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Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah on Shane Vereen: ‘Oh man, he’s nasty’

02.20.15 at 1:11 pm ET
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Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah raved about Shane Vereen at the NFL combine this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah raved about Shane Vereen at the NFL combine this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

With the Patriots potentially losing two running backs via free agency in Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, the team could be in the market for a running back in the draft.

One of those backs could be Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. He ran for over 1,000 yards in his final three seasons at Nebraska, including 1,611 yards on 264 carries in his senior year. He also can catch passes out of the backfield if needed, as he finished his career at Nebraska with 73 receptions.

If the Patriots were to select Abdullah (would seemingly have to be with one of their top picks as he is projected to go in Rounds 2 or 3), he would be replacing Vereen — someone who Abdullah thinks is very talented.

“Oh man, he’€™s nasty. He’€™s nasty,” he told reporters at the NFL combine. “I watch a lot of his film to help myself out on route running. He runs the best option route, I feel like, in the NFL right now. He does a good job of stemming the linebackers, snapping them off, using his head to get some separation. Outstanding hands. A guy who’€™s going to be in the league a long time if he continues to do that.”€

As for a potential role in the NFL, Abdullah said he would do whatever is asked of him.

“I never like to put myself just in a role,” he said. “I like to be a guy who can play first down, second down, third down, but if a team drafts me and says, hey, this year, this is what we need you to do, yes sir, I’€™ll do that.”€

The one issue Abdullah has is fumbling. The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder fumbled 24 times and lost 17 of them during his four years as a Cornhusker, something that would not go over well in New England with how much Bill Belichick values ball security.

He sees this as easily correctable.

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Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Ameer Abdullah, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley

Free Agent Snapshot: Roy Helu

02.20.15 at 12:22 pm ET
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Roy Helu will be a free agent for the first time of his career. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Roy Helu will be a free agent for the first time of his career. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’€™€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’€™€™re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We already featured C.J. Spiller,  Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Rahim Moore, Charles Clay, Jerry Hughes, Pernell McPhee, Orlando Franklin and Dane Fletcher. Today we’ll feature Roy Helu.

Roy Helu
Position: Running back
Age: 26 (Dec. 7, 1988)
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 215 pounds

The skinny: The running back has spent his first four seasons in the league with the Redskins, but a change of scenery might do Helu a world of good. After his rookie season where he ran for 640 yards on 151 carries, and also caught 49 passes for 379 yards, he hasn’t done much in his last three years partly because he’s shared duties with Alfred Morris. In 2012 he only played in three games because of Achilles and turf toe injuries. Although he was placed on season-ending injured reserve, he did bounce back in his last two seasons to not let the injuries affect his durability. He played in 16 and 14 games the last two seasons respectively — although he wasn’t as productive as in his rookie season.

Over the past two seasons Helu has totaled 490 yards rushing and five touchdowns. He’s also caught 73 passes for 728 yards and two touchdowns. Helu’s strength is catching passes out of the backfield, something not many running backs can do. Helu has also played on special teams throughout his career, adding to his potential value.

By the numbers: 11.4 – Average yards per catch for Helu in 2014, a very impressive number for a running back.

Why it would work: With Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen set to become free agents, the Patriots could potentially be in need of a running back, especially a veteran as they have LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, James White and Tyler Gaffney already on their roster, but besides Blount all will be entering either their first or second year in the league. Coach Bill Belichick always seems to find a veteran at each position at a low cost to bring in during training camp and see how things work out. With the three running backs currently on the roster all very young in age, bringing in a veteran as opposed to filling the need through the draft might be the better route to go. Also, with Helu’s experience on special teams and how much Belichick values that, it’s just another reason he could be appealing to the Patriots.

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Read More: 2015 Free Agent Snapshot, Alfred Morris, Roy Helu, Shane Vereen

Spotted: Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan walk into NFL combine together

02.20.15 at 11:22 am ET
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NFL Network cameras caught two AFC East coaches, Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan walking into the NFL combine in Indianapolis together on Friday morning. Ryan was wearing a throwback Thurman Thomas No. 34 Bills jersey, and Belichick a gray hoodie for his charitable foundation.

Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan,

NFL combine preview: Tight ends

02.20.15 at 10:12 am ET
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On Wednesday and Thursday, we covered the wide receivers and running backs, respectively. In this post we’ll knock down the top 10 tight ends. I’ll be back with the quarterbacks Saturday morning. As always, I’ll be ranking these players with an eye toward future fantasy appeal, and this year’s tight end class is a bit more appealing that the 2013 group from that perspective.

As with the receivers and backs, I’ve broken the tight ends into tiers. As we move through the draft process, these rankings may move a bit, though I really doubt that anybody makes a move for the top spot. I’m that impressed with Maxx Williams. I’ll be posting full scouting reports on most of these tight ends in the coming weeks. Check later Friday, when Jim Hackett and I will be talking combine and looking ahead to 2015 fantasy drafts.

Tier 1

Maxx Williams, Minnesota

Yes, I am giving him his own tier. Williams is such a potent weapon as a receiver that I think he merits the distinction. The ex-Minnesota star is a mismatch nightmare, as I said the other day when I speculated about Williams as a potential Patriot. And, as much as I want to emphasize Williams’ receiving upside, it should be noted that he’s a solid blocker both in-line and out in space. He would fit right in on a team like the Patriots or the Eagles. If Chip Kelly fails to move up for Marcus Mariota, Williams would be a nice consolation prize.

Tier 2

Devin Funchess, Michigan
Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
Clive Walford, Miami
Ben Koyack, Notre Dame

Funchess is working out as a receiver, and that most likely has something to do with his agent and the Jimmy Graham situation from last season. In my view, after breaking down his game film, Funchess is worth more as a joker tight end in the Aaron Hernandez mold than he is as a wide receiver. In the end, it may only be semantics. He’ll be a chess piece for some team, but he’s not game-ready. I expect a typical learning curve. Heuerman is an interesting player. He’s prototypically sized and I like his chances of early success because he’s been well-schooled by Urban Meyer. A good combine could raise his profile considerable. Walford is a traditional two-way tight end and he’s close to game-ready. His blocking chops should make him an every-down player eventually, and that lends itself to fantasy value. Koyack’s inclusion in Tier 2 may surprise some people, but I like his overall game. He’s a versatile receiver with good hands and he’s got plenty of potential as a blocker.

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Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Ben Koyack, Clive Walford, Devin Funchess

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson ‘been thinking about that one yard for the past 17 days’

02.20.15 at 9:13 am ET
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On Thursday, Russell Wilson posted a video directed at Seahawks fans on the Players’ Tribune website, prefaced by two written paragraphs. In his post, Wilson took “full responsibility” for Super Bowl XLIX and said that he wants to get back to the championship game again and be remembered for something else.

“One yard,” he wrote. “I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking about that one yard for the past 17 days. Everyone wants to know how I feel. Well … it’s complicated. Walking off that field in Arizona and seeing disappointed Seahawks fans in the stands was anguish. How could I not feel like I let them down? I tried to be positive, but I’m not perfect. I have been away from the game for almost three weeks, trying to escape football and clear my mind. But the funny thing is, I’ve never felt hungrier to get in the weight room and the film room, and keep pushing until we get to Super Bowl 50.

“How do I feel?” he added. “I don’t know if I can fit it into a soundbite. I definitely couldn’t fit it into a 30-second Instagram video. So, after the Players’ Tribune roundtable event on Saturday, I had the camera crew stick around so I could talk it out. Sorry if it’s not perfect. There was no script here. I just wanted to talk directly to the 12s. This is for you.”

Wilson began the video, titled “Call Me Crazy,” by expressing how much he hates losing and how when it hit him that the Seahawks had lost, it was tough.

“It’s a tough feeling of losing,” he said. “If anybody hates losing, I hate losing, and so being in that circumstance on the field in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX and then making a play and us, me feeling I didn’t make the play and knowing that it’s over, all the hard work that you’ve put in all season long, and all the amazing plays, all the plays that you didn’t make, all the great games, all the comeback wins, all the things comes down to that one moment and it feels like it’s lost.”

Wilson talked about the importance of accountability and stressed how he asks himself how he can get better every day and learn something he’s never learned before, and better than he’s ever learned it. He said he could rehash the Super Bowl and that final drive, but stated that he made the video to talk about his mindset, not the game.

“It’s about right now, what can I do today, what can I do for my teammates?” he said. “How can I be a better teammate, how can I be a better leader, and if I can do that then the rest will handle itself.

“The mindset doesn’t change, the focus doesn’t change,” he continued. “The belief that I’m going to get there again and we’re going to do it better than it’s ever done, and that’s never going to change for me, no matter what the circumstances are, and that’s why I’ve been to two Super Bowls. That’s why I’ve been able to win a lot of football games because of the guys I have around me, because of the coaching staff because of the amazing fans, we’ve got that best fans in the National Football League, but also because I believe in my mindset.

“I believe my mindset is going to take me further than anyone else has ever gone, and I just believe that,” Wilson said. “I’m going to be the last guy to ever give up, I’m going to be the last guy to not take a risk, and I think that great things happen when you’re able to step out and make some crazy plays at times and just trust in your preparation and trust in all the things you’ve been able to do. And so through all the ups and downs and through all the questions and wondering what happened and all that, I’m prepared for the next moment and that’s all I know.

“In my mind, I believe I have a killer instinct. I believe that I’m just going to keep going and keep playing and keep fighting and keep doing everything that I can to be successful, and there’s a difference between just being successful and being significant, so my goal is to be significant. My goal is to make a difference, my goal is to do it better than anybody’s ever done it. Call me crazy, call me insane, I don’t know, but I believe I’ll get there again.”

Read More: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks,

Former Patriots OC Bill O’Brien: ‘I felt great watching the Patriots win’ Super Bowl XLIX

02.19.15 at 8:40 pm ET
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Houston head coach Bill O'Brien had high praise for Ryan Mallett on Thursday. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Houston head coach Bill O’Brien had high praise for Ryan Mallett on Thursday. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Although Bill O’Brien is the head coach of the Houston Texans, he made a name for himself as an assistant coach with the Patriots, his first NFL gig, so he had a rooting interest in Super Bowl XLIX.

In the end he couldn’t have been happier for the Patriots, which include some of his best friends in the league.

“It was an unbelievable game,” O’Brien told reporters at the NFL combine Thursday. “It was fun to watch. A lot of those guys are my close friends. A lot of those coaches, Josh McDaniels, Nick Caserio, the director of player personnel there, those two guys are two of my best friends. Obviously my relationship with Bill [Belichick], I felt great for those guys. Tom Brady, what more can you say about a guy that has persevered throughout his career and played at such a high level, goes and wins another Super Bowl. You can’€™t say enough about him.

“At the same time, you’€™re watching that game and you’€™re wishing and you’€™re hoping that some day the Houston Texans are in that game. That’€™s the nature of the business. I felt great watching the Patriots win that game for those guys that were in it.’€

O’Brien got his start in the NFL as an assistant with the Patriots in 2007. He then was the wide receivers coach in 2008 before being elevated to quarterback’s coach from 2009-10, and finally he was the offensive coordinator in 2011 before departing for the head coaching job at Penn State. O’Brien did make it back to the NFL taking the head coaching job with Houston.

It was during that time in New England where O’Brien coached quarterback Ryan Mallett who was traded to Houston during training camp, and started two games in Houston before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury. O’Brien was happy to get a chance to coach Mallett again.

Now with Mallett being a free agent, he wants him back in a Texans uniform.

“Whenever the date that we actually executed the trade with New England, that’€™s really when
we knew it was going to happen,” said O’Brien. “I’€™ve known Ryan since his rookie year. I coached him his rookie year. Really have a good connection with Ryan. George Godsey our quarterback coach was a real good connection, too. He enjoys playing in our system. We enjoy coaching him.

“Unfortunately, he only played two games due to injury. He played on good game and then one game where he was out there playing hurt. That’€™s not why we lost the game, but he tried to struggle through a chest injury there. He’€™s doing better. He’€™s rehabbing and we’€™d like to have him back in Houston.”

Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Bill O'Brien, Ryan Mallett,

Chuck Pagano: Theory Colts deflated football on their sideline is ‘ludicrous’

02.19.15 at 5:22 pm ET
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Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Thursday he didn't know his organization has suspicions about the Patriots before the AFC title game. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Thursday he didn’t know his organization has suspicions about the Patriots before the AFC title game. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

For those who believe the theory that the Colts deflated a football in the AFC title game after D’Qwell Jackson’s interception leading to the Deflategate scandal, Colts coach Chuck Pagano strongly denied that even being a possibility.

“That’€™s ludicrous,” he told reporters at the NFL combine Thursday.

Pagano said he hasn’t reached out to Bill Belichick since the game. The Colts head coach also said he had no idea there were suspicions on team’s behalf of the Patriots’ footballs, which contradicts what general manager Ryan Grigson said earlier in the day that the organization notified the NFL the week leading into the game of some concerns.

“To be honest with you I have no idea,” he said. “Until after they start talking about it a day later, as a coach I’€™m just trying to get a first down, try to get them off the field, which we didn’€™t do a very good job of. As far as I’€™m concerned, I had no idea.”

Pagano is now looking forward to when the Ted Wells report is released following the league’s investigation.

“There’€™s an investigation that’€™s going on,” said Pagano. “When the report comes out we’€™re all anticipating to see what’€™s in that report then we’€™ll go from there. I trust … our league does such a great job of making sure everybody does the right thing.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Bill Belichick, Chuck Pagano, Deflategate
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