|08.20.15 at 6:14 am ET|
Entering his seventh season with the Patriots, Rob Ninkovich has learned the value of becoming a strong communicator.
When the word leadership is thrown around in the Patriots defensive meetings, the names Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty come immediately to mind. But with Vince Wilfork gone, there’s a void to be filled and Ninkovich sounds like and talks like he has his eyes set on leading some of the newcomers through their orientation with the Patriots.
“You have to communicate and you have to understand what the communication is. There’s two types of communication. That’s giving it and receiving it,” Ninkovich told WEEI.com. “You have to understand what you’re hearing and acknowledge it, and then go out there and perform. As a young guy, you have to do your best to understand all the communication that goes on out on the field.”
Now, Ninkovich is the leader of an edge pass rushing group that includes Chandler Jones, Jabaal Sheard, Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers. Ninkovich is the clear leader of that group.
“You have to be assertive and you have to get your loudest voice possible to yell at them so they understand what they’re hearing and get their attention,” Ninkovich said. “I’m listening as well so every time someone is saying something I’ve got to listen to it and relay the message to everybody else. That’s what football is all about, having everyone on the same page on that particular play, and every play doing it the same way every play. Again, those young guys are out here just doing their best and learning as we go.”
Ninkovich signed a three-year contract extension in Week 3 of the 2013 season that runs through 2016. Part of the reason Belichick signed Ninkovich was that he could imagine Ninkovich taking over some leadership responsibilities.
Ninkovich’s deal includes $8.5 million in bonuses and guaranteed money and could total $15 million by the time it ends. How has he responded? In 2013, he started every game, recording eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries on 91 total tackles.
|08.19.15 at 9:27 pm ET|
While the Seattle cornerback didn’t clear Brady of any potential wrongdoing in the incident when speaking with USA TODAY on Wednesday, he did say that Brady’s total fine for missing four games (roughly $2 million in lost game checks because of the proposed suspension) is completely out of line.
“You’re fining players more than you’re fining organizations?” Sherman said, comparing Brady’s lost wages with the $1 million fine levied against the team. “That should bring up some red flags. But nobody’s talking about that.”
Sherman pointed to the double-standard that can exist between the players and owners, referencing the $500,000 fine and six-game suspension levied against Indy owner Jim Irsay for a misdemeanor DUI case.
“Last year, Jim Irsay got fined what, 500 grand?” Sherman said. “Owners can only be fined so much. There’s a cap. And Brady gets fined [roughly $2 million]. Whether the crimes are the same or not, a suspension is a suspension, a fine is a fine. Game checks.
“People are just so focused on, ‘Oh, that’s a huge fine for the organization,'” Sherman added. “It’s not. A million dollars is peanuts to the Patriots, who will make [hundreds of] million dollars this year. Brady … you take away four game checks, and you’re doing this to the organization.”
In the end, Sherman believes the case will have a “minimal impact” on the upcoming season.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to have minimal impact on the season, minimal impact on the rules,” Sherman said. “So it’s just a minor annoyance, really.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|08.19.15 at 3:18 pm ET|
It was such an obvious question that Jimmy Garoppolo answered it like he knew it was coming.
The Patriots back-up quarterback to Tom Brady played at the same college – Eastern Illinois – as the head coach on the other sideline this week.
Saints coach Sean Payton earned a scholarship to Eastern Illinois after graduating from Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois.
Payton eventually led the Panthers to an 11-2 record and the quarterfinals of the Division I-AA Playoffs in 1986. Under coach Al Molde, Payton’s Eastern Illinois teams were known as “Eastern Airlines” due to their prolific passing attack that routinely topped 300 yards per game, including a game in which he threw for 509 passing yards in one game, still a school record.
Although he was not drafted in the 1987 NFL Draft, Payton tried out for the Chiefs for one day. In 1987, he played quarterback for the Chicago Bruisers and Pittsburgh Gladiators during the inaugural season of the Arena Football League. His only NFL action came for the replacement Chicago Bears in ’87.
Garoppolo had a slightly more glamourous entry into the NFL, getting drafted in the second round by the Patriots in 2014.
As a senior at Eastern Illinois in 2013, Garoppolo broke Tony Romo‘s school records for career passing touchdowns, yards and passing touchdowns in a season. He also won the Walter Payton Award that season, which goes to the best offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Does Garoppolo ever talk trash with Sean Payton about the best quarterback to come out of Eastern Illinois?
“He asked me that in the combine process, I remember, but I’ll keep the answer private for now. You’ll have to ask him,” Garoppolo laughed.
So, how did his college games compare to those of Sean Payton?
“I’ve never really seen his game film, but he was a stud back then,” Garoppolo said. “Apparently, he was setting all the records and all that stuff, so he must’ve been pretty good.”
There was another stud back at practice with Garoppolo Wednesday. Tom Brady returned after missing Tuesday’s practice to travel to New York in advance of Wednesday’s court date, which he eventually skipped. Garoppolo was happy to see No. 12 back on the field.
|08.19.15 at 1:33 pm ET|
The video of Dez Bryant getting sucker punched in the face was likely all anyone on the Greenbrier resort football field in West Virginia had to see to learn an important lesson. Compete but don’t fight.
That’s what the Patriots and Saints began doing Wednesday morning when they began joint practices in White Sulphur Springs.
Patriots and Saints coaches and players were asked about the now-infamous brawl between the Cowboys and Rams Tuesday that spilled into a spectator’s area at the Cowboys’ facility in Oxnard, California.
“Obviously, when you go against a new opponent, adrenaline kicks in and the competitive level is very high,” Matthew Slater said. “It’s a very good football team we’re going against. The intensity was definitely up and I think it was good for our football team to get some good work today.”
Is there a conscious effort to stay away from the brawl situations that seem to escalate quickly?
“I’m not going to comment on those situations, but I know that Coach [Bill Belichick] has always stressed that we’re here to work and just play football, and that’s what we try to do is just try to play football and not let all that other stuff come into the picture,” Slater added.
Chandler Jones joked Saturday about how no one has ever challenged him in a football fight. He took a more serious tone Wednesday after practice.
“You understand that practice is going to be very competitive,” Jones said. “We’re out here to get better. That’s what we’re doing. Our job is to get better. The Saints are trying to get better. The Patriots are trying to get better. And that’s our main goal; that’s what we’re coming out here to do every day.”
Both Jones and Slater said they were happy to get on the practice field against another team Wednesday.
“I think it’s huge,” Slater said. “I think it’s very challenging; it’s a chance to work on your craft. I know for me, I get a lot out of these things, so I think it’s huge to be able to do this and simulate as best we can game speed in practice.
Added Jones, “It felt good to get out here and compete against a different team. You get a lot of different looks, and it’s good for our team.”
Jones said the tempo is similar to what he’s seen in the last two weeks in Foxboro.
“I feel like the coaches do a good job of getting on the same page and merging the practices together, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Jones said.
|08.19.15 at 1:12 pm ET|
It certainly sounds like Round 2 has gone to Tom Brady and his legal team.
According to those inside the New York courtroom at Wednesday’s hearing with Judge Richard Berman, the league again was grilled on a number of topics in relation to its investigation and suspension of the Patriots quarterback for his role in Deflategate. The judge again apparently displayed concern with the language and the appeal process, adding that Brady’s “general awareness” that was described by Wells didn’t refer specifically to the AFC championship game, saying that was “conspicuously absent.” The league responded by having NFL attorney Daniel Nash counter that the entire Wells Report revolved around that game, so that should be assumed. (Berman was said to appear skeptical of the claim.)
Berman also apparently took issue with the league’s decision to compare Brady’s supposed infraction with a violation of the league’s policy on performance enhancers. “I don’t see how four games is comparable to using steroids and a masking agent,” he asked. He also hit the league on the decision not to allow Jeff Pash as a witness, asking, “Who else but Pash had the opportunity to edit the Wells Report?
The league also maintained — as it has done throughout most of the process — that commissioner Roger Goodell was acting well within his authority granted by the latest CBA when he decided to give Brady a four-game suspension for his alleged role in the process. Nash called Brady and the NFLPA a “disappointed grievant” and added that the “findings of the commissioner are entitled to deference.”
Berman again encouraged the two sides to continue talking. If there’s no agreement between now and the end of the month, they will be required to be a part of a meeting with Berman on Aug. 31 at 11 a.m., a session that reportedly will include Brady and Goodell. If no settlement is reached, Berman said he would rule on Deflategate before Sept. 4.
It’s also important to note that this might just be the start of a prolonged legal battle, as whatever side loses will likely immediately file an appeal. If Brady loses, expect the NFLPA to file an injunction on his behalf that would allow him to play while the decision is reconsidered. On the other side, the league would almost certainly do the same if it lost, as it’s clear the belief is that a defeat would strike at the very heart of Goodell’s disciplinary powers.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|08.19.15 at 12:37 pm ET|
A group that included wide receivers Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson and Brandon LaFell, as well as offensive lineman Bryan Stork, showed up at Gillette Stadium for work Wednesday morning, according to a source.
The Patriots, who are taking part in joint practices with the Saints this week in West Virginia in advance of their second preseason game of the summer in New Orleans this weekend, apparently decided to leave a sizable portion of their offense behind in hopes that the group will continue to focus on rest and rehab prior to the start of the regular season.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about the protocol that goes into trying to decide which players to bring along for joint practices outside of New England and which players to leave behind for rest and rehab.
“It’s an individual conversation,” Belichick said earlier this week. “We talk about each player that would fall in that category, what would be the best thing for him, and then we have to utilize our resources. But it could go either way. Some guys we’ll take depending on their injury and situation; other guys we won’t. It’s really on a case-by-case basis. If we feel like we can get productive work with them and so forth, then that’s a reason to take him.
“But I don’t think anybody would recommend a lot of travel for somebody rehabbing from injury,” he added. “‘Here’s how you get better quick — travel, jump on a couple planes, fly around the country.’ So, that’s generally not part of the prescribed rehabilitation. But if there is good reason for the person to travel for them to get whatever work it is or do whatever it is wherever we are, then that’s something we would talk about.”
The biggest takeaway from this news? Don’t expect any of those players to suit up for the Patriots this weekend when New England faces the Saints in New Orleans. As a result, it should also give several youngster and other backups — like Chris Harper, Brandon Gibson and David Andrews — a shot at more playing time, and a greater opportunity to impress the coaching staff.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|08.19.15 at 12:03 pm ET|
Bill Belichick remains a fan of joint practices for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it gives some of the younger or more untested players a chance to get some high quality reps they might not be able to get otherwise.
Speaking prior to the first of two joint practices with the Saints Wednesday morning in West Virginia, the Patriots’ coach — who also coordinated joint practices with New Orleans in 2012 — said that these workouts can do a good job when it comes to replicating game action for players who might need that level of experience.
“A lot of times certain players aren’t on the field and different situations that come up in the game — but we can control that here, so that’s good,” Belichick told reporters. “We’re kind of only getting half the reps we’d normally get because we only have one team on the field instead of two. But on the other hand, it gives us a chance to get organized, prepare for those situations, kind of have a pace for play a series, out a series, play a series, out a series — kind of like a game is.
“So it’s a little more of a game-like situation, game-like conditions in terms of that. There are just so many benefits to working against them. There’s a give and take, but there are so many benefits that we think it’s worthwhile.”
The Patriots have made joint practices a regular part of their summer routine the last few years, having connected with the Saints, Eagles, Redskins, Bucs and Falcons (among other teams) as of late. This session marks the third time that New England and New Orleans have worked together. As far as Bill Belichick is concerned, it’s a no-brainer.
“We’ve had a great working relationship with the Saints, and with [head coach] Sean [Payton] and his staff,” he said. “From a coaching standpoint, we both feel like we can get done things that are beneficial to our teams. Players work hard, but they do it in the right way and in the same kind of tempo that we do separately when we’re with each other. So, that all kind of falls into place.”
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