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The Commish comes to Lowell

05.29.10 at 9:38 am ET
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Roger Goodell. (AP)

LOWELL — We are here at the Tsongas Center in Lowell (one of the greatest venues in Massachusetts), waiting for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to address this year’s graduates at UMass-Lowell.

Goodell will be accepting a posthumous honorary doctorate on behalf of his father, the late senator Charles E. Goodell. Goodell will be introduced to the graduates by Patriots owner Robert Kraft. While Kraft is not scheduled to spend time with the media today, Goodell is expected to hold a press briefing sometime after his address, and it’s expected that he will talk on a number of topics. We’ll have complete updates throughout the day here at the blog.

But to get you ready, here’s a really good stories about Goodell and his relationship with his father. The New York Times has a good feature here written by George Vecsey that examines what the elder Goodell did to earn praise (and scorn) during his tenure as a senator, who served in the U.S. House before being appointed to serve out Robert F. Kennedy’s Senate term after Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

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Pats re-sign Burgess, cut Davis and Stanback

05.27.10 at 4:54 pm ET
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Panthers Patriots Football

Derrick Burgess brings down Carolina quarterback Matt Moore late last season. The Patriots announced Thursday that the outside linebacker has re-signed with New England. (AP)

The Patriots officially announced Thursday afternoon they have re-signed linebacker Derrick Burgess and released linebacker Bruce Davis and wide receiver Isaiah Stanback.

Burgess reportedly agreed to the deal back on May 14 — according to ESPN, Burgess inked a one-year deal to remain in New England. In his first season with the Patriots last year, the 31-year-old Burgess had 35 tackles and five sacks.

Burgess appeared to struggle at times through the early stages of the season, but his play improved down the stretch — he had three sacks in the last four regular-season games, and in a late-season press conference, Patriots coach Bill Belichick left no doubt about how he felt about the former Raider and Eagle, a two-time Pro Bowler.

“Derrick really plays consistently on everything, and he’s done an excellent job in the running game for us — probably as good as we’ve had as a run player and a pass rusher,” Belichick said of the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Burgess, who was acquired last August from Oakland for a third- and fifth-round draft pick.

“When they run the ball, he does a good job. When they throw the ball, he’s competitive on the pass rush. I think sometimes guys lean a little more towards one than the other, but I’d say overall his play has been consistent on a down-after-down basis at a position that everybody kind of focuses on the passing part of it,” Belichick added. “But he’s been in there on a lot of running plays, and he’s done a good job on the draws, the screens, the sub runs. He’s made a number of plays for us on that. I think he’s had — right from the beginning, going all the way back to the Buffalo game — he’s had a good, solid year.”

Davis, 6-foot-3, 252 pounds, joined the New England practice squad on Oct. 7, 2009. He was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round in 2008 out of UCLA. As a rookie, he played in five games, seeing action mainly on special teams. Davis was waived by Pittsburgh prior to the start of the 2009 regular season.

Stanback, 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, joined the New England practice squad on Sept 7, 2009. He was signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Nov. 14, 2009 and played in six games with two starts. Stanback finished the 2009 season with three receptions for 22 yards and one kickoff return for 22 yards. He originally joined the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick by Dallas in 2007 out of Washington. A quarterback in college, he was converted to a wide receiver with the Cowboys. Stanback was waived by Dallas prior to the start of the 2009 season.

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A few thoughts from Bill Belichick

05.27.10 at 3:46 pm ET
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The Patriots coach addressed a handful of reporters on Thursday afternoon at the 2010 Community MVP Awards program at Gillette Stadium.

On the start of the organized team activities:
“It’s going all right. We have a long way to go. Just taking one step at a time. We had some nice warm weather. It’s been nice, work on our suntan a little bit, get out there and break a sweat. It’s been good.”

On working more with the defense:
“This is a good time of year. You’re working with a lot of young players, new players, starting from scratch, starting the whole building-block process for all of us. All of us get back into coaching football and thinking about strategies and adjustments and all those kind of things, so I think it’s a fun time of year for any coach to get back on the field and start coaching in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams.”

How did the idea of joint practices with the Saints and Falcons come about?
“It just worked out that way. Talking to Sean [Payton] and Mike [Smith], we just felt it would work out. We talked a little bit about the logistics and how it could benefit us and, of course, them. We just felt like the timing and the scheduling worked out. Certainly playing on the same day every week [in the preseason] is helpful, as opposed to short weeks and long weeks and that kind of thing. It gives us a chance to get on a regular schedule. I think the same things for other teams.”

What are some of the plusses and minuses of preseason joint practices?
“I think a big plus is to work against different teams, different matchups individually, and different schemes. It slows down your teaching installation a little bit because you have to do what they’re doing. I think that’s OK. I think there is more benefit to it in this particular year, and that’s why we elected to do it. They are quality teams, great programs. New Orleans, I think their season last year speaks for itself. It will be good competition for us.”

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Quick hits from Kraft

05.27.10 at 2:08 pm ET
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft touched on a number of topics during a chat with reporters Thursday at Gillette Stadium. (AP)

Here are a few more quotes of note from Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who spoke with a gathering of reporters earlier Thursday afternoon at the Patriots 2010 Community MVP Awards program at Gillette Stadium.

On getting the players involved in community work:
“Each of our players has an obligation to do 10 appearances, community appearances for non-financial gain. I think we were the first team to do that back in 1994. … We try and encourage our players to set up their own foundations and do some more of that kind of work.”

On Kevin Faulk, who was being honored for his community work:
“Think of how special he is. He came with Pete Carroll, but Parcells would have loved him, I think. Drew Bledsoe was in town and we had an event over at Davio’s here at Patriot Place in a little room, and all of a sudden, Kevin came in and I realized he’s the only player left from the Drew Bledsoe Era. But you see the way he works in the locker room and off the field and the example he sets and the attitude … we’ve watched his [son], little Kevin, grow up. He’s a mini-me. He trails him in the locker room. When Kevin got started here I think he was just a newborn.”

On the new video screens at Gillette Stadium:
“We want to continuously make the in-stadium experience something special for our fans. When we built this stadium, we put the latest technology in — actually, our ribbon boards were the first ribbon boards of the kind. And now they look so small when you see them. I think what you’ll see is these new videoboards — except in the Dallas stadium — will be the largest and the highest HD resolution. It’s just overwhelming. I think people will see when they come to the stadium for the first time how unbelievably … this will allow us to do a lot more replays. We plan to put the ‘Red Zone’ in, especially if we have a later game, pregame and during the game. We now will be able to have a presentation that is worthy of the fan support we have.”

Why not get a Super Bowl in New England?
“I think the time for that is passed. When we talked about building this stadium, putting a roof, asking for a Super Bowl, at that time that would have been the only way we could have gotten it. And I’m basically a traditionalist. I think football should be played outdoors. I actually took an active role in helping to get the Super Bowl in New York, because I just think it’ll be one of the most memorable Super Bowls of all time. We’d love to have a game here, but I’m not sure that’s in the cards. I really pushed — first of all, because I think it’s the right thing for the two ownership groups who really, in this economic environment, put their heads out there and then, for me, it’s the symbolism of saying that New York/New Jersey is back after 9/11. I think this is the greatest sporting event in the world, in my opinion. New York is the financial center of the world. No matter what happens, we’re back. I’m excited that it happened, and hope we’re in the game, because it might give us a little competitive edge. I’m happy it’s in New York.”

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Kraft says quick rookie deals are ‘business as usual’

05.27.10 at 2:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Despite the looming labor uncertainty, Patriots owner Robert Kraft sounded optimistic Thursday afternoon all 12 of the teams’ draft choices will be signed by training camp.

While holdouts in New England are few and far between — in 2004, Benjamin Watson held out until mid-August before coming to terms with the Patriots — New England has appeared to get a jump on other teams this spring. It’s not even Memorial Day, and they’ve already signed two of their picks (third-rounder Taylor Price and sixth-rounder Ted Larsen). Last year, they didn’t get their first rookie contract done until June 16.

But Kraft says the earlier signings aren’t because of the labor situation.

“No, we’re just trying to do our business,” Kraft said of his team. “We’re doing business as usual. We’re trying to put our team in the best position to be able to compete year-in, year-out. And with the facts we have, we’re going about our business in a normal manner. I’ll be surprised if we don’t have all our players in here for training camp.”

(For what it’s worth: When Kraft was quizzed about the two rookies who have signed, he smiled and said “Two or three?” He was stopped by reporters, who asked “Do you know something we don’t?”)

Kraft’s point was echoed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

“We’ve always contacted the players and the agents after the draft process is over, about this time, when they start coming to camp,” Belichick said. “Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t think I’d read too much into it. I think Floyd [Reese] and Scott [Pioli] in the past have always done that. Sometimes it comes together, sometimes it’s a process that takes a little longer and people want to wait to see what everybody else is doing.”

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Kraft: No news on Mankins, Brady deals

05.27.10 at 1:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO — On Thursday afternoon, Patriots owner Robert Kraft wouldn’t comment specifically on any contract negotiations with offensive lineman Logan Mankins or quarterback Tom Brady.

“I’m not the one doing it, so I can’t answer that,” he said, speaking to a group of reporters at the Patriots 2010 Community MVP Awards program. “They are two young men who will be on this team and two important people to us for the future.”

A restricted free agent, the 28-year-old Mankins had been tendered a one-year deal of $3.268 million, and has yet to sign. He has stayed away from offseaon workouts. Brady is entering the final year of a six-year deal he signed in 2005.

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Pats installing two new video screens at Gillette Stadium

05.26.10 at 7:04 pm ET
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Here's what the new videoscreen in the south end of Gillette will look like. (Courtesy of the Patriots)

The Patriots announced Wednesday that they are in the process of installing two new high-definition Daktronics LED video scoreboards at Gillette Stadium.

According to the press release issued by the team, the south end zone will have the larger of the two screens at 41.5-feet by 164-feet scoreboard, which will be a “true” high-definition video screen. Meanwhile, the screen in the north end zone will be approximately 45-feet high by 100-feet wide, with the digital LED technology totaling nearly 4,500 square feet. Together, the new end zone displays will provide more than five times the screen size compared to the two old 27-by-48-foot screens, and will feature much greater resolution.

“With the size of these boards, along with the vivid color, image clarity and their graphic capabilities, these high-definition video boards come alive,” said The Kraft Group President Jonathan Kraft in a press release issued by the team. “The resolution is incredible. This type of video board simply didn’t exist eight years ago when the stadium was built. It is amazing to see how far the video technology has come in the past decade and it’s exciting to anticipate what in-game technological advancements will be made during the next decade.”

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