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Tom Brady hangs out with Justin Timberlake at UFC 200

07.10.16 at 10:07 am ET
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If you were wondering what Tom Brady is up to during his time off before training camp, now you know.

The Patriots quarterback was in Las Vegas Saturday night for UFC 200 and was spotted with Justin Timberlake.

Patriots training camp begins on July 27.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Most Important Patriots of 2016: No. 13, Rob Ninkovich

07.09.16 at 11:45 am ET
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Rob Ninkovich has grown from backup linebacker/long snapper into one of the most important players on the New England roster. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Rob Ninkovich has grown from backup linebacker/long snapper into one of the most important players on the New England roster. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

As the countdown to training camp begins later this month, we’re going to take a look at the 20 most important members of the Patriots heading into 2016.

13. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich

Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 260 pounds
Age: 32 (will turn 33 on Feb. 1)

Resume: We’re not sure what more can be said about Ninkovich, who has gone from backup linebacker/long snapper to one of the most important elements of New England’s defense. (Next time someone tells you that NFL team-building only happens in the spring, remind them that Ninkovich was signed as a free agent in August. August.) Waived four times by Miami and New Orleans before joining the Patriots in the summer of 2009, he’s grown into an irreplaceable defensive end in New England. He has 42 career sacks, including 14.5 the last two years. We’re not entirely sure how much longer he’ll be able to produce at such a high rate, but since 2010, there are only two players who can boast of at least 40 sacks, 10 fumble recoveries, five interceptions and a touchdown in that stretch: Ninkovich and Julius Peppers. Good company to be in.

Why we ranked him here: His versatility (he’s played multiple spots at the end of the line — on both sides — as well as inside), durability (more on that in a moment), and knack for making big plays at big moments (especially against the Jets) are all part of the package when it comes to Ninkovich. A defensive captain, he garners respect from players on both sides of the ball. Bottom line? While he’s not quite Mike Vrabel, version 2.0, his growth and evolution as a player in the New England system represent the closest thing the Patriots have had on defense since Vrabel was dealt to Kansas City following the 2008 season.

Quote: “I think his selection by his teammates as a captain reflects kind of the leadership or the respect that he has amongst them. But Rob has been a really versatile guy for us. He’s played kind of like [Mike] Vrabel at the end of the line primarily, but he’s played inside linebacker, he’s played defensive end, he’s played in the kicking game. He did a lot of the things like Mike did that you need somebody to do on your defense somewhere along the line because of the different offenses we face and some of the different schemes we use. You can’t move 11 guys around but sometimes you can move one or two and create that. That’s been important.” — Bill Belichick on Ninkovich, 1/6/16

Random note: We’ve noted this before, but it’s a truly remarkable run for Ninkovich: he’s currently at 81 straight regular-season starts with New England, second-best in the league among all defensive ends. And he’s played in a total of 102 straight regular-season games with the Patriots, third-best in the league at his position. (Julius Peppers is tops in both categories with 128 straight games played and 102 consecutive starts.)

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Most Important Patriots of 2016: No. 14, Bryan Stork/David Andrews

07.08.16 at 11:30 am ET
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Bryan Stork has been the Patriots' starting center for most of the last two years, but will face a challenge this year from David Andrews. (Andrew Weber/USA Today Images)

Bryan Stork has been the Patriots’ starting center for most of the last two years, but will face a challenge this year from David Andrews. (Andrew Weber/USA Today Images)

As the countdown to training camp begins later this month, we’re going to take a look at the 20 most important members of the Patriots heading into 2016.

14. Centers Bryan Stork and David Andrews

Height: 6-foot-4 (Stork), 6-foot-3 (Andrews)
Weight: 310 pounds (Stork), 295 pounds (Andrews)
Age: 25 (Stork — will turn 26 on Nov. 15), 23 (Andrews — will turn 24 on July 10)

Resume: We’re going to bend the rules here and make these two a package combo, because when they’ve been healthy, each have proven to have very good moments in the middle of New England’s offensive line. A fourth-round pick out of Florida State in 2014, Stork has been in control of the gig for the better part of the last two years, and in 2014, we thought enough of his performance to give him the team Rookie of the Year Award. He struggled with injury and was sidelined at the start of 2015, and so Andrews got his chance. The undrafted rookie out of Georgia was probably the Patriots’ most impactful first-year player over the start of the 2015 season, starting 11 games and allowing Stork to take his time to return to full health. Stork eventually won the starters’ job back before the end of last year, but the competition was close at the end of 2015, and figures to be one of the positions worth keeping an eye on when camp rolls around later this month.

Why we ranked them here: When Stork is completely healthy, he’s one of the best young centers in the NFL. He also has excellent positional versatility — while he wasn’t the second coming of Logan Mankins, when the offensive line was in a pinch last year, he also played guard and tackle. (If the guard situation gets dicey at times this year, it wouldn’t be a shock to se him take some snaps there this season.) Plus, he is a notoriously ornery cuss who, when he’s in the mood, can certainly evoke memories of Mankins, which is a good thing. Meanwhile, Andrews stepped into the lead role nicely last year, starting the first 10 games and allowing the Patriots’ offense to not miss a beat in the early going when he was on the field. (For what it’s worth, PFF gave Andrews higher grades than Stork last year.) The two could be pushed at the center spot this season by rookie Joe Thuney, who was working some at center over the course of the spring workouts. But in terms of importance, the two have done an excellent job proving their bonafides over the last two seasons. That’s why they get a dual spot on our list.

Quote: “I think they’re different in terms of the type of player they are, both of them are smart and dependable and tough, do a lot of different things to try and help set the table for the rest of our lineman and get everybody going in the right direction. Bryan’s a little bit more experienced certainly at this point having played quite a bit last year. I think both guys have a lot of strengths to them. Both guys certainly work hard to try and improve some of the things maybe they don’t do as well as they’d like to. I think they work extremely hard, bring great work ethic to our offense. There’s a presence inside, a toughness that they both have.” — Josh McDaniels on Stork and Andrews, 12/15/15

Random notes: Andrews got the call in the 2015 opener, and was the third rookie free agent to start opening day under Bill Belichick. Meanwhile, in 2014, Stork became the second member of the Patriots franchise to win a national championship (at Florida State) and a Super Bowl (as a rookie) in back-to-back years. Cornerback Randall Gay (LSU 2003, Patriots 2004) was the other.

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Most Important Patriots of 2016: No. 15, Stephen Gostkowski

07.07.16 at 11:30 am ET
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Stephen Gostkowski's best moment of 2015 was his game-winner against the Giants. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski’s best moment of 2015 was his game-winner against the Giants. (Elsa/Getty Images)

As the countdown to training camp begins later this month, we’re going to take a look at the 20 most important members of the Patriots heading into 2016.

15. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski

Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 200
Age: 32 (will turn 33 Jan. 28)

Resume: Since he arrived as a fourth-round pick out of Memphis in 2006, Gostkowski has earned a rep as one of the most dependable kickers in the league. He’s led the NFL in points in 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, joining Don Hutson and Gino Cappelletti as the only players to lead the league in scoring in five seasons. Gostkowski also surpassed Adam Vinatieri this past season to become the team’s all-time leader in field goals with 276. His 87 percent success rate on field goal attempts is third all-time among kickers with at least 100 career field-goal attempts. A four-time Pro Bowler, he’s twice been named first-team All-Pro, in 2008 and 2015. (He was second-team All-Pro in 2014.) He was also first-team All-NFL last year, according to the Pro Football Writers and Pro Football Focus. While he had an ugly end to the 2015 season — a missed extra-point against the Broncos in the AFC championship game came back to haunt the Patriots in the end — given the body of his work, he’s become a worthy successor to Vinatieri’s legacy.

Why we ranked him here: If there’s a kicker who deserves to be among the top 15 most valuable on his team (other than maybe Baltimore’s Justin Tucker) its Gostkowski. With the exception of last year’s miss against the Broncos — his first missed extra-point in nine years — he’s been the very model of consistency for the franchise over the last decade. He has an extraordinary success rate from anywhere (he’s a career 17-for-22 from 50-plus yards, including the game-winning 54-yarder last year against the Giants), is annually one of the league leaders when it comes to touchbacks, and is tied for fifth among all kickers when it comes to consecutive regular-season games played (80). People will dismiss his standing here because he’s a kicker, but in terms of overall value to the franchise, he’s earned a place in our top 20.

Quote: “Stephen is awesome. I’ve got the utmost respect for him. I think he is a great kicker. … He didn’t miss one all [regular] season long. He missed one extra point the whole season. I wouldn’t hold it too much against him on that. That’s for dang sure. I think he is as good of a guy as you’re ever going to get to kick for your team. You would be fortunate and lucky to have him.” — Adam Vinatieri on Gostkowski in the wake of his missed extra-point in the AFC title game

Random note: While there have been a few fill-ins here and there because of injury, this upcoming season will mark the 20th consecutive year of the Vinatieri-Gostkowski combo. Vinatieri joined the Patriots in 1996, and Gostkowski was drafted by New England in the spring of 2006 after Vinatieri left in free agency.

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Tom Brady No. 2, Rob Gronkowski No. 9 in NFL Network’s top 100 players of 2016

07.07.16 at 10:24 am ET
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Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski landed in the top 10 of the NFL's top 100 players list. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski landed in the top 10 of the NFL’s top 100 players list. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski’s value is certainly well-known throughout New England, and it appears players around the NFL agree.

The NFL Network’s top 100 players special is aired annually and is based on a vote of players around the league. On Wednesday night’s top 10 finale, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski both climbed one spot from their spots last year, going No. 2 and No. 9 respectively.

The only player to surpass Brady was Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Brady — who may only be able to play 12 games this season because of Deflategate — was voted No. 1 in the countdown’s inaugural year in 2011 and has been in the top five ever since. Brady started all 16 regular season games for the Patriots last season, throwing a league-leading 36 touchdowns to accompany his third in the league 4,770 yards passing.

Gronkowski has been in the top 50 every season since 2012, with this season being his first in the top 10. Last season the tight end grabbed 11 touchdowns with 1,176 yards receiving on 72 receptions.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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SI’s Michael McCann offers when Deflategate ruling could come, reiterates ‘odds are not good for [Tom] Brady’

07.06.16 at 1:48 pm ET
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Michael McCann

Michael McCann

On May 23, the NFLPA and Tom Brady appealed the federal court ruling re-instating his four-game suspension. Typically, these appeals take three to six weeks, but we’re well past that window now.

Appearing on “SI Now” on Wednesday, Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann gave an update on when a ruling might come down.

“We’re within the expected time frame when a decision is expected as to whether or not the second circuit will grant a re-hearing,” McCann said. “Five weeks is about the length of time one would expect given past cases. That said, the second circuit can take as long as it wants. There’s no deadline. It could be this week. It could be next. It could be August. It could be September. I don’t think it will go that long, but there’s no guarantee when it will occur and I know a lot of Patriots fans’ thinking is — is that good news or bad news in terms of the delay, but it doesn’t really mean anything necessarily. They have other cases. The judges have their own schedules and sometimes it can take awhile to review a case.”

As for the end result, McCann still believes the odds are against the Patriots quarterback.

“The most likely verdict is the second circuit will not grant a re-hearing,” he said. “The second circuit grants re-hearings at less than one percent of the time. The odds are certainly not good for Brady. That said, you can argue [he’s] made a compelling argument about process. He’s had several influential advocates, including Ken Feinberg, provide amicus briefs that suggest the second circuit should take the case. The odds are not good for Brady by any means, but they aren’t zero. I think Brady is in a position he will play it out as long as he can.”

Read More: Deflategate, Michael McCann, Tom Brady,

Report: Ex-Patriots CB Brandon Browner being investigated for assault

07.06.16 at 12:29 pm ET
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Brandon Browner

Brandon Browner

According to TMZ Sports, ex-Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner is being investigated by the Pomona, California police department for assault.

The Pomona police responded to call at a residence Tuesday night that Browner had assaulted the father of his child’s mother. The report adds there was an argument between the two men in the driveway of the house before the alleged assault.

After Browner left, the alleged victim filed a police report claiming he suffered a hand injury. The police are now investigating exactly what took place.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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