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Report: Unlikely Rob Gronkowski will be ready for Week 1

08.19.13 at 4:40 pm ET
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It’s “not realistic” for Rob Gronkowski to be back in time for the start of the 2013 regular season, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The tight end, who has undergone multiple surgeries this offseason on his forearm and back, has been with the team over the course of training camp, but has not suited up. Bcause he hasn’t participated in practice, the Patriots do have the option of placing him on the physically unable to perform list, but would then lose him for at least the first six weeks of the regular season (but still allow them to use the open spot on the 53-man roster).

The 24-year-old Gronkowski played in 11 games last season and caught 55 passes for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns.

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

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Tracking opportunities in Patriots preseason passing game

08.19.13 at 4:09 pm ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game through the first two games of the 2013 preseason:

WR Danny Amendola: 7 catches on 8 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 7 catches on 9 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 6 catches on 10 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 5 catches on 9 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 4 catches on 13 targets
TE Daniel Fells: 3 catches on 3 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 3 catches on 5 targets
TE Zach Sudfeld: 3 catches on 6 targets
WR Kamar Aiken: 2 catches on 3 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 1 catch on 2 targets
RB Leon Washington: 1 catch on 1 target
RB LeGarrette Blount: 1 catch on 2 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 1 catch on 3 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 0 catches on 1 target
WR Johnathan Haggerty: 0 catches on 1 target
TE Evan Landi: 0 catches on 1 target

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Bill Belichick says Jake Ballard ‘keeps improving’ on road back from ACL surgery

08.19.13 at 3:02 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When the Patriots claimed Jake Ballard off waivers from the Giants, they knew they would have to be patient with the tight end.

Bill Belichick says it’s a move that is paying off so far in camp this summer.

“Jake’€™s been pretty consistent all through camp,” Belichick said Monday. “He’€™s been dependable on a day-to-day basis. He’€™s got some experience. Big guy, long, he’€™s got good blocking skill. He’€™s done a good job in the passing game. I think with him, it’€™s just keeping it day by day.”

With the Giants, Ballard tore his ACL in the Super Bowl XLVI win over the Patriots in Feb. 2012. He was waived by the Giants as they tried to sneak him through waivers so they could temporarily clear a roster spot. The Patriots took advantage and saw his name on the wire and claimed him.

Now, with the Patriots without their top two tight ends from the last three seasons to begin 2013, Ballard has a chance to contribute. His production in the first two preseason games has been limited. Ballard has started both preseason games but has yet to catch a pass.

“He keeps improving, gains more confidence and he gains more experience, builds up his overall stamina and conditioning,” Belichick said. “He’€™s in good condition but just playing football, playing condition. I think we’€™ve had a good pace with him and he’€™s been able to have steady improvement through the entire course of camp, which has been good.”

Belichick also touched on the 1-for-7 performance of Tim Tebow Friday night, which including a 0.0 QB rating.

Does Belichick look beyond the stat line at the big picture and see positive steps for Tebow?

“Yeah, definitely,” Belichick said. “I think if you look at the entire week last week that it will look different than the game did. In some cases, the game looked better for some players; in some cases, the game didn’€™t maybe look as good as some things during the week. We’€™ll just have to try to take all that into consideration.”

Tebow is 5-for-19 in two preseason games, passing for just 54 yards and compiling a 17.7 QB rating.

“I think the passing game is still the passing game,” Belichick said. “All players have different skill sets and some guys do some things better than others. You have to look at the total package and what they’€™re able to do in all areas of the game. I think we see a lot of good quarterbacks in the NFL. They aren’€™t all maybe the best passers, but their ability to run and pass and make plays, however they make them ‘€“ design plays, scramble plays, whatever it is ‘€“ makes them a high level player. I don’€™t think there’€™s one specific style you have to have or don’€™t have to have. In the end it’€™s about production and being able to do enough things to be successful.”

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Read More: 2013 training camp, Bill Belichick, Jake Ballard, Jamie Collins

Patriots practice Monday: Danny Amendola misses his first practice

08.19.13 at 2:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After catching six passes for 71 yards and a 26-yard touchdown grab on Friday night against Tampa Bay, wide receiver Danny Amendola was not spotted at the start of Patriots full pads practice on Monday outside Gillette Stadium.

The team is not required to announce practice reports until the season begins so there will be no official word from the Patriots if injury was the reason for the absence.

The injury-plagued Amendola is in his first season with the Patriots. He has played in just 12 of 32 games in the past two seasons, including nine starts.

Last October, Amendola suffered a dislocated clavicle. The clavicle popped in and came millimeters from puncturing his trachea and aorta, which could have killed him. Rams’ medical staff called around the league for information but no teams had ever had players suffering a similar injury.

Amendola was anesthetized before popping the clavicle back into place. He was able to recover after just three weeks and recorded 11 catches for 102 yards in a tie with the San Francisco 49ers.

Other Patriots not spotted at the beginning of practice were DL Armond Armstead, DE Jermaine Cunningham, WR Mark Harrison, CB Brandon Jones and TE Rob Gronkowski.

Returning to the practice field Monday was corner back Ras-I Dowling after missing practice time last week and missing his second preseason game on Friday.

In a rookie hazing tradition, the grass at the far end of the practice field was soaked with a water hose to prepare for the annual slip-and-slide, when veterans spray the rookies as they run through and slide on the ground.

The Patriots will practice again on Tuesday before a walk-through Wednesday, after which the team leaves for Detroit and their third preseason game Thursday night against the Lions.

Read More: 2013 training camp, Danny Amendola, Jermaine Cunningham, New England Patriots

Preseason fantasy football rankings: Running backs

08.19.13 at 1:26 pm ET
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Today we take a look at the top 50 backs for fantasy football purposes with write-ups for the top 24 — the backs that start in 12-team formats. If you are looking for even more information, join us at Rotobahn.com, where we break them all down and update content every day. I will be back Tuesday with a look at the receivers, so check back with us for that. You can find my take on the quarterbacks here and the tight ends here. If you are looking for some sleepers, check out my article at Rotobahn that I’€™ll be posting later today. If you need any clarification regarding these rankings, feel free to tweet a question to @rotobahn with the hashtag #FantasyWEEI. Finally, listen to our running back rankings podcast.

1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings

AP is all by himself. He should be the first man taken in any league. He’€™s the best at his position by a large margin and his team is improving around him. And oh yeah … he’€™s healthy this year with no injuries to rehab. Take this guy if you can and do it with confidence.

2. Doug Martin, Buccaneers

Our No. 2 was a Rotobahn favorite as a rookie in 2012. We expect more of the same this year behind an improved offensive line. Martin is the total package with a perfect build for the position. His offensive line will be healthy this year, so his arrow is pointing decidedly up. Is it reasonable to take Foster or perhaps Jamaal Charles or C.J. Spiller? Sure, but we’€™d take Martin because we love his combo of high-end talent, health and situation. There are no backs on his roster that will dig into his fantasy value.

3. C.J. Spiller, Bills

Spiller is perhaps the most exciting back in the league and he is primed for his best year to date in new coach Doug Marrone‘€™s offense. Spiller is diverse. While some backs get taken out of the game plan when their team falls behind, Spiller will still be involved … heavily. While some folks are worried about touch totals, we are not. Spiller is not a volume back. Twenty touches is more than enough for him to dominate a game, and he should get that on most weeks. Fred Jackson can still play and he will play, but Spiller is as dynamic as any ball-carrier in the world. The new coaching staff appreciates the need to use that advantage, and Spiller is now fully developed. He’€™s ready to explode, folks, and he is our third back and is worth even more in PPR formats.

4. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

He’€™s now a season removed from his ACL injury. He’€™s also in a new offense that we project to help his stats. Charles should be a more consistent threat with Andy Reid in charge and with Alex Smith under center. He had some minor issues with soreness last year, so there is still room for improvement with the knee. If that happens, and JC is less limited, he could really break out. He’€™s a great way to start your team in any format and is arguably as good as anybody once AP is off the board. A career year in 2013 or 2014 is very likely as long as he holds up health-wise. Charles has increased value in PPR formats.

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Read More: 2013 Fantasy Football, Adrian Peterson, C.J. Spiller, Doug Martin

Patriots release A.J. Edds, R.J. Mattes, Scott Vallone

08.19.13 at 12:59 pm ET
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The Patriots announced three roster cuts Monday: linebacker A.J. Edds, offensive lineman R.J. Mattes and defensive lineman Scott Vallone.

Edds signed as a free agent on June 6. A fourth-round pick of the Dolphins out of Iowa in 2010, he first played for the Patriots in 2011, appearing in two games before being released and signed to the practice squad. He played nine games for the Colts in 2011 and spent the entire 2012 season on injured reserve (knee).

Mattes signed as a rookie free agent form N.C. State on May 13, was released May 23 and re-signed June 3. Vallone joined the team on Aug. 1 as a rookie free agent from Rutgers.

Read More: A.J. Edds, R.J. Mattes, Scott Vallone,

Rob Ninkovich on M&M: Tom Brady fall last week ‘a scary situation’

08.19.13 at 12:53 pm ET
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Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich joined Mut & Merloni on Monday, and he admitted he was a lot like everybody else when New England held its collective breathe during Tom Brady‘€™s injury scare last week.

There were a couple nerve-wracking moments after Brady hit the ground, Ninkovich said.

‘€œThat’€™s a scary situation, but that’€™s one thing you have to deal with in football. Things unexpectedly happen,’€ Ninkovich said. ‘€œHappily, he was fine and everything turned out OK with us. ‘€¦ He’€™s the best quarterback in the league, so you want to keep in upright and OK.’€

While Brady proved the knee was not an issue in the team’€™s second preseason game, a 25-21 win over the Buccaneers, Ninkovich and his defensive cohorts did what they could to show they’€™re closer and closer to regular-season ready, too.

When the hosts noted the four first-half sacks, Ninkovich said it was a good sign, especially considering Tampa Bay is the Pats‘€™ Week 3 opponent.

‘€œWhen you can come out as a defense and start fast like we did, it really helps you kind of set the tempo for the rest of the game,’€ Ninkovich said. ‘€œAny time as a defense you can come out in a third-and-1 situation and get a sack on the first series, sack on the second series, sack on the third series, it’€™s a good start. Right now, preseason we’€™re still working to tighten everything up.’€

Two of the youngsters playing with Ninkovich, defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’€™a Hightower, are starting their second season as pros after successful rookie campaigns. Ninkovich ‘€” entering his eighth NFL season and fifth with the Patriots ‘€” said the difference between the two seasons can be huge.

‘€œRookie year is pretty tough,’€ Ninkovich said. ‘€˜’€These guys go from the end of their college career to off train somewhere ‘€” Arizona or some place ‘€” then they go to the combine and have all these meetings with these different teams and are traveling around. Then you get to the team and have mini-camps and rookie camp, you go to training camp and you really don’€™t know what to expect.

‘€œNow that they’€™ve had their first year under their belt in the NFL and have done this, they’€™ve made plays, now they have their confidence — been there, done that. Now they had a nice offseason to get their minds right and then start getting strong and getting back into football. The second year, they know what to expect. Sixteen-game season, plus playoffs, is a lot different from college.’€

To listen to the interview, visit the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: chandler jones, Dont'a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich, Tom Brady
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