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Remembering the hit that changed the future of the Patriots

09.23.11 at 1:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Shaun Ellis remembers where he was 10 years ago today when the fate of the Patriots was changed forever. He should since he was on the field trying to get to Drew Bledsoe before Mo Lewis got to him first on the sideline at the old Foxboro Stadium.

‘€œI was chasing him, we got to the sideline and I dove to try to knock the ball out,’€ said Ellis, then in his second year with the Jets. ‘€œI guess he reached back to get the ball and that’€™s when Mo Lewis hit him. I remember, you know if someone gets the wind knocked out of him, [but] I didn’€™t know the extent of the injury. I didn’€™t know until after the game.”

The Patriots were down 10-3 with just under six minutes left in regulation when Bledsoe was chased from the pocket by Ellis, who forced him to the near sideline. Lewis saw this and made a beeline right toward Bledsoe, who appeared to let up before the sideline. Then BOOM!

“You don’t know, you just go out there and try to play the game of football,” Ellis said. “A lot of things like that have happened in the past, where guys go down and the next guy steps in. The next thing you know he’s a Hall of Famer. That’s how it is.”

That Hall of Famer, of course, is Tom Brady. While the Patriots lost the game, 10-3, Brady rallied the troops thereafter, winning 11 of the next 14 to put the Patriots on their path to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

Ellis said he occasionally keeps in touch with Lewis, who now lives in Atlanta, but the two don’t often talk about the fateful hit.

How does Bill Belichick mark the anniversary that began his legacy as a future hall of fame coach?

“Obviously I’€™m aware of it and all but no, I don’€™t sit around and reflect on [it],” he said Friday. “I don’€™t have to write a column about it.”

Of course, Brady was victimized by a season-ending hit in the 2008 opener by Kansas City’s Bernard Pollard.

“It’€™s no different than any other backup quarterback going into that game,” Belichick said of Brady for Bledsoe in 2001. “He was the backup quarterback to start the season. He was the backup quarterback in that game.

“When you’€™re the backup quarterback you can go in after the first play like [Matt Cassel] did in ‘€™08. You can go in on one of the last plays of the game like Tom did in ‘€™01, or somewhere in between. You never know as a backup quarterback. You have to be ready to go from the first play to the last one ‘€“ in all situations. All the things that a backup quarterback does to prepare for that ‘€“ that’€™s what Tom did, that’€™s what Matt did, that’€™s what Doug Flutie did, that’€™s what Vinny [Vinny Testaverde] did, that’€™s what Brian Hoyer is doing right now.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Drew Bledsoe, Mo Lewis, New England Patriots

Peter King on M&M: Tight ends key to Tom Brady’s success

09.23.11 at 1:33 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King joined Mut & Merloni Friday at noon for his weekly appearance. King discussed Tom Brady‘s hot start to the season, as well as whether Brady would have had similar success over his career had Drew Bledsoe not gotten injured back in 2001.

“I believe that Brady, whether it be 2002 or 2003, at some point fairly soon, I think that Brady was going to be their guy because I think that Bill Belichick, Charlie Weis, they wanted more of a guy who executed what they told him and didn’t audible as much,” King said. “They thought that would be Tom Brady, and obviously it turned out to be so.”

Brady has put up some massive numbers through the first two weeks of this season, throwing for 940 yards and seven touchdowns in just two games. King said that tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been key in creating problems for defenses and giving Brady multiple options in the red zone.

“I think what has really helped them the first two weeks is that they basically have come in, and it isn’t just they’ve scored 73 points or Brady’s got these gaudy numbers, but they create such matchup problems right now with Hernandez and Gronkowski,” King said. “It looks to me like the tight ends are really helping Brady, they’ve scored four or five touchdowns already, they’re really helping Brady. It really presents some problems for defenses that are hard for them to solve.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On Devin McCourty: “I think the one thing when I see him play, to me, I think he plays with a lot of confidence. Which he should do because he’s a very good player and he has no fear of any receiver out there. … I think it’s just two games. I think even real good corners are going to get beat and I wouldn’t put too much stock in it. I would just let him play a few more games and I wouldn’t want him to change the way he plays, either.”

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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, Tony Romo

Andre Carter on M&M: ‘Never thought in a million years’ I’d get signed by Pats

09.23.11 at 12:04 pm ET
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Patriots defensive end Andre Carter joined Mut & Merloni Friday morning to discuss how things are progressing with New England’s new 4-3 defense, as well as what he thought of the Patriots when he was competing against them.

“Playing against them and seeing them on film, it was just an organization that just does things the right way and when I mention that, I mean they play hard together, they play as a unit, it seems like they always emphasize perfection on each and every play,” Carter said. “It’s guys that love the game of football.”

Carter played with the Redskins for five seasons before coming to New England. He had enjoyed a lot of success in Washington, but when Mike Shanahan changed the defense to a 3-4 in 2010-11 season, Carter was forced to switch for linebacker. This past offseason Carter asked to be released, even though he wasn’t sure if any other team was interested in picking him up.

“I really didn’t know who was interested at the time,” Carter said. “People had asked me, ‘Why did you ask for the release?’ It just unfortunately wasn’t going to fit. I had full faith in God and faith in my abilities and knew that I was going to get picked up. I never thought in a million years that it was going to be the New England Patriots.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On Albert Haynesworth: “This is a new chapter, for himself and for myself as well. Whatever had happened in Washington was in the past and its just a new beginning. … He’s a new man, he just wants to show his skill and show what he can do. You know what he can do and know his potential, so seeing him in practice and seeing him on the field, he’s definitely disruptive and that’s something that we’re trying to make consistent throughout this year.”

On transition to 4-3 defense being a work in progress: “Every game and every season is always a work in progress. Unfortunately with the lockout, you don’t want to make any excuses, myself, [Shaun] Ellis, Haynesworth, just everybody in general, when the lockout ended and the season started, it was definitely such a big rush of information coming at you all at once. … This was just hundreds of pages we covered at one time. As far as leadership, yes, we do have a lot of leadership. As far as work ethic, that’s definitely there. As far as jelling, it’s slowly coming together.”

On his questionable roughing the passer penalty against San Diego: “I thought it was a great hit. I just don’t know how to hit the quarterback any other way. … I call it poetry in motion [laughs]. The game has evolved from the beginning to now, the game has changed so much. But it’s football. Football is football. You can’t just hold up and be like, ‘OK, I can’t hit this guy.’ Because if you do that, then you kind of look like an idiot and whoever you’re tackling, whether its quarterback, running back, receiver, they can go out for a big gain. At the end of the day, you do your job and play.”

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis,

Danny Woodhead on M&M: ‘The Office’ favorite TV show

09.23.11 at 11:33 am ET
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Patriots running back Danny Woodhead made his weekly Patriots Friday appearance on WEEI’s Mut & Merloni show Friday morning. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Woodhead’s first game with the Patriots came last year in a Week 3 game against the Bills, as he took over for the injured Kevin Faulk and scored his first NFL touchdown on a 22-yard run. However, Woodhead says the fact that the Pats are again playing the Bills in Week 3 this Sunday holds little meaning him.

“Things were obviously a little bit crazy at that time [last year],” he said. “It was a fast transition. Was it the first game I played in a New England Patriots uniform? Yeah, but every game’s different. I really don’t look in the past that much. I’m just trying to stay in the present and get ready for this big game Sunday.”

As for the upstart Bills, Woodhead was unsurprisingly complimentary. “They have a great team,” he said. “They’re 2-0, beat Kansas City, beat Oakland. They do a lot of things really well. That’s something that we just have to be ready for and make sure our preparation is really good and we’re ready for what comes on Sunday.”

Woodhead doesn’t have an abundance of downtime, but when asked which TV show he likes to watch, he said: ” ‘The Office.’ That’s the No. 1 show I always have to make sure is DVR’d. … I need to see what happened last night.”

Read More: Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, The Office,

Patriots’ defensive front four still looking to mesh as a unit

09.23.11 at 10:43 am ET
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FOXBORO — In their defensive fronts over the first two games, the Patriots have flashed an awful lot of combinations: three- and four-man looks, complete with several different personnel packages.

However, the four-man front that people have been angling to see — Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter at defensive end and Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth at defensive tackle — hasn’€™t been on the field all that much as a package. Courtesy of our friends at Pro Football Focus, the Patriots have played 149 defensive snaps this season — Carter has played 91, Haynesworth has played 53, Wilfork has played 119 and Ellis has played 87.

(Kyle Love has actually played more snaps this year than Haynesworth — 57 to 53. Among the rest of the defensive linemen, Mark Anderson has played 48 snaps, Myron Pryor — before he went on IR this week — played 37 snaps, while Mike Wright has played 15 snaps.)

With the understanding that schemes and personnel vary from series to series, the combo of Carter, Haynesworth, Wilfork and Ellis simply hasn’€™t had that much time together to blend as a unit. The four do have some familiarity — Haynesworth and Ellis were college teammates for a brief stretch, while Carter and Haynesworth spent time together with the Redskins — but as a collective, they are still in the early stages of their professional working relationship.

Part of that is because of what happened in camp and in the preseason — Haynesworth practiced sparingly over the summer, while Ellis was on the PUP list working through a hip injury — it’€™s no surprise that they are still coming together as a group. But the bottom line remains that it takes time for defensive linemen to learn how to play together.

‘€œYou have to get a feel for how each guy rushes and where they’€™re going to be and how Vince and Albert, how they (operate),’€ Ellis said. ‘€œIt’€™s all about getting a feel for it. I put it in terms of a jump shooter, who goes out and shoots a whole bunch of jumpers all day long. He’€™s just getting that feel for when he gets in the game and it just comes naturally.’€

Ellis acknowledges the defensive front isn’€™t where it should be at this time of the year, but says they shouldn’€™t be judged on their body of work to this point. Instead, he says take a look at the big picture — how it appears at the end of the season.

‘€œJust see where we’€™re at at the end of the year,’€ Ellis said. ‘€œWe have guys that can get it done. We just have to become more consistent throughout the year. The only way you can really pinpoint that is at the end of the year.’€

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Kyle Love, Mark Anderson

Why Vince Wilfork tackles diabetes – it’s a family matter

09.23.11 at 10:15 am ET
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FOXBORO — Say this for Vince Wilfork, he is one passionate football player, on and off the field.

And when it comes to a cause near and dear to his heart, the Pro Bowl nose tackle pursues it just as hard as he does an oncoming blocker or runner through the line of scrimmage.

Vince Wilfork’s foundation main purpose is to raise money for research and awareness to fight diabetes. His passion for this comes from a close family tie to the disease.

“My relationship with diabetes comes from growing up in my household with my father just being ill for 13, 14, 15 years,” Wilfork said on Thursday. “As a kid, I’m nine, 10 years old at the time, seeing my father go through what he had to go through, give him shots at times, he was so weak.

“We had to bathe him, had to take him to restroom. There was a lot going on that my brother and I had to deal with. So, that’s why this is real close and dear to my heart. I know how this can affect a household because I was one of those people who had to deal with it.”

It’s because of awareness and attention to detail that Wilfork himself has been able to avoid the disease.

“Luckily, God blessed me to be a healthy young man, blessed my family to be healthy but everybody is not able. That’s why it’s very close and dear to my heart to actually come and bring more awareness, to raise money to try and find and fight and tackle this disease. It affects us more than we think.

“One thing that kills me the most is when I see a 4-year old with Juvenile Diabetes,” he said. “I know a lot of people probably have friends and family members that are cancer patients, they’€™re beating [it] ‘€“ I put it right up there with cancer. Every year I throw my draft day fundraiser to raise money for diabetes. There’€™s not one year that comes and goes that I don’€™t get new people either showing up to my doorstep or showing up to the fundraiser just telling me stories about how they are affected by this disease.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: diabetes, EMD Millipore, Joslin Diabetes Center, New England Patriots

Michael Lombardi on D&C: ‘The Bills aren’t going to go away easily’

09.23.11 at 9:13 am ET
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NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi joined the Dennis & Callahan show for his weekly conversation Friday morning.

Lombardi was the Browns director of players personnel under Bill Belichick in the early 1990s, and he said Belichick had a human side to him. Asked about the NFL Films documentary on Belichick, in which Belichick shows enthusiasm for a halloween party, Lombardi said that was no act: “That actual portrayal of Bill was dead-on,” he said.

Referring to a filmed meeting between Belichick and Randy Moss in which Moss asks about a party, Lombardi said: “I think ultimately players respect knowledge and they respect somebody who can make them better. And you could just see in that meeting the respect that Randy had for Bill, and obviously the respect Bill had for Randy for talking to him and being honest. I think it was mutual. But I think ultimately what people must understand about the NFL is it’s not how old you are or how young are, it’s how smart you are and can you make the players better. If you can make the players better, they’ll listen to you. If you can’t, they’re going to tune you out.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On Belichick’s game preparation: “Nobody can break the game down to the essential components [like Belichick]. ‘€¦ What Bill’s trying to do in the first quarter is to figure out the game plan of the other team. And his preparation all week long is to determine, ‘How quickly can I figure out what they’re going to do to us, and how can I adjust to make sure we can handle it?’ And it’s in that preparation that allows him to do that. Very few people can attack the game the way he did.”

On how the Patriots would do without Tom Brady: “The Patriots will be a good team because they are essentially a team. They’re not like the Colts, who have one great player [Peyton Manning] and a bunch of guys that are just running around.”

On the Patriots’ opponent Sunday, the 2-0 Bills: “I think they are for real in the sense that there’s a tremendous hunger. They’ve lost 14 in a row to the Patriots. ‘€¦ I think it will be a really tough game. I think it will be a lot like the Detroit Lions game in Detroit last Thanksgiving Day. It’s going to be a little bit of a fast-paced game. I would expect the Patriots to defer the coin toss if they win it because they’re going to need to get the ball back at the end of the second quarter and into the third quarter to maybe make up for any [Buffalo] lead or potentially to build on any lead that they have. I think this is going to be one of those kind of games, because the Bills aren’t going to go away easily. The Bills are going to fight, scratch and claw, and they’re going to compete as hard as they can.”

On Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: “I think he’s really a good quarterback. But when you break him down, he’s throws a lot of balls between his line of scrimmage and 10 yards. He doesn’t really chuck the ball down the field. He’s not a down-the-field, drive-the-football [player]. And as the wind changes — the last six games of the [2010] season, his percentage of completions went down to 55 percent. Weather is going to have a lot to do with how he plays. Right now, it’s beautiful and sunny in Buffalo, there’s no wind. And you can handle it really well. But as the weather changes, it’s going to become a factor for him, and I think it’s going to be very difficult.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Michael Lombardi, Peyton Manning, Randy Moss
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