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From Foxboro: Patriots-Jaguars set to battle in preseason opener

08.11.11 at 6:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — And so it has finally arrived. No labor talk. No CBA posturing. No contract talk. Just football. Sure it doesn’t count for real and the stars of this game will likely be second and third-stringers. But football and the Patriots have returned to Gillette Stadium.

Some perspective here. The team just began practicing with their regulars – and not even all of them – one week ago.

While the play might not be perfect, the weather sure is. Game time conditions are expected to consist of clear skies, 72 degrees and a pleasant breeze in from the north.

Quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett came out on the field just before 6 p.m. ET, about 90 minutes before kickoff with the Jaguars and started throwing the ball around, just to warm up.

Tom Brady was not spotted and it wouldn’t come as a shocker if Brady didn’t play a single snap.

This is just the second time the Patriots have faced the Jaguars in the preseason, both at Gillette. Back in 2004, the Patriots were skunked 31-0 in the preseason finale but somehow recovered from that emotional blow to post their second straight 14-2 season, en route to their second straight Super Bowl title and third in four years.

As colleague DJ Bean points out, this is the second straight year the Patriots will be opening their preseason against a first-round rookie quarterback as Blaine Gabbert gets the call for the injured David Garrard (back). Last year, the Patriots opened against Sam Bradford and the Rams, who made it to the last week of the season before being eliminated by the Seahawks.

Read More: 2011 training camp, Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots

Jason Cole on M&M: Chad Ochocinco ‘the happiest I have ever seen him’

08.11.11 at 1:43 pm ET
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Yahoo! Sports NFL reporter Jason Cole joined the Mut & Merloni show on Thursday to discuss Albert Haynesworth‘s contract, Chad Ochocinco joining the Patriots and other Patriots and NFL news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Haynesworth and Ochocinco restructured their contracts on Tuesday. Cole reported that Haynesworth’s base salary will be $1.5 million as opposed to the $5.4 million that he was supposed to earn. He has incentives built in to the contract such as $1 million if he plays in 20 percent of the plays, among other things.

“It gives Albert a huge incentive to be in shape all year and get himself healthy,” Cole said. “Albert has had some injury issues in the past. Even when he has been at the top of his game he has generally missed a game or two, sometimes three, during a season. He is going to have to stay on top of that as much as possible. If they can get him healthy and get him on the field, he could be a huge difference maker.”

Next season Haynesworth will be due $6.7 million, and he will have to prove this season that he deserves that kind of money.

“I think it is one of those things where you revisit from year to year,” Cole said. “If he has all those incentives and makes the $5.8 million as a Pro Bowler, I think they are more than happy to pay him $7 million next year, or deal with it however you want to deal with it. ‘€¦ If Albert Haynesworth earns the money this year, he will be worth it next year.”

Cole said the Patriots got Haynesworth and Ochocinco at the right time.

“It always good to get a guy when he is desperate to leave another place,” he said. “To get away from whatever environment he has been in, especially like Ochocinco in Cincinnati. I saw Chad about a week ago and that is the happiest I have ever seen him. He was ecstatic. He probably would have crawled from Cincinnati to Boston to play for the Patriots.”

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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Jason Cole,

Poll: How much should Tom Brady play vs. Jaguars?

08.11.11 at 11:43 am ET
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How much should Patriots quarterback Tom Brady play in Thursday's preseason opener?

  • One quarter (44%, 108 Votes)
  • One series (20%, 50 Votes)
  • Not at all (15%, 37 Votes)
  • One half (11%, 26 Votes)
  • Get a haircut (6%, 15 Votes)
  • Entire game (4%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 244

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Read More: Tom Brady,

Brian Billick on D&C: Chad Ochocinco needs to ‘take it down a notch’

08.11.11 at 10:16 am ET
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Fox NFL analyst and former coach Brian Billick joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning with guest hosts Dale Arnold and Steve DeOssie to discuss the preseason, Chad Ochocinco and other Patriots and NFL news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Asked what Patriots coach Bill Belichick is thinking after acquiring Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth, Billick said that the coach should be pleased with the deals.

“He’s thinking, ‘Boy am I getting a great value,’ ” Billick said. “I think he is. The New England Patriots have been brilliant about getting players with specific roles in mind at just the right time in their career. Now, there is a little bit of a risk, but when you have the cache that coach Belichick and the New England Patriots have, you can extend yourself, take a little bit more of a gamble than maybe some other teams. Because ultimately the price you’re paying for them is something you can walk away from very readily. I think they are going to do well.”

Billick had high praise for Ochocinco ‘€” when the receiver is focused.

“You’ve got to love this young man, you love his energy,” he said. “He is a phenomenal player. I hope he begins finally to recognize ‘€” and him going through his antics he’s going through right now I am not sure he has ‘€” but I hope he has a chance in New England to learn the way he just drained his teams with some of the incessant things that he does. If he could just take it down a notch, he could really emerge as a huge factor for them.”

Added Billick: “It’s hard to fault him because he works hard. ‘€¦ [Bengals coach Marvin Lewis] loved this kid, he loved his passion for the game. He did work hard. It’s just, some of the antics ‘€” like I said, you’re asking a lot of your team to absorb the emotional impact of the stuff that the does. Is it semi-harmless? Sure. But after awhile it wears you out, and there are so many things in this game that wear you out, you don’t need this on top of it and that’s the thing I think he’s missing and doesn’t understand.”

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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Brian Billick, Chad Ochocinco

WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Preseason Edition

08.11.11 at 1:05 am ET
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Finally, football is here. The preseason kicks off Thursday, and what better way to roll in the 2011 season then with the first edition of WEEI’s NFL Power Rankings?

The lockout ended, the offseason began and chaos ensued. Many Pro Bowlers have changed teams. Guys like Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Steve Smith, Todd Heap and Olin Kreutz will spawn plenty of new jersey sales in their new locales. (Half of those guys signed with the Eagles alone.) A few more players are still looking for jobs, but most rosters have taken their primary shape. Some teams have improved, others … not so much.

Much can change over the next four weeks (injuries, cuts, trades, signings), but until then, check out where your team ranks. 

1. Packers (10-6) ‘€” The Packers won the Super Bowl last year, right? We haven’t heard a lot about the defending champs, and many believe they’re not even the best team in the NFC. However, the Packers have players like Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley returning to their championship roster and are clearly the favorites to start the season.

2. Steelers (12-4) ‘€” The defending AFC champions are returning many of their starters on both sides of the ball. Once again, they will have one of the best defenses in the league, as well as an offense filled with weapons.

3. Patriots (14-2) ‘€” It’s tough not to love what the Patriots have done during the offseason. Bill Belichick‘s defense struggled at rushing the passer, was last in the league in getting off the field on third down and had plenty of trouble stopping teams in the red zone. Despite all of that, the Pats still posted a 14-2 record. The additions of Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter could turn the Pats D from one of the worst to one of the best in the league.

4. Eagles (10-6) ‘€” I’m still not sold on the “All-Hype Team,” as Rob Ryan likes to call the Eagles. The additions of defensive end Jason Babin and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha are huge, but the Eagles’ chances at a Super Bowl rely on the health and performance of Michael Vick. Toward the end of the season in 2010, Vick was obviously wearing down from the number of hits he had taken because of his style of play. The Eagles need to utilize the playmaking abilities of LeSean McCoy more this year to ensure a healthy Vick come playoff time.

5. Saints (11-5) ‘€” No doubt the Saints are motivated to get back to the Super Bowl. Led by Drew Brees, many Saints players participated in a six-week offseason program. The team also upgraded its run game with Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram.

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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco, NFL Power Rankings

Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth restructure their contracts

08.10.11 at 7:51 pm ET
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Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth have agreed to redo their contracts, according to NFLPA documents.

Ochocinco was scheduled to make a base salary of $6 million in 2011, but has agreed to restructure his deal so they he will receive a base salary of $1 million in 2011 and $3 million in 2012 and 2013. Meanwhile, Haynesworth was scheduled to make base salaries of $5.4, $6.7, $8.5 and $10.3 million the next four years. Instead, the former Titan and Redskin will make a base salary of $1.5 million in 2011 and $6.7 million the following season.

UPDATE, 12:40 a.m.: Jason Cole of Yahoo! writes Haynesworth can earn as much as $5.85 million this year through various incentives: If he plays 20 percent of the defensive snaps, he’ll earn an extra $1 million. Then, he’ll earn an additional $590,000 if he plays 45 percent, and another $590,000 when he tops 50 percent, 55 percent, 60 percent and 65 percent of New England’s defensive snaps in 2011, a bonus system that could ultimately net him an extra $2.95 million if he meets all the incentives. In addition, if he lands a spot in the Pro Bowl, he’ll get an additional $400,000.

When it comes to the new Patriots, Andre Carter is on a one-year deal and slated to make $1.75 million, while Shaun Ellis‘ contract information has yet to be posted to the NFLPA.

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Chad Ochocinco, Shaun Ellis

Report: Patriots and Logan Mankins agree on six-year extension

08.10.11 at 4:51 pm ET
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The Patriots and offensive lineman Logan Mankins have agreed to a six-year contract extension, according to ESPN’€™s Adam Schefter.

The Pro Bowl offensive lineman had signed a one-year franchise tender earlier in training camp, but now figures to be with the Patriots long term, something New England owner Robert Kraft hinted at when he talked with reporters Wednesday afternoon. In speaking with the media, Kraft expressed optimism that the two sides, which had quarreled over the last year about a new deal for the offensive lineman, could reach a deal sooner rather than later.

‘€œI hope that after locking up our core veterans and bringing in these seasons veterans as I call them, and probably you’€™ll see our good friend Logan Mankins will be signed up soon hopefully to be a Patriot for life,’€ Kraft said.

‘€œIf I have a vote, it will get done,’€ Kraft added. ‘€œThe other side’€™s got to want it too, but it’€™s our desire ‘€” it’€™s always been our desire ‘€” but’€¦ you can’€™t sign everyone you want, so you need to plan, and I think we did our planning knowing the kind of environment we were coming into, and we tried to position ourselves so we had our core veterans and we could continue to sign the people we want to sign. We very much ‘€” we think that Logan is among the best there is at his position. We drafted him and we want him. ‘€

Last June, Mankins talked bitterly about wanting to be traded, and sounded like a man who already had one foot out the door. He called the team ‘€œliars’€ and sat out the first half of the 2010 season because he was unhappy with his contract situation.

‘€œRight now, this is about principle with me and keeping your word and how you treat people. This is what I thought the foundation of the Patriots was built on. Apparently, I was wrong,’€ he told ESPN Boston last June. ‘€œGrowing up, I was taught a man’€™s word is his bond. Obviously this isn’€™t the case with the Patriots.’€

But it was clear this year that the relationship between the two sides had improved. Mankins and Kraft were spotted chatting amiably on the sidelines during practice earlier this month, and last Thursday, after signing the one-year franchise tender worth $10.1 million, the All-Pro sounded equally optimistic about the chances of getting a long-term deal done.

‘€œThere’€™s always a chance,’€ he said at the time when asked about the possibility of putting together a multi-year contract. ‘€œI’€™ve talked to the coaches, to ownership, everyone. We’€™re all on the same page. We’€™ll just see what happens. [I] have great memories here. I’€™ve had a lot of fun like everyone here. We’€™ll see what happens. I understand now more than ever that it’€™s a business.’€

Business-wise, it appears to be a very good deal for both sides. While details of the contract have not been announced, the new deal will likely save the Patriots some space against the cap. New England will now be able to prorate some of the signing bonus money out over the course of the contract, which should mean that the cap hit the Patriots will take when it comes to Mankins will be less than the $10.1 million they would have had to deal with if the lineman was signed under the franchise tender.

Read More: Logan Mankins, Robert Kraft,
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