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Patriots list 7 players as questionable for AFC championship

01.20.17 at 4:21 pm ET
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Malcolm MItchell is among seven Patriots played questionable for the AFC title game. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm MItchell is among seven Patriots played questionable for the AFC title game. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — There are no surprises on the final injury report of the week for the Patriots.

It has been the same all week, as seven players were limited in every session and seven players are questionable for the game.

While the flu bug has been going around the Pittsburgh locker room this week, they only have three players on the final injury report — all listed as questionable.

Here is the final injury report for both teams.

Patriots

QUESTIONABLE

WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder)
DE Jabaal Sheard (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)

Steelers

QUESTIONABLE

TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

Read More: Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell,

Tom Brady on President Trump saying QB called him Thursday night: ‘Let’s talk about football’

01.20.17 at 2:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — On Thursday night, the night before taking office, President Donald Trump mentioned Tom Brady at a donor’s dinner while acknowledging Patriots owner Robert Kraft being in attendance.

“He’s got a great quarterback named Tom Brady, and a great coach named [Bill] Belichick, Bob Kraft,” Trump said. “So good luck, Bob. Your friend Tom just called, he feels good. He called to congratulate us, he feels good. Good luck. You’re going to do great things.”

On Friday morning, Bill Belichick responded by saying he was focused on football.

Brady was then asked about the remarks Friday afternoon.

“I don’t have much to say,” he said.

“Did you call him?” a reporter followed-up with.

“Did I call him? … Let’s just talk about football,” Brady said.

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

Read More: Donald Trump, Tom Brady,

Report: Chip Kelly meets with Bill Belichick

01.20.17 at 1:07 pm ET
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Bill Belichick and Chip Kelly have been buddies for years. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick and Chip Kelly have been buddies for years. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick met with Chip Kelly after Kelly didn’t get the job as Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Kelly, who has a longstanding friendship with Belichick, was recently fired as head coach of the Niners. Schefter didn’t elaborate as to what the meeting between the two might have been about, but Belichick has sought out friends who have been fired in the past, a group that includes Greg Schiano.

One thing that seems fairly certain is that he’s not coming to New England to serve as offensive coordinator; Schefter said the meeting took place after Josh McDaniels reaffirmed his commitment to the Patriots after interviewing for other head coaching jobs.

Kelly has served as the coach of the 49ers, Eagles and Oregon Ducks. A native of New Hampshire, he coached at UNH from 1994 to 2006.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chip Kelly, Josh McDaniels,

Jamie Collins is about to get paid by the Browns, does this impact Dont’a Hightower?

01.20.17 at 12:46 pm ET
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Jamie Collins reportedly will sign a contract extension with the Browns. (Scott R. Galvin/USA Today Sports)

Jamie Collins reportedly will sign a contract extension with the Browns. (Scott R. Galvin/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — It doesn’t look like Jamie Collins will be hitting free agency.

According to multiple reports, the Browns and Collins are close to agreeing on a multi-year contract extension. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport adds the contract will eclipse the per-year salary of Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly of $12.36 million.

This will make Collins one of the top five paid linebackers in the NFL.

Collins was traded to the Browns on October 31 of last year.

How does this relate to the Patriots? It could impact impending free agent Dont’a Hightower’s next contract.

By all indications, the Patriots have made it a priority to re-sign Hightower. With the team trading away both Chandler Jones and Collins, the linebacker is the biggest name left with the Patriots who will be a free agent after this season. Based on the other linebackers — Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Shea McClellin — the team cannot afford to lose Hightower.

Based off the Patriots keeping Hightower, it indicates they value him more than Collins, and Hightower could use that against the Patriots saying he should receive more money.

It will be something to monitor once the season wraps up and free agency hits.

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

Read More: Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins,

Tedy Bruschi to serve as honorary captain for Patriots in AFC championship

01.20.17 at 12:27 pm ET
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Tedy Bruschi was the honorary captain in the last AFC championship game played at Gillette Stadium. (Richard Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Tedy Bruschi was the honorary captain in the last AFC championship game played at Gillette Stadium. (Richard Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — The Patriots could have some good luck on their side Sunday afternoon.

Former linebacker Tedy Bruschi will serve as honorary captain for the Patriots for the AFC championship game. He’s served as honorary captain eight times since the start of 2009 and the team is 8-0 in those games.

“With an undefeated record in games that we have honored him, I can’t think of a more perfect player to serve as honorary captain this Sunday,” owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “He was called the perfect Patriot by head coach Bill Belichick, and he has lived up to that nickname with an 8-0 record in games where he has been a part of a Patriots celebration.”

Bruschi was an honorary captain in both the AFC championship and Super Bowl the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl in the 2014 season.

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

Read More: Tedy Bruschi,

Perfect active roster attendance for 3rd straight day at Patriots practice

01.20.17 at 12:06 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There are no legitimate health concerns for the Patriots going into Sunday’s AFC championship game.

For the third straight day, the Patriots had perfect active roster attendance at practice. The only player missing was practice squad defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton. He hasn’t practiced all week.

The team has had seven players limited in each of the previous two days.

The one player to watch will be Malcolm Mitchell. The rookie receiver has missed the last two games with a knee injury and is one of the seven players who have been limited this week.

Later this afternoon, the final injury report of the week will come out with game designations.

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

Who are the Patriots’ 2 most important players when it comes to stopping Le’Veon Bell?

01.20.17 at 11:15 am ET
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Dont'a Hightower will be one of the most important players in keeping Le'Veon Bell in check come Sunday. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

Dont’a Hightower will be one of the most important players in keeping Le’Veon Bell in check come Sunday. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — One of the biggest keys to Sunday’s AFC championship game for the Patriots will be stopping Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.

Bell has been a beast of late. In the two postseason games, he’s totaled 59 carries for 337 yards with two touchdowns. Dating back to the regular season, he’s gone over 118 yards rushing in seven out of his last eight games.

The biggest key to his success is his patient running style. He will even go as far as stopping behind the line of scrimmage before bolting to an opening.

For the Patriots, their defensive line will need to clog the holes and the linebackers can’t over pursue or miss tackles.

Given he’s the Patriots’ best defensive lineman, Alan Branch and linebacker Dont’a Hightower are the Patriots’ most important players when it comes to stopping Bell.

“We’ve got to do our best to stay on our job, and not to do anyone else’s job and stay in our gaps,” Branch said Thursday. “You’ve just got to do your job for the whole game. We can’t relax. We’ve got to stay on top of our game.”

In the Week 7 meeting, Branch played 40 of the 73 defensive snaps, but could be asked to do more this Sunday. He will be approaching it just like any other game, though.

“I never have extra excitement for any game, any team, because I got here doing what I’ve been doing all year,” Branch said. “I don’t see any reason to change it. Just go out there, have fun and try to make some plays.”

Hightower played 68 of 73 snaps in the first meeting, but it’s also worth noting how much the defense has changed since the game as it was before the Jamie Collins trade. The linebacker knows how patient Bell is and how he will need to stay disciplined.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Alan Branch, Dont'a Hightower, Le'Veon Bell,
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