, especially in the final minutes.

“We knew, at some point in that game, what was going to happen if they needed to get eight points, or to get a touchdown to win, we knew exactly what they were going to revert to,” Wilfork said. “All week we did a good job, everybody, we did a good job of knowing what situation we were in, everybody was aware. I think we started off, we came out in the second half and tried to finish.

“It’s a positive step. I’m not saying everything is perfect, but it’s a positive step.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. To listen, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

On the win, and where the team goes from here:

We had a good week of practice, we thought our game plan going into this game was good, and we felt comfortable with it. No one said it was going to be easy, it’s a division game, I don’t care what the records are, it doesn’t mean anything, especially when it’s division. And we are rivals, and that’s what we do. Buffalo came out and played a real good game, stayed with their game plan.

We have to keep building on it. If we can keep doing that, and being aware of situations and how a team wants to play us and wants to attack us when certain situations occur, we’ll be in good shape. We’ll be in good shape. I’m very proud of the team, how we rallied and we kept our poise. We stayed even keel.

On his relationship with Brandon Meriweather:

He’ll argue with me, and I’ll let him get it out. Once he calms down and cools off he’ll come back and say, “You’re right, I see what you’re saying.” Brandon, he learns. That’s one thing. You tell him something, and he might not agree with it at first, but until he sees the big picture, he understands what’s going on. That’s all you can ask for. You have to learn. You can’t make the same mistakes over and over and over and just keep doing them without learning. He’s good with that, he takes it in stride and just goes about his business.

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