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Bill Belichick’s movie night his latest attempt to fight through preseason grind

08.25.11 at 2:45 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Bill Belichick has never been shy about busting out motivational tools during the preseason, so it was no surprise that he and the rest of the Patriots took a break from the grind Wednesday night to watch ‘€œThe Fighter,’€ the Academy Award-winning story of Massachusetts boxer Mickey Ward.

After the movie, Ward spoke with the players. On Thursday morning, Belichick talked about why he decided to break things up with a movie and talk.

‘€œI think he’€™s obviously a legendary sports figure and fighter around here that everybody knows, sort of, and … great guy, had a great career and [that was] something that our team enjoyed last night,’€ Belichick said.

‘€œLook, we’€™ve been in camp for a long time, been watching a lot of film at night, practice film, opponent film, everything, so we decided to go to the movies and make it a little more enjoyable ‘€” popcorn, candy out there, let them relax a little bit,’€ he added. ‘€œI think sometimes when your team’€™s worked hard, they deserve a break. I think they enjoyed it. It was a good night.’€

In previous years, Belichick has invited speakers like Bill Russell and Jim Brown to address the team during preseason. In 2001, he took the team to an IMAX theatre in Providence to watch a film about Ernest Shackleton‘€™s expedition. And later that same year, he showed a video of a ‘€œBreeder’€™s Cup’€ race to the team, using the comeback of a thoroughbred racehorse named Tiznow (who turned certain defeat into victory) to help inspire the team down the stretch.

‘€œIt was a good movie to watch. It was nice to hear from Mickey, his side of the whole thing. How to always keep fighting, keep going, and when you’€™re down and you don’€™t think you could do it, you can still get through it,’€ said offensive lineman Logan Mankins. ‘€œIt’€™s good. It’€™s good that everyone got to hang out and have a good time together, eating popcorn and Gatorade and water, so that was nice, and we’€™re here a long time ‘€” from morning until night ‘€” so it was nice to have the evening off yesterday.’€

‘€œCoach knows ‘€” he’€™s been coaching a long time,’€ said wide receiver Deion Branch. ‘€œHe knows when to let up off the pedal on the guys and when he needs to keep his foot down. That’€™s his decision. We’€™re just here following orders. We go to practice, and if we come in without a meeting, that’€™s cool too. Overall, it was a great movie. I’€™m glad I had that opportunity to watch it with the guys. Coach knows exactly what he’€™s doing.

‘€œI’€™m a big boxing fan, so I truly enjoyed meeting this guy,’€ added Branch, who took the opportunity to get a picture with Ward. ‘€œIt’€™s a little different to see his story and for this guy to come in and share some of things about what went on in his life and growing up some of the adversity he went through, that was great.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Russell, Deion Branch, Ernest Shackleton

Rookie running back Shane Vereen sounds close to returning for Patriots

08.25.11 at 2:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Running back Shane Vereen has stood by and watched his fellow rookie Stevan Ridley make his case to be a serious part of the New England running game this fall. Now, he wants his shot.

Vereen has been slowed by a bad hamstring since early in camp, and hasn’€™t played in either preseason game. Meanwhile, Ridley had a combined 111 yards from scrimmage last week against Tampa Bay (84 rushing yards, 27 receiving yards) and 64 yards rushing, seven catches for 47 yards and three touchdowns the week before against Jacksonville.

But the Cal product appears to be making strides. He returned to practice on a regular basis this week ‘€” his appearance at Wednesday’€™s practice was his first since Aug. 3. He was in pads with his teammates on Wednesday, and in shorts and shells with the rest of the squad on Thursday. That would seem to indicate that he’€™s closer to playing at this point than any previous time in the preseason.

‘€œNot sure about Saturday,’€ he said when asked whether or not he could go this weekend in Detroit against the Lions. ‘€œIt’€™s more of a coaches and trainers decision. So we’€™ll see.

‘€œI’€™m getting there. I’€™m getting close. I’€™ve been working real hard, training and everything like that. Getting ready to go.’€

The 5-foot-10, 204-pound rookie ‘€” a second-round pick of the Patriots ‘€” finished his college career ranked among the school’€™s all-time leaders in rushing touchdowns (29, tied for third), total touchdowns (35, tied for fourth), all-purpose yards (4,069, fifth), rushing yards (2,834, seventh), 100-yard rushing games (11, seventh) and scoring (210, tied for ninth).

But without spring practices, each one of the rookies have started the season behind the proverbial 8-ball. Usually, they would have OTAs and spring camps to create a foundation within the system. Now, the challenge is a lot more dramatic, one that’€™s been exacerbated by a balky hamstring.

‘€œMissing OTAs and that type of stuff kind of set a lot of the rookies back, but a lot of the vets are helping us out,’€ Vereen said after practice on Thursday. ‘€œWe’€™re moving along pretty well. We’€™ll see how it goes and it continues to progress.’€

One thing Vereen can lean on is his collegiate experience, one he says helped prepare him for the NFL.

‘€œCertain things are real similar, but the names are different and the terminology is a lot different. You have to get used to the terminology as well,’€ he said. ‘€œ[But] it helped a lot. The system was used in college was pretty spread, and we did a lot of things out of it. It helped a lot. It helped me understand defenses.’€

Patriots coach Bill Belichick talked earlier on Thursday about the challenges that await a rookie running back like Vereen.

‘€œTalk about blitz pickup, all the different fronts you can have, all the different blitz assignments, with various protections and all the combination blitzes that we see these days,” said Belichick before practice on Thursday.

‘€œI think running back is a very mentally challenging position to learn. All the different run reads, the fronts that teams run, the way they stem to them, the stunts when the ball is snapped, things that happen after the ball is snapped, reading coverages, recognizing man, zone, combination man and zones, guys that are blitzing, guys that are faking that they’€™re blitzing but they’€™re really in coverage, guys that start off in coverage and then turn around and blitz. I think the running back’€™s job is very difficult.’€

Read More: Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley,

Michael Silver on M&M: ‘Arbitrary nature’ of NFL discipline troubling

08.25.11 at 1:48 pm ET
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Yahoo! Sports NFL writer Michael Silver joined the Mut & Merloni show Thursday afternoon, and he spent much of the conversation talking about Albert Haynesworth and the league’s disciplinary policy. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Haynesworth struck a deal with prosecutors Monday and pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge in a case involving a hotel restaurant waitress in Washington. There has been speculation that the new Patriots defensive lineman will escape punishment from commissioner Roger Goodell.

“In terms of Haynesworth, it’s another example of the arbitrary nature by which these things seem to be decided, and that’s how Roger Goodell likes it,” Silver said. “I believe in the negotiating process for this new CBA that [DeMaurice] Smith and the union should have pushed for some clarity in that process, among other things. And the notion that some of these people are now facing discipline for conduct that occurred during the lockout, to me, is just staggering. And if [Smith] signed off on that type of deal for some of them, as I report he did today, I think that’s just a terrible move by the union.”

Added Silver: “From what I can tell from the reports, it doesn’t look like [Haynesworth will be suspended], and that would be inconsistent. Players are troubled by the inconsistencies. I think what troubles them more is that when it comes to non-players, it’s just outright hypocrisy. Exhibit A being Tom Cable, when he was the coach of the Oakland Raiders [in August 2009], walking into a meeting with four assistants, one of whom emerged with a broken jaw and later told me Tom Cable tackled him and hilarity ensued.

“Roger Goodell exonerated Tom Cable. He never interviewed Randy Hanson, the assistant in question, who had the broken jaw. To my knowledge, he never interviewed Tom Cable or the other three witnesses in that room. And then he went out and said, ‘You know what, it’s all good. No punishment for Tom Cable.’

“If you’re a player, and you see something like that, and then you have guys getting punished for alleged offenses — or in Ben Roethlisberger‘s case, an offense for which he was not even charged — I think you wonder how there can be such a double standard.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, DeMaurice Smith

Bill Belichick ‘absolutely knew’ about legal issues of Albert Haynesworth

08.25.11 at 1:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After the arrival of Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth has been the single-biggest focal point of discussion in Patriots camp this week.

That continued on Thursday when Bill Belichick was asked if Haynesworth, who practiced for the third straight day Thursday, might play in his first preseason game this Saturday in Detroit.

“Obviously, players that are just coming back have a long way to go but it’s good to see all the players out there that have come back,” Belichick said. “We’ve had quite a few re-join us so that’s good. Every day they can get out there and practice and work on their skills, their techniques and start to work in their unit and start to develop that cohesiveness and that playing together, that’s good for them, good for the unit and good for the team.”

Then Albert Breer of the NFL Network began a 1-on-1 with Belichick on Haynesworth’s character and whether the Patriots knew of his legal issues when they traded for him before camp opened.

Was his absence the last two weeks due to injury?

“He missed practice because he wasn’t ready to practice,” Belichick answered.

Did he show up In shape?

“That’s as much as I can tell you,” Belichick said. “Players that are ready to practice, practice. The ones that aren’t don’t practice. When they’re ready, we put them out there.”

What about Haynesworth’s issues in Washington? How concerned were the Patriots?

“I can’t really tell you what happened anywhere else, Albert,” Belichick said. “I’m sure you can get a lot of details on him from somewhere else. But I can just tell you here when the players are ready to practice, they practice. When they’re not ready to practice, then they do what they need to get ready to practice. When they’re ready to go on the field, we put them out there on the field. It’s the same for everybody else.

“When they’re ready to practice, they practice. He was out there before that.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Albert Breer, Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco

Patriots in shorts and shells for Thursday morning practice

08.25.11 at 11:52 am ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots were in shorts and shells for the start of their Thursday morning practice session on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. No surprises when it came to the injury report, as the same 14 players were missing from practice on Thursday as Wednesday. Among the notables present were defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (on the field for the third consecutive day with his teammates), as well as running back Danny Woodhead (back for a second straight day after taking a nasty shot to the head in last Thursday’s preseason win over Tampa Bay).

The following players were not in attendance at the start of practice: Stevan Ridley, Leigh Bodden, Kevin Faulk, Malcolm Williams, Eric Kettani, Jeff Tarpinian, Dane Fletcher, Brandon Spikes, Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell, Brandon Deaderick, Jermaine Cunningham, Ron Brace and Mike Wright. With the Patriots trying to replicate a regular-season work schedule for this week’s preseason game ‘€” and traditionally, the players that miss practice at the end of the week do not play that weekend ‘€” those 14 players are probably a safe bet when trying to handicap who will play and who might miss Saturday’s game against the Lions in Detroit.

Read More: 2011 training camp,

Bill Belichick introduces us to ‘Jersey Rock’ and hopes to miss Hurricane Irene

08.25.11 at 11:32 am ET
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FOXBORO — Everyone who’s followed the career of Bill Belichick in the last decade is aware he is a huge Jon Bon Jovi fan, as well as a good friend of the rock star.

On Wednesday, he welcomed the rock star once again to one of his practices outside Gillette Stadium.

“That eases the music play selection,” Belichick chimed Thursday during a very wide-ranging presser with reporters. “We know what we’re playing that day.”

While he didn’t grow up there, obviously Belichick has serious New Jersey roots, having worked there with the Giants from 1979-90 and again with the Jets from 1997-99.

Belichick was then grilled about what happens when the Patriots play the music of another New Jersey-bred megastar – Bruce Springsteen – at practice. Is there an explanation needed?

“No! I think Jon and Bruce are Jersey rockers, Jersey rock stars,” Belichick answered without hesitation. “I think they have a pretty good relationship and mutual respect for each other. It’s different but it’s still Jersey rock and roll.”

Bon Jovi wasn’t the only big name in attendance Wednesday. Boston College hockey coach Jerry York stopped by and Belichick paid him a Rex Ryan-sized compliment.

“Pretty big day for us yesterday to have a guy who’s sold 120 million records and Jerry York out there that’s won whatever it is, 800 or 900-however many games, a lot more than I’ve won, I’ll tell you that. Interesting day,” Belichick said. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Boston College hockey, Bruce Springsteen, E-Street Band

Ras-I Dowling has some catching up to do, but how much?

08.24.11 at 7:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Clearly, the Patriots and Bill Belichick believe Ras-I Dowling has the potential of being a very special cornerback in the NFL or they wouldn’t have spent their second-round pick (33rd overall) on him this past April. After all, there aren’t many defensive backs who stand 6-foot-2, weigh 200 pounds, and who can hit, cover and possess a 4.4 in the 40.

But early on in his first NFL training camp, Dowling suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to miss 13 practices until returning to full pads practice on Monday.

“Just happy to be out there, happy to be out with the team and just try to get better every day,” Dowling said.

This is a player who — as a freshman at Virginia in 2007 — played in 12 games recording 44 tackles and two interceptions. As a sophomore in 2008 he started nine of 11 games. He finished the season with 43 tackles and a team leading three interceptions.

In 2009, Dowling was voted All-ACC second team. He was voted ACC Defensive Player of the week vs. Indiana with nine tackles and the first sack of his career. Dowling ended his junior season with three interceptions. Dowling was voted 2010 Pre-season All-ACC selection and second team All-American.

But on Wednesday, Dowling showed he clearly got the message to play it close to the vest and act like a rookie, humility and all.

What are his goals for the two weeks leading up to the season?

“Just get better every day, take one day at a time,” he said.

Since they went through some of the same growing pains, have young defensive backs Devin McCourty, Darius Butler and Patrick Chung offered advice? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: ACC, ACC football, Bill Belichick, football
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