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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson

03.27.14 at 10:20 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

ANTONIO RICHARDSON

Position: Offensive tackle

School: University of Tennessee

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 327 pounds

Achievements: 2013 second-team All-SEC, 2012 second-team All-SEC

What he brings: One of the bigger tackles available, Richardson has sneaky athleticism and is a good athlete with quick feet and ferocious power. He also has long arms and good balance. Analysts note that Richardson struggles with technique, sometimes using his physical traits too much, and has been known to overextend on plays.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: A two-year starter at Tennessee, Richardson had two games against heralded South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, in 2012 and 2013. Richardson held his own against the projected top-five pick in 2012 but struggled in 2013. The 22-year-old enters the draft with one year of college eligibility remaining. … NFL.com‘€™s Mike Mayock does not have Richardson in his top five for offensive tackles. … Richardson has spent his entire life in Tennessee. He was born in Nashville and prepped at Nashville’s Pearl Cohn High School before joining the Volunteers.

Related articles:

Times Free Press: Tiny incentive: UT Vols’ Richardson eager for Jadeveon Clowney rematch

Times Free Press: Antonio Richardson aims to be large leader on UT’s offensive line

Video: Here are Richardson’s highlights against Florida in 2013. 

Read More: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Potential Patriots, Antonio Richardson,

Tom Brady recounts firsthand view of Back Bay fire on D&C: ‘It was just a tough day’

03.27.14 at 9:29 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady watched Wednesday’s horrific Back Bay fire from his nearby home, and he checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to talk about his experience and his respect for the first-responders, especially the two firefighters who lost their lives battling the blaze. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

 

“I can’t express my gratitude and thanks enough to all the first-responders and the people that were there fighting that fire all night last night,” Brady said via phone while driving to Gillette Stadium. “I had a firsthand view of all the action and was just blown away by the bravery and the teamwork that they really displayed. I’ve lived in the Back Bay for a long time, and that was one of the scarier days. I feel so badly for the families of the two firefighters that were lost. And obviously all the men that were associated with fighting that fire yesterday, losing one of their close friends.

“We as athletes think that we’re heroes, but when you witness firsthand what I saw yesterday, you realize who the real heroes are in this world, and that’s the people that work hard to protect our lives and protect our safety, our freedoms in America. Certainly the firefighters and Boston Police and the state troopers.

“I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Brady said his wife, Gisele Bundchen, initially alerted him to the fire, and he quickly realized the seriousness of the situation.

“I was in my bedroom. I’m about four doors down from [the building that was on fire],” he explained. “My wife and my daughter were in the house. My wife [said], ‘Look outside, there’s a fire.’ I looked out the front of our house and could see the flames, and then kind of went back to my room and then went back about two minutes later and just saw it growing. At that point I had gone to the back part of the house, from my deck, and could see kind of what they were up against. At that point all the fire engines were coming down the street. I was watching for obviously a long time. At one point I saw a pretty big explosion of flames, and a lot of the firemen were coming out of the building. That’s when I really got nervous. I felt so badly for them.

“Our lives were never in jeopardy at all thanks to those men, brave men who were there fighting that fire for us. That was a very intense day of weather and wind. You just can’t imagine all those things that really happened and how quickly those things can get out of control. I have such a newfound respect for nature and what it’s all about and under those conditions for those men to watch them try to put out the fire in freezing conditions and all the different elements they had to deal with. There’s no way to prepare for things like that. They gave everything they had, and a few of them paid the ultimate price.

“My respect and sincerity and love and admiration of what they do — it’s hard to put it into words.”

Brady said he watched the fire for a little while before deciding to leave his home for a safer situation.

“Once I saw all the firefighters getting out of the house, I told my wife, ‘We’ve got to go.’ We went just down the street to our friends’ house,” he said, adding that they then watched the news for updates before returning around 7:30 p.m. “I came back a few hours later just to kind of see what was going on. It was just a tough scene. It was just a tough day.”

An emotional Brady said he feels for the firefighters who lost two comrades, Michael Kennedy and Lt. Edward Walsh.

“You just think of how strong an event that is when you realize that a lot of your things, your house could just be gone. And you’ve got to think about, obviously our lives is what’s most important. And the firemen who risk their lives. That’s who I just can’t pay enough respect toward,” he said.

“I drive by the fire station in the Back Bay on Hereford and Boylston. I’ve driven by that fire station thousands of times in all my years in the Back Bay. That was the group that was closest to the action and were the first ones into the building. I can’t obviously thank them enough and understand the tragedy that that fire station’s gone through.”

Added Brady: “Those firemen, they’re in my thoughts and prayers all day, and my family. Without them, it could have been a very tragic day for not only the houses in the neighborhood and the lives of people, but they kept everybody safe. That’s really where I can’t thank them enough.”

Read More: Tom Brady,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: North Carolina TE Eric Ebron

03.26.14 at 5:09 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

ERIC EBRON

Position: Tight end

School: North Carolina

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 245 pounds

Achievements: 2013 first-team All-American, 2013 first-team All-ACC

What he brings: Ebron has outstanding athletic ability and superb receiving skills. He runs routes very well and has a large catch radius. It is hard to cover him one-on-one. However, Ebron is considered undersized and an average blocker at best. He can be redirected on routes because of his lack of weight.

Where the Patriots could get him: Ebron is projected to be a top-20 pick, so the Patriots likely would need to trade up to to get him.

Notes: Ebron had 62 receptions, 973 yards and three touchdowns during his junior season at North Carolina in 2013. He is considered the best tight end prospect in the draft, with Mike Mayock seeing a possibility of him being a top-10 pick. Ebron, who turns 21 in April, was a finalist for the John Mackey Award (given to college football’s best tight end) in 2013. CBSSports.com compares him to Vernon Davis.

Related articles:

News & Record: UNC coach Larry Fedora wants Eric Ebron to soar

ESPN: UNC’s Eric Ebron to enter draft

Video: Here are Ebron’s highlights during the 2013 Balk Bowl against Cincinnati.

Read More: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Potential Patriots, Eric Ebron,

Scouting reports on new Patriots Brandon LaFell, Brandon Browner from their old coaches

03.26.14 at 1:57 pm ET
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ORLANDO to BOSTON — The NFL meetings wrapped up Wednesday in Central Florida, but not without a few interesting notes worth passing along:

1. Panthers coach Ron Rivera was asked about wide receiver Brandon LaFell. The Patriots signed LaFell to a free agent deal earlier this month after the LSU produce spent four years with Carolina. Rivera was effusive in his praise of LaFell, who can apparently play multiple spots.

“[The Patriots are] getting a steady player, very smart, headsy guy. A very intelligent football player,” Rivera said of LaFell, who had 49 catches for 627 yards and five touchdowns last season for the Panthers. “He’ll know all the wide receiver positions. He played all of our wide receiver positions, plus he knew the tight end position as well. … I love his tenacity. He’s a willing blocker. He’s a want-to blocker. He wants to block. He won’t block because he has to. He’ll block because he has to. He’ll block because he wants to. And I think that’s impressive. And he’s a solid person. He’s a good person.”

“One thing he isn’t, he isn’t a fast, quick-twitch elusive guy,” Rivera added. “But he presents a good target. And they’ll probably play him as a Z in their base personnel group, or if they do use him as a slot they’ll motion him down in and use him to crack as far as the running game’s concerned. And I think they’ll be pleased with him.”

2. In that same vein, Seattle coach Pete Carroll was asked by New England reporters about what sort of player the Patriots are getting in Brandon Browner. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound cornerback was acquired by New England as a free agent after spending the last three seasons with the Seahawks.

“He’€™s a fantastic football player. He’€™s a great competitor. He has great depth of understanding of the position,” Carroll told reporters Tuesday morning. “He played bump-and-run, press technique since he was a freshman in college back at Oregon State. He was a fantastic player in college. Went to Canada, was a fantastic player in Canada. By the time we got him, he was so savvy in playing the position. I think he really blossomed again, took a step forward. … He’€™s a fantastic player.

“I was kind of envious,” Carroll said of the Patriots and Bill Belichick. “[Browner is] a great baller. He’€™s going to get a real special guy.”

3. The four rules changes that the Patriots proposed met with mixed results:

The league approved the idea of extended the goalposts, moving them from a height of 30 feet to 35 feet. Belichick spoke on the idea at the AFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday.

“Certainly, the goal posts are outdated,” he said. “Virtually every kicker at the combine can kick them over the top of the goal posts [and] some of those guys aren’t even going to be in the league. I’€™d say every kicker can do that.”

The league tabled a proposal from Belichick and the Patriots that would add extra cameras along the boundaries of the field and at the end zone to better determine when a player has gone out of bounds, or when a ball has broken the plane of the goal line.

Belichick is an advocate of making the extra point a more competitive play, and he proposed moving the one of scrimmage for extra points back to the 25. The idea didn’t pass, but the league was intrigued enough to move the line of scrimmage for extra points to the 20-yard line for two weeks in the preseason as an experiment.

The league rejected the proposal that every non-scoring play should be reviewable. Belichick was  pretty passionate about this at the coaches breakfast on Tuesday morning — for more on his take, check out our story here. But in the end, Jeff Fisher, the co-chairman of the influential competition committee, said that fewer than half the teams approved the idea, which means that it gets a thumbs-down, at least for now.

3. In pre-draft news, it appears the Patriots have been taking advantage of the fact that they’ve in Florida for the league meetings. Several reports indicated that the New England brain trust — specifically Belichick and personnel chief Nick Caserio — spent Tuesday working out prospects at Central Florida. In addition, a Wednesday morning tweet from Gil Brandt of NFL.com indicated that Belichick and six members of the New England coaching staff spent last Friday at Florida State working out wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is a flat-out physical freak, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder who caught 54 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns last season for the national champions. Considered a late first-round/early second-round possibility, he presents himself as an intriguing prospect for the New England offense.

Read More: 2014 nfl annual meetings, Bill Belichick, Brandon Browner, Brandon LaFell

Patriots’ proposed rule change regarding goalpost height passes

03.26.14 at 11:13 am ET
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Only one of the Patriots’ proposed rule changes was approved on Wednesday at the NFL annual meeting. The goalpost height will increase by five feet, moving from 30 to 35 feet.

The proposal to move the point-after attempt to the 25-yard line was tabled, although the NFL will experiment with longer PATs in the preseason, moving the line of scrimmage for the extra point to the 20-yard line for the first two weeks of exhibition games.

The proposal to add more cameras for instant replay has been tabled until May.

Other rules approved on Wednesday include allowing the game clock to continue after a quarterback sack prior to the two-minute mark, and making the recovery of a loose ball in the field of play a call that is reviewable.

Owners on Wednesday rejected proposals to move kickoffs to the 40-yard line and to allow more than one player to return to the roster during the season after being placed on injured reserve.

On Tuesday, three rules were approved, the biggest allowing referees to communicate with the officiating office in New York during a review to help determine the outcome of a call. The other two were making dunking over the crossbar in celebration a penalty and making roll-up blocks on the side of a player illegal.

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, Rule Changes,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Ohio State CB Bradley Roby

03.26.14 at 9:51 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

BRADLEY ROBY

Position: Cornerback

School: Ohio State

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 194 pounds

Achievements: 2013 first-team All-Big Ten, 2012 second-team All-American, 2012 first-team All-Big Ten, 2012 Thorpe Award semifinalist

What he brings: Scouts agree that Roby has great speed for his position, but they also show concerns about his small frame that allows other players to outmuscle him. However, he’s known as an aggressive player who plays bigger than his size. He’s pegged as nickel slot defender who can contribute on special teams as well.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: Roby, 21, recorded 69 tackles, 16 passes defensed, three interceptions and two blocked punts in 2013. In 2012 he led the nation with 19 passes defensed, and he had 63 tackles and two interceptions. As a redshirt freshman in 2011, Roby started all 13 games, tying for the team lead with three interceptions and recording 47 tackles. … Roby was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery on July 21, 2013, after he hit a bouncer during a bar fight. The charge eventually was reduced to disorderly conduct. He was suspended for the first game of the 2013 season. … Roby was ejected from the team’€™s game against Iowa last Oct. 19 for targeting.

Related articles:

The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State football: Criticism, struggles helped him, Bradley Roby says

USA Today: Bradley Roby: College players should be paid

Video: Here are highlights from Bradley Roby’s 2013 season.

Read More: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Potential Patriots, Bradley Roby,

Checking in with rest of AFC East at league meetings

03.26.14 at 6:00 am ET
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ORLANDO — While Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and the Patriots have been making news this week at the NFL annual meetings in Central Florida, the rest of the AFC East was involved in the action as well. Here’€™s a look at some of the news from New England’€™s divisional foes over the last few days.

Jets — It wasn’€™t the old-school bravado we’€™ve come to know from coach Rex Ryan, but it was still a fairly brash statement for a team that hasn’€™t finished better than .500 since 2010.

“€œWatch out for the Jets, man,”€ Ryan said at Tuesday’€™s AFC coaches breakfast. “I’€™m just telling you.”

Ryan and the Jets have made a few moves to this point in the offseason, picking up wide receiver Eric Decker and swapping out Mark Sanchez for Mike Vick at quarterback. (Ryan indicated Tuesday that Geno Smith will remain the starter.) They’ve made some moves that give them some financial flexibility, which means they could be in on the race for DeSean Jackson if the receiver can be pried loose from Philly.

However, beyond an impressive front seven, the Jets still have questions at corner (Ryan has lamented the situation in the secondary), and despite the addition of Decker, still need to add offensive oomph this offseason. Look for them to target skill position players and defensive backs in the draft.

And look for Rex to stay Rex.

“€œMy expectations have never changed: I want to win and I expect to win,”€ Ryan said. “œI’€™ll say this: It’€™s time to deliver. It’€™s time to deliver for this community, for New York, for this entire area. We got to step up and deliver. I’€™m not running from it. Let’€™s put it that way — I expect a lot out of this football team.

“Nobody’€™s really talking about us, and that’€™s fine and dandy. They’€™re going to.”
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Read More: 2014 nfl annual meetings, Branden Albert, Brandon Spikes, Brent Grimes
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