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Samuel rips Belichick, accuses him of vendetta

08.20.10 at 2:00 pm ET
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Eagles Camp Football

Asante Samuel was a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in 2003, and played five years with New England before signing with the Eagles. (AP)

Former Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel lashed out at Bill Belichick on Friday, accused the New England coach of having “a thing for me,” and adding that Belichick planned to sit him out for a 2006 game against the Bears despite the fact that Samuel was healthy and ready to play.

In an interview with the The News Journal of Delaware, Samuel — who ended up playing in that game and coming away with three interceptions — said Belichick “had something against me” over the course of his five-year career in New England.

“I ain’t never said it, but Belichick, I just felt like he had a thing for me,” Samuel said. “He had something against me. I have no idea why. He was going to start Troy Brown, a receiver, at nickel [corner] and I’m over here sitting healthy and he don’t want to even play me.”

Samuel, who had 22 career interceptions with New England, also believes his talents were never truly appreciate when he was with the Patriots.

“Ty Law in New England, he’s making all these picks,” Samuel said. “Oh, he’s a great corner, this and that. But I all of a sudden go and do it [and it’s], ‘Oh, he’s in a Cover 2 defense, that’s why he isn’t as good and this and that.’ But when Ty Law does it, it’s all gravy.

“Anybody else had those stats, people would be going crazy.”

Read More: Asante Samuel, Bill Belichick,

Patriots postgame notes

08.20.10 at 12:27 am ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are some postgame notes following this evening’s preseason contest against the Falcons:

•WR Wes Welker made his preseason debut and caught two passes on his first two plays with a 6-yard pass and then a 14-yard pass from QB Tom Brady. He played during the first series of the game and finished with two receptions for 20 yards.

•RB Fred Taylor scored on a 28-yard touchdown run to culminate a 12-play, 80-yard drive on the Patriots first possession. He finished the game with 11 carries for 54 yards for a 4.9-yard average.

•The Patriots had two 20-yard touchdown runs in the game after RB Sammy Morris scored on a 20-yard run in the third quarter to finish a 9-play, 63-yard drive.

•During that first scoring drive, the Patriots converted three third-down plays. On third-and-seven from the New England 33-yard line, Brady completed an 11-yard pass to RB Kevin Faulk. On third-and-seven from the 47-yard line Faulk ran for eight yards and a first down. Then on third-and-two from the Atlanta 37-yard line, RB Sammy Morris gained nine yards for a first down.
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Read More: Falcons, Patriots, training camp,

Belichick post-game quotes

08.19.10 at 11:50 pm ET
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Here is what Bill Belichick had to say following the Patriots’ 28-10 victory over the Falcons in which Wes Welker returned to offense, Fred Taylor shined, and the rookie tight ends each contributed touchdowns.

On Welker, who had two catches for 20 yards in his return:

“The big thing was to get him in there, let him play a little bit. We talked about it this week and it was kind of the next step him for and he feltb good about it so we put him in there.”

“Nobody works harder than Wes. He’s as competitive and as hard working a player as we’ve had, and we’ve had a lot of them, but I’d put him right up there with all of them.”

On the tight end position:

“Alge [Crumpler]‘s clearly the most experienced. …Rob [Gronkowski] and Aaron [Hernandez] both have shown flashes of good things. They’ve got a ways to go but I think they’re working hard in making progress.”

On Derrick Burgess:

“I think Derrick’s got a lot of experience, but I think it was good to get him back in the action. He had a good week, but he’s got a long way to go. He’s got a lot of ground to make up. He made up some of it this week, hopefully he can make up some more next week. I know he’s working hard at it and I’m not worried about that. It’s just [that] there’s no substitute for snaps and reps in practices and games. He’ll get more of them and I think he still needs them.”

On Fred Taylor and the running backs:

“I think all the backs ran pretty well tonight. Fred, when he hit that draw, bounced through there. all the backs had long runs i think at one point or another, so that’s good to see.”

“Fred’s had a good camp. He’s been out there every day, and he’s worked hard. I think he’s in good condition and it looks like he can still run the ball.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, preseason, training camp,

Welker’s return short but sweet for Pats

08.19.10 at 10:57 pm ET
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Wes Welker did tear his ACL, right? Remember when that injury was a year and a half sideline sentence?

Well, we saw Welker on parole Thursday night, doing a really good impression of Wes Welker (or was it a really, really good impression of Julian Edelman’s really good Welker impression?) in his six first-quarter snaps for the Patriots.

Just another step in what is shaping up to be an astounding comeback.

“Nobody works harder than Wes,” Bill Belichick said after the game. “He’s as competitive and as hard working a player as we’ve had, and we’ve had a lot of them, but I’d put him right up there with all of them.”

Is really was as if he never missed a snap, or at worst he had missed the first preseason game with a neck sprain or some other minor injury. I get that it was just six plays, but it looked like the same old Welker. On the Patriots second play from scrimmage, Welker caught a Tom Brady pass over the middle for a six-yard gain. Same simple play we’ve seen a million times (OK, maybe 200 or so times) over the past three years.

The next snap was another “How Many Times Have We Seen This?” special, as Brady hit Welker again over the middle, this time for 14 yards and a first down. Our first yards after the catch moment spot for Welker, who was able to plant and cut with no apparent problems.

The last time Welker was targeted was the very next play, as Brady tried to hit Welker with a quick screen, but Randy Moss (not all his fault, wasn’t an easy play) wasn’t able to get in front of and block DB Chris Owens, who blasted Welker. No catch and no more looks on the night for Welker.

“The big thing was to get him in there, let him play a little bit,” Belichick said. “We talked about it this week and it was kind of the next step him for and he feltb good about it so we put him in there.”

(Probably — since Welker popped right up — the Owens hit was the best thing for him. Gets his feet wet, all that stuff. Kind of reminded me of the hit Drew Bledsoe took in the AFC Title Game vs. the Steelers, when he came off the bench for an injured Brady. Both were in their first game back in months after a serious injury, one of the first plays from scrimmage for both also.)

Six snaps in a preseason game usually means nothing, but this is about as significant half-dozen plays as you’ll ever see in an August NFL game. And we know why. With the exception of Marvin Harrison in 2000-02, no player in NFL history has caught as many passes in a three-year span as Welker did in his first three years in New England. Sure, we all get a kick out of Edelman and he might turn out to be terrific, but Welker has been historically good. And you can make a case that he and Moss have been the most prolific duo in league history, at least for a three-year span (Oh wait, I did).

Now does six snaps tell us that Welker is 100 percent back and you can bank on 115 catches? Of course not. But you know what it was? It was needed. We’ve seen him practice and we’ve heard all the reports, but until you see it on the field, in game action — even if it’s just for a single drive — it’s a hard sell, right?

I mean, we saw Welker, not even eight months ago in the middle of that field at Houston, try and plant that left foot after catch No. 123 (team record). Cut to ten minutes later, a towel over his head as the cart wheeled him off the field and we all waited to hear what we already knew.

ACL. Doom and gloom. The absolute nightmare scenario.

If you had told fans on February 3 (day of ACL surgery) that Welker would be back for the second preseason game in 2011 I think most would have been OK with it. Not ideal, but realistic.

But here we are on August 19, 2010 and it sure looks like Welker will be on the field for Week 1 of the regular season. Anyone want to take the under if I set the opening week line at 6.5 catches?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Thursday night is all we see from Welker in the preseason. Why risk it, really? If I’m Belichick, I keep Welker on the sidelines until Week 1. What else do you need to see? Six snaps told the story. A most welcome return for Welker and the Patriots.

Or just call it a most welcome parole.

Read More: training camp, Wes Welker,

Quick Hits: Patriots 28, Falcons 10

08.19.10 at 10:49 pm ET
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The Patriots improved to 2-0 on the preseason on Thursday night by defeating the Falcons, 28-10. Tom Brady went 5-for-8 and had 67 yards on the night. The show seemed to be stolen by the veteran running backs, rookie tight ends, and the return on Wes Welker. Here are some quick hits on the victory.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE PATRIOTS

- There was no better sign on the field for the Patriots on Thursday night than Wes Welker playing at full speed and taking hits. (There was one relatively scary moment when after a 14-yard reception for his first catch, Welker was throttled by Christopher Owens on a screen pass. But he didn’t seem any worse for wear after the tackle.)

Welker tore his ACL and MCL in Week 17 of last season and has made quite the recovery. Though initially assumed to be out for part of the coming season, Welker’s two catches and 20 yards while running with the starters could suggest that it’s highly possible he will be ready to contribute in full by Week 1.

- The Patriots said after last week’s game with the Saints that despite getting the start, Brandon Spikes was left in with some reserves because they felt he needed the time. Bill Belichick must still have the same line of thinking, as the rookie linebacker stayed in after getting the start for the injured Gary Guyton.

The good that comes of this, though, is that it has become more and more of a question of whether he is only starting due to Guyton’s injury or whether he’s earned the spot. Based on his training camp and play through the first two games, one would have to guess the rookie has a great shot of opening the season next to Jerod Mayo.

- Aaron Hernandez really seems to be as advertised. No, he can’t contribute in the blocking game, but that’s what Alge Crumpler and Rob Gronkowski are for. He scored the Patriots’ second touchdown when Brady capitalized on the Falcons’ decision to stick Sean Weatherspoon on him, but his most impressive moment came earlier in the drive, when he nearly stopped on a dime in the middle of a 21-yard play that extended his yards after the catch.

In the third quarter, Hernandez stuck with a play in which Dominique Franks dropped an interception that nearly found its way back into the rookies arms.

Gronkowski also got in on the action, lining up in the slot and bringing in a 24-yard pass for a touchdown to kick off the fourth quarter.

- The Patriots got some strong runs out of their veteran backs. First, Fred Taylor, who started the game at running back, took a 21-yard run to the house for the Patriots’ first touchdown. In the third quarter, Sammy Morris went 20 yards on a draw on third and 12.

- Ron Brace made the biggest play of his career, which given that it occurred in the third quarter of a pre-season game is ample reason for this to be under “What went wrong,” when he forced Falcons running back to Dimitri Nance, which Tyrone McKenzie recovered. The two 2009 draft picks, chosen in the second and third rounds, respectively, did not have an impact in their rookie season’s due to Brace’s inconsistency and McKenzie’s torn ACL.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE PATRIOTS

- Though he made two catches in the third, including a nice 15-yard play off a screen pass from Brian Hoyer in which he juked Gabe Derricks in impressive fashion, we still have yet to see Brandon Tate do anything substantial with Brady. The second-year man has looked outstanding in training camp but has not exactly stolen the spotlight in either of the first two preseason games. At the end of the day, it appears Tate’s set to open the season as the Patriots’ other outside receiver, but the first two games have left more to be desired.

- The Patriots, and Brady in particular, were introduced to Falcons third-year defensive lineman Kroy Biermann, who sacked Brady on third-and-four in the second quarter. Brady pump faked after seeing that Welker was covered over the middle. Before he could get another chance to throw, both he and the ball were on the ground. Stephen Neal recovered the fumble.

Read More: training camp,

Halftime analysis from Patriots-Falcons

08.19.10 at 9:36 pm ET
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Strong start for the Patriots this evening in Atlanta — New England holds a 14-3 lead at halftime. A few quick notes on the first two quarters of action:

•Wes Welker didn’t get the start, but was heavily involved in the first drive of the night, a 12-play 80-yard sequence that ended with a New England touchdown. Welker was in for six snaps, and ended the night with two catches for 20 yards. Looked good, make nice cuts and was able to absorb a nasty hit from Atlanta defensive back Christopher Owens that came after a missed block from Randy Moss. (To be fair, it was a tough block for Moss to make.)

•Tom Brady finished the first half 10-for-12 for 85 yards and a touchdown. He took 24 snaps, and helped engineer a pair of scoring drives. He took a bad hit after rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski missed a block (he fumbled the football), but pretty much what you’d expect from No. 12, who hit rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez with a touchdown pass on a four-yard play in the second quarter. After a season where the Patriots’ offense struggled and also had red-zone problems, it was a good sight to see for New England football fans.

•The New England offense did a nice job keeping balance, its first 26 offensive plays, there were 13 rushes for 71 yards and 13 passes for 79 yards. Other than Brady, stat standouts included Fred Taylor, who got the start and carried 11 times for 54 yards and a touchdown (which came on a 21-yard jaunt and featured some great blocking by tight end Alge Crumpler.) Randy Moss had two catches for 24 yards and Aaron Hernandez had two catches for 18 yards.

•The New England defense opened in a 3-4 and stuck with it through the bulk of the first half. No surprises in the starting lineup, which included rookie inside linebacker Brandon Spikes. Spikes almost went wire-to-wire in the first half, staying in the game even after the starters were yanked late in the second quarter. According to our highly unscientific numbers, Spikes finished the first half with 27 snaps.

•As a group, the Patriots’ defense yielded one extended scoring sequence, an 11-play, 49-yard series run by the starting Atlanta offense, which ended with a 46-yard field goal from Matt Bryant that gave Atlanta a 3-0 lead. But that was it from the Falcons — a missed field goal attempt and an interception (from Jonathan Wilhite) ended Atlanta drives.

Read More: Falcons, Patriots, training camp,

Welker returns to the field

08.19.10 at 8:36 pm ET
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Wes Welker made his return to game action Thursday night, catching two passes in the Patriots opening TD drive vs. the Falcons in the club’s second preseason game. Welker — who tore his ACL on January 3 at Houston and had surgery a month later — played six snaps on the drive and was the target of Tom Brady on three staright plays. The first two were catches — good for six and 15 yards, respectively, but on the third play he was blasted by Falcons DB Christopher Owens on a failed screen attempt.

Read More: training camp,
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