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Could more college captains be on the Patriots’ radar in this year’s draft?

03.09.11 at 2:18 pm ET
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Akeem Ayers was a junior captain at UCLA. (AP)

In last year’s draft, five of the 12 picks the Patriots made were players were captains in college: Zoltan Mesko, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes, Taylor Price, and Devin McCourty. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said they didn’t necessarily plan it that way — it was more of a happy coincidence.

“We didn’t go into the draft and say we just want to draft guys who were captains of their team,” Belichick said after the 2010 draft was complete. “But players that are good players, but also have traits such as leadership, work ethic, good communications skills, end up being players who are elected leaders of their team — captains. A lot of times those follow each other.”

Those young players helped shape the new direction of the New England locker room in 2010. And while the state of leadership in the New England locker room isn’t as tenuous as it was at this time last year, the Patriots are always mindful of a players’ resume, and for someone to be named a college captain speaks to their character.

So would they go after captains again this April? Two players who have been linked to the Patriots as possible early picks in this year’s draft — UCLA’s Akeem Ayers and Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward — were captains on their teams last season, with Ayers netting the honors as a junior. Ayers said it was a “point of pride” for him to become a team captain as a junior in 2010, and said he took the job seriously.

“We had a pretty young team, but at the same time, it just showed how my teammates looked up to me,” he said of last year’s UCLA team. “It made me want to work harder and be a better player for my teammates. I know that if I play well and do the right things it will make people around me better. I just took a lot of pride in that, being a captain as a junior.

“I started off as more of a lead-by-example player, because I believe that no one is going to follow someone who is not doing the right thing,” Ayers continued, “Running your sprints hard, being on time, hitting the weight room hard, younger guys — freshmen, sophomores — see you doing that, it’ll make it that much easier for them to want to follow my lead and try and tell them to do something. So it’s lead by example, and then, later on, when you become that vocal leader, guys will just follow your lead.”

As for Heyward, it was important for him to be named a captain as well, and sounded like he preferred to be more of a vocal leader — fellow Buckeye Brian Rolle described him as a “screamer” when it came to practice last year at Ohio State. But Heyward also mixes in some of Ayers’ lead-by-example approach as well.

“I’m hoping I have a little bit of pressure behind me because I want to perform well,” Heyward said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. If guys are expecting a lot out of me, so be it, because I’m a guy that’s going to produce and give it all I got.”

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Akeem Ayers, Bill Belichick, Brandon Spikes

Danny Woodhead recounts ‘whirlwind’ year with the Patriots

03.08.11 at 9:55 pm ET
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In the most exhaustive offseason feature on Patriots running back Danny Woodhead that’s been written thus far, the young running back tells the Omaha World-Herald that his first season in New England was a “whirlwind,” and added that it was a “crazy” year.

Woodhead, a Nebraska native who was signed by the Patriots on Sept. 18, said there wasn’t one defining moment for him that highlighted a remarkable run from Jets’ castoff to New England running back.

“Just have the opportunity to play football for my job,” he told writer Alex Helmbrecht. “To me, there are a lot of different things and moments that are great to be part of. It’s awesome to be able to do that and you just have to take advantage of that. I’m confident in what I can do but I don’t think I’m arrogant. I have the abilities and anyone who plays in the NFL has to think that way.”

Read More: Danny Woodhead,

Sources: Patriots will visit, work out Miami DL Allen Bailey this week

03.08.11 at 8:56 pm ET
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Allen Bailey (AP)

According to multiple sources, Miami defensive lineman Allen Bailey has a meeting and workout with the Patriots scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Bailey is a 6-foot-3, 285-pounder who played defensive end and defensive tackle with the Hurricanes, and recorded 19 sacks in his college career, including seven as a senior. He recorded 31 tackles for a loss in with Miami, including 11 in 2010.

His physical measurables are off the charts — he’s been timed at 4.77 in the 40, and has posted 27 reps on the bench at 285. As a result, many mock drafts have him as a possible late first-round or early second-round pick in next month’s draft, which would mean he could be available to New England with either the No. 28 or No. 33 overall pick.

In an interview at the NFL scouting combine last month, Bailey — who stayed at Miami for all four years, playing 50 games, just two shy of Brandon Meriweather for most in school history — talked a little but about his ability to play both defensive tackle and defensive end, as well as how the transition went as a collegian.

“It was an adjustment. I’d played strictly outside the last three years, so it was an adjustment going inside,” Bailey said, “[But] I got the swing of everything and adjusted pretty well.”

For what it’s worth, we profiled Bailey in our “Potential Patriots” series here. The fact that Bailey will be working out for New England comes on the heels of the news that Citadel defensive back Cortez Allen also has a workout scheduled with the Patriots on Wednesday.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, allen bailey, Brandon Meriweather,

Source: Patriots have private workout scheduled with Citadel’s Cortez Allen

03.08.11 at 6:11 pm ET
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Citadel defensive back Cortez Allen has a private workout scheduled with the Patriots on Wednesday, WEEI.com has confirmed via a league source. Allen is a 6-foot-1, 197-pounder who has played both corner and safety over the course of his collegiate career, and he had five interceptions and two touchdowns during his three years at the Citadel.

The news was first reported by the site NEPatriotsdraft.com.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Cortez Allen,

J.J. Watt available for Patriots at 17? It may be more likely than you think

03.08.11 at 4:56 pm ET
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Every year there’s at least one first-round star who falls much further than anyone could have expected in the draft. Somehow, a guy with a top 10 grade went 21st overall in 2004. His name? Vince Wilfork. Last year, it was Bryan Bulaga, who went 23rd to the Packers after Mike Mayock (count the times he’s wrong — it doesn’t happen often) said he wasn’t getting out of the top 10.

Could J.J. Watt fall to the Patriots at No. 17? (AP)

Our latest mock draft has the Patriots taking Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, a 6-foot-5 3/8, 290-pounder who had seven sacks as a junior and excelled at the combine. Mayock has called him the best five-technique prospect he’s ever seen. How, then, could Watt be available with the draft’s 17th pick? It’s a question that’s popped up, and one that’s very fair to ask. Here’s the attempt at answering it.

This draft class is known for its defensive stars. From cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara to top linemen in Da’Quan Bowers, Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley, the best talent in this draft is on defense.

As far as five-technique prospects go, Dareus and Cal’s Cameron Jordan are in the conversation for the first one to come off the board. Both figure to be top 10 picks.

The Panthers, Broncos, Bills and Bengals — the teams with the first four picks in this draft — all have 4-3 defenses, with Denver and Buffalo making the switch this offseason. If they opt for defensive linemen with their picks, they won’t be going for 3-4 guys, and Watt’s size and skill set translates to playing end in the 3-4. The Cardinals (No. 5), 49ers (No. 7), Cowboys (No. 9) and Redskins (No. 10) are the only teams picking in the top 10 that run a 3-4.

Of those four teams, only two of them have a perceived need at defensive end, as both San Francisco and Dallas could address the position. That makes two teams in the top 10 potentially going after the draft’s star five-technique ends.

For Patriots fans hoping their team can secure Watt, that’s very good news. Assuming that both Dareus and Jordan are taken in the top 10 picks, something that isn’t a certainty, Watt’s potential slide to 17 is actually quite conceivable. Here’s a look at the teams picking before the Patriots after the top 10 picks. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, j.j. watt, NFL scouting combine, Vince Wilfork

Matt Light on CBA talks: ‘The system doesn’t need to go back’

03.08.11 at 10:02 am ET
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Matt Light

Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light made an appearance on The Hill-Man Morning Show on WAAF radio Tuesday morning, and the team’s union representative offered his thoughts on negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. To hear the interview, click here.

Light said he is “hopeful” that a deal will get done soon, but he’s hesitant to sound too optimistic. “My stance has always been this: There’s so many issues that go into this,” he said. “It’s obviously never going to be a situation where I can make a comment and everybody’s going to agree with it. Or that I can even comment to my own players when they ask me how things are going. … It’s always moving. This negotiation for the longest time didn’t go anywhere. And then as the deadline approached, I think we all kind of figured it would start to move a little bit, and then we get this extension. I think things are moving.

“That’s about all I can say, really. Because you sound like a buffoon if you say, ‘Well, I feel positive about this,’ and then nothing happens and we do end up getting locked out.”

Light said he takes issue with analysts who side with owners because players want to keep the status quo. “The system doesn’t need to go back,” he said. “We don’t need to give back a billion dollars based on what we know. I think that’s pretty simple. When I listen to the radio or I hear people on TV talk about this issue, the one thing that I have a problem with is that they want to say that the deal’s too good for the players, and that’s why if one side doesn’t want to make a move and the other one does, then the side that doesn’t want to move, obviously, it’s too good for them. Well, that’s just ludicrous in my mind. You can’t say that one side has it too good if they don’t want to change anything when the other side is asking you to give back 18 percent of your pay.”

Added Light: “At the end of the day, it just comes down to doing what’s fair and what’s equitable. Look, the league, from 2009 to 2010, they were up 7 percent. That’s pretty good. That’s a heck of a deal. They definitely haven’t lost money in a long time. Nor do I see that happening anytime soon. If it’s good now, it should be good later, and we should all take part in that.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: CBA, Matt Light, Stephen Neal, Tom Brady

Kraft says he’ll return from trip if deal between owners, players is close

03.07.11 at 7:42 pm ET
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft, on a trade mission to Israel with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, said he “personally [believes] it’s possible” for the NFL owners and players to agree on a new labor deal before Friday’s deadline, and that he “might have to leave [the trip] early” and return to the United States if an agreement between the two sides is close.

“I made a commitment here, so we’re going to finish the important things we’re doing here,” Kraft told reporters while overseas. “[We're] in daily contact by phone. It’s unfortunate. We’re supposed to be settled by now. That’s [why] we planned this trip [for this week].”

Players and owners are meeting this week in Washington D.C. in hopes of preventing the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.

“We’re doing everything we can to get a deal consummated,” said Kraft. “I personally believe it’s possible. … [The] good news is, it’s always good to be talking when you have differences of opinion. It’s the only way you have a chance [to reach an agreement]. So we’re talking, and I know from ownership’s side that we feel there’s a deal to be made and we’d very much like to do it.”

Read More: Deval Patrick, lockout, Robert Kraft,
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