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Patriots sign 3 players to reserve/future contracts

12.31.14 at 5:29 pm ET
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The Patriots have signed three players to reserve/future contracts, per the NFL transaction wire. The three players are: defensive tackle Antonio Johnson out of Mississippi State, linebacker Rufus Johnson out of Tarleton State and running back Dion Lewis out of Pittsburgh.

Johnson, a defensive tackle out of Mississippi State, was drafted in the fifth-round of the 2007 draft and has spent time with the Titans and Colts. He tore his ACL and was forced to miss his entire rookie season.

Johnson, a linebacker out of Tarleton State, was a sixth-round pick by the Saints in 2013. New Orleans released Johnson before the start of this season. He’s the fourth player out of Tarelton State — a Division II school in Texas — to ever be drafted in the NFL.

Lewis was drafted by the Eagles in the fifth-round of the 2011 draft. He’s also spent time with the Browns and Colts — most recently the Colts, as he was released Sept. 16 of this season.

It’s worth noting Jordan Devey and Jonas Gray were both reserve/future contract signings last year.

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Tom Brady reflects on Super Bowl wins: ‘To do what we accomplished in a short period of time was amazing’

12.31.14 at 3:29 pm ET
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It's been nearly 10 years since Tom Brady and the Patriots last won a Super Bowl. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

It’s been nearly 10 years since Tom Brady and the Patriots last won a Super Bowl. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It’s been almost 10 years since Tom Brady and the Patriots last won a Super Bowl, and when he did — Feb. 6, 2005 — it was his third title in four years. Brady was just 27 years old at time time, and all he really knew about the NFL was winning.

Now, almost 10 years later, he has a better appreciation of just how special those Patriots teams were and how tough it is to win in the league.

“I think when you’€™re young, there is no perspective,” Brady said Wednesday. “Now that I have a little perspective on it, yeah, it’€™s hard to do. To do what we accomplished in a short period of time was amazing. But we’€™ve had a pretty good run for a while now. We’€™ve won a lot of games. We’€™ve come up short a few times in some big ones, but we’€™re lucky to be in those games, too. I think it’€™s a great accomplishment.”

The Patriots finished the year 12-4 and have earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC, thus earning a first-round bye — the 10th time in franchise history, which is also the most in the NFL.

The Patriots averaged 29.2 points per game, the fourth-most in the league, and had a stingy defense — led by the new additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner — which held opponents to 19.6 points per game, the eighth-fewest in the league.

Brady and the Patriots certainly are made aware that they haven’t won a Super Bowl in almost 10 years, and the quarterback knows the postseason is all about making the most of opportunities.

“We’€™ve got a great football team, so we’€™ll see,” Brady said. “We’€™ve got to go out there and earn it. Nobody is going to give it to us. You’€™ve got to play your biggest at the biggest moments against the best teams in the toughest conditions. You’€™ve got to see what you’€™re made of. That’€™s what this tournament all shakes out. It shakes out which team has played the best over the course of this season and put themselves in the good position this season to play your best in the postseason.

“We’€™ve had a couple of good days of practice to prepare for it. We’€™ve talked a lot about the things that we need to do better, the things that we needed to be at our best. And then whenever we figure out who we play, then you really hone in on the opponent and go after it.”

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Rob Gronkowski ‘all for’ coaches decision not to play in regular-season finale

12.31.14 at 2:28 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski missed his first game of the season Sunday in the regular-season finale. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski missed his first game of the season Sunday in the regular-season finale. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski was all about playing a full 16 games this season, referring to it many times over the course of training camp this past summer.

Being inactive Sunday prevented him from doing that, as he hasn’t played a full season since 2011, but the decision for him to sit out didn’t cause any hard feelings, with him being “all for it.”

“It was a coaches decision. I was all for it,” Gronkowski said Wednesday. “Coaches decision so just trying to get better this week. Practicing hard. Practicing hard.”

Gronkowski finished the year with 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Statistically it was his second-best season, as he was only better in 2011 when he had 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Even though the Patriots have a bye week this week — as they await their first-round opponent — it doesn’t mean the team is not working. They are constantly trying to get better.

“œA bye week [or] no bye week, you want to make corrections, you want to go out, you want to execute at practice,” said Gronkowski. “Whenever you step out on the practice field you want to practice hard. That’€™s what we’€™re doing. I’€™m going out there trying to get better every single time I step out on the field.”

The Patriots held an unusual blue and white scrimmage on Wednesday, as the team practiced against each other — a way to keep the team fresh and motivated despite the bye week. It was a spirited game, with a number of players still talking about it afterwards in the locker room.

“We’€™re just going out there [to] practice hard, practicing versus each other,” Gronkowski said. “[We’€™re] having fun out there — it’€™s football. [We’€™re] just practicing hard, getting corrections done and making plays and running, doing it all. We’€™re just having fun out at practice and working hard.”

Even with holding a team scrimmage, it still isn’t an actual game and Gronkowski is excited about getting to play in the postseason game, especially after missing last year’s action with his ACL injury.

“€œOh, always excited,” he said. “[I’€™m] just excited for practice, just practicing going out there is fun, but definitely. Especially when next week rolls around [I’€™m] definitely going to be mad eager and super excited.”

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Tom Brady on reportedly tweaking contract: ‘Hopefully I am here for the rest of my career’

12.31.14 at 1:29 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Even with winning three Super Bowls and being considered one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, the motivation for the 37-year-old quarterback hasn’t changed. Winning is still the most important thing.

It was reported earlier in the week that Brady modified his contract to give the team $24 million more to spend this offseason. Although Brady didn’t confirm the transaction, he spoke of how much the organization and winning means to him.

“It’s been a privilege to play here,” Brady said. “I love playing here. It’s been a great experience in my life. Hopefully I am here for the rest of my career and hopefully I go out and play really well for my team. That matters more than anything. I am going to try and be the best I can be. I’ve played with a lot of great teammates over the years. I don’t take those things for granted.”

It was the third time since March of 2012 that Brady has restructured his deal — he is signed through the end of the 2017 season. With the extra money available, the team is in better shape to go out and re-sign some of their own free agents in Shane Vereen, Devin McCourty, Darrelle Revis, Stephen Gostkowski, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, among others.

Winning has always been a motivating factor for Brady, even back in high school when he was a backup quarterback as a freshman for a team that went 0-8. The quarterback also spoke of how much the team means to him, and never wanting to let his teammates down.

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Bill Belichick goes deep on why Pats ‘lucky to have’ Jamie Collins, references Lawrence Taylor

12.31.14 at 12:18 pm ET
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Jamie Collins has been an impact player for the Patriots since he landed in Foxboro. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jamie Collins has been an impact player for the Patriots since he landed in Foxboro. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It’s not often that Bill Belichick throws out compliments and makes comparisons to hall of fame players he’s coached.

But in Jamie Collins’ case Wednesday, he did both in a way.

The second-year linebacker has played a significant role in allowing Belichick to modify his defense to different alignments and schemes. On Sunday, he single-handedly blew by the Bills offensive line, strip-sacked Kyle Orton and recovered the fumble in the second half.

In the early 80s, Belichick was able to use Lawrence Taylor to help revolutionize the outside linebacker position and disrupt defenses by moving him around on the edges and forcing offenses to account for him on every play.

With Collins, Sunday’s strip-sack was the kind of play Taylor repeated time after time in his career.

Defenses have been continually evolving to counteract offenses. Belichick was asked Wednesday if Collins could be a prototype of defensive players in the future, where there are fewer linebackers and more players flexing between the second and third levels of the defense.

“Look, Jamie Collinses don’€™t ‘€“ it’€™s not like there’€™s two or three dozen of them in the draft every year,” Belichick said. “We’€™re lucky to have one. Was Lawrence Taylor a prototype outside linebacker? Where’€™s the next Lawrence Taylor? Those guys don’€™t grow on trees. So, I don’€™t know.

“I think that’€™s part of building your team is trying to anticipate where your team is going and to a certain extent where, especially defensively because you have to react to what they put on the field. Defensively you have to be able to defend those things. How do you construct the defense so you can handle the different challenges that you have?”

How Collins is deployed is up to Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. What makes Collins so valuable is not just his play-making impact but his flex quality between base and “sub” defensive sets. Belichick gave some insight Wednesday in how using him in “sub” or nickel packages might different from 3-4 and 4-3 bases. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Jamie Collins, Lawrence Taylor, New England Patriots

Brandon LaFell, Alan Branch not spotted at start of Patriots practice Wednesday

12.31.14 at 11:02 am ET
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Brandon LaFell

Brandon LaFell

FOXBORO — Wide receiver Brandon LaFell and defensive tackle Alan Branch were not spotted at the start of Patriots practice on Wednesday, which was held on the game field at Gillette Stadium. It appeared the team was splitting up to take part in a blue and white scrimmage.

LaFell was also not spotted at the start of practice yesterday. This comes after he left Sunday’s game with a foot injury — he did return for the final series of the game, though. Branch, hasn’t been on the injury report this season and was spotted at practice on Tuesday.

The team will hold another practice on Thursday, before the team has Friday-Monday off, before getting set for their divisional round playoff game on Saturday, Jan. 10 at Gillette Stadium at 4:35 p.m.

With it being the bye week, the team is not required to put out an injury report.

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Bill Belichick: ‘I don’t really have any control’ over the future of Josh McDaniels in New England

12.31.14 at 10:43 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots have seen this before. And so has Bill Belichick.

The Patriots earn a first-round bye and their offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels draws interest from other NFL teams looking to fill a head coaching vacancy.

On Monday, the Falcons, 49ers, Bears and Jets all said goodbye to their head coach. In San Francisco’s case, it was Jim Harbaugh leaving for Michigan. In the other three, it was a case of the team thinking they needed to go in a different direction.

On Tuesday, it was reported that McDaniels agreed to sit down with the Falcons and Niners in New England during the bye week and listen to what the representatives from Atlanta and San Francisco had to offer.

On Wednesday, Belichick was asked what it’s like to have McDaniels wanted again as hot coaching commodity.

“I don’t really have any control over it. We’ll see what happens. We’ve seen this before, multiple times, multiple coaches. We’ll go through the process,” Belichick said.

As far back as 2004, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel interviewed with the Browns for their head coaching job. That same postseason, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis interviewed with Notre Dame. Both left after the Patriots beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots



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