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Patriots place Neal on season-ending IR

12.02.10 at 4:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots have announced that they have placed guard Stephen Neal on season-ending injured reserve because of a shoulder injury. The veteran offensive lineman, who has been with New England since 2001 and is one of the last links to the Super Bowl XXXVI team, has been hampered by the shoulder problem for the bulk of the season. A 34-year-old out of Cal-State Bakersfield, Neal became a full-time starter in 2004, primarily at right guard.

Here’s the complete statement from the Patriots on the move:

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. ‘€“ The New England Patriots announced today that G Stephen Neal has been placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

Neal, 6-2, 305 pounds, has been with New England since 2001. Since entering the starting lineup at right guard in 2004, Neal has been part of an offensive line that has helped the Patriots’€™ offense finish in the top 10 in total offense five times: 2004 (7), 2005 (7), 2007 (1), 2008 (5) and 2009 (3). He was originally signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2001 out of Cal State-Bakersfield, where he was a championship wrestler. After being waived by the Patriots, he joined the Philadelphia practice squad. Neal was signed to the New England 53-man roster from the Philadelphia practice squad in December, 2001.

Neal started the first eight games of the 2010 season before being inactive in each of the last three games. Last season, Neal was part of an offensive line that allowed just 18 sacks, the fewest by a Patriots squad since the NFL moved to a 16-game schedule in 1978. He contributed to a Patriots offense that set all-time NFL records with 589 points and 75 touchdowns in 2007. In 2004, Neal became a regular starter on an offensive line that paved the way for Corey Dillon to set the Patriots’€™ single-season rushing record with 1,635 yards.

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Holmes: No rookie can stop me

12.02.10 at 3:31 pm ET
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes met with the media following practice on Thursday and was asked about the Patriots secondary, specifically rookie Devin McCourty.

“If I could really speak my mind I would,” said Holmes. “But off the strength of me being a professional I’ll just say that I don’t worry about those guys. We have to worry about what we do here; I don’t care who they line up on the other side of the ball. It’s our job to get the job done.”

When asked if he thought any rookie could stop him, Holmes paused for a second before smiling and shaking his head.

“Negative,” said Holmes, who did not play in the Jets’ Week 2 win over the Patriots due to a four-game suspension for substance abuse. “That was proven in the Super Bowl two years ago when they had a rookie follow me around the whole game. I wouldn’t do it if I was them.”

In that Super Bowl XLIII matchup between the Steelers and Cardinals, rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was repeatedly beat by Holmes, who finished with nine catches for 131 yards and the game-winning TD to capture MVP honors.

Read More: Devin McCourty, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Santonio Holmes

The Big Nickel: Wisdom from Vince Wilfork, the secret of turnovers and how Devin McCourty was almost a Jet

12.02.10 at 2:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Thursday:

1. Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork only occasionally speaks with the media during the week, but he talked with reporters for awhile on Thursday, and one of the topics was the fact that New England is 31st in the league in total defense (yielding an average of 399.1 total yards per game) and 32nd in the league in pass defense (having allowed an average of 288.5 passing yards per game).

‘€œI don’€™t pay attention to that. The important part is winning,’€ Wilfork said. ‘€œWe’€™re 9-2, and there are a lot of teams that have pretty good defenses out there, and their records don’€™t show that. I don’€™t care about stats. The main stats for me is winning. However you can win, that’€™s what it’€™s all about. People can say what they want to say about this team. About the defense, the people we have here. We just … the only thing we’€™re trying to do is win. Point blank. If that calls for us to be the 32nd defense in the league, then it is what it is.

‘€œAt the end of the day, Sunday ‘€” this week, Monday ‘€” we want to make sure we do everything we can to walk away with a W. Every week, that’€™s our goal. To win. Good teams find a way to win. The Jets are a great team. They’€™ve shown they’€™ve blown out people. They’€™ve won close games. OT. They’€™ve been challenged and they’€™ve always [risen] to the occasion. That team, we’€™re going to have our hands full. We’€™ll have our hands with them. By the same token, we’€™re at home. Out there, they beat us. Hopefully, we can turn that around this week.’€

On that same point: A little later on, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if it ‘€œembarrassed’€ him that, being a defensive coach, New England was 31st in the league in total defense. ‘€œWe play to win the games,’€ said Belichick, channeling his inner Herm Edwards. ‘€œThat’€™s what our goal is.’€

2. As expected, quarterback Tom Brady was on the field for the start of practice on Thursday. The only players who were not out there have all been dogged by injury over the last few weeks ‘€” cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip), offensive lineman Stephen Neal (shoulder), defensive lineman Myron Pryor (back) and defensive lineman Mike Wright (neck/concussion). With no Pryor and Wright, the Patriots are a little thin along the defensive line. In addition, no Wilhite means more reps at corner for Darius Butler, while Dan Connolly will presumably get more time at right guard if Neal continues to be sidelined.

3. The Patriots and Jets are two of the best teams in the league when it comes to takeaways, with New England tied for the AFC lead with the Steelers at plus-11, and New York tied for third at plus-seven. When these two teams met earlier in the season, it represented the low point in the turnover department for the Patriots ‘€” Brady threw a pair of picks and lost a fumble in the 28-14 loss.

Since then, Brady and New England have been excellent at taking care of the football ‘€” the quarterback has only thrown two picks since then, both in an October win over Baltimore. What did the Jets do in that game that other teams might not be doing when it comes to forcing turnovers against the Patriots.

‘€œThey made some good plays in that game. Antonio Cromartie is really a ballhawk. He’€™s got great hands and ball skills, great awareness. Darrelle Revis is an incredible corner. He’€™s a real dynamic playmaker for them too. Jason Taylor strip-sacked me,’€ Brady said. ‘€œI think they put a lot of pressure on you with their scheme. Their blitzing scheme is a very heavy blitz scheme on all downs and distances. They create a lot of different ways to cause confusion with the quarterback and with the offense. They make it tough on you ‘€” you’€™ve got to get the ball into tight spots. They’€™re covering guys pretty tightly. You have to do a good job getting open and delivering the ball.’€

‘€œI know it’€™s rare,’€ Jets coach Rex Ryan said Thursday when asked about the three turnovers they forced against the Patriots. ‘€œBrady, I think it was the first time in all the Jets games that the Jets have ever had two interceptions in a game against [him]. We just do what we do. We play our style of football. We’€™re a pretty decent group on defense. We don’€™t have to take a backseat to anybody’€™s defense. We think we have the best defense in football.’€
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Read More: antonio cromartie, Bill Belichick, Dan Connolly, Darius Butler

Bill Belichick loves to joke around

12.02.10 at 1:32 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Who says Bill Belichick is all business before Monday’s end-of-the-world showdown between his Patriots and Sexy Rexy’s Jets?

The Patriots were given a rare day off on Wednesday as the coaching staff prepares for the Jets on Monday night at Gillette Stadium. Belichick joked during his Thursday news conference that the players and coaches used the time to “play golf out there, golf, bowling, a little badminton tournament, ate some watermelon, played cards. Just nice.”

“Yeah, it was totally about the Jets, other than the pony rides and little canoeing,” Belichick added. Then he was asked about the ramifications of the game Monday night with two 9-2 teams squaring off.

“Look, if you can’t get ready to go this week then I don’t know when you can get ready to go,” Belichick said. “If you like football, this is a good week to be playing.

“There’s a lot of football left,” said Belichick, referring to the five games left including Monday night. “There’s still a third of the season to go. There’s a lot of football left. It’ll be a different story every week, if this happens, that happens, something else happens, it’ll be this. Next week, it’ll be another one. It’ll be five different scenarios. I’m not worried about that.”

Belichick looked out and saw the Gillette Stadium media workroom full of reporters and cameras, about 60 in all, and thought it felt like the normal mid-week press conference for a Sunday game.

“It looks like we’€™ve got a good crowd here,” a chirpy Belichick quipped. “You must have a lot of news, a lot of stuff to write about, or TV about, sorry ‘€“ I don’€™t mean to offend the TV/radio people.”

Only this game is on Monday night so everything got pushed back from Wednesday to Thursday. As for his team, it might as well be Wednesday, four days from kick-off but seven since they beat Detroit, 45-24, on Thanksgiving.

“It’€™s a regular Wednesday for us today,” he said. “It’€™s been a long time since we’€™ve played. It seems like it’€™s been several weeks, but it’€™s only been a few days. I think we had a good meeting this morning. I think everybody’€™s really getting right back into the routine here and we definitely needed to do that.”

The Pats were outdoors on the upper grass trying to get ready for what will be a very chilly Monday night, with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees.

“We need a real good week of preparation here to get ready for the Jets. Like I said, they do a lot of things well. They’€™re a good football team. Obviously, their record speaks for itself. [We'€™ve] got a lot of work to do, hopefully [we'€™ll] get a good start ‘€“ a good second day on it today, and just grind it through the week. We’€™ll be outside, take care of the elements and get ready to go.”

Belichick was asked if he felt a greater sense of urgency this week in practice after giving the players five days off from practice in the last six days.

“I think anytime you have some time off, you have that energy, but you also have to get back into it,” Belichick said. “So, it’€™s a little bit of both. There’€™s an energy, but there’€™s also getting back into the flow of it. When you’€™re doing it every single day, there’€™s something to be said for that and there’€™s also a little bit of a grind to doing that ‘€“ it’€™s sort of the flip side of it.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl

Pats practice: Tom Brady back, Jonathan Wilhite, Mike Wright still out

12.02.10 at 1:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady returned to Patriots practice on Thursday on the upper fields outside Gillette Stadium after getting Tuesday off. The team was off on Wednesday.

CB Jonathan Wilhite (hip), OL Stephen Neal (shoulder), DL Myron Pryor (back) and DL Mike Wright (neck/concussion) were the four players not spotted at the open portion of practice. The team worked out on the upper fields in full pads.

Read More: Jonathan Wilhite, Mike Wright, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Tom Brady: ‘This is not the Super Bowl’

12.02.10 at 11:55 am ET
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FOXBORO — The biggest game of the year is about to take place at Gillette Stadium but Tom Brady knows it isn’t the biggest game he wants to play in this season. The Patriots quarterback – asked about the level of importance of Monday night’s meeting of the 9-2 Patriots and 9-2 Jets sounded a reasonable tone.

“It’s a game, a regular season game against a division opponent that is 9-2,” Brady said. “I think we treat it just like that. This is not the Super Bowl. There are games after this game that are very important as well. This game for what we’re trying to accomplish and winning our division – which is always the first goal of this team – it’s a big game. You can’t expect to win the division and lose to the same team twice.”

Brady referenced the loss to the Jets in Week 2 when the Patriots were outscored 21-0 in the second half and lost 28-14 at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

“We’ve got to really execute at a much higher level than we did the first time we played them because they don’t leave you much margin for error and they’ve shown they take advantage of mistakes,” Brady added.

After watching the Jets on HBO’s “Hard Knocks“, Brady told WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan that he “hates the Jets.” But on Thursday – at the request of his coach – he backed off a little bit.

“Do I still hate them? Well, I promised Coach Belichick that I wouldn’€™t say anything derogatory, so, I have no comment.”

Still, he has always appreciated the rivalry between Boston and New York in any sport.

“I bought into pretty quick,” Brady recalled, looking back on his first season in 2000. “My first summer here was Red Sox-Yankees. That’€™s the way it’€™s always been around here. So you get acclimated to it pretty quickly being here in Boston, and the rivalry has really taken shape. It really started with baseball. But Jets-Patriots, there were so many players that were former Jets that had come to play as Patriots.

“Obviously, Coach Belichick and Bill Parcels, [but, also] a lot of different players that we picked up whether it was Bryan Cox, Roman Phifer, or Anthony Pleasant, Otis Smith or Rick Lyle ‘€“ all these guys that came to be Patriots has really kind of stoked the rivalry as well. It’€™s been a fun rivalry; they’€™re a great team. They’€™ve really been playing great football this season.”

Read More: Dennis and Callahan, Hard Knocks, HBO, New England Patriots

Rex Ryan: Bill Belichick best in football and ‘it’s not even close’

12.02.10 at 11:38 am ET
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FOXBORO — Jets coach Rex Ryan admitted this week that he came to the Jets to kick the rear end of Bill Belichick and the Patriots but on Thursday he said Belichick is “the best coach in football, and it’s not even close.”

“There are very few coaches that I steal from but Bill Belichick is one of them,” Ryan said during Thursday’s conference call with the New England media. “So creative in what he does coverage-wise, how he looks at things, puts traps out there. The guy is an amazing coach. That’s a guy I will study. Each week I’ll just pop their tape on and see what he’s doing because he is creative, smart.

“The two that I would look at are obviously, Belichick number one and Pittsburgh… Dick LeBeau.” Ryan said.

But then Ryan said as much as respects Belichick, he roots just as hard against him. “When I got the job, I cheered against them. I understand that’s the team we have to beat to win the division.”

Belichick’s reaction to Ryan: Aw, shucks.

“That’€™s flattering,” Belichick said. “I’€™d say the same thing about the Jets and Rex. When he was at Baltimore and the Jets, you always watch their tape and see how he defends teams that you’€™re going to play or kind of what they’€™re doing and try to get some ideas. If you can figure it out ‘€“ which you usually can ‘€“ what they’€™re trying to do, what their thinking is [and] what problems they’€™re creating for the offense, whether that’€™s exactly the same thing that you can do, maybe you can take an element or that part of the defense or that way they attack the offense and try and utilize it some way in what you’€™re doing. I think he’€™s really creative.

“He’€™s got a lot of good ideas. He definitely pressures the offense and being on the other side of the ball, playing against him, offensively, with our team, there’€™s a lot of things to get ready for. He creates a lot of problems and they have a lot of good players, too. It’€™s a good combination there. He’€™s an excellent coach. There’€™s no question about that; he does an excellent job.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl
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