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Bill Belichick on Week 1 planning: ‘There are just more unknowns’

09.03.14 at 12:33 pm ET
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Bill Belichick is always teaching and planning when thinking of roster building. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick is always teaching and planning when thinking of roster building. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The great unknown. Nothing describes the anxiety many teams, including those of championship caliber, face heading into the first game of the new season.

With the Patriots, they have a new star cornerback, a new starting left guard (still TBD) and a new offensive line coach. But it’s not so much the unknown of your own players but the unknown of the opposition that provides the biggest challenge when game planning at this time of year.

Preseason film is very basic and not chock full of exotic looks so coaches have to take their best guesses as to what a team like the Dolphins will do once the game begins.

“I’€™d say there are just more unknowns,” Belichick said. “I think each year has its own the opener has its own set of unanswered questions, unknowns. We know a little bit more about our team each week. We’€™ve been with them, but once we get to the regular season, opening day and the succeeding games, we’€™ll continue to learn. I’€™m not really sure what we have. I’€™m not sure anybody knows what they have.

“I don’€™t know what they have. We’€™ll see how it goes. I’€™m sure there will be some matchups that we’€™ll be alright with. I’€™m sure there will be other matchups that we won’€™t be alright with. We’€™ll see how that plays out in succeeding weeks and if there’€™s a pattern or not a pattern or whatever. There are always a lot of unknowns on opening day. This year is no exception.”

The Dolphins are featuring a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor, the quarterbacks coach of the Chip Kelly-led Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. Lazor is installing a version of the hurry-up offense that featured the fastest snap-to-snap offense in the NFL. [’s Chris Price gave a detailed look at what to expect from Lazor.]

“If they don’€™t substitute, it’€™s going to be hard for us to substitute,” Belichick said Wednesday. “But, I don’€™t know who they’€™re going to have in the game. They use different personnel groups. Whoever they have in the game, if they go quicker with that group, then they go quicker with that group. I’€™m sure we’€™ll have to leave our group on the field. It would be hard to sub in those situations.

“If they change, we change to match them. We’€™ve done both ‘€“ we have, we haven’€™t. I don’€™t know. It would depend on, again, what groups they use and what the situations are and so forth. Look, if you want to substitute a player to get a matchup then the advantage is, you’€™ve substituted to get that matchup. If you don’€™t substitute, then you take the matchups that you have and have more continuity possibly. There’€™re tradeoffs no matter which way you do it.”

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Patriots have perfect attendance for Wednesday practice

09.03.14 at 12:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Only cornerback Brandon Browner and wide receiver Brian Tyms (both of whom are serving four-game suspensions) were missing from the start of Patriots practice on Wednesday, a session held on the back fields behind Gillette Stadium in full pads.

The Patriots, who are prepping for their season opener Sunday against the Dolphins in Miami, had three new practice squadders on the practice field, one of which was former Dolphins running back Marcus Thigpen.

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Tom Brady on Wes Welker: ‘It’s not friend time, it’s opponent time’

09.03.14 at 10:42 am ET
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FOXBORO — Even for the closest of friends, there’s a time to put friendship aside and take care of business.

That was the message from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady Wednesday at his press conference when he was asked about the four-game suspension of close friend Wes Welker for violation of the NFL drug policy.

“I don’€™t have a lot of thoughts or comments on that,” Brady said. “That’€™s Wes’€™ situation and their team. Obviously I have plenty to worry about with this week and this team. As a friend you always hope for the best, but it’€™s not friend time, it’€™s opponent time, and I’€™m focused on the Dolphins.”

Brady and Welker were spotted together in May at the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky. It was at the Kentucky Derby where, according to Pro Football Talk, Welker took an illegal substance containing ecstasy and amphetamines and was later tagged positive by an NFL-mandated drug test.

Brady was asked Wednesday if he saw Welker taking any such substances.

“I have no comment on that,” Brady said with a heavy laugh.

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Bill Belichick: ‘I don’t think you could ever question [Rob Gronkowski’s] work ethic’

09.03.14 at 10:01 am ET
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FOXBORO — Don’t ever question the work ethic of Rob Gronkowski. Bill Belichick certainly doesn’t.

There has been some speculation around Foxboro that the Patriots this year didn’t want to endure the week-to-week drama around the health of their star tight end that circulated in 2013. There was even the talk that the Patriots were sending a message to Gronk to make sure he was ready to go.

Well, Belichick made it clear publicly Wednesday, he’s never, ever had any doubt that Gronkowski would do everything in his power to be ready for Sept. 7 in Miami.

“Gronk always works hard,” Belichick said. “I don’t think that’s really ever been an issue since he’s been here. He works hard in the weight room, works hard in the film room and the meetings and works hard on the field. I don’t think you could ever question Rob’s work ethic. I never have. I think it’s always one of the best on the team.”

Belichick hinted that, barring any setbacks this week with Gronk’s surgically repaired right knee, Gronkowski will be good to go for the opener after Gronkowski himself declared himself ready on Monday despite not playing a single snap in the preseason.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of guys in the league, we’ll have other guys on our team that will probably fall into that category too, didn’t play a lot in the preseason but that will play Sunday. I’m sure every team has guys in that category,” Belichick said.

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Patriots name 6 captains for 2014 season

09.03.14 at 9:40 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots have named their captains for the 2014 season, and for the first time they include offensive lineman Dan Connolly — an eight-year veteran, with six of those seasons coming with the Patriots.

In addition to Connolly, Tom Brady, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Devin McCourty, and Matthew Slater will also serve as captains this season.

“It’€™s very flattering for my teammates, and I try to represent them the best I can in whatever fashion the team asks me to do things and wants me to convey messages to the coach,” Brady said Wednesday during his weekly briefing at Gillette Stadium.

“We’€™ve got a great group of young men who have really committed themselves to being the best teammate they can be. I hope I do a great job. I work hard at it. We’€™ve got a lot of other great captains, guys that I’€™ve always been able to rely on and depend on. It’€™s a big responsibility, so I accept it.”

The news was first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates.

Offensive lineman Logan Mankins was a captain since 2011, so it would appear Connolly will take over the leadership role on the offensive line with Mankins now a member of the Buccaneers.

“Dan has had a real good year,” Bill Belichick said Wednesday. “He’s had a real good spring. Good training camp. He’s been out there everyday. He’s been been a versatile guy as he’s always [been]. He’s ready to play all three spots and contribute in the kicking game. He’s a sharp guy and works hard. He had a good offseason and was able to train throughout the bulk of the offseason. He’s done a solid job for us at a number of positions.”

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Wes Welker: ‘I would never knowingly take a substance to gain a competitive advantage’

09.02.14 at 11:05 pm ET
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Wes Welker claims he did not knowingly take a banned substance. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Broncos receiver Wes Welker claims he did not knowingly take a banned substance. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker issued a statement Tuesday night regarding the news that he faces a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on PEDs.

“€œI’€™m as shocked as everyone at today’€™s news,”€ the former Patriot wrote in an e-mail to The Denver Post. “€œI want to make one thing abundantly clear: I would NEVER knowingly take a substance to gain a competitive advantage in any way. Anyone who has ever played a down with me, lifted a weight with me, even eaten a meal with me, knows that I focus purely on what I put in my body and on the hard work I put in year round to perform at the highest levels year-in and year-out. I want any youth football players and all sports fans to know, there are NO shortcuts to success, and nothing but hard work and studying, leads to success.”

Welker also commented on the NFL’s drug policy.

“€œI have never been concerned with the leagues performance enhancing or drug abuse policies because under no scenario would they ever apply to me, but I now know, that [the drug-policy procedures] are clearly flawed, and I will do everything in my power to ensure they are corrected, so other individuals and teams aren’€™t negatively affected so rashly like this. I have worked my whole life to be the best that I can be, and I have encountered many obstacles over my career, and THIS WILL BE NO DIFFERENT! Thank you for the outpouring of support, and I want Bronco nation to know, that no one and no thing will get in the way of our goal as a team, to bring Mr. Bowlen the trophy he and this great region deserve.”

In a related note, Welker’s suspension was made official Tuesday evening — the receiver will begin serving his ban this week when the Broncos open the regular season.

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Report: Wes Welker suspended 4 games for violating league PED policy

09.02.14 at 7:04 pm ET
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Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league’s PED policy, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. According to Schefter, the violation was for amphetamines.

The 33-year-old Welker, in his second season in Denver, went through the appeal process two weeks ago, according to Albert Breer of NFL Network, and he was apparently notified Tuesday that he lost his appeal.

According to a report from Pro Football Talk, the ban under the PED policy happened because Welker ingested MDMA (also known as “Molly”) that had been cut with amphetamines while at the Kentucky Derby in May. Both substances are banned substance under the league’s PED policy.

Welker, who has struggled with concussions as of late, had 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns last season with the Broncos.

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