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Patriots officially announce retirement of OL Stephen Neal

03.02.11 at 6:41 pm ET
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Stephen Neal (AP)

The Patriots have issued a press release stating that offensive lineman Stephen Neal has announced his retirement. Here is a portion of the statement from the team:

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Patriots guard Stephen Neal announced his retirement today, closing his 10-year career as a member of the Patriots offensive line.

Neal was a championship wrestler at Cal State-Bakersfield and did not play football in college. During his college career he wrestled against and defeated former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar and also earned the Dan Hodge Award, known as the Heisman Trophy of collegiate wrestling.

Neal signed with the Patriots as a rookie free agent in 2001. After being released by the Patriots following training camp, he spent time on the Philadelphia practice squad before returning to the Patriots when he signed to New England’s active roster in December of 2001.

He earned his first career start in his second NFL game on Oct. 13, 2002 vs. Green Bay, but sustained a season-ending injury in that game. After missing the 2003 season, Neal returned in 2004 to wrestle away a starting position at right guard, a position he held for 92 games over the next seven years. During that time, Neal was a part of an offensive line that helped the Patriots finish among the top ten in total offense six times: 2004 (7), 2005 (7), 2007 (1), 2008 (5), 2009 (3) and 2010 (8).

Neal started 17 of 19 games in 2004, including all three playoff games, and celebrated his third Super Bowl Championship in four years with a 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. That year, the Patriots offensive line paved the way for Corey Dillon, who set the Patriots’ single-season rushing record with 1,635 yards. In 2007, he helped power an offense that set all-time NFL records with 589 points and 75 touchdowns and contributed to the first 16-0 regular season since the league expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978. Once again, the Patriots won the AFC East Division Championship and Neal started all three playoff games, including his second Super Bowl in four years.

Neal started 81 of the 86 career regular-season games in which he appeared. He also started in each of the 12 postseason games in which he played with the Patriots. Last season, Neal started the first eight games of the season before being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

Read More: Brock Lesnar, Corey Dillon, Dan Hodge, Patriots

Report: Patriots’ offensive lineman Stephen Neal set to retire

03.02.11 at 6:07 pm ET
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Patriots offensive lineman Stephen Neal is listed as “reserve/retired” on the NFL’s internal transaction report, an indication he is going to retire. The news, which was first reported by ESPN Boston, indicates Neal’s career has likely come to an end. A former collegiate wrestler at Cal State-Bakersfield who signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2001, the 34-year-old Neal became a full-time starter in 2004 at right guard, starting 81 of a possible 86 games over the course of his professional career. Neal suffered a shoulder injury midway through the 2010 season and ended the year on injured reserve.

Read More: Stephen Neal,

Report: Patriots extend tender to Green-Ellis

03.02.11 at 5:19 pm ET
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According to a report from Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald, the Patriots have extended a restricted free-agent tender to running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The tender is at a second-round compensation level.

Green-Ellis had a breakout season in 2010, rushing for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns, a total that ranked second in the NFL. This is the first restricted free-agent tender the Patriots have extended this offseason.

Todd McShay on D&C: Patriots should focus on defense with 17th pick

03.02.11 at 10:40 am ET
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ESPN’s Todd McShay joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning to discuss the NFL combine and draft. He talked about how Cam Newton did at the combine and where he might go in the draft, as well as who the Patriots might be looking at with the 17th pick.

McShay discussed why the combine has become so popular. “It’s hard to explain,” he said. “My guess is the more we get to understand it and the more fans get to know more than just the 40-yard dash and understand all the different drills and the importance of it, I think that’s part of it. They can watch things and realize what’s going on.

“And secondly, let’s face it, this whole draft process is all because we’re NFL fans and fanatics and lunatics, and it’s just a chance to be talking during the offseason about the NFL.”

Despite that, McShay said the combine itself is still only a small part of what goes into scouting player. “It’s really difficult to do a percentage. But if I had to, I’ve always gone by the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the entire process is game tape and studying and realizing what you’re looking for. Then 20 percent is the all-star game, the interviews, the 1-on-1 and obviously the whole combine experience.

“If you were to break the combine down into percentages, I’d go 80/20 there as well. Eighty for the medical and interview and then 20 percent is what you actually see in the workouts and the 40-yard dash.

“Those things are nice and it’s good to see,” McShay continued. “Sometimes it’ll be a red flag and you’ll have to go back and take a look at things and say, ‘Maybe I gave him too much credit for his speed and agility because he was going up against poor competition.’

“It can be helpful in that way, but the reality of it is you have to pass these medical exams. And you have to be a player when the 15 minutes are over, in the interviews, those teams, especially the position coaches and head coach, have to have a good feel about you.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Aldon Smith, Cam Newton, Mark Herzlich post-combine Pats Chat with Christopher Price and D.J. Bean

03.02.11 at 10:31 am ET
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Because workplace productivity is overrated, stop by the post-combine Pats Chat Wednesday at 11 a.m. With the annual NFL scouting combine in the rearview mirror, we’ll talk Patriots and how things look heading into the draft. We’ll also break down how the top prospects looked, and make a few predictions as to who is going to go where in the 2011 NFL Draft.

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Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Patriots,

Judge’s ruling on owners’ ‘lockout insurance’ a win for NFLPA

03.01.11 at 8:30 pm ET
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The NFL players won a major victory on Tuesday, as a federal judge backed the NFLPA in a dispute over the release of television revenue.

U.S. District Judge David Doty said that the league’s decision to carve out $4 billion in additional TV revenue — referred to some as “lockout insurance” — violated its agreement with the union, which had argued that the league was effectively stockpiling money to prepare for a lockout.

The union had asked that the TV money be placed in escrow until the end of any lockout.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello downplayed the significance of the ruling, telling The Associated Press in an e-mail that clubs were “prepared for any contingency.”

“Today’s ruling will have no effect on our efforts to negotiate a new, balanced labor agreement,” Aiello wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the players were clearly heartened by the ruling.

“This ruling means there’s irrefutable evidence that owners had a premeditated plan to lockout players and fans,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “The players want to play football. That is the only goal we are focused on.”

The league’s agreement with players expires at midnight Thursday night, and owners have said they would institute a lockout if no new agreement is reached.

Read More: David Doty, Greg Aiello, NFLPA,

Has former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll already gotten the Dolphins into trouble?

03.01.11 at 4:20 pm ET
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Brian Daboll (AP)

Interesting goings on down in Miami — Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne talked to the media about new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and sounded excited about the new direction that they plan on taking down in Miami. Daboll, a former Patriots assistant, is installing a new system with the Dolphins, one that Henne describes as “similar to what I was used to at Michigan. It’s a New England offense — New England with a little Jets in it. It’s a good offense for a quarterback.”

No shock there, as Daboll made his bones as an assistant under Bill Belichick in New England. Daboll served as the Patriots’ defensive coaching assistant from 2000 to 2001, and then was the wide receivers’ coach from 2002 until 2006. (He was one of the assistants who left with Eric Mangini, becoming the Jets’ quarterbacks coach in 2007 and 2008, and later, serving as Mangini’s offensive coordinator with the Browns in 2009 and 2010.)

However, the voluntary meetings between Henne and Daboll — get-togethers that are apparently designed to have Henne help install the offense with the other Dolphins in case of a lockout — appear to be in violation of the collective bargaining agreement, as interpreted by a recent NFL memo to each team that said players are not to meet with coaches and receive playbooks during this time in the offseason. Henne’s declaration could put Miami coach Tony Sparano in jeopardy of an NFL fine. (UPDATE: It appears that the Dolphins will not be punished, according to Jeff Darlington of the Miami Herald.)

Of course, many former New England players and executives probably aren’t surprised that something like this has happened to Daboll. When Daboll was initially hired by Miami, former Patriots fullback Heath Evans took a shot at the hiring, saying, “The Dolphins probably just got worse. … When he was in New England, he was never a guy that I would have considered the brains of the operation.” And at the NFL scouting combine over the weekend, former Patriots’ GM Scott Pioli was asked by Miami reporters what his memories of Daboll were when they were together in New England.

“I remember that [Daboll] was a part of a great deal of success there,” Pioli said, simply. Whoa.

For their part, the Dolphins are backing Daboll. This past weekend at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, GM Jeff Ireland said Daboll’s track record was what sold him on Miami.

“His history with quarterbacks, his history being a defensive coach and offensive coach. Coach Sparano and myself were really impressed with the way he put a plan together for our offensive players on the football team,” Ireland said. “I wasn’t necessarily looking at what his production was with Cleveland. I know there were some things there that were different, but we’ve got different personnel and the way he presented his play with us with our personnel was very impressive.”

In addition, quarterback Chad Pennington — who played for Daboll in New York and was in Miami the last three seasons in Miami — said Daboll was a tremendous teacher.

“A lot of the coverage knowledge that I have and understanding defenses comes from Brian,” Pennington recently told the Palm Beach Post. “The year I spent with him, I just learned so much about how defenses attack offenses and all of the nuances of coverage that I didn’t understand before.”

Read More: Brian Daboll, Chad Henne, Chad Pennington, Eric Mangini
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