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Rob Gronkowski’s racially insensitive joke creates stir

11.12.13 at 3:25 pm ET
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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has received some criticism for his appearances at bars and nightclubs in the past. After the latest video of him at a bar surfaced Tuesday, he might want to reconsider his schedule.

Via TMZ, Gronkowski was attending an event at Bar Louie in Foxboro on Sunday night, doing a Q&A with fans as the Patriots enjoyed their bye. After an Asian man wearing a Gronkowski jersey danced in front of him, Gronkowski, who was holding a microphone, fist-bumped the man and said, “They told me he could only cook fried rice.” He then referred to the man as “Leslie Chow,” an apparent reference to actor Ken Jeong‘s character in “The Hangover.”

At that point, a man who appears to be an organizer took the microphone and reminded the patrons that they signed waivers agreeing to “give up their phones upon exiting.” However, Gronkowski said, “We basically gave up on that.”

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Dan Marino on M&M: ‘It’s tough for anyone to make judgment’ on Dolphins situation

11.12.13 at 3:07 pm ET
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Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Jonathan MartinRichie Incognito drama surrounding the Dolphins, as well as the performance of Tom Brady this season.

The accusations of hazing and bullying of Martin by Incognito is one of the biggest stories of this NFL season and has put a cloud over the entire Miami organization.

“I think it’s just frustrating for a lot of fans and everything, the way everything came about,” said Marino, who was named by the team to an advisory panel to help deal with the matter. “When I look at it, in some ways, I know as much as you guys do about it, because … there’s been a lot of speculation. Hopefully the one thing that I think is important is I saw [Dolphins owner Stephen] Ross on TV, and he’s committed to getting to the bottom of it and committed to fixing it and making things right. That’s the most important thing.

“If you’re not a player in that locker room, it’s tough for anyone to make judgment on it. Until they really get to the bottom of it — the NFL is investigating — it’s hard to make a legitimate comment on it, it really is.”

Not only has the story been a horrible PR scenario for the Dolphins, but it has also negatively impacted the team on the field, as the absence of Martin and Incognito, who was suspended on Nov. 4, have weakened an already faulty offensive line. In their first game since the issue was made public, the Dolphins lost to the previously winless Buccaneers on Monday night.

“When you look at it, you want to be balanced offensively as much as you can, and they’ve been struggling running the football, which makes it hard, especially on a young quarterback,” Marino said. “The fact that they have lost two of their linemen and now are replacing them with two other linemen that weren’t starters — but they were in the game, they did have a chance to win it, but at the same time, you got to make plays when you have to make them, no matter what the circumstances are.”

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Read More: Dan Marino, Jonathan Martin, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

Five things you have to know about the Panthers

11.12.13 at 1:03 pm ET
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The Patriots visit the Panthers in Carolina next Monday. Here are five things you have to know about the Panthers, who are second in the NFC South at 6-3.

1. Their defense is legit

The Carolina defense has become one of the best in the league over the course of the first nine games of the season, particularly when it comes to stopping the run. The Panthers have allowed an average of 82 rushing yards per game, the second-best total in the league. (While the personnel and scheme is different, it’s worth mentioning that after this week, the Patriots will have faced the two best run defenses in the league — the Jets are tops at 73.8 rushing yards per game.) Defensive linemen Star Lotulelei and Greg Hardy are two of the best in the NFL when it comes to slowing down opposing running games, and they get a boost from former BC linebacker Luke Kuechly. Only two teams have broken 100 yards on the ground against the Panthers — the Bills (149 yards on Sept. 15) and Niners (105 on Nov. 10). On the other side, the Patriots are 5-0 when they rush for 100 yards or more as a team. Should make for a terrific matchup.

2. They’ve had success running the football

The Panthers have surpassed 100 yards on the ground as a team in eight of their nine games this season, and in the one game where they didn’t get o the century mark — Oct. 6 against the Cardinals — they were only five yards removed. DeAngelo Williams is their lead back, having rushed for 565 yards on 135 carries (4.2 yards per carry) to this point in the season. Their second best option on the ground is quarterback Cam Newton, who has 268 rushing yards on 62 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and four rushing touchdowns. (In two-plus years, he has 26 rushing touchdowns.) As a team, they average 4.0 yards per carry, and will provide a stern test for a New England run defense that has struggled over the last month-plus after losing Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly to season-ending injuries.

3. Newton is starting to click

The light is apparently come on for Newton, who is in the midst of an impressive stretch of games. He’s not only shown an ability to tuck the ball away and make plays with his feet, but his 62.7 completion percentage (after dipping under 60 percent last season) is an indication that he’s making good decisions with the football. That’s not to say he doesn’t make good decisions all the time, but he’s got a respectable 13-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio, with just three picks over the last five games. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots decide to defend Newton, a mobile quarterback who can run. In the past, when facing quarterbacks who can move, the Patriots have preached a philosophy of containment as opposed to straight pass rush. Keep him in the pocket, maintain gap discipline and (specifically for ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones) don’t overrun the quarterback when you do get into the backfield.

4. They don’t have a singularly elite pass catcher

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but important to remember for several reasons, not the least of which who Aqib Talib might draw if he does return to action this week. The Panthers don’€™t have anyone in the league in the Top 50 in receiving yards, they do have four guys (wide receiver Steve Smith, tight end Greg Olsen, wide receiver Brandon LaFell and wide receiver Ted Ginn) who all have at least 380 receiving yards. That depth will likely test the depth of the New England secondary. The feeling here is that if Talib is OK to play, he’ll draw Smith — the veteran isn’t the elite-level deep threat he used to be (he’s fifth on the Panthers in yards per catch at 10.7), but he’s still feisty enough to create problems for opposing defenses.

5. They’re good at forcing takeaways

Carolina has 21 takeaways this season — 13 picks and eight fumbles — which is second-best in the NFC and fourth-best in the NFL behind the Chiefs (23), Cowboys and Seahawks (22). Overall, the Panthers and plus-eight, trailing only the Cowboys at plus-11. Leading the way is Kuechly and safety Mike Mitchell, who each have a team-high three picks through the first nine games. Safety Robert Lester and corner Drayton Florence have two each.

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Bill Belichick on S&H: ‘I don’t think I’ve really ever had that [hazing] problem with a team’

11.12.13 at 12:40 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Salk & Holley on Monday afternoon to discuss New England’s upcoming game against the Panthers, as well as the topic of hazing in the NFL.

The situation involving Dolphins offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito is still a hot topic across the league, as more details are revealed with each passing day.

‘€œI really have a hard time with any kind of judgment on [the Miami situation] because I’€™m not there,” Belichick said. “When you’€™re not in the locker room you don’€™t know how things are done in that environment — what’€™s a joke, what’€™s serious, what the interactions are. I really think it’€™s hard for any of us who aren’€™t a member of that team to really pass a judgment on what was said, how it was taken, what was accepted, what wasn’€™t and all that.

“I know there are a lot of opinions on the whole Miami thing, but I’€™m not one that has one, just because I don’€™t feel like I have enough knowledge or information about the situation to have an intelligent one.”

Belichick said he does recall any serious problem with hazing with any of the teams that he has coached.

“I don’€™t think I’€™ve really ever had that problem with a team,” Belichick said. “I think a lot of it is with the veteran players and how they handle their teammates in the locker room, but every once in a while, if you kind of see something going in a direction you don’€™t like, then as a coach you have to step in and do something. There have been a couple of little minor things like that, a couple of times during the course of my career, but really not too much.

“When you’€™re part of a team there is always something that you sort of need to do as a rite of passage to be a part of that team. … There are just things you need to do to become part of a group, and for the group to accept you. I just consider that part of being a team, part of joining a team. We’€™ve all done it. I think there’€™s that element, and then obviously there’s another part of it that’€™s going too far. I’€™m not talking about that. … So I think there is some of that, but crossing the line where it becomes personal and offensive, that’€™s a whole different story. I haven’€™t witnessed or been around a lot of that.”

Added Belichick: ‘€œI’€™m fortunate. I’€™ve had a lot of great captains through my time here with the Patriots. Those guys are not only great players and great leaders and workers, but they also have a very good sense of what’€™s right and what’€™s wrong for the group, for the team in the locker room. A lot of times they can see things that are potentially coming over the horizon that are better to address before they become a problem than after something happens and then there’s hard feelings or maybe a misinterpretation of something.”

The Patriots will have a tough test coming out of the bye week, as they will head down to Charlotte to face the surprising 6-3 Panthers on Monday night. Carolina has won five games in a row, including Sunday’s 10-9 victory over the 49ers, thanks in large part to a stifling defensive unit that has held opponents to just 12.8 points per game this year.

“They’ve really done a good job in the last month or so everywhere,” Belichick said. “They’ve been scoring. I know they only got 10 against San Francisco, but they’ve been in the 30s quite a bit. Defensively, they have a good front, they take the ball away, they have a lot of turnovers and they do a good job in the red area, so they’re just a good team in all phases. … They’re a solid team, they’re well coached, they’re fundamentally sound, they don’t give you a lot of easy plays, they don’t beat themselves.”

To hear the interview, go to the Salk & Holley audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Carolina Panthers, Hazing, Miami Dolphins

Steve Gregory only one missing at start of Patriots practice

11.12.13 at 11:51 am ET
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FOXBORO — Steve Gregory was the only player missing from the start of Patriots practice on Tuesday morning. The veteran safety, who suffered a thumb injury in the Week 9 win over the Steelers, is expected to be on the shelf for a few weeks.

The team was in sweats and shells on a chilly Foxboro morning at it started preparations for Monday’s game against the Panthers in Carolina.

For more Patriots news. check out weei.com/patriots.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 11: Patriots climb into top 5

11.12.13 at 11:28 am ET
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The Seahawks continue to soar high above the rest in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. As fellow NFC teams suffer injuries and decline, Seattle seems to be getting stronger, and its big offseason acquisition, Percy Harvin, is set to debut in Seahawk green. The Broncos stand pat at No. 2 as they survived a health scare to their franchise QB. The Chiefs are proud owners of a perfect record and jump the their highest spot all year at No. 3. They sat back and enjoyed their bye week as the Colts (6) and Niners (8) suffered losses and fell in the rankings.

The difference a year makes continues to be the story across the league. Playoff teams in 2012 like the Texans (28), Vikings (27), Redskins (26) and Falcons (25) continue to plummet in 2013. It seems highly unlikely any of those teams will make a return to the postseason. On the other hand, the Chiefs, Panthers (7) and Jets (11) all have exceeded expectations and are in the thick of the playoff race after being completely out of it at this time last year.

Week 11 will deliver one of the most anticipated matchups of the year as the league’s best offense clashes against one of the league’s best defenses in an AFC West battle. The Broncos and Chiefs will duke it out to maintain their position in the NFL’s elite. It should be an exciting week of football.

1. (1) Seahawks (8-1) — Last year Seattle owned a 3-5 record on the road; this year the Seahawks boast a 5-1 record away from CenturyLink Field. As Harvin nears a return to the field following hip surgery, the Seahawks’ lead in the NFC continues to grow.

 2. (2) Broncos (8-1) — Peyton Manning re-aggravated an ankle injury, but that won’t sideline him when the Broncos take on the first-place Chiefs. Denver needs to be extra cautious with Manning. It may be even worth considering shutting him down for a week or two. Their chance for a Super Bowl title could be on the line.

3. (5) Chiefs (9-0) — The time finally has arrived for the Chiefs to prove to the rest of the league they are as good as their record indicates. It’s quite simple why Kansas City is at the top of the standings. The defense has been ferocious. The Chiefs have forced a league-high 23 turnovers.

4. (6) Patriots (7-2) — The Patriots are an astonishing 87-24 coming off their bye week since 2001. They’re 26-4 over the last three years alone. There’s no reason to believe Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won’t lead the Patriots to another impressive post-bye week performance when they take on the Panthers on Monday night.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, dolphins, Drew Brees, Jets

Fantasy Football: Week 11 waiver wire

11.12.13 at 10:36 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 11 waiver wire! We have some serious work to do this week with a few significant byes and a ton of major injuries over the last few weeks. I’€™ve added the remaining schedules for a few players where I felt it was a significant factor in their value. I’€™ll be doing this the rest of the way because the schedule is huge at this point when evaluating a player’€™s remaining worth.

If you play in a deep format and need more options, head on over to Rotobahn, where we cater to the needs of those in huge leagues. I’€™ll be adding players to the wire all day long as I continue to work through the Week 10 game film.

QUARTERBACKS

Nick Foles, Eagles

You can still get him in 34 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He’€™s a good QB as we’€™ve been saying for a while now. It’€™s unlikely that we see Mike Vick under center unless Foles gets hurt or implodes. Add Foles and he can be your starter in most formats. Are you listening, Aaron Rodgers owners?

Carson Palmer, Cardinals

He’€™s a weekly adventure, and he’€™ll always throw a pick or two it seems, but he has a lot of high-end talent to throw to and he has a very favorable schedule on most weeks over the rest of 2013.

  • Week 11 – at Jaguars
  • Week 12 – Colts
  • Week 13 – at Eagles
  • Week 14 – Rams
  • Week 15 – at Titans
  • Week 16 – at Seahawks

Week 16 is really the only week you can’€™t play Palmer, who is available in 72 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Case Keenum, Texans

You can still get him in 71 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and he’€™s a guy who can help you if you are in a jam — and a lot of us are with all these injuries. Keenum has the job, and he has the weapons to be a fantasy option in 12-team leagues.

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Read More: Carson Palmer, Case Keenum, Nick Foles, Ryan Fitzpatrick

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