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Dan Connolly: ‘An honor’ to be named an offensive captain

09.03.14 at 7:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Now that the dust has settled and Logan Mankins is officially a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots offensive line has moved on and begun life without the former captain and nine-year member of the team.

Dan Connolly was named an offensive captain Wednesday for the first time in his nine years in the league, but he knows he can’t individually take over for what Mankins left, as it is going to take a group effort.

“I think as a whole offensive line we have a good group of guys,” Connolly said. “We didn’t just follow one guy. Yes, [Mankins] was our leader, but we all take it upon ourselves to kind of take over that role and I guess they’ve elected my as an offensive captain. It’s an honor.  Everybody has to do their part to get ready for the game.”

The 32-year-old’s story is unique as he played in just two games in his first two seasons in the league with the Jaguars and then joined the Patriots’ practice squad for two more seasons before appearing in four games during the 2009 season. Over the past four years, Connolly has started in 54 of 57 games. Even with that, entering this year, he was looked at by some as a possible cut because of his $3 million salary as a lineman at age 32.

Seeing first-hand how his perseverance paid off, naturally he can be looked up to by some of the younger players on the team.

“Everything’s been worthwhile the entire way — just having a job,” Connolly said. “Right now, it’s a great honor but we have a game this week so I’m going to put all my focus into that.”

While it remains to be seen exactly where Connolly will play on the line this coming week  — he’s played center as well as right and left guard over the course of his career — he’s already speaking like a Patriot captain would.

“We each individually need to do our job and we know our opponent that is in front of us and we each need to go out there, prepare and play tough,” he said.

Read More: Dan Connolly,

Report: Patriots cut ties with 3, including DT Kelcy Quarles

09.03.14 at 6:30 pm ET
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The Patriots waived defensive tackles Kelcy Quarles and Bruce Gaston and released practice squad long snapper Charley Hughlett on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Quarles was claimed off waivers from the Giants on Sunday, while Gaston was acquired after being released by the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Hughlett was picked up after the team released long snapper Danny Aiken as part of their final cuts.

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

Read More: Bruce Gaston, Charley Hughlett, Kelcy Quarles,

Tom Brady explains why he has confidence in his offense: ‘We have enough inventory’

09.03.14 at 5:55 pm ET
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A bearded Tom Brady speaks Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

A bearded Tom Brady speaks Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — As Tom Brady prepares for his 15th NFL season, there’s plenty of reason to think he’s got another great chance at returning to the Super Bowl.

Perhaps the biggest reason for this optimism is that the Patriots have one of the best quarterbacks in history running an offense that’s been in place, essentially since he and Bill Belichick arrived in 2000.

Toss in the familiarity with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the weapons of Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen, and one can see there are plenty of options and answers on offense. Quite simply, if something isn’t working right out of the gate in a game, Brady has and will switch gears without hesitation.

Take away the deep ball, and he’ll look for Gronk down the seam or go to Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley to loosen things up at the line of scrimmage. Play off the line of scrimmage and you’ve got Edelman, Danny Amendola and Gronkowski and now Tim Wright doing damage underneath and in open areas.

So if one phase of the game plan meant to catch the opponent off guard, Brady says he and the staff move quickly onto another. And on Wednesday, he gave some interesting insight as to how he and McDaniels move on.

“Pretty quickly. Part of the advantage of experience is you don’€™t have to wait until the next day to figure out how to make a correction versus a particular look or front or coverage or blitz or something like that. We have enough inventory in our offense to immediately move on to the next thing over the course of maybe a play for Josh, maybe a series for me when we go over there and get a chance to talk about what they’€™re doing and how they’€™re trying to defend us. There is always some uncertainty on opening day because they’€™ve been preparing for us a long time, we’€™ve been preparing for them a long time,” Brady said.

“Hopefully we’€™re doing a lot of things that they’€™re not working on this week, but that’€™s kind of the advantage of opening day. And vice versa, there’€™s an advantage for them. How that all evens out, we’€™ll see. Ultimately, it comes down to the fundamentals, and we work really hard on fundamentals because if the guy is open and I can’€™t hit it, it’€™s bad. If they can’€™t cover us, that’€™s bad for them.

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Read More: Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,

TE Rob Gronkowski (knee) among 4 limited for Patriots at Wednesday practice

09.03.14 at 5:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski (knee) was one of four Patriots who were limited at practice on Wednesday, as New England continues preparations for the regular-season opener against the Dolphins in Miami.

Gronkowski, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Browns last December, has been working his way back over the course of the spring and summer. He proclaimed himself good to go on Monday but Patriots coach Bill Belichick pumped the brakes, saying that he was “glad that Rob’€™s optimistic about his situation,” but that the team will make the ultimate decision on his playing status.

Here’s a look at the complete report:

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DE Michael Buchanan (ankle)
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)
DT Chris Jones (ankle)
DT Sealver Siliga (hand)

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

Read More: Chris Jones, Michael Buchanan, Rob Gronkowski, Sealver Siliga

Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on what to expect in Patriots 2014 season opener

09.03.14 at 5:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview the 2014 season opener for the New England Patriots as they travel to South Florida on Sunday to take on the Miami Dolphins. Petraglia and Price talk about what head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady had to say about their 15th season in the NFL together and what it means for the Patriots’ chances of having another very successful season and getting the season off on the right foot.

Read More: Chris Price, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Mike Petraglia

Stevan Ridley on fumbling issues: ‘This year is a new year, it’s a new opportunity’

09.03.14 at 5:15 pm ET
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Stevan Ridley

Stevan Ridley

FOXBORO — The last time the Patriots went down to Miami in Week 15 of last season, running back Stevan Ridley barely played, as he finished with just eight carries for 34 yards partly due to his fumbling issues throughout the year.

With the start of a new season and a clean slate, Ridley is putting last year in the rear-view mirror and looking forward to a better trip to South Florida this time around for Sunday’€™s season-opener.

“I’€™ve learned a lot over the four years,” said Ridley. “What I have learned is you have to leave the past in the past. This year is a new year. It’€™s a new opportunity and I always said a little bit of adversity never hurts anybody.”

Adversity is nothing new for Ridley as he has fumbled eight times in the past two seasons –€“ four in each year — tying him for the fifth-most in the entire NFL among running backs last season.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick rarely has any patience for putting the ball on the ground, sometimes taking the running back completely out of the game after he fumbled and even went as far as listing him as a healthy inactive for Week 13 in Houston last season.

“€œWhat I strive to do every day is try to be the best running back that I can be to help us be productive, to help us win games,”€ Ridley said. “That doesn’€™t mean I’€™m going to be perfect and that I’€™m going to be out there making a bunch of errors, but it does mean that I have every day to come out here and try to be better than I was the day before and that’€™s all that I can do.”

Quarterback Tom Brady, who has handed the ball off to Ridley for all three of his years in the league, still has a great deal of confidence in him despite his reoccurring fumbling issues and is looking forward to watching him hopefully bounce back in 2014.

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Read More: Stevan Ridley, Tom Brady,

Patriots sign Chris Barker, 2 others to practice squad, cut McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Kanorris Davis and Daxton Swanson

09.03.14 at 3:34 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots continue to shuffle their practice squad in the days leading up to the season opener in Miami.

The team announced three cuts from the practice squad on Wednesday while signing three more to the practice squad. Among the cuts is quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson, 26, is a third-year player out of Sacramento State, who has been with Miami (2011), Minnesota (2012-2013) and San Francisco (2013). He was signed to the Patriots practice squad on Sept. 1, 2014. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder, was originally signed by San Francisco on July 28, 2011, as a rookie free agent.

As for the additions to p-squad, they include Chris Barker, an offensive lineman who spent training camp with the Patriots, providing depth in the trenches.

The Patriots also announced the signings of tight end Allen Reisner and running back Marcus Thigpen. Thigpen and Don Jones are former Dolphins who signed this week with the Patriots and could provide some insight as the Patriots look ahead to Sunday.

In addition to Bethel-Thompson, S Kanorris Davis and DB Daxton Swanson were released from the practice squad.

Barker, 24, was released by the Patriots on Sept. 1, 2014. He is in his second NFL season after spending the entire 2013 season on the New England roster. The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder, was claimed off waivers and awarded to the Patriots from Miami on Sept. 1, 2013. He appeared in four games, playing mainly on special teams. Barker was originally signed by Miami as a rookie free agent out of Nevada on May 3, 2013, but was released on Aug. 31, 2013.

Reisner, 25, has spent time with Minnesota (2011-12) and Jacksonville (2012-13) during his time in the NFL and has played in 15 games with seven starts, accumulating seven receptions for 58 yards. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder, originally signed with Minnesota as a rookie free agent out of Iowa on July 27, 2011. He rotated between the practice squad and the 53-man roster in 2011 and 2012, playing in six games in 2011 and four games in 2012. Reisner was claimed off waivers by Jacksonville on Dec. 24, 2012, and spent the entire 2013 season with the Jaguars. He signed back with Minnesota on April 15, 2014, but was released by the Vikings on Aug. 30, 2014.

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Read More: Chris Barker, Don Jones, Marcus Thigpen, McLeod Bethel-Thompson

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