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Pats send Mankins letter

06.10.10 at 1:29 pm ET
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According to multiple reports, the Patriots have sent Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins a letter that says if he doesn’t agree to play for the tendered restricted free agent salary of $3.26 million the Patriots extended him by the June 15 deadline, they will exercise their right to drop his 2010 contract to 110 percent of his 2009 salary. That means that Mankins, who made $1.4 million in base salary last season, would be in line to make just over $1.5 million if he doesn’t sign his tender offer by Tuesday’s deadline.

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Notes from Thursday’s OTA

06.10.10 at 1:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Just wrapped up another OTA session on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. The practice ran just under two hours, and was held in shirts and shorts under mostly overcast skies. Here are a few quick notes.

•The following players were not on the field: wide receiver Taylor Price, safety Brandon McGowan, defensive lineman Kade Weston, offensive lineman Logan Mankins, offensive tackle Matt Light, offensive tackle Nick Kaczur and defensive lineman Ty Warren. Meanwhile, tight end Aaron Hernandez was on the field but was in sweats, and did not participate in practice. In addition, safety Patrick Chung was wearing a red non-contact jersey.

•Wes Welker followed the same routine as his previous OTA appearances. He was present for roughly the first 30 minutes, going through drills with the rest of the pass-catchers before leaving for the Fieldhouse. While on the field, he looked pretty much the same as he was in the earlier OTA sessions — no problems with cuts. Welker showed up at the end of practice and walked off the field before the rest of his teammates.

•Fred Taylor, Julian Edelman and Pierre Woods were among those who drew big media crowds after practice. (We’ll have some stuff with Edelman along a little later this afternoon.)

•Without Light and Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer took the bulk of the reps at left tackle, while Mark LeVoir was at right tackle, filling Vollmer’s usual spot. In place of Mankins, Dan Connolly got the bulk of the reps at left guard with what appeared to be a reasonable facsimile of the starting offense.

•A sizable bulk of the workout was given over to special teams, and a variety of players got some work at kick returner, including Edelman, Kevin Faulk, Brandon Tate, Darius Butler and Devin McCourty.

•Tom Brady looked a little out of sync at times with some receivers at the start of practice, overthrowing and underthrowing a series of balls at the start of practice, a sequence that included a rare misconnection with Randy Moss and an overthrow to Edelman on a deep ball. (There were also some drops as well.) As things went on, however, it appeared that whatever issues Brady were quickly resolved, and he had a nice finish to the afternoon.

•At the end of practice, veteran Stephen Neal could be seen going over a series of techniques with rookie John Wise. Neal and Wise were both were collegiate wrestlers, and it appears more and more that Neal has reached out to take Wise under his wing.

•Owner Robert Kraft made an appearance at 11:45 and stayed until the end of practice.

Belichick’s philosophy: Ideas should be innocent until proven guilty

06.09.10 at 8:00 pm ET
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Josh McDaniels (right) worked as the Patriots' offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach in Denver before the start of last season. (AP)

Earlier today, I blogged about the continuing influence that ex-Patriots Matt Cassel and Charlie Weis are having in the building of the Kansas City franchise. The same is true in Denver, where former New England coordinator Josh McDaniels is attempting to craft the Broncos into a winner. In the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, Peter King goes behind the scenes with Denver as McDaniels and the rest of the offense work with rookie quarterback Tim Tebow and try and get him up-to-speed in the offense as quickly as possible.

In the story, McDaniels shares an interesting thought with King, one he said he picked up in his time with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and one that sheds some light on how Belichick operates when it comes to working with his assistant coaches.

“Bill [Belichick] taught me that ideas should be innocent until proven guilty,” McDaniels told King of his former boss in New England. “Some people think ideas are guilty until proven innocent. You might suggest a play or an idea to a coach, and it gets shot down right away — like, ‘Your idea is no good because I didn’t think of it.’ But if you do that too often, people stop coming up with ideas. And then you might be shutting off the flow of pretty good thoughts, and you’re stunting everyone’s development. I don’t want to be dictating. I want to be having conversations.”

McDaniels also shares with King a bit of a nugget when it comes to play-calling, using the point to illustrate what is successful in one place doesn’t necessarily mean it will translate to another locale: the former Patriots’ offensive coordinator said that in his first season as head coach of the Broncos, he installed a misdirection screen that Cassel had completed 29 out of 30 times with the Patriots in 2008. Denver struggled mightily with it through the early stages of the 2009 season — McDaniels said they didn’t run it perfectly until Week 13, against the Chiefs when Kyle Orton hit receiver Brandon Marshall for a seven-yard touchdown.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Marshall, Josh McDaniels, kyle orton

Green Bay’s Rodgers says Brady is the ‘best’

06.09.10 at 12:52 pm ET
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Tom Brady watches Tuesday night's game. At right is Kobe Bryant's father, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant. (AP)

When it comes to the Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady debate, there’s no question where Aaron Rodgers stands — the Green Bay quarterback believes the Patriots’ quarterback “is the best by far” when it comes to the current crop of NFL quarterbacks.

“It’s not even close,” Rodgers told ESPN Radio on Wednesday.

When it comes to his top 5, Rodgers put Brady and Manning on the list, as well as the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, the Cowboys’ Tony Romo and Saints Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees. But he says Brady clearly deserves the top spot.

“No order except for Tom being the best,” Rodgers said. “He does things that other guys can’t do. His pocket presence is better than those guys by far. He throws a better ball than just about all those guys. He’s a winner — better than all those guys.”

Speaking of Brady, we all know he was sitting courtside at the TD Garden for Tuesday’s Game 3 between the Celtics and the Lakers. But his neighbor? Kobe Bryant’s Dad, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. (We’re not sure how those two ended up sitting next to each other, but it’s a rather random pairing, if you ask us.) Kobe Bryant and Brady shared a quick moment after the game.

Read More: aaron rodgers, Drew Brees, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, Peyton Manning

Weis brings more Patriots’ flavor to Kansas City offense

06.09.10 at 12:13 pm ET
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It always seems like there’s something Patriots-centric going on with the Chiefs, and this week’s series of OTA’s is no exception. First, Matt Cassel addressed the media on Tuesday and touched on a number of topics, including being a father for the first time (he says he didn’t call Tom Brady for any advice) and working with new Kansas City offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who left the Patriots to become head coach at Notre Dame months before Cassel was drafted by New England in 2005.

What sort of advice did Brady give him when it came to working with Weis?

“Tom is a dear friend of mine and I talk to him constantly, not just about Charlie, but also about life in general,” Cassel told reporters. “He has talked a lot about Charlie, and said that Charlie has been one of the big keys to his success over his career especially when he was a young quarterback. What he has said about Charlie is that he is going to push you and push you and push you and it is just to make you better. At the end, all the yelling and sometimes getting on you is all for the betterment of you as a player.

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Charlie Weis was New England's offensive coordinator from 2000 through 2004. (AP)

“Charlie pushes you each and every day and he is a guy who doesn’t let anything slip by. He is very meticulous in how he coaches. Yesterday, like we were talking about earlier, he was very tough on us because we can’t let that happen. We can’t have any lulls and that is important for us as we move forward. As a quarterback, that is what you need. You constantly need someone to push you and strive to get better even when you have a good day.”

Not every young player can work with Weis — in New England, he was known to rip off an R-rated diatribe at the drop of a hat, and it doesn’t sound like much has changed.

“You just have to take it in stride,” Cassel said. “What point is he trying to get across? What message is he trying to get to you as a player? From there, you have to take that as positive coaching and the negative part you kind of have to let go by and move forward.”

What’s easier — working with Weis or changing diapers?

“Changing diapers is difficult, but I’d have to say it’s working with Charlie,” Cassel said with a smile. “He’s a competitive son of a gun. If we come out and something doesn’t go right, he wants to win every single period and he’ll let you know that. That is something that has stuck out to me since we been work together.”

Also this week, Chiefs head coach Todd Haley talked a little bit about his experience working with Bill Belichick when the two were on Bill Parcells staff with the Jets more than 10 years ago. Haley was offensive quality control coach, and part of his duties each week was preparing the diagrams of opponent’s plays for the offensive scout team to use against the New York defense, whose coordinator was Belichick. The plays are printed on cardboard cards and shown to the practice offense before they ran each play.

“I was running cards, coaching the show team receivers and Belichick would scream at me for having a play one-yard out of line on the cards,” Haley told reporters. “At that time I had no idea. I said ‘Why is this guy being a jerk to me? I’m trying my best.’ Now I understand … now I know how important those details are. That’s how you learn all that.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Charlie Weis, Matt Cassel, Todd Haley

Pats agree to terms with Hernandez

06.08.10 at 4:04 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez is the fourth member of the Pats' draft class to sign a deal. (AP)

A league source has confirmed the Patriots and fourth-round pick Aaron Hernandez have agreed on a four-year deal. A tight end out of Florida who was taken with the 113th overall selection in the NFL draft, Hernandez is the fourth member of New England’s 2010 draft class to sign, joining offensive linemen Ted Larsen and Thomas Welch and wide receiver Taylor Price.

The news was first reported by the Boston Herald.

(UPDATE: The Patriots confirmed the signing late Tuesday afternoon. In addition, a source indicates  the deal has a maximum value of $3.56 million. Signing bonus information is not available.)

Hernandez is a 6-foot-2, 250-pound tight end who led Florida in receptions last year with 68 catches for 850 yards and five touchdowns last season. (For his collegiate career, the 20-year-old Hernandez had 111 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.) However, he recently admitted he failed one drug test while at Florida. He released a statement on the issue, but has not spoken with reporters about the issue since he was drafted.

Hernandez and second-round pick Rob Gronkowski will team with veteran acquisition Alge Crumpler in the latest remake of New England’s tight end position — the Patriots have already had 13 different players start at tight end since 2000.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski,

Two positional battles in focus at OTA’s

06.08.10 at 3:38 pm ET
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Patrick Chung is entering his second season with the Patriots. (AP)

FOXBORO — The position battles start long before training camp — in truth, many of the important ones have already begun.

On the defensive side of the ball, the two best are at inside linebacker and safety. On the inside, it’ll be a race to see who will presumably line up next to Jerod Mayo in New England’s 3-4. Gary Guyton took the bulk of the snaps at that spot last season (the since-retired Junior Seau also broke glass there on several occasions in 2009), but Tyrone McKenzie, who sat out all of last year because of a knee injury and rookie Brandon Spikes could also figure into the mix as well in 2010.

It’s easy for him to say — one would think it isn’t his job that’s at stake — but Mayo said this kind of competition is all part of the job.

“To be honest with you, I go in with the mindset that we’re all battling,” said Mayo. “There are no starters, as Coach says each and every year. I think we’re all battling, and we’re all getting better. We’re all out here competing.”

The other one that bears watching throughout the organized team activities is at safety — with Brandon Meriweather occupying one spot, there’s a rush of talented bodies who are vying for the spot opposite him. It’s a group that includes James Sanders, Brandon McGowan and Patrick Chung.

McGowan was not present for Monday’s OTA session, and in his place, Chung got a lot of reps with what appeared to be a reasonable facsimile of the starting defense.

“We have some animals back there,” Chung said with a smile after Monday’s session. “We’re all working together. It’s great. We’re all working together.

“Everybody will play. We just work hard and coach picks whoever. We’re all working hard to help the team.”

For his part, Chung’s versatility seems to be a natural fit with Meriweather, whose strength appears to be operating in the deep part of the field. The Oregon product says he likes playing alongside Meriweather.

“It’s competitive. We make it real competitive,” Chung said of his on-field collaboration with Meriweather. “It’s fun. It makes practice fast. When you get fast practice, the games come easy. I like it.”

Read More: Brandon Meriweather, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, James Sanders
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