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Kellen Winslow on Patriots preparation: ‘That’s why they win Super Bowls’

09.20.12 at 1:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tight end Kellen Winslow knew exactly what he was getting into when he agreed to come to play for the Patriots this week.

The 29-year-old veteran acknowledged Thursday that he met with the Patriots a couple of weeks ago but no contract was reached since there was no opening. That, of course, all changed Sunday afternoon midway though the first quarter of the Patriots home opener when Aaron Hernandez went down with a sprained right ankle.

“It was a good fit,” said Winslow, who was regarded much in the same light by scouts as Hernandez, a pass-catching tight end who can separate. “I’ve never been in this type of situation but a situation arose where Aaron got hurt and we’re kind of similar so I thought I could come in here and help out.”

What did coach Belichick tell him when he spoke with him earlier this week?

“Get your butt on a plane and get over here,” Winslow said.

Belichick, Tom Brady and Winslow have a lot of catching up to do since none of the three have had any professional working experience with each other.

Winslow spoke for the first time Thursday since agreeing to terms on Tuesday and joining the team in Wednesday’s practice. The star tight end was a first-round draft pick of the Browns in 2004, chosen sixth overall out of Miami. Fifteen picks later, Vince Wilfork went to the Patriots.

But since, Winslow, 29, has battled chronic knee and leg injuries. Two games into his rookie season, he broke his right fibula and was expected to return in time for the season opener in 2005. But in May of that year, he was involved in a motorcycle accident and was thrown from the bike, tearing his right ACL. His first breakout season came in 2007, when he had 82 catches for 1,106 yards and five touchdowns. Read the rest of this entry »

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John Harbaugh says one reason Ravens have gone no-huddle is because of Patriots

09.19.12 at 7:49 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged Wednesday that the Ravens are running more no-huddle than they have in years past, adding that one of the reasons they’€™ve utilized it so much in 2012 is because they’€™ve seen the success that the Patriots have had with it in the past.

‘€œWe’€™ve seen the success a lot of teams have had with it and we’€™ve had to defend it,’€ Harbaugh said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. ‘€œWe’€™ve always had it as part of what we’€™re doing. There were a lot of factors that came together to move us in that direction, but every week is different. Every game plan is different. I would say a lot of what the Patriots have done over the years has been something that’€™s positively influenced us in that direction.’€

Harbaugh, who estimated that Baltimore’s no-huddle was ‘€œmore successful in the first game than the second game probably, more successful in the first half of the first half of the last game than the second half,’€ said it wasn’€™t really hard to introduce it this season.

‘€œEvery year it’€™s always a process of going from the ground up,’€ he said, ‘€œno matter if it’€™s something you’€™ve been doing for years or if it’€™s something you’€™re doing more of like we are with that or if it’€™s something you introduce as new. Every year kind of ends up being like a startup and you have to build everything from the foundation up.’€

Following are some of the highlights from the rest of his Q&A with the media on Wednesday.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Ed Reed: ‘You can’t do anything but have much respect’ for Bill Belichick

09.19.12 at 5:59 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick‘s glowing admiration of Ed Reed is universally acknowledged and accepted in the pro football world.

Turns out, the future Hall of Fame free safety feels just about the same way about the Patriots head coach.

“I mean he’€™s a winner for one,” Reed said. “I had an opportunity to talk to Coach Belichick a couple times and had him over there at the Pro Bowl. Just watching ‘€˜A Football Life’€™ with Coach Belichick you can’€™t do anything but have much respect for Coach Belichick and the way he runs things. His background and the discipline and focus that he asks of guys and what he allows you to do as a football player; he honestly understands your athletic ability.

“If you look at Coach Belichick and the way he coaches his team and the guys that play for him and the positions that they play, he allows football players to be football players. Coach understands that this is a short-lived career and not everybody is going to have those five and 10 and 15-year careers. A bunch of guys are great athletes and they can come on and make a name on his team and find themselves somewhere else with a starting job. You see a lot of guys playing out of position when you’€™re watching the Patriots play.”

When you watch the Ravens play – especially on defense – the focal point is still inside linebacker Ray Lewis, the star of this week’s “A Football Life” series on the NFL Network.

“Ray’€™s great to me,” Reed said Wednesday. “I know a lot about him and how he approaches his family and his work ethic and how much he cares and loves his kids. It’€™s going to be eye-opening to everybody, especially what Ray has been through over the course of his life and through football. I think it’€™s going to be a great deal that can open a bunch of eyes. Ray has a lot of talent and not just in football, on the field. He’€™s a great dad. He’€™s a Hall of Fame dad. He does a lot of things off the field. There are a lot of the things off the field he aspires to do also.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Deion Branch on why he stayed in New England: ‘First and foremost, my family’

09.19.12 at 3:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Everyone in and around the Patriots locker room figured Deion Branch returning to the team was a mere formality of when, not if.

So, when over 20 reporters descended upon his locker – which remained in tact since his release on Aug. 31 – Branch was asked what it was like to be back with the team he’s had so much success, including MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX.

“Across the board, whether it was here, I always had to weigh my options,” Branch said. “That’s what I’m going to do first and foremost, weigh my options for my family and myself. But to get the call, besides some of the other calls, I think this was more important here.”

Branch acknowledged that other NFL teams indeed did reach out to him but he wanted to return to the Patriots. Why?

“First and foremost, my family is first,” Branch said. “Doing the things right by my family and put myself in the right position.”

Branch and Bill Belichick spoke about why he was cut at the time and how he might be used in coming back to New England for a second time in three years. The Patriots traded him in 2006 before being re-acquired in 2010 from Seattle, shortly after Randy Moss was shipped off to Minnesota.

“I’ll keep that between coach and myself,’€ Branch said. ‘€œIt was very understanding. I think, overall, if you play this game long enough, I’m pretty sure every guy in this building will go through it. And I mean that, every guy. And that comes with time, most of all you’re a team player, the team’s going to do what’s best for the team, and me personally, I’m going to do what’s best for Deion.”

Branch said he’s not going to worry about how the Patriots choose to use him.

“That all depends on the game plan and whatever the coaches have for me,” said Branch. “I’m going to do whatever they ask of me, whether that be special teams, offense, defense, I’m going to do that. As far as within the offense, that comes with the game plan.”

Branch has been busy taking care of his kids, leaving some time to keep up on the Patriots but not a lot.

“I watched the first game, and caught the second half of the second game,” he continued. “When you have kids, there ain’t too much free time.”

Branch had five touchdown receptions and 702 receiving yards last season. He became a free agent after the season and re-signed on March 22.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Deion Branch, New England Patriots, nfl

Niko Koutouvides goes from a sports bar back to the New England locker room

09.19.12 at 2:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Niko Koutovides watching last Sunday’€™s game between the Patriots and Cardinals like many football fans: in a sports bar.

The linebacker, who had been recently cut loose by New England, couldn’€™t get the game at home in Connecticut, so he went out to the Wood-n-Tap Bar & Grill and watched the second half of the New England-Arizona contest.

‘€œI’€™m a big fan of not only my teammates but a Patriot fan,’€ Koutouvides said before practice on Wednesday. ‘€œThe first game in Connecticut, we had it. But this last game, for some reason, the game wasn’€™t on TV there, so I had to go down to a local bar to watch the game. I caught the second half.’€

Did anyone recognize you?

‘€œNo, but it was flooded with Patriot fans,’€ he said with a smile, ‘€œand they get a little rowdy and love to have fun. It was a pretty fun atmosphere.’€

He should have a significantly better view this Sunday, as Koutouvides was re-signed by the Patriots on Tuesday. The 31-year-old, primarily a special teamer, said he’€™s glad to be back in the New England locker room.

‘€œIt’€™s always good to be back, especially back here with my fellow teammates. I’€™m excited. Ready to start practicing and ready to get ready for Baltimore,’€ said the 6-foot-2, 245-pounder.

‘€œIn this business, you never know. I was just working out, just staying in shape and was anticipating a call from somebody. Just happy to be back here as a Patriot.’€

It was a tough stretch for Koutouvides. Last season, for the first time in his career, he was out of the game for an extended stretch. That made him think about his professional mortality.

‘€œLast year was kind of the first time I’€™ve dealt with it,’€ he said when asked about how difficult it is to be out of the game. ‘€œI wouldn’€™t say it gets any easier, but I’€™d say the mindset is a little different. In this league, you’€™re not going to play forever — I’€™m starting to understand that.

‘€œYou know, you want to go out on your own terms, but obviously, the league we play in and the way the business works, very rarely do guys have the opportunity to leave on their own. So I was staying in shape and hoping for a callback, and I’€™m back. So I’€™m excited and getting ready to focus on Baltimore.’€

Based on his previous experience in the system, Koutouvides remains confident that he will be able to jump right back in and contribute this Sunday against the Ravens.

‘€œYeah, I think so,’€ he said. ‘€œObviously, I have to work a lot, get the game plan, study, get ready to start putting the pads back on. Last year, I was out for almost six or seven weeks, which was a little different. This time around, it’€™s only been two weeks.’€

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Tom Brady: The Purple Palace is ‘a little different’

09.19.12 at 2:47 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady knows what type of atmosphere he’s entering on Sunday night at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore harbor.

The Patriots escaped last January with a 23-20 win in the AFC championship when Sterling Moore broke up a TD pass to Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff hooked a 32-yard field goal wide left.

He knows the Ravens and their fans will be out for blood this time.

“Well, we went on the road to Tennessee and that was the opener and they’€™ve had a bunch of sellouts, so I think we’€™ve had a little experience on the road,” Brady said Wednesday. “This place is a little different.”

This place is the “Purple Palace” – the place that nearly ended the Patriots perfect regular season in 2007 on a Monday night, when the Patriots escaped, 27-24, when Brady found Jabar Gaffney in the corner of the end zone with 44 seconds remaining and Mark Clayton was tackled two yards shy of the end zone on a desperation heave at the end of the game. This is New England’s first trip back since.

“We’€™ve only really played there one time, which was a tough battle, a 60-minute game,” Brady said. “It always comes down to the end with these guys. I don’€™t know if we’€™ve ever had an easy game against these guys. They make you earn every yard you get. Certainly, communication is an issue when you go on the road. We’€™ll be pumping the crowd music in at practice today ‘€“ you’€™ll hear that from downtown Foxborough with how loud that is ‘€“ but we’€™ll be trying to simulate not being able to hear and still doing a good job of communicating and really being on the same page. That’s part of winning on the road. You’€™re bringing however many guys with you ‘€“ 53 plus some coaches ‘€“ and that’€™s really all you’€™ve got on the road and hopefully that’s all we’€™ll need.”

Other subjects the Patriots quarterback touched on included Deion Branch, Wes Welker, his unfamiliarity with Kellen Winslow, Julian Edelman and the Ravens defense without Terrell Suggs (out rehabbing an Achilles injury).

Q: Can you talk about your good friend Deion Branch being re-signed today and what his role will be?

TB: Well, Deion has just been a great player here for a long time, so it’€™s always great to see him back. There’€™s just a lot of stability. He’€™s that kind of player: dependable, consistent. So, we’€™ll see what kind of role he plays. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Deion Branch, jabar gaffney

Stevan Ridley on the Ravens defense: ‘They know how to play the game’

09.19.12 at 2:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When Stevan Ridley looks across the line of scrimmage on Sunday night, he’€™ll see a familiar face looking back at him. The 23-year-old Patriots running back will see veteran Ravens’€™ linebacker Ray Lewis, someone who broke into the league in 1996 — when Ridley was seven years old.

‘€œYou have to know where he is every time he’€™s on the field,’€ Ridley said of the 37-year-old Lewis. ‘€œHe’€™s smart, man. He’€™s physical. He knows the game. He’€™s played that position as long as I’€™ve been watching football, so he’€™s someone I’€™ve been watching since I was a kid.’€

But that doesn’€™t mean Ridley can be in awe of Lewis, despite the fact that the linebacker is bound for the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

‘€œI have to go out there and treat [him] just like another linebacker — he’€™s a player, he bleeds, sleeps, just like I do,’€ Ridley said before practice on Wednesday. ‘€œThis team is just going to go out there and play our game, We’€™re going to do what we want to do and we’€™re going to play ball, hardnosed, just like we’€™re supposed to.’€

Ridley and the rest of the Patriots’€™ offense are preparing for a typical matchup with Lewis, Ed Reed and the rest of the Ravens’€™ defense: a physical showdown against one of the smartest and most battle-tested units in the league.

‘€œThey have some strong players who have been there for a long time. They know how to play the game,’€ Ridley said. ‘€œIt’€™s going to be a hard-fought, physical game. For us, we’€™re just starting the day on Wednesday. It’€™s the first day we have to get on the practice field. We’€™re going to try to get our keys, make our reads, and do our assignments. We’€™re going to try and play Patriot football.’€

The Patriots are coming off a surprising 20-18 home loss to the Cardinals, a game where Ridley finished with 71 yards on 18 carries and the team as a whole ended up with 90 rushing yards. The LSU product, is looking to lead the running game back to the levels it enjoyed in Week One, where the Patriots rushed for 162 yards (125 of which came from Ridley) in a 34-13 win over the Titans.

‘€œWhen they call my number, I have to go out there and make a play,’€ said Ridley, who has 196 rushing yards through two games. ‘€œOur offense is going to get back on track. We had a tough loss last week, and we can’€™t sit on that. We’€™re going to prepare for the next game, and that’€™s what it is for us. It’€™s Week Three, early in the season. We can make any jump or get upset or anything like that. We have to play football. And we’€™re going to keep plugging away, just like we do every week.’€

In the wake of the defeat, several players indicated that one of the reasons for the loss was a bad week of practice.

‘€œThis week, I guess they’€™re putting a little bit more emphasis on [practice] because it’€™s the Ravens and that defense has a lot of tradition, a lot of playmakers on it,’€ Ridley said. ‘€œBut around here, it’€™s pretty much the same standard, in and out of each week: We’€™re coming out going to work and we have to work hard.

‘€œThat’€™s football. We do this for a living. For us, we have to come out every day and be prepared. Be alert. Be sound. And go out there and practice our assignments so we can go out there and make the right reads and the right plays for our team.’€

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