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Patriots release 5, including WR Josh Boyce

08.31.15 at 5:51 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Monday they have released wide receiver Josh Boyce, wide receiver Jonathan Krause, tight end Jimmay Mundine, defensive lineman Joe Vellano and linebacker Dekoda Watson. The following is a portion of the announcement made by the team.

Boyce, 24, was originally drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round (102nd overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Texas Christian. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder, played in nine games with three starts as a rookie in 2013 and caught nine passes for 121 yards and returned nine kicks for 214 yards. Last season, Boyce began the season on the practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster on Dec. 27. He played in the regular-season finale vs. Buffalo but did not record any statistics. He was inactive for all three postseason games.

Krause, 23, originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Cleveland Browns out of Vanderbilt in 2014. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder, was released by Cleveland prior to the start of the regular season and joined the New England practice squad last October.

Mundine, 23, was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Kansas on June 11, 2015. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder, played in 45 games with 19 starts at tight end and closed his career as Kansas’€™ third-ranked tight end in terms of yards and receptions with 1,082 yards on 86 receptions.

Vellano, 26, originally joined the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Maryland on May 3, 2013. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder, made the 53-man roster as a rookie and played in 16 games with eight starts and also played in both postseason games that season. He finished the year with 48 total tackles and two sacks. Vellano began the 2014 season on the 53-man roster and then was part of the practice squad before being re-signed to the 53-man roster in the postseason. He played in five games with one start in the regular season and also saw action in the AFC Championship Game vs. Indianapolis. He finished the 2014 season with six total tackles and one sack.

Watson, 27, was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on May 12, 2015. The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder, has played in 70 NFL games, with seven starts, and has registered 120 tackles, three sacks, one interception, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries during his five-year NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2010-13), Jacksonville Jaguars (2014) and Dallas Cowboys (2014). Last season, he began the season with Jacksonville and appeared in nine games with one start. He posted nine tackles before being released on Nov. 11, 2014, and signing with Dallas on Nov. 14, 2014. He played in one game for the Cowboys, but did not accrue any statistics. He originally entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick (217th overall) by Tampa Bay in 2010 out of Florida State.

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

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Read More: Dekoda Watson, Jimmay Mundine, Joe Vellano, Jonathan Krause

Bill Belichick on D&H: ‘This is really 3 weeks in row we haven’t been very good on offense’

08.31.15 at 5:30 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday for his weekly appearance and talked about this time of the year in terms of roster cuts and how the team has performed through the first three preseason games. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

The Patriots’ offense, particularly Tom Brady and the starters, have struggled this preseason. Brady’s only points of the three preseason games came on the final drive of the first half Friday night in Carolina where Scott Chandler caught a touchdown pass from Brady to cap off a nice two-minute style drive.

Other than that drive, the offense has looked out of sync and has lacked rhythm and flow.

“This is really three weeks in row we haven’t been very good on offense,” Belichick said. “We weren’t really competitive in the first two games in any part of it and then this week against Carolina we weren’t very competitive offensively so we have to find a way to play a little better than that.”

Second-year defensive lineman Dominique Easley made two big plays Friday night — a sack of Cam Newton and also a tackle in the backfield for a loss. Easley’s play has drawn the attention of Belichick.

“He’s an explosive player that is very disruptive,” Belichick said. “Really I thought his best play in the game and one of the best plays that I’ve seen from our plays was when he tackled [Cam] Newton. That guy is hard to get on the ground and he really didn’t have a good shot at him. We’ve had a lot of players that have had better shots at quarterbacks than he did, but he was able to get a hand on him and drag him down. That was an impressive play. Dominique has had a really good training camp and I think he had a good spring and it’s been good to see him play. He’s played to a good level.”

By 4 p.m. Tuesday all NFL teams need to get their rosters down to 75 players. Belichick admitted it’s hard to release players, but everyone knows it’s part of the job.

“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s hard to tell guys that you can’t keep them and they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. In some cases they’ve helped you win a lot of games in the past. For each player that I have to release, I feel like I have to do what is best for the other 52 guys on the roster and nobody can really be entitled to anything. They have to earn it. They earn it based on their performance and they all know that.”

Here are more highlights from the conversation. For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Report: NFL willing to cut Tom Brady suspension to 3 games if he admitted guilt in Deflategate

08.31.15 at 4:10 pm ET
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It’s becoming more and more clear just how far apart the NFLPA and the NFL were in their negotiations in settling Tom Brady‘s appeal of his four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate.

According to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, the NFL never made a formal settlement offer, but indicated they were willing to cut the suspension to three games if Brady admitted Deflategate guilt.

Brady and the NFLPA have indicated they wouldn’t accept any penalty that had the quarterback admitting guilt.

The two sides met again with Judge Richard Berman in New York Monday, but a settlement was not reached. Berman said he will rule on the case at some point this week.

The Patriots’ regular season opener is a week from Thursday against the Steelers.

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

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Read More: Deflategate, Tom Brady,

With help from Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler embracing bigger role in Patriots secondary

08.31.15 at 2:29 pm ET
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Malcolm Butler

Malcolm Butler

FOXBORO — The biggest change to the secondary this season is Malcolm Butler’€™s move to left corner, where he has enormous shoes to fill with Darrelle Revis a Jet once again. While there will be questions in New England’€™s secondary until it shows sustained stability, the Patriots seem confident in Butler’€™s move to a key role in his second professional season.

“Much improved, much improved on everything,” Bill Belichick said Monday of Butler’€™s progression from his rookie season to now. “He worked hard in the offseason. It’€™s obviously just his second year, the change of lifestyle, becoming a professional athlete, working at this job every day, becoming more mature, more dependable, having a better understanding of what we do, having a better understanding of what our opponents do or the passing game in the National Football League. He’€™s made a huge jump from year one to year two as most of our other players have.”

It’€™s odd to know the pinnacle of a player’€™s career so early into it, as Butler will always be best-known for intercepting Russell Wilson in the final minute of the Super Bowl in February. The next thing Butler can do is establish himself as a starting cornerback, something he was not as a rookie due to both his lack of experience and the Patriots’€™ depth at the position.

The Patriots are now leaning on him to replace Revis and prevent New England’€™s secondary from getting picked on by opposing quarterbacks. As he continues to learn the ropes, he’€™s leaning on former All-Pro cornerback and current very-much-non All Pro cornerback Devin McCourty.

A star at safety, McCourty isn’€™t the oldest member of the Patriots’€™ secondary, but he’€™s certainly the best. As he enters his sixth season in the NFL, McCourty is being looked to as a leader of a group that lost Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in the offseason.

“That’s the quarterback of the defense I would say, him and Mayo,” Butler said Monday. “Devin back there gets us fired up for the game. He doesn’t only lead by example, but his words lead by action. Just a great player, great leader, doing great things.”

McCourty returned Butler’€™s praise.

“He’€™s a hard worker,” McCourty said of Butler. “I think that started last year, I guess everyone knows him from coming in in the Super Bowl, but since he came in here in OTAs and everything, he’€™s just been putting in a ton of hard work.”

The beginning of McCourty’€™s career was rather odd. He was an immediate star cornerback as a rookie following his first-round selection, but he regressed as a corner the next season. Since then, he’€™s becoming one of the top safeties in the league.

Butler, on the other hand, was undrafted and started just one game as a rookie. The expectations on him are very high, as his cornerback spot is where many feel the Patriots are set; the right corner spot is currently more up in the air, with Tarell Brown the favorite at the moment.

Given how well Butler has performed in the preseason, it’€™s reasonable to agree with that line of thinking. Belichick feels OK with Butler where he is because he feels that players drastically improve from their rookie seasons to their second seasons.

“I think that’€™s where players make the biggest leap is A, you have that understanding of what it’€™s going to be like. It’€™s not new; you at least know what training camp is going to be like, what a regular season is going to be like, what a game is going to be like, what the coaches expect, all those kinds of things,” Belichick said. “So you have a little bit better idea of being able to plan or anticipate for it, but then the knowledge that you have about yourself, about your opponents, about how things worked, and that’€™s a huge amount of information that those second-year players have that the rookies just don’€™t have no matter how smart they are or how hard they work or whatever they’€™ve been exposed to in the past, some more than others. But going through it and experiencing it is invaluable, really.”

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Read More: Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler,

How Rob Gronkowski prepares for regular season without playing in preseason games

08.31.15 at 2:04 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski talked about getting ready for the regular season without playing in preseason games. (WEEI.com)

Rob Gronkowski talked about getting ready for the regular season without playing in preseason games. (WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski hasn’t played in a preseason game since 2012.

Whether it’s been the tight end coming off an injury the season prior, or the team just wanting him to stay healthy for the regular season, Gronkowski playing in the preseason simply isn’t worth it.

Since he isn’t getting preseason game reps, he still needs to get his body in game shape so he’s ready for Week 1. The tight end said it comes down to working hard and putting in extra time after practice.

“To get ready for the season, mentally and physically you have to be up on the playbook. You have to know your plays. During the meetings you need to know what you have to do when you step out on the field,” Gronkowski said. “The physical part, you have to be in the weight room when you have some time off to keep your muscles strong and work yourself hard. Push your body to the limit during camp and practice harder than the games. Go out there and do a little extra conditioning so when the season comes, it’s a long haul, your body is mentally and physically ready.”

It’s unlikely Gronkowski and many other starters play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Giants.

The Patriots open the season Thursday, Sept. 10 at home against the Steelers. Playing their first regular season game on a Thursday night provides some challenges, according to coach Bill Belichick, but Gronkowski said it will just be like a regular week for him.

“I’ve never played a Thursday night game opening up so I kind of feel like it won’t change my preparation at all because I know it’s the first game of the season for myself,” he said. “I just have to go out there the days leading up to the game and prepare for the game like any other time.”

In the third preseason game the Patriots lost fullback James Develin to a reported broken tibia — a player Gronkowski called the team’s “thumper.”

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Read More: James Develin, Rob Gronkowski,

Danny Amendola on M&F: ‘There’s no doubt [Rob Gronkowski] is the league’s best tight end’

08.31.15 at 2:01 pm ET
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Patriots wideout Danny Amendola joined Merloni & Fauria as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday to talk about the Reggie Wayne signing and other team news. To hear the interview, go to the Merloni & Fauria audio on demand page.

Amendola discussed the value a veteran with Wayne’s experience provides for the team.

“Guy’s been in the league for 15 years, so he’s been through quite a few training camps,” Amendola said. “He’s a guy who’s been around forever and has a lot of knowledge and insight on how to play the position. It’s great to have a guy like that in the room.

“He’s a vet and he’s picking it up very quickly. He’s running around in practice really well still and trying to make as many plays as he can. It’s been good to get to know him here for the last week and in the future.”

Following Amendola’s 20-yard catch in Friday’s preseason game against the Panthers, the Patriots offense appeared to get into more of a rhythm. When asked if that faster tempo would be a theme throughout the season, Amendola indicated it did give the offense some options.

“We made some good plays on that drive,” Amendola said. “We didn’t get what we wanted to get done on the previous couple drives, but we got points going into the half and we got some good work. We played at a higher tempo on that drive so we got some looks that we wanted to see, guys made plays when we needed them to and it was a positive going into the locker room.”

With Rob Gronkowski sitting out the rest of the preseason, Amendola said the offense will continue to do what it always does on the field even without his gigantic presence.

“No doubt, Gronk is a huge part of the offense,” Amendola said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can make plays on this offense too. [Scott] Chandler made some plays, [Michael Hoomanawanui] made some plays.

“We’re focused on what we need to do, specifically trying to [learn] our routes and [make] our conversions and stuff like that. There’s no doubt Gronk’s one of the best in the league. He’s our best player, he’s the league’s best tight end.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

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Read More: Danny Amendola,

Dont’a Hightower on M&F: ‘It feels good to actually be back out there with my teammates’

08.31.15 at 1:52 pm ET
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Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower joined Merloni & Fauria as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday to talk about his return to game action in Friday’s preseason game against the Panthers. To hear the interview, visit the Merloni & Fauria audio on demand page.

Hightower got into his first game action of the preseason Friday, as he was slowed following shoulder surgery during the offseason

“It feels good to actually be back out there with my teammates,” he said. “I didn’t get to hit as much as I wanted to, obviously, but I’m looking forward to the next game.”

He said this experience is important because it will help him get into game shape before the regular season begins.

“Once you get two or three weeks into the season you don’t get to hit as much,” he said. “You don’t get to make your body a callus, I guess. Through training camp, through all that banging and getting that soreness out, so come Week 3 or Week 4, you feel like it’s Week 8. That’s why during training camp I wanted to get out there and hit as much as I can so I’m not new to it, and I’ve tested out my shoulder and all that stuff.”

When asked about transitioning to inside linebacker during his rookie season following the injury to Jerod Mayo, Hightower said it took him a while to get acclimated to the new position.

“What we teach in that room, it took me a little bit longer to kind of get a hold of it, being a younger guy, is that most of the time linebackers, everybody kind of looks to them for guidance or what happened, like, ‘What do we need to fix?’ ” Hightower said. “So in that first year, I knew the defense, but I didn’t know it obviously as well as I should. And having they guys around me, there wasn’t a lot of veterans, and it just sucked. I played well and it showed. And then in those last three or four games in that first year, I finally found my niche, I found like what do I need to to make myself play. Like, let me make people run into me instead of letting me chase them, like Mayo. Mayo’s fast. I’m not as fast as Mayo. I finally found my niche and it helped a lot. That learning curve really helped me a lot.”

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