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Highlights of Bill Belichick’s conference call

08.20.10 at 6:03 pm ET
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Bill Belichick. (AP)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick just wrapped up a conference call with the media, and he touched on a number of topics. Here are some highlights:

On the play of the rookie tight ends, particularly Hernandez:
“I think they’ve both done all right. I think they still have a long way to go. It’s not only the formations, it’s assignments, it’s adjustments after the snap. It’s techniques. I think that both guys have made progress, but they’ve both got a long way to go. A lot of things we’ve asked them to do are different than what they’ve done in the past — blocking schemes, route adjustments.”

On the offense gaining an identity:
“I would imagine that during the season, we’ll probably do what we usually do, offensively, which is to game-plan for our opponent and try and figure out what’s the best way to attack them, so I don’t know that … I don’t think think we have an identity right now. I don’t know that we would have any particular one. That would depend on who were playing and what they do and what we feel like the best matchups are. Hopefully, right now, we have a basic installation of things that would give us the flexibility to attack teams we feel like we can gain an edge on matchups. That’s the idea, anyway.”

On the offensive balance:
“I thought there were some definitely good things. There were some positives. There were other things that we need to do better. We lost yardage on seven of our running plays — that’s not very good. I think if we had seven sacks, everybody would be up in arms. That would be the big story of the day. But seven running plays that lost yardage, nobody really seems to care about. That’s the difference. I think we could do things better. There were certainly positives in the running game. We had our moments. Then, we had other plays that weren’t so good. So I think in probably all areas of the game — not just the running game — we’re working on more consistency. Eliminating the bad plays and having more good ones. That’s offense, defense, special teams, running the football, passing, kicking, returning. I think you could say that for every phase of our game. Coaching. You can put it all in there.”

On the play of Derrick Burgess against the Falcons:
“I think Derrick had a good week. I think he’s in pretty good shape and played a decent number of plays or snaps, both in practice and in the games, so I think he’s doing OK. I think he’s doing OK. Trying to catch up to everybody else in terms of recognition and installation and communication and all those things, but he’s working hard at it, and I think he’s doing all right.”

On how things will work for the next few days:
“We’ll be back Sunday for probably a lighter day, then, the rest of the week … to be honest with you, I’m not really sure exactly how we’re going to work things this week. That’s one of the things we need to talk about as a staff over the next couple of days. We’ll be in Sunday. What exactly we’re going to do, I’m not … I don’t know about that yet.”

On shifting into a regular-season mode in the preseason — where did you pick that up?
“I would say, from what I understand, a lot of teams do that, but where it was most evident for me was in my first year with the Colts, we had six preseason games, and I’d say after the first preseason game — once we had a preseason game of our next opponent — those were all kind of like regular weeks. It was like five weeks of regular-season preparation in the preseason. That was with [Ted] Marchibroda. He brought that from George Allen,, and from what i understand, that’s how George Allen did it. His preseason games were like regular season games. That’s the way we did it in Baltimore. By the time we got to the regular season, as a young coach, I certainly knew what the regular season routine was going to be as far as breaking down film and doing preparation work and practice and those kind of things. That’s pretty much how we did it. Not saying everybody did it that way, but that’s the way it was that year, so we got a lot of regular season work in the preseason.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, training camp,

Target practice for Patriots’ pass-catchers

08.20.10 at 3:39 pm ET
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With two weeks of preseason action in the rear-view mirror, the Patriots’ quarterbacks have done a nice job of distributing the ball. Here’s a look at how often each receiver has been targeted, and what sort of numbers they’ve posted along the way.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman: 2 games, 7 targets, 7 receptions, 98 yards
Tight end Aaron Hernandez: 2 games, 11 targets, 7 receptions, 72 yards, 1 touchdown
Wide receiver Randy Moss: 2 games, 6 targets, 4 receptions, 54 yards
Wide receiver Darnell Jenkins: 1 game, 2 targets, 1 reception, 52 yards
Wide receiver Brandon Tate: 2 games, 5 targets, 3 receptions, 45 yards
Running back BenJarvus Green-Elliis: 2 games, 1 target, 1 catch, 8 yards
Wide receiver Sam Aiken: 2 games, 2 targets, 2 catches, 4 yards
Running back Chris Taylor: 2 games, 2 targets, 1 catch, -7 yards
Wide receiver Taylor Price: 2 games, 4 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards
Wide receiver Rod Owens: 2 games, 1 target, 0 receptions
Tight end Alge Crumpler: 2 games, 1 target, 0 receptions
Running back Kevin Faulk: 2 games, 2 targets, 1 reception, 11 yards
Running back Sammy Morris: 2 games, 5 targets, 1 reception, 3 yards
Tight end Rob Myers: 2 games, 1 target, 1 reception, 12 yards
Tight end Rob Gronkowski: 2 games, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 38 yards, 1 touchdown
Wide receiver Wes Welker: 1 game, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards

Read More: Patriots, training camp,

A quiet weekend looms in Foxboro

08.20.10 at 2:51 pm ET
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The Patriots have announced their schedule for the next couple of days, and it sounds like things will be a little quiet in Foxboro this weekend.

Today: conference call with coach Bill Belichick at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: No media availability.

Read More: Bill Belichick, training camp,

Samuel rips Belichick, accuses him of vendetta

08.20.10 at 2:00 pm ET
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Eagles Camp Football

Asante Samuel was a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in 2003, and played five years with New England before signing with the Eagles. (AP)

Former Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel lashed out at Bill Belichick on Friday, accused the New England coach of having “a thing for me,” and adding that Belichick planned to sit him out for a 2006 game against the Bears despite the fact that Samuel was healthy and ready to play.

In an interview with the The News Journal of Delaware, Samuel — who ended up playing in that game and coming away with three interceptions — said Belichick “had something against me” over the course of his five-year career in New England.

“I ain’t never said it, but Belichick, I just felt like he had a thing for me,” Samuel said. “He had something against me. I have no idea why. He was going to start Troy Brown, a receiver, at nickel [corner] and I’m over here sitting healthy and he don’t want to even play me.”

Samuel, who had 22 career interceptions with New England, also believes his talents were never truly appreciate when he was with the Patriots.

“Ty Law in New England, he’s making all these picks,” Samuel said. “Oh, he’s a great corner, this and that. But I all of a sudden go and do it [and it’s], ‘Oh, he’s in a Cover 2 defense, that’s why he isn’t as good and this and that.’ But when Ty Law does it, it’s all gravy.

“Anybody else had those stats, people would be going crazy.”

Read More: Asante Samuel, Bill Belichick,

Patriots postgame notes

08.20.10 at 12:27 am ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are some postgame notes following this evening’s preseason contest against the Falcons:

•WR Wes Welker made his preseason debut and caught two passes on his first two plays with a 6-yard pass and then a 14-yard pass from QB Tom Brady. He played during the first series of the game and finished with two receptions for 20 yards.

•RB Fred Taylor scored on a 28-yard touchdown run to culminate a 12-play, 80-yard drive on the Patriots first possession. He finished the game with 11 carries for 54 yards for a 4.9-yard average.

•The Patriots had two 20-yard touchdown runs in the game after RB Sammy Morris scored on a 20-yard run in the third quarter to finish a 9-play, 63-yard drive.

•During that first scoring drive, the Patriots converted three third-down plays. On third-and-seven from the New England 33-yard line, Brady completed an 11-yard pass to RB Kevin Faulk. On third-and-seven from the 47-yard line Faulk ran for eight yards and a first down. Then on third-and-two from the Atlanta 37-yard line, RB Sammy Morris gained nine yards for a first down.
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Read More: Falcons, Patriots, training camp,

Belichick post-game quotes

08.19.10 at 11:50 pm ET
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Here is what Bill Belichick had to say following the Patriots’ 28-10 victory over the Falcons in which Wes Welker returned to offense, Fred Taylor shined, and the rookie tight ends each contributed touchdowns.

On Welker, who had two catches for 20 yards in his return:

“The big thing was to get him in there, let him play a little bit. We talked about it this week and it was kind of the next step him for and he feltb good about it so we put him in there.”

“Nobody works harder than Wes. He’s as competitive and as hard working a player as we’ve had, and we’ve had a lot of them, but I’d put him right up there with all of them.”

On the tight end position:

“Alge [Crumpler]‘s clearly the most experienced. …Rob [Gronkowski] and Aaron [Hernandez] both have shown flashes of good things. They’ve got a ways to go but I think they’re working hard in making progress.”

On Derrick Burgess:

“I think Derrick’s got a lot of experience, but I think it was good to get him back in the action. He had a good week, but he’s got a long way to go. He’s got a lot of ground to make up. He made up some of it this week, hopefully he can make up some more next week. I know he’s working hard at it and I’m not worried about that. It’s just [that] there’s no substitute for snaps and reps in practices and games. He’ll get more of them and I think he still needs them.”

On Fred Taylor and the running backs:

“I think all the backs ran pretty well tonight. Fred, when he hit that draw, bounced through there. all the backs had long runs i think at one point or another, so that’s good to see.”

“Fred’s had a good camp. He’s been out there every day, and he’s worked hard. I think he’s in good condition and it looks like he can still run the ball.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, preseason, training camp,

Welker’s return short but sweet for Pats

08.19.10 at 10:57 pm ET
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Wes Welker did tear his ACL, right? Remember when that injury was a year and a half sideline sentence?

Well, we saw Welker on parole Thursday night, doing a really good impression of Wes Welker (or was it a really, really good impression of Julian Edelman’s really good Welker impression?) in his six first-quarter snaps for the Patriots.

Just another step in what is shaping up to be an astounding comeback.

“Nobody works harder than Wes,” Bill Belichick said after the game. “He’s as competitive and as hard working a player as we’ve had, and we’ve had a lot of them, but I’d put him right up there with all of them.”

Is really was as if he never missed a snap, or at worst he had missed the first preseason game with a neck sprain or some other minor injury. I get that it was just six plays, but it looked like the same old Welker. On the Patriots second play from scrimmage, Welker caught a Tom Brady pass over the middle for a six-yard gain. Same simple play we’ve seen a million times (OK, maybe 200 or so times) over the past three years.

The next snap was another “How Many Times Have We Seen This?” special, as Brady hit Welker again over the middle, this time for 14 yards and a first down. Our first yards after the catch moment spot for Welker, who was able to plant and cut with no apparent problems.

The last time Welker was targeted was the very next play, as Brady tried to hit Welker with a quick screen, but Randy Moss (not all his fault, wasn’t an easy play) wasn’t able to get in front of and block DB Chris Owens, who blasted Welker. No catch and no more looks on the night for Welker.

“The big thing was to get him in there, let him play a little bit,” Belichick said. “We talked about it this week and it was kind of the next step him for and he feltb good about it so we put him in there.”

(Probably — since Welker popped right up — the Owens hit was the best thing for him. Gets his feet wet, all that stuff. Kind of reminded me of the hit Drew Bledsoe took in the AFC Title Game vs. the Steelers, when he came off the bench for an injured Brady. Both were in their first game back in months after a serious injury, one of the first plays from scrimmage for both also.)

Six snaps in a preseason game usually means nothing, but this is about as significant half-dozen plays as you’ll ever see in an August NFL game. And we know why. With the exception of Marvin Harrison in 2000-02, no player in NFL history has caught as many passes in a three-year span as Welker did in his first three years in New England. Sure, we all get a kick out of Edelman and he might turn out to be terrific, but Welker has been historically good. And you can make a case that he and Moss have been the most prolific duo in league history, at least for a three-year span (Oh wait, I did).

Now does six snaps tell us that Welker is 100 percent back and you can bank on 115 catches? Of course not. But you know what it was? It was needed. We’ve seen him practice and we’ve heard all the reports, but until you see it on the field, in game action — even if it’s just for a single drive — it’s a hard sell, right?

I mean, we saw Welker, not even eight months ago in the middle of that field at Houston, try and plant that left foot after catch No. 123 (team record). Cut to ten minutes later, a towel over his head as the cart wheeled him off the field and we all waited to hear what we already knew.

ACL. Doom and gloom. The absolute nightmare scenario.

If you had told fans on February 3 (day of ACL surgery) that Welker would be back for the second preseason game in 2011 I think most would have been OK with it. Not ideal, but realistic.

But here we are on August 19, 2010 and it sure looks like Welker will be on the field for Week 1 of the regular season. Anyone want to take the under if I set the opening week line at 6.5 catches?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Thursday night is all we see from Welker in the preseason. Why risk it, really? If I’m Belichick, I keep Welker on the sidelines until Week 1. What else do you need to see? Six snaps told the story. A most welcome return for Welker and the Patriots.

Or just call it a most welcome parole.

Read More: training camp, Wes Welker,
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