|06.30.14 at 1:25 pm ET|
PLYMOUTH, Mass. — Being an NFL football player takes a tremendous toll on one’s body. The long, scorching hot days of training camp leading to the daily grind of a regular season is incredibly tough to handle, both physically and mentally.
The time between the end of mini camp and the start of training camp gives players one last month to catch their breath and rejuvenate their bodies one last time before the start of the new season, which for the Patriots begins with the first day of training camp on July 24.
Left tackle Nate Solder and special teams specialist Matthew Slater spent one of their last free Monday’s relaxing, joining a number of former professional athletes and local celebrities for a round of golf at the Pinehills Golf Club supporting the Joe Andruzzi Foundation.
“Just continuing to train and get my body in shape,” Slater said of what the next month will be like for him. “You try and do the best you can for your body to prepare for an NFL season and that is a strenuous process, but one you enjoy at the same time. Just doing the best we can as individuals and as a team to get ourselves ready for what lies ahead.
“It’s definitely an exciting time of the year. You work all year to get to this point being the start of a new season. We put a lot of work in and there is still a lot of work to be put in. We’re just excited about the 2014 season and what is in store for us.”
Monday’s event will raise funds and awareness in support of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which helps cancer patients and their families make critical mortgage, rent and utility payments during financially-challenging times and to help fund pediatric brain cancer research. Last year’s tournament raised a record $278,000.
“It’s great support and seeing what we’re about – that we are in the community, we’re apart of the community,” Andruzzi said of the support he gets from current Patriots players. “They are here playing for the Patriots, but they are also living in the community so we’re helping the people around them, people in this area and all throughout New England. For them to pay it forward and join forces with us is a great tribute to us.”
|06.29.14 at 6:00 am ET|
1. On paper, the Patriots head into the 2014 season with one of their best secondaries in recent memory. At the same time, they’ll be lacking their No. 2 cornerback over the first four games, as Brandon Browner will be sidelined because of a violation of the league’s policy on PEDs last year when he was with the Seahawks. At this point, it’s questionable as to who will be New England’s No. 2 outside corner when Browner is out, but right now, it’s a good bet that either Logan Ryan or Alfonzo Dennard will get most of the work at that spot, with Kyle Arrington continuing to work in the slot as needed.
Regardless of who is out there, what will Browner’s absence mean for the first four games for New England, and what sort of challenge will that present for the rest of the defensive backs when they operate in man coverage?
a. Miami — The Dolphins don’t have a de facto No. 1 receiver, but receivers Mike Wallace (73 catches in 2013) and Brian Hartline (76 catches in 2013, best on the team) figure to get the most chances in the passing game. As a result, there figures to be some mixing and matching defensively in this one from the New England secondary. (For some perspective, last December in Miami, the Patriots utilized Aqib Talib — ostensibly their No. 1 corner in 2013 — mostly on tight end Charles Clay.) It’s worth mentioning that Revis and Wallace have some history together, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them go head-to-head again in the opener, while a Ryan/Dennard combo would be charged with trying to slow Hartline when the Patriots offer single coverage. For what it’s worth, Hartline has proven himself to be a tough cover when facing New England — in nine career games against the Patriots, he had 35 catches and 459 yards (both career-bests), to go along with two touchdowns.
b. Minnesota — The Vikings figure to have Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Cordarrelle Patterson as the primary threats at wide receiver, and so the loss of Browner would force New England to utilize Revis on Jennings, while Patterson would be matched against either Ryan or Dennard. While the Patriots have to figure they like their chances with the Revis-Jennings matchup, the occasionally inconsistent Patterson could prove to be a challenge for the rest of New England’s corners if he’s on his game. (f Jennings is in the slot, that could mean he could face some Arrington as well. (Oh, and Revis and Jennings also have a history together — when Revis was with the Jets and Jennings was in Green Bay, Jennings said he was going to “trick or treat on Revis Island.”)
c. Oakland — At this point, the Raiders figure to go into 2014 with a wide receiver combo of James Jones and Rod Streater, with Jones likely opening as the No. 1. That would mean if/when the Patriots offer up a man look, Revis would be working against Jones, with Streater against a Ryan/Dennard combo. A winnable matchup for New England.
d. Kansas City — When you’re talking about operating without Browner, the Chiefs might present the biggest challenge, as they have a decent variety of skill position players available in the passing game. Kansas City has Dwayne Bowe (57 catches in 2013) and Donnie Avery (40 catches in 2013) as its two top receivers. In addition, running back Jamaal Charles (a team-leading 70 catches in 2013) is a threat out of the backfield. At this point, it figures to be Revis on Bowe, while the Ryan/Dennard combo will operate against Avery. The challenge here could be finding a way to slow down Charles out of the backfield, which could be a stern test for one of the New England linebackers.
Ultimately, it would appear the Patriots caught something of a break when it comes to the timing of Browner’s ban. They are not facing any of the league’s elite level offenses or truly deep passing games — the best and most well-rounded offense over the first month of the season they face might be the Chiefs, who were at or near the top of several offensive categories last year. (If they were faced with the prospect of defending a high-octane passing game like the Broncos, Saints, Lions or Chargers, it might be a different story.) In the end, they will miss him, but the overall impact of his suspension figures to be minimized, at least in the early going.
2. While it’s still early and there’s time for first-year quarterbacks to emerge, at this point, there’s a very good chance the Patriots won’t face a single rookie signal-caller the entire season. Two rookies who have impressed early on are Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater and Oakland’s Derek Carr, but because both are behind veterans on the depth chart and New England meets Vikings and Raiders relatively early in the year, there’s a good chance they won’t have to worry themselves with the Patriots. (If New England goes the entire year without facing a rookie quarterback, it would be the first time since 2011 that the Patriots have faced nothing but veteran QBs over the course of the season.)
Of course, there’s the very real likelihood that this year’s group of rookie quarterbacks will be slow starters at best and maybe not start at all over the course of the 2014 season. This piece from Eric Edholm of Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner examines the entire class, and has a good breakdown of who might have the best chance to start early, as well as others who are going to have to sit and wait for a stretch before getting their shot.
3. If it wasn’t clear enough already, Revis has Tampa Bay squarely in the rearview mirror. The cornerback said this week that he wasn’t bitter about how things ended with the Bucs, who cut him this spring before he signed on with the Patriots.
“It’s business. I know what it is,” Revis told TampaBay.com. “They acquired three three other people for me, and that’s fine. You’ve got to move on. I’ve moved on. I’m in a great place right now. I’m just getting prepared for the season.”
Revis — who said the thing he’s missed the most about Tampa was the “weather” — was asked if he’s been impressed by Tampa Bay’s busy offseason.
“I haven’t really paid attention [to the Bucs],” he said. “I’ve been focusing on things I have to do up in New England. My hands are full right now.”
4. We went down the Pro Football Reference rabbit hole last week when we tried to examine whether or not anyone had a shot at breaking Emmitt Smith‘s all-time rushing record. (While it’s debatable, it appears Adrian Peterson has the best shot at knocking off Smith, at least as it stands right now.) And so this week — in that same vein — we try and figure out if anyone has a shot at knocking off Jerry Rice‘s all-time record for receiving yards, which stands at an absolutely ridiculous 22,895.
No one is remotely close to catching him for the next few years (Rice is 6,961 receiving yards ahead of the second name on the list, Terrell Owens and his 15,934 receiving yards). However, there are a handful of intriguing names in the Top 30. Tony Gonzalez — who is apparently done — is fifth overall at 15,127. Meanwhile, 36-year-old Reggie Wayne is 11th overall at 13,566, while 33-year-old Andre Johnson is at 12,661 yards (17th overall) and 35-year-old Steve Smith is at 12,197 (19th overall).
At this point, the receiver with the best shot could be Larry Fitzgerald — the 31-year-old is 28th overall on the list with 11,367, an average of 1,137 yards a season over his 10-year career. If he can hit that mark for the next six years, that would give him 18,187 at the age of 37, which would put him 4,708 receiving yards shy of Rice at that point. Consider that Rice had 4,882 receiving yards after turning 38, and it becomes entirely possible that Fitzgerald could at least threaten Rice before he’s done. It would take a massive effort on the part of Fitzgerald (including showing the same sort of durability he has displayed that allowed him to miss just five games in his first 10 seasons in the league) and some more consistency and stability at quarterback for Arizona, but it isn’t a ridiculous concept.
The one other guy who might have a shot before it’s all done is Calvin Johnson. The only pass catcher in the top 100 all time who is under the age of 30, “Megatron” is at 9.328 career receiving yards (48th overall). He’s averaged 1,333 receiving yards a season in his seven years in the NFL — if he could stretch that average out over 15 years in the league, that would give him 19,995 yards, and also put him in the vicinity of Rice.
5. The battle currently being fought over whether New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham is a tight end or a receiver — and how he deserves to be compensated — is an interesting debate, one that will have far-reaching implications for the rest of the league. Graham’s reps and the NFLPA are pushing for him to be rewarded like a receiver (a $12.3 million tender), while the team and the league believe he should be tendered at $7 million as a tight end.
In New England, the Patriots have utilized several players in a wide variety of roles over the years, with the closest coming when Aaron Hernandez was deployed as an extremely versatile offensive option in his three seasons in the NFL, lining up in the slot, split wide and even in the backfield on occasion. (If the Patriots had reached a similar crossroads with Hernandez that the Saints have hit with Graham, it would have been interesting to see how it all would have gone down.)
Graham is listed as a tight end on the New Orleans depth chart, but he took 67 percent of his snaps as a wide receiver last year (in the slot or split wide, as opposed to lined up flush against a tackle). So what to do with him? The bottom line is that the game continues to change, and the traditional positional labels will continue to be challenged. Rookie tight end Eric Ebron had the most forward-thinking idea, saying that there should be a “joker” or “hybrid” designation for pass-catching tight ends. Meanwhile, Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe scoffed at the idea.
“Eric Ebron can dress it up, he can say he’s a joker, he can say hybrid or whatever he wants to call it, but at the end of the day you go to the Pro Bowl as a tight end and if you are fortunate enough, if you play long enough and if your teams win enough games you’ll go to the Hall of Fame as a tight end,” Sharpe told the NFL Network. “You’re not going to go as a joke or hybrid or quote-unquote wide receiver. That’s not going to happen.”
Ultimately, the Graham case is merely the first step in what should be a long and eventful evolutionary process, one that every NFL team — including the Patriots — is watching closely. A final ruling is expected next week.
6. Say what you will about Brandon Lloyd, but the wide receiver — who spent a single season with the Patriots in 2012 — was certainly never boring. Whenever we would write an in-depth piece on him back when he played in New England, it sparked the most interesting cross-section of responses, including emails from owners of health food stores and people he met at independent film festivals. Needless to say, he has a different fan base than, say, Rob Gronkowski.
And so, after a year away from the game, it’s good to see him back in football, this time with the Niners, who signed him to a one-year deal on April 15. In this interview, he expounded on the reasons he sat out for a year, and what he was doing when he was sidelined for a year. First, he said he wasn’t too bummed about not getting picked up after the Patriots cut him loose following the 2012 season.
“Actually, it was kind of a relief,” said Lloyd, speaking during his annual football camp. “I mean, 10 years straight. I was really enjoying the anonymity. But at the same time, this is still the career path that I love. I love playing football.”
In his year away from the game, he tried a little of everything: He had a bit part in a movie, and he embraced a a full-time gig at a metal service center in composite tooling. He also played in a men’s tennis league in the fall, and cross country skied and snowshoed in the wintertime.
Lloyd, who will turn 33 on July 5, enters a crowded picture at receiver in San Francisco. But the Illinois product, who has 385 receptions for 5,695 yards and 35 touchdowns over the course of his career, said he’s ready to give it another shot.
“I was flattered that I was off a full year from football and that there was a team that still expressed an interest in bringing me back,” he said. “I feel I’m ready to compete, though. I still have a little ways to go as far as conditioning, but I’m very committed to this.”
7. However, the update on Lloyd wasn’t even our favorite ex-Patriots’ update of the week. That honor goes to Quinn Ojinnaka, an offensive lineman who spent eight games with the Patriots in 2010, and a total of seven years in the league. Turns out, the Syracuse product parlayed a middle-of-the-road NFL career into work as a pro wrestler — he signed a contract with Ring of Honor Wrestling this week. According to this press release, the 6-foot-5, 295-pound “Moose” Ojinnaka completed “his childhood dream of playing in the NFL” and “now hopes to realize another lifelong dream: winning the Ring of Honor World Heavyweight Championship.” We’ll keep you updated.
8. And finally, I’ll be stepping away for the next couple of weeks or so in hopes of trying to get some rest between now and the start of training camp. Here’s hoping you have a happy and safe time before the fun starts at the end of July.
|06.27.14 at 4:15 pm ET|
Randy Moss is the latest ex-Patriot to try his hand at coaching — the former New England wide receiver is reportedly an associate head coach at Victory Christian Center School in Charlotte, N.C.
Moss, who spent three-plus seasons (2007-2010) with the Patriots, was apparently on the sidelines at Panthers quarterback Cam Newton‘s 7-on-7 tournament Thursday coaching the Kings from the sideline. His son, Thaddeus, is a 6-foot-4, 240-pound prospect who played last year at Rhode Island’s Lincoln High, but joined Victory Christian after the family recently moved from the New England area, Victory Christian head coach Dee Brown told the Observer.
In his 14-year career with the Vikings, Raiders, Patriots, Titans and Niners, Moss finished with 982 receptions for 15,292 yards and 156 touchdowns.
|06.26.14 at 11:13 pm ET|
The Patriots announced Thursday a limited number of individual game tickets for the 2014 season will be put on sale for the general public on Tuesday, July 15 at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster.
When those tickets are sold, it will mark the 21st consecutive season that the New England Patriots have sold out every game prior to the start of the season. The streak began in 1994, the year Robert Kraft and his family purchased the franchise. Prior to 1994, home games that were not sold out were blacked out in the local market.
The Patriots will enter the 2014 season with a 216-game sellout streak and expect that streak to extend to 226 games by the end of the regular season. The streak includes preseason, regular season and postseason games since the regular season home opener in 1994.
All ticket orders will be processed through Ticketmaster — tickets will NOT be sold at the Gillette Stadium Ticket Office. Ticket orders can be completed online at ticketmaster.com or by phone by calling 800-745-3000.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|06.25.14 at 10:00 pm ET|
Tracking the overall age of the Patriots roster is something we’ve done a few times over the last couple of years, and with New England now between the spring workout sessions and training camp, it’s a good a time as any to measure the state of the current Patriots roster, which sits at 90 players. It’s important to remember that these numbers will change between now and the start of the regular season — the team-building process will inevitably bring some shuffling of personnel, while the roster has to be cut from 90 to 53 prior to the start of the year.
As for how these numbers stack up against the rest of the league, if our abacus holds up over the next few days, we should have an answer for you soon. But as it stands right now, here are a few things that stand out about the New England roster from an age perspective:
— The current average age of the Patriots roster is 25.3 years old — the same total at this time last year. Here’s a breakdown by position:
3 quarterbacks — average age: 28
(Last May — average age: 28)
5 tight ends — average age: 24
Last May — average age: 25)
14 offensive linemen — average age: 25.7
(Last May — average age: 26)
8 running backs — average age: 23.5
(Last May — average age: 25)
11 wide receivers — average age: 24.8
(Last May — average age: 25)
4 special teamers — average age: 25.25
(Last May — average age: 25)
6 cornerbacks — average age: 25.8
(Last May — average age: 25)
11 defensive backs — average age: 24.1
(Last May — average age: 25)
16 defensive linemen — average age: 25.5
(Last May — average age: 25)
12 linebackers — average age: 24.9
(Last May — average age: 26)
— The oldest player on the roster is quarterback Tom Brady, who will turn 37 in August. The youngest player is rookie offensive lineman Cameron Fleming, who is 21 and will turn 22 on Sept. 3 of this year. The 16-year differential is the largest age discrepancy on the New England roster since Junior Seau (age 40) and Patrick Chung (age 22) occupied the same roster in 2009.
— Thanks in large part to the fact that Brady is the oldest player on the team by more than three full years — defensive lineman Tommy Kelly is the second-oldest at age 33 — it’s no surprise that the oldest average position for the Patriots is quarterback, which is 28 years old. It’s the third consecutive year Brady will be the oldest player on the New England roster. (The last time Brady wasn’t the oldest player on the New England roster was at the end of the 2011 season, when offensive lineman Brian Waters, defensive lineman Shaun Ellis and running back Kevin Faulk were all on the team at the time, and all older than the quarterback.) We’ve noted this on other occasions, but it’s worth repeating that if Brady can lead the Patriots to another Super Bowl win, he’d be only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl after his 35th birthday: Johnny Unitas (37 when he led the Colts to a win in Super Bowl V), Roger Staubach (35 when the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII), Jim Plunkett (36 when the Raiders won Super Bowl XVIII) and John Elway (37 and 38 when he led the Broncos to Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII titles).
— The youngest positional grouping is at running back, where the loss of the 27-year-old Le Garrette Blount in free agency played a role in allowing the youngest position on the team in September 2013 at 24.25 even younger — the eight running backs currently on the roster have an average age of 23.5, with rookie Roy Finch the youngest player among the backs at 22.
— The Patriots currently have 11 wide receivers on the roster, and their average age is 24.8 years old. That continues a youngish trend that started at the end of the 2012 season — early that season, the Patriots receivers averaged more than 30 when the team added Deion Branch and lost Greg Salas. That average eventually leveled off at roughly 28 years of age that season. Last year, with the loss of Branch and Wes Welker and the addition of youngsters like Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, that number dropped to 25. Now, it stands at 24.8, with Dobson and Jeremy Johnson still just 22 years old. (Dobson will turn 23 next month.) That average will likely rise as the regular season draws closer — most of the back end of the roster guys who will likely be cut loose are on the youngish side — but not by much.
— On defense, the most interesting numbers are at linebacker. Despite the fact that the Patriots lost twentysomethings Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher in free agency and added the 30-year-old James Anderson, New England saw the biggest overall dip in average age on defense at linebacker. Last May, the group averaged 26 years old — this time around, they have an average age of 24.9.
— The team currently has nine players on the roster age 30 or older: Brady, Kelly, Vince Wilfork, Will Smith, Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Rob Ninkovich, Stephen Gostkowski and James Anderson — four of them are defensive linemen. At this time last year, the Patriots had 11 players on their roster 30 or older.
|06.25.14 at 10:08 am ET|
Julian Edelman appeared on NFL Network’s “Total Access” Monday night, and talked about a wide variety of topics, including Darrelle Revis, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Here are a few quick highlights:
“Darrelle is one of the best corners in the NFL and he showed that in camp. He did very well. He’s a very instinctive player. He’s great in the locker room, I like competing against him every day, and it’s good to have a player like that.’
On Gronkowski possibly playing in Week 1:
“Well, I’m not a doctor or trainer or anything. I see Gronk in the locker room, he’s working hard, doing what he’s trying to do. But when Gronk’s on the field, he’s probably one of the best tight ends in the NFL. It’s always great to have him out there and hopefully he will be.”
On Brady wanting to play until he’s 40:
“It wouldn’t surprise me. Knowing him the way I know him, I am sure he’s just focused on this year. You’re going to have to ask him that. The guy is in here, working hard, preparing to the fullest ability, taking care of his body. So you know that he’ll definitely have a shot to do it.”
On whether Belichick has watched his “Burgertyme” and “Smoothie Tyme” videos:
“You know, I’m sure he did. Because they kind came off his original, I think it was called the Bill PB&J [show] with the two pieces of bread in between with double layers of peanut butter. So I think we actually stole the concept from Bill Belichick.”
On what he remembers from the Patriots’ Week 12 win over the Broncos after being down 24-0 at the half:
“I remember we won. That was a good memory. That we won that one. No, but seriously — at halftime, we couldn’t have done anything worse than what we were putting on the field in the first half. We kind of just took it as, ‘We can’t get any worse than what we did so let’s go out there and just play each series the way we have to and just try to string a couple of consistent drives up,’ and we were able to do that. We played complimentary football in the second half, and came out with the win.”
|06.25.14 at 9:16 am ET|
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado after a nightclub encounter in Boston. The trial is set to begin May 28.
Hernandez’s lawyers asked Judge Jeffrey Locke to issue a gag order prohibiting anyone involved in the case to comment outside the court because of the intense media coverage of the murder case.
Attorney James Sultan said during the hearing in Suffolk Superior Court that the defense is concerned Hernandez won’t receive a fair trial because of the widespread media coverage of his indictment in the double-murder as well as the other murder case against Hernandez in the 2013 death of Odin Lloyd. The trial on Lloyd’s death is set to begin in October.
“I think it’s incumbent upon all of us … to do whatever we can to safeguard Mr. Hernandez’s constitutional right to a fair trial and a jury that has not been poisoned by unfairly prejudicial pretrial publicity,” Sultan said.
Prosecutors opposed the request, calling it “unreasonable” and “unwarranted.”
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