|05.10.12 at 7:58 pm ET|
The Patriots announced the addition of seven rookie free agents on Thursday who will take part in rookie minicamp this weekend at Gillette Stadium. Here’s a thumbnail look at each one of them:
Running back Brandon Bolden, Mississippi: The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Bolden finished his collegiate career ranked second in school history in both total touchdowns scored (33) and rushing touchdowns (27), third in all-purpose yards (3,681) and fourth in rushing yards (2,604).
Defensive lineman Marcus Forston, Miami: The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Forston was injury-free during his freshman season at Miami, finishing with 17 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and three quarterback sacks. After that, it was all downhill. His 2009 season was cut short due to an ankle injury, while his 2011 season, which began with a four-game suspension due to NCAA infractions, ended after he underwent surgery for a torn MCL. He also had shoulder surgery prior to the start of the 2010 season, but he still played in 13 games with 12 starts that year, and registered 37 total tackles, 3.0 sacks and one interception.
Defensive lineman Justin Francis, Rutgers: The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder posted very good numbers over the course of his college career (106 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 12 sacks), culminating with 60 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, one interception and five passes defensed as a senior.
Tight end Brad Herman, Iowa: The 6-foot-5, 253-pounder had his best season as a senior, finishing with eight catches for 92 yards and a touchdown in 12 games (including three starts). He’s described by Pro Football Weekly as having ‘intriguing measurables, good straight-line speed and outstanding leaping ability.’
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|05.10.12 at 4:15 pm ET|
It looks like there’s another No. 72 in town.
When he met the media for the first time as a Patriot on Thursday, offensive lineman Robert Gallery was wearing gear with Matt Light‘s old No. 72. There’s no guarantee that’ll be his number when camp kicks off this summer, but regardless of what his number is, the second overall pick in the 2004 draft (who signed a one-year deal with the Patriots earlier this offseason) is excited to be in New England.
“It was a good fit for obviously both of us,” Gallery said. “I was excited when I got the call, it’s a place I’ve known about since college, and I’ve always wanted to be a part of.”
It’s no secret Bill Belichick fawned over Gallery when he was a highly-touted prospect at Iowa. Largely considered a “can’t-miss” pick, Gallery never lived up to the hype of being a cornerstone at left tackle in his six seasons with the Raiders. It doesn’t help that he has yet to be part of a team that finished with a winning record. The 31 year-old is intent on moving on from past expectations, though, and embracing his future in New England.
“It’s one of the reasons I came here because we’ve never had a winning season in my eight years. That’s why you play this game, so that was a very big part of why I decided to come here. It hasn’t been ideal. But you play with the cards you’re dealt, and I’m just glad to have the opportunity to come to a place like this. I still know I have a lot left in me.
“If you’re drafted high, you’re going to have a lot put on you,” Gallery continued. “It is what it is, it was a long time ago. Honestly, I don’t really care. I’m going to work to do the things I know I can do and do the best with the situation I’m in. What other people think of me, doesn’t really matter.”
An issue for Gallery has been injuries. The past three seasons, Gallery has missed a total of 18 games. In any event, Gallery does provide two needed traits in the trenches: versatility and depth. Gallery has been effective both as a left guard and right tackle. Still, he’ll have to earn his spot protecting Tom Brady during training camp.
But the 6-foot-7 lineman has one other distinct advantage going into the next chapter of his career — Dante Scarnecchia. If there was ever a coach who could procure talent out of an offensive lineman, Scarnecchia would be the candidate to do it.
“I’ve been told [the coaches are] going to put the best five guys on the field,” Gallery said. “I’m going to be one of the best five guys, that’s my goal, and they’re going to put guys where they see fit.
“Everything is the same,” he said. “It’s just different terminology, just being able to listen to the quarterback. It’s been great [talking] with [Scarnecchia]. He’s my type of guy. He’s all about getting after guys and winning ball games.”
Both in his time with the Seahawks and in Oakland, Gallery, from all accounts, was viewed as a solid locker room presence. Consequently, his $1 million contract on a one-year deal doesn’t make him one of Belichick’s famous reclamation projects. Instead, he is just another player looking to win — something the Patriots have done a lot of these past 11 seasons.
|05.09.12 at 10:40 pm ET|
If you were a broker, you might call Chandler Jones is a long-term investment for the Patriots.
Many agree that Jones, who was taken in the first round of the NFL draft late last month by New England, is a work in progress. That’s not to say he won’t have a sizable impact in his first season with the Patriots, but there’s a feeling among many who have watched him play that his best days are ahead of him. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said that ‘three years from now, [Jones] might be the best defensive end in football,’ while ESPN’s Todd McShay says Jones ‘has a chance to be a star’ and is ‘just starting to scratch the surface.’
Jones’ college position coach says the same thing.
‘The Patriots are in for a surprise,’ said Syracuse defensive ends coach Tim Daoust, who worked with Jones last season. ‘I genuinely believe his best football is ahead of him.’
Jones, taken at No. 21 overall by the Patriots, is a long, lean player in the mold of Willie McGinest, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive end who is known for his ability to get after the quarterback. He secured a first-team Big East nod in 2011 even after missing the first five games of the season with a knee injury. In seven games, Jones managed to accumulate 39 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble and an interception.
‘He’s a perimeter player, a guy that lines up on the end of the line, whether you want to call him a linebacker or defensive end, but he’s an end-of-the-line player,’’ Patriots coach Bill Belichick told Sirius XM Radio shortly after the pick was made. ‘He’s got great length — height, arm length — [and] very athletic. He came out early, missed part of the season last year with an injury, but the opportunity he’s had to play he’s been very productive against a lot of good players in his conference, so we thought that he’d be able to work against NFL-type tackles.
‘We played both odd and even front last year, I think we’ll continue to be multiple that way, but he’s more of an end-of-the-line player.’
Jones does have that long, lean, end-of-the-line look about him, but he also brings some versatility to the field, according to Daoust.
‘I know that the Patriots have a track record of taking versatile players who are also high-IQ guys, and Chandler fits that mold. He’s an extremely coachable kid who is also very intelligent,’ Daoust said. ‘He’s able to take coaching very quickly when he gets out there on the football field.
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|05.08.12 at 5:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For Daniel Fells and the Patriots, the second time was the charm.
The tight end nearly signed with New England in 2010 — he was ‘real close, real close’ — to joining the Patriots, but ultimately passed in favor of Denver. That experience helped him get a sense of how they do things in New England, and so when the free agent opportunity came around again this past offseason, he jumped at the chance.
‘I was able to come out here and just meet with the coaches and talk with the guys and see if it was a fit. It ultimately boiled down to a business thing. I let my agent handle things like that,’ Fells said Tuesday during a break from workouts at Gillette Stadium. ‘All things happen for a reason and it didn’t work out then, but things came full circle and it worked out for us this year.’
He signed early in the free-agent process this year, and is happy to be with the Patriots. The 6-foot-4, 252-pounder has played five seasons in the league ‘ three with St. Louis, one with Atlanta and one with Denver. Last season with the Broncos, he had 19 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns, a year after a 41-catch effort with the Rams.
Despite those numbers, the former college wide receiver understands that with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez on the roster, he may not get the same sort of chances in the passing game he had the last few seasons. That being said, when it comes to spreading the ball around, he knows Tom Brady is an equal-opportunity quarterback.
‘They’re both real good tight ends. They went out there and they produce. They’re two of the top guys in the league,’ Fells said of Gronkowski and Hernandez. ‘But, traditionally, just looking at this offense, Tom’s going to find the open man, and that’s something that appeals to everybody.
‘I’m excited about that one. That’s pretty much the best way to say that: It’s Tom Brady. One of the greatest guys out there. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to be out there on the field with him.’
Fells will be joining his sixth team, and he’s learned a lot along the way. Some of those lessons were learned in Atlanta working with Alge Crumpler. Crumpler, who played one season in New England (2010), served as a valuable mentor to then-rookies Hernandez and Gronkowski. He did the same with Fells when they were together on the Falcons.
‘He was like my big brother. A great guy. A true professional. I learned a lot from him,’ Fells said. ‘Alge welcomed everybody with open arms.
‘He’s the type of guy who had me over to his house for Thanksgiving. He had his family in town and I didn’t have any family in Atlanta and I wasn’t going home. He invited me over to his house and fed me. He made the Pro Bowl that year and took all his tight ends out to Hawaii with him. Paid for the flight and everything. That’s just the type of person that he was. Very giving and very humble about all his blessings. I just learned a lot from him.’
It’s reasonable to assume that, in the spirit of Crumpler, the 28-year-old Fells could still manage to impart some of the wisdom he’s accrued to the Gronkowski and Hernandez, both of who are still just 22. For what it’s worth, he’s well aware of how both young tight ends roll, saying with a laugh, ‘I’m a little bit older. I’ve been around the block. I was young once myself, but now I’m married and have a son. Things change. Times change. They’ll grow up. They’re enjoying their youth right now.’
For now, Fells knows that he’s got to worry about his own situation.
‘I can just go out here and be me. That’s the only thing and just be me,’ he said. ‘That’s what’s gotten me around the league. That’s what’s gotten me to the point of being able to play for seven years is just going out and being myself, being professional. Just doing my job.
‘As far as guiding those two? Like I said, they are two great athletes, two great competitors. I don’t really need to guide them in that sense. I’m just going to go out here and try and fill in where I can.’
Here are a few more highlights from his Q&A Thursday at Gillette Stadium:
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|05.07.12 at 7:14 pm ET|
Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, who spent portions of the last two seasons with the Patriots but was released recently, has agreed to terms with the Bucs. Underwood, who played in 16 games the last two years with the Patriots, had 11 catches for 141 yards for New England in that stretch. In Tampa, he’ll be reunited with his old college coach — former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano is now running the show in Tampa Bay.
|05.07.12 at 4:08 pm ET|
Here’s a collection of quotes from former teammates and coaches about Matt Light, who officially announced his retirement Monday morning.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: ‘An exceptional player and an exceptional person and teammate. He played on out left side for 11 great seasons, in the biggest games on the biggest stages. He’s a really unique player and a unique person. He really allowed offensively to be very versatile in the things we did because of his versatility. Every week the left tackle goes up against the best the other team has to offer, whether it’s Jason Taylor or Dwight Freeney or Aaron Schobel ‘ and these are guys Matt faced week in and week out ‘ we never gave Matt help over there, he was on his own. He was a fun player to be around, he was tough, he was physical, he was a great example. He certainly brought some levity to the room. He has a great sense of humor. He did a lot of great things in the community and he’s still doing those things. He’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever had. I’m certainly going to miss him and I’m still going to try to talk him out of retirement because I still want him back here for a few more years.’
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski: ‘Matt’s one of the greatest players I ever played with; he’s been a tackle here for a while. He had a great year last year and I’m definitely disappointed he’s retiring. He wasn’t just a great player, he’s also a friend and a character too ‘ always in the locker room having fun, busting teammates with some jokes all the time, getting the locker room flowing, having fun during training camp. He brought a lot of energy to the table, a lot of smarts. He was our team representative for the NFLPA. It just shows what a great guy he is overall in every department ‘ smarts, football and everything. He’s definitely going to be missed, we’re going to miss him and best of luck to him from here on out.’
Purdue coach Danny Hope, Light’s position coach from 1998-2000: ‘Matt is the best I’ve been around. He is an outstanding leader, a great teammate and an unbelievable person. He brought all of those qualities to the game, and was a real difference-maker both on and off the field.’
Patriots center Dan Koppen: ‘I became really close friends with Matt over the last 10 years. I will miss the way he goes about his business every day and he goes out and plays hard with the consistency he gives on a daily and game-in and game-out basis. You never questioned what you were going to get out of him. He had a tremendous career and will be missed.’
Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins: ‘It’s a little weird. I’ve been with Matt for seven years. We played next to each other and it’s been great. He’s been a great teammate, great friend. It’s a little surreal still. You don’t believe he’s leaving. It’s hard to imagine going to practice or playing in a game and not having Matt sit behind me on the bus. We sat next to each other on the plane and he was a locker mate pretty close to me. It’s going to be a little different this season, my first season without Matt. Matt had a model career that a lot of guys would love to have. His technique was flawless.’
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|05.07.12 at 3:59 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Working as a left tackle in the NFL, you get a chance to come across some of the best edge rushers in the league on a daily basis, and in his 11 years as the man charged with protecting Tom Brady’s backside, Matt Light had a chance to see them all. On Monday, I asked him about the best he’s ever gone against, and he said it was Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney.
‘He’s a guy that I had a lot of respect for. It’s not just the way he plays the game, it’s how many different ways he can make you look silly out there, [of] which, there are plenty,” Light said of Freeney. “I can go through them all. We can go watch film of he and I, and you’ll see it yourself. He’s just an all around great player. And he’s not a guy that talks a lot out there, he doesn’t have anything to say to you, he’s not trying to beat you with his words. He’s going to go out there and he’s going to put the work in and he’s going to show you how bad you can look.
“I always appreciated that out of him — not making me look bad — but definitely the challenge, going out there and trying to face a guy like him. And he was really in our division as much as anybody else is in our division, so we saw each other a lot.
“There was a lot of great players. Early in my career, I never forget my rookie year facing a guy in Miami, a hundred million degrees, and his last name was [Jason] Taylor. Boy, he didn’t go away for my entire career pretty much. He was a menace from day one to the end. Even in our own division, guys like John Abraham, [Aaron] Schobel, and all the rest of those guys.”
Light said Monday that it always helped having the rest of the left side to provide support.
“You know, it’s always good when you can have a wingman who can support you and make you look good, so I had a great cast,” he said. “You know [Dan Koppen] and Logan [Mankins] and Steve Neal, all the other guys that were a part of it, [Nick] Kazcur, over the years there’s been a lot of different faces. I’ve been blessed to have those guys next to me, they saved the day many a time, because when Freeney spun past me, and then he would sometimes spin past Logan, he would eventually have to run into Kop, and that was always good.’