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Welker’s status for preseason opener still up in the air

08.11.10 at 12:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — According to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, wide receiver Wes Welker remains a game-day decision for the preseason opener against the Saints Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

“We’ll see how it goes yesterday and today and make a decision on that,” Belichick said during his Wednesday morning press conference prior to the third of three joint practices with the Saints. “I don’t know. I’m not saying he will. I’m not saying he won’t. We’ll evaluate it and see.”

Welker, who suffered a left knee injury in last year’s regular-season finale, has been rehabbing throughout the spring and summer in an attempt to return to the field. He says sometimes he feels himself getting better, and some days, not so much.

“Some days I do and some days I don’t,” he said. “I think as long as I’m out here and am able to make those same movements, it helps in the long run.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, training camp, Wes Welker,

‘We’re cookin’ with clarity

08.11.10 at 12:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With any luck, Drew Brees might know what Tom Brady will get in his new contract before he leaves town late Thursday night.

Brees hinted on Tuesday that he would watch closely the negotiations between Brady and the Patriots because of the potential impact on his own new deal.

And, in between talking about his optimistic feelings for the upcoming season and his thoughts on Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham heading into the Patriots Hall of Fame this week, Patriots owner Robert Kraft apparently hinted he and star quarterback Tom Brady could be close to a long-term deal.

“We’re cookin,” is all Kraft would say when asked about the progress in negotiations between the team and the two-time Super Bowl MVP.

But upon further review, Kraft was referring in general to practice and the upcoming season and NOT to specific progress being made in talks.

Brady, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and the Saints signal-caller and reigning Super Bowl MVP are all in talks for a new contract, with all three hoping to finalize a deal before a new collective bargaining agreement is reached between the players and the NFL.

The Saints are in town for a second day of practice with the Patriots prior to the two teams opening the preseason against each other on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Colts, Drew Brees, NFL season opener, Patriots

Bill Belichick Q&A, 8/11

08.11.10 at 11:59 am ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript of today’s Q&A between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the media:

BB: I appreciate everybody coming out early this morning. It’s been a good couple days for us here. Looking forward to today. It’s just more situation work with the Saints. I thought yesterday’s practice was probably one of the most productive practices I think I’ve been a part of in my career. [It was] good work [and] certainly a good tempo. We saw a lot of things from the Saints that we haven’t seen working against ourselves. They’re obviously very good. They do a lot of things well, so there were a lot of things that we were able to evaluate and also adjust to. We can walk through them, we can talk through them, but it’s different when a good team does them and hurts you with them and you have to make those changes. That part of it was great. Sean [Payton] and Gregg [Williams] and his whole staff do a terrific job with their team. It was just really good work for us all the way around and I think our players responded well to it. We’ll do a little more of that today and then kind of pull things together tonight, talk about managing the game, playing time, and so forth. But right now we’re just really trying to get another quality practice in this morning and fine tune things tonight. But [there's] no better preparation for a game than working against the team you’re going to play. We’ve seen a lot in the two practices yesterday. We’ll see a lot more today. It’s been a great learning experience for our football team, not just the players but our staff as well.

(on 2010 Patriots Hall of Fame Inductee Sam Cunningham)
Sam Cunningham – I think the [Patriots Hall of Fame] induction ceremony is tomorrow. Just a quick word on that – [He is] kind of a guy that played at a time where a lot of people don’t really probably right now appreciate what fullbacks were in the 70s and early 80s. [They were] guys that not only blocked, but ran the ball, caught it and really never came off the field. There wasn’t a lot of substitution back in those days and Russ Francis and Cunningham and guy like that, they were on the field all the time, not just on first down or third down or those kind of specialty players. He was a big ball carrier, a hard guy to tackle, a very good runner, a good blocker, caught the ball well, very good in short-yardage and goal line. He just had an outstanding career professionally after his great career in college. [He was] a very tough guy to defend – the kind of player that, like I said, you don’t really see too much anymore – the Franco Harrises, the Sam Cunninghams, the guys that were fullbacks, but also had an element of tailback in them just on a bigger frame. Congratulations to him and certainly our team has a lot of respect for what he’s done for this franchise in his career.

I think that’s really about all the updates I’ve got. Looking forward to going out there and getting a good day of situation work in with the Saints this morning.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, training camp,

Training camp report from Wednesday morning practice

08.11.10 at 11:07 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots and Saints just wrapped up a joint practice session that lasted roughly an hour and 45 minutes. The teams seemed to be working at about three-quarters speed for many of the drills, but that didn’t prevent things from getting heated between the squads from time to time. Here’s the complete rundown on what happened Wednesday morning.

- Defensive back Bret Lockett, defensive end Ty Warren, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur, and outside linebacker Derrick Burgess were not in attendance. Mankins continues his holdout while Burgess is believed to be retiring. Guard Darnell Stapleton has been released and back in the fold is running back Thomas Clayton.

- Receivers Matthew Slater and Torry Holt, cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Terrence Johnson, linebacker Gary Guyton, and defensive tackle Ron Brace made up the group of Patriots players practicing in either shorts or sweats.

- A couple of notes on the defensive backs. First off, second-year safety Patrick Chung made a nice play in tipping a pass over the middle. Terrence Wheatley got taken advantage of when Saints receiver Mondez Billings snagged a ball that was tossed with just enough touch by Drew Brees to keep it out of the corner’s reach. Even so, Wheatley has looked good thus far in camp and doesn’t seem to be the likely cut victim that many thought he’d be when the team drafted Devin McCourty.

The former second-round pick noted that he’s not worrying about his roster spot when asked after practice. Given the plethora of defensive backs the Pats have on the roster, it’s definitely a tough position to try to contribute in, but overall Wheatley’s camp would suggest he’d be a tough guy to axe.

- Speaking of Pats corners, Randall Gay, who once held the occupation, was also made to look rather foolish. With about one square foot to make a catch from a pressured Tom Brady, Patriots receiver Wes Welker made a leaping catch in the corner of the end zone on Gay.

“He was out of bounds,” Gay said in defense of the play after practice. “That wasn’t even a catch.”

- Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, Taylor Price, and Darnell Jenkins fielded punts from Saints punter Thomas Morstead, so look for some of those guys to handle return duties in Thursday night’s pre-season opener.

- Brandon Spikes is no longer alone in the “covering Alge Crumpler is harder than it looks” club. Jonathan Vilma struggled in keeping up with the big tight end and it showed when Brian Hoyer hit Crumpler in the end zone on a route in which he was untouched.

- Saints running back Lynell Hamilton went down with a right knee injury on a play and remained on the field for a few moments. He was helped off by trainers and is expected to receive further evaluation today.

- Wheatley was awfully aggressive in punt returns. First, he was seen shoving back and forth with Saints corner Leigh Torrence. Just a couple plays later, he was all over Billings, the receiver who had embarrassed him earlier in the practice.

- Patriots safety Sergio Brown and Saints receiver Adrian Arrington also got into it earlier in the practice. Jonathan Wilhite was also an aggressor in intersquad scuffles.

- Nobody can move like Malcolm Jenkins. The safety for the Saints sprung up during stretches and danced by himself for a good 16 measures of the hip hop that was playing over the PA system. Saints players and fans from both teams (there were quite a few from New Orleans) cheered on Jenkins as an early fan favorite.

Read More: training camp,

Training Camp Report from Tuesday afternoon practice

08.10.10 at 6:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The second of three practice sessions between the Patriots and Saints just wrapped up down here at Gillette Stadium on a relatively hot and humid afternoon. Here are a few quick notes on the padded practice session that lasted just over two hours:

•The following players were not in attendance: Bret Lockett, Derrick Burgess, Logan Mankins, Nick Kaczur and Ty Warren. The following players were in sweats and shorts: Matthew Slater, Leigh Bodden, Terrence Johson, Gary Guyton, Ron Brace and Torry Holt.

•Practice went the same way as it did in the morning session, with the two teams on their own throughout the early stages of the workout and then coming together roughly 1/3 of the way into practice.

•At the end of practice, outside linebacker Marques Murrell was taken off the practice field on a cart.

•There was some special teams work involved, and punter Zoltan Mesko appeared to struggle (as was the case for much of the morning). However, the poor yardage on the punt could simply be a case of situational punting — we’re not sure. Either way, Mesko’s punts were short for much of the day.

•Quarterback Tom Brady looked angry throughout the 7-on-7 drills, eventually throwing his helmet to the ground in frustration after a series of passes went incomplete. (Shortly after, New Orleans defensive lineman Will Smith batted down a Brady pass, and the quarterback kicked the ball away.) Shortly after, Brady was able to connect with Wes Welker on two out of three pass plays, which brightened the mood of the crowd. One of the young offensive standouts was Brandon Tate — with Holt on the sidelines, Tate got plenty of run with the starting offense as the wideout opposite Randy Moss, and he got a lot of snaps. His finest play of he day likely came on a touchdown reception on a nice catch from Brady.

•Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez continued to be shuffled around the field. On one play in 11-on-11 drills, he was lined up at fullback, and delivered a nice block that sprung Laurence Maroney for a big gain. On the following play, he was lined up just outside the slot and caught a pass in the flat that ended up going for a big gain.

•One of the best defensive plays of the day came when New England defensive back Terrence Wheatley picked off a Drew Brees pass that was intended for Courtney Roby. Nicely read play by Wheatley, who stepped in front of the errant pass and took it back in the other direction.

Read More: training camp,

Up-tempo leaves O’Brien up-beat in Foxboro

08.10.10 at 4:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There’s been plenty of talk about the uncertainty of the Patriots offensive line, with the holdout of Logan  Mankins and the suspected back injury to his would-be back-up Nick Kaczur.

But don’t think for a second that just because Dan Connolly and others are going to be rotated in and out to see who is most comfortable there will worry or even depress the spirit of Patriots quarterbacks coach and last year’s oft-embattled play-caller Bill O’Brien.

The 40-year-old is too busy coaching up Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Zac Robinson to be worried about what others are thinking on the outside and who will be protecting Brady on the inside. He thinks O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia will do his job while O’Brien takes care of his own.

“Scar does a great job of training a lot of different people at a lot of different positions,” O’Brien said. “I think all these guys have been very flexible in the positions that they’ve played. We have a bunch of guys who’ve played guard, bunch of guys who’ve played center and they’re trying to improve every day as we are as a unit.”

Then there’s that little matter of his role in 2010 as opposed to 2009. How will he adjust to coaching the quarterbacks and play-calling again this season? Does he think the spotlight is on him after what happened last year?

“I think I’m more comfortable,” O’Brien said. “I think it’s just like anything else, every year you do something, you’re a little bit more comfortable coaching the quarterbacks like I am again this year. I’ve always been vocal. I like to communicate with the players. I really believe in getting my point across not in a whispering way. I’m not in a library out here. We’re on the football field and I like to make sure the guys know exactly what we expect and they communicate with me. There’s a lot of good give and take and a lot of respect on both sides. It’s the way I coach.”

[Click here to listen to Bill O'Brien's philosophy on coaching the Pats offense.]

The Patriots and Saints completed their first day of controlled workouts and scrimmages against each other on the practice fields outside Gillette Stadium on Tuesday. The two teams will have a single workout on Wednesday morning before playing each other in the preseason opener for both on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

“When you have another team come in here, after you’ve hit each other for 20 practices, having another team come in here [is good],” O’Brien said. “We have to go in and watch the film and see how it went but I thought the tempo was good and got out of it what we wanted to get out of it.

“I’m sure there were some things we can correct. We saw some good execution in the passing game, saw some good execution in the running game and now we just have to work to correct the things that weren’t executed well.”

The two teams worked in 1-on-1 drills and some controlled game situations, vital in providing film for coaches to study to look for areas of weakness and strength that wouldn’t otherwise show during a typical intrasquad
practice during camp.

“I think what’s pretty neat about this deal is you’re not really sure what they’re going to do, it’s preseason,” O’Brien said. “They’re not really sure what we’re going to do. We’ll have to see what the film looked like.”

“For me, the overall execution of the offense is what’s really important. Coming together as a team, this was the first time we were really on the same sideline with each other and not going against each other, supporting the defense, supporting the special teams.”

Read More: nfl, Patriots, saints, scrimmage

EA Sports simulation says Patriots will win Super Bowl XLV

08.10.10 at 3:30 pm ET
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A preseason simulation of “Madden NFL 11″ has the Patriots and Packers going up against each other in Super Bowl XLV, with New England taking what’s being described as a “high-scoring thriller thanks to the late-game heroics of Tom Brady.” According to this story, the Patriots will finish with a 12-4 mark and win the AFC East, while Brady will pass for 4,471 yards, 32 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. In addition, Randy Moss will finish with 91 catches for 1,324 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Read More: Super Bowl XLV,
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