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Rookies get ready for their first taste of NFL action Thursday

08.08.12 at 1:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Even though it’s only the preseason, the 16 rookies on the Patriots roster will get a small taste of life in the NFL Thursday night when they lace them up for their first game action against the Saints. From first-round picks Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower to rookie free agents like Tyler Urban and Derek Dennis, it’ll be their initiation into the world of professional football.

What’s the most important thing they they need to keep in mind when they hit the field?

“Just my biggest [piece of advice] is to stay calm,” said cornerback Devin McCourty. “What we do out here in practice kind of prepares you for the game situations. One thing with coach Belichick: we do a lot of different situations here at practice. Just stay calm. You’re prepared for anything. If you feel like we haven’t gone over something, just go back to fundamentals.

“I think that was the biggest thing guys taught me my rookie year, and something I tell the rookies: stay calm, use what we’ve been learning and just go out there and play football.”

“It’s just football,” said offensive lineman Dan Connolly. “Block it all out and focus on your job. Know what you have to do — just do it.”

Read More: 2012 Training Camp,

Patriots sign rookie OL Kyle Hill

08.08.12 at 10:03 am ET
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The Patriots announced Wednesday they have signed rookie free agent offensive lineman Kyle Hill. Terms of the contract were not announced. Hill, 23, was a four-year starter at left tackle at Duke University. The 6-foot-6, 306-pounder was one of four team captains as a senior and a two-time Academic All-ACC selection. He started all 10 games as a senior in 2011 and all 46 of Duke’€™s contests since the beginning of the 2008 campaign.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Kyle Hill,

Ten Things We Learned Tuesday at Patriots Training Camp

08.07.12 at 11:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Sunshine and temperatures in the 80s provided the ideal atmosphere for the Patriots and Saints to hold the first of two joint practices Tuesday outside Gillette Stadium.

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance, taking in practice with Patriots owner Robert Kraft on the field before visiting with Saints (and Hornets) owner Tom Benson and his wife under a tent. The Saints and Patriots warmed up for the first 30 minutes on their own before spending the final 90 minutes going against each other in various drills, such as 7-on-7, 11-on-11 and special teams.

And Sean Payton was out as his one-year NFL suspension for “Bountygate” is officially underway.

The last time the two teams scrimmaged (in 2010), Payton was the coach. Belichick was asked about his absence on Tuesday.

“I miss Sean not being here,” Belichick said. “I think the world of Sean and he’€™s a great friend. I look forward to seeing him back out here soon.”

The two teams will practice again on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. in a lighter walk-through workout.

The notable absentees from Tuesday included linebacker Brandon Spikes for a third straight day, fullback Eric Kettani, offensive linemen Kyle Hix, offensive lineman Darrion Weems. Also missing again were Spencer Larsen, Matt Kopa, Tracy White, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jake Ballard and Jonathan Fanene.

In shorts were tight end Daniel Fells,, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer, Rob Brace and Myron Pyror, rookie cornerback Alfonzo Denard, and tackle Markus Zusevics .

Here are nine other things we learned from Day 11 of training camp:


Dan Connolly once again got extensive work at the right guard position on the first unit, joining center Ryan Wendell, right tackle Marcus Cannon, left guard Donald Thomas and left tackle Nate Solder. Dan Koppen again found himself on the second team offensive line, centering a unit that including right tackle Dustin Waldron, right guard Derrick Dennis (sporting Robert Gallery‘s old No. 72), left tackle Jeremiah Warren and right tackle Nick McDonald as the Patriots swapped out the left and right sides of the second unit on Tuesday.


The Patriots showed off more of their two-down technique on Tuesday with Vince Wilfork and Brandon Deaderick swapping out with Kyle Love on the defensive line. Of particular note, linebacker Bobby Carpenter continues to see plenty of rotations in different groupings. He started off on the weak side Tuesday but showed up on the strong side on a blitz next to Rob Ninkovich. With Spikes out, rookie Dont’a Hightower again played inside while Jerod Mayo saw some snaps on the weak side.


Drew Brees connected on his first seven passes in 7-on-7 drills as Jimmy Graham was a star, collecting a pair of TD catches and dunking them over the goal post. Marques Colston also got the best of Ras-I Dowling and Devin McCourty. But, in 11-on-11 drills, the Patriots exacted a measure of revenge as Dane Fletcher picked off Chase Daniel in the end zone.


Tom Brady completed six of his first seven passes in 7-on-7 drills, including a nice post route TD to Jabar Gaffney. Brian Hoyer came on completed one pass before Brady returned for the next seven snaps. He threw two more TDs but Rob Gronkowski was called for offensive pass interference while Brady was intercepted linebacker Curtis Lofton.


Tom Brady and Drew Brees are two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, hands down. Both defenses are getting the benefit of facing both of them for three straight days in camp and preseason as they prepare for the season. “You talk about trying to play those top guys in the league like Tom, and now having Drew in here, we don’€™t get a break, so you really have to try to be perfect. It sounds crazy ‘€“ so you try to be perfect on every play but when you go against quarterbacks of that caliber you really do because you know 90 percent of the time they’€™re going to be perfect,” Pats DB Devin McCourty said. “The ball is going to be where it has to be and you really have to play very well on defense to try and compete with those guys.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Bonjovi, Bountygate

Drew Brees, Joe Vitt and Steve Spagnuolo talk about holding joint practices with the Patriots

08.07.12 at 8:10 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Thanks to the Saints’ PR staff, here are a few highlights from their Q&A with the media after Tuesday’s practice with the Patriots:

Drew Brees
Can you talk about the atmosphere today? ‘€œIt was a great atmosphere today. Obviously a ton of fans came out to watch practice. For us, it’€™s great to break up the monotony of training camp, always by yourself and that kind of thing and come up for the opportunity to scrimmage against somebody other than yourself and really a great team. There’€™s not a team that’€™s won more games than the New England Patriots over the last decade. To have a chance to be around them, watch how they work, compete against new personnel and a new scheme is good for both sides.’€

Do you sense because of what’€™s happened, that there is an us against the world sentiment? ‘€œI didn’€™t know if I’€™d say it like that it’€™s us against the world, but were going to have a chip on our shoulder anyways. But, there’€™s no shortage of motivation to go out and play well this year.’€

Do you admire how the Patriots played in 2007 when they were in a similar situation although not without a head coach? ‘€œNo they didn’€™t, but they played well that year. They went out and almost won every game and obviously we hope we can put together the same type of result. Certainly it’€™s something we can look at where maybe this is something similar we are going through. You try to take a negative and turn it into a positive.

How much did the teams get out of this? ‘€œObviously both teams are fresh because we’€™re just in camps. We just played in the Hall of Fame game, but really it’€™s the first preseason game for everyone here on Thursday night. To get out here and see the personnel they have, I love being able to compete against them, because that’€™s a tightly run ship. Coach (Bill) Belichick has done a phenomenal job since he’€™s been here obviously. They know how to work and win. It’€™s great to have a chance to compete against them.’€

Did you have a chance to visit with Tom Brady? ‘€œYes, I’€™ve known Tom since college. We played against him when he was a senior at Michigan and I was a junior at Purdue. Really since then we’€™ve crossed paths a few times playing each other, a few times in the offseason. We both spend some of the offseason in Southern California as well. I actually saw him this offseason. We worked out together one day. I have a great relationship with Tom, not only professionally, but personally. Certainly he’€™s one of the best if not the best of all time.’€

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Read More: 2012 Training Camp,

Brandon Lloyd to Usain Bolt: ‘Football players are the best athletes in the world’

08.06.12 at 7:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In the moments following Usain Bolt‘s Olympic 100 meter sprint of 9.63 seconds on Sunday, Twitter exploded with suggestions that Bolt should learn how to catch a football because he would be lock as an NFL wide receiver.

Brandon Lloyd says not so fast.

‘€œIn my opinion I feel that football players are the best athletes on the planet because we do have backgrounds in multiple sports and we do have the ability to compete in multiple sports at a high level in my opinion,” Lloyd said. “I think straight line speed doesn’€™t necessarily transfer to football speed.’€

The most famous example of this crossover came in the early 1980s when Willie Gault signed with the Bears.

A star in both football and track at the University of Tennessee, Gault was part of a world record-setting 4 x 100 meter relay team, a 110 meter hurdler who would have gone to the 1980 Summer Olympics had the United States not boycotted the Games in Moscow. He was an All-American wide receiver in 1982. Willie Gault averaged almost 24 yards per kick return and scored 4 touchdowns in 78 attempts, including 3 in 1980.

Lloyd has earned a reputation for unorthodox and sometimes spectacular catches he credits to his time in track and field.

‘€œI attribute that to my high jumping when I was in high school,” Lloyd said. “I did a lot of visualizing and preparing to jump at high heights that you can’€™t practice. I couldn’€™t jack myself up in practice enough to clear seven feet, but I could visualize it and visualize the timing and I was so successful at that, that I thought I’€™d transfer that over to football. So when I look at the call sheet and I look at the plays I just imagine catching any possible way. [I] visualize every coverage, visualize any catch’€”one hand, two hands, anything’€”so when it happens it feels like I’€™ve already been there almost.’€

Gault was drafted in 1983, played with the Bears until 1988 and then was traded to the Raiders. NFL scouts deemed Gault biggest asset to be his pure straight line burst. What’s ironic is that he was the primary long-pass threat on a team known as one of best defensive teams in history. In Super Bowl XX against the Pats, Gault had four receptions for 129 yards, and four kickoff returns for 49 yards.

Gault finished his 11 NFL seasons with 333 receptions for 6,635 yards. He also returned 9 punts for 60 yards, rushed for 154 yards, returned 45 kickoffs for 1,088 yards, and scored 45 touchdowns.

As for his own career, Lloyd is only concerned with building his trust with Tom Brady, a trust that has been in evidence in the first 10 days of training camp.

‘€œIt’€™s just important in building trust with the guys to do my job, to be accountable and to make good plays when my number’€™s called,” Lloyd said Monday after practice. “I think that all factors in there and it’€™s just how I’€™ve been playing since I was young and it’€™s just something that drives me in trying to be perfect out on the practice field.

‘€œI take pride in it and I feel like every ball is catchable.’€

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Brandon Lloyd, Jamaica, New England Patriots

Ten Things We Learned Monday at Patriots Training Camp

08.06.12 at 2:34 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It was a picture perfect morning for another up-tempo practice at Patriots training camp. The workout lasted just over 90 minutes in full pads, the third straight day of full pads for most of the squad. The next time the Patriots take the field, they will finally have another team on the other end as the Saints visit Tuesday for the first of two joint practices outside Gillette before their preseason game Thursday night inside the stadium.

The notable absentees from Monday included linebacker Brandon Spikes, offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Darrion Weems. Hix and Weems both left early on Sunday.

Also missing again were Spencer Larsen, Matt Kopa, Tracy White, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jake Ballard and Jonathan Fanene.

In shorts were cornerback Derrick Martin, tight end Daniel Fells,, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer, safety James Ihedigbo, defensive linemen and Rob Brace and Myron Pyror, rookie cornerback Alfonzo Denard, and tackle Markus Zusevics .

Here are nine other things we learned from Day 10 of training camp:


In change between the tackles, Dan Connolly got extensive work at the right guard position on the first unit, joining center Ryan Wendell, right tackle Marcus Cannon, left guard Donald Thomas and left tackle Nate Solder. Dan Koppen again found himself on the second team offensive line, centering a unit that including right tackle Dustin Waldron, right guard Derrick Dennis (sporting Robert Gallery‘s old No. 72), left guard Jeremiah Warren and left tackle Nick McDonald.


The Patriots worked with three visiting NFL replacement officials in practice and at least two procedure penalties were called on the first team offensive unit, including one with Tom Brady and company backed inside their own 15. Bill Belichick stopped practice and went into the huddle and gave the unit a talk.


There were some good battles in one-on-one tackling drills, including a nice, clean shot by safety Malcolm Williams on newly-minted tight end Alex Silvestro, as Williams wrapped him up at the waist and drove him to the ground. Ross Ventrone stuck with the speedy Wes Welker on another good battle while Aaron Hernandez eluded Tavon Wilson. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, New England Patriots, nfl, Vince Wilfork

Tom House pitches in at Patriots camp

08.06.12 at 12:46 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom House is most famous for catching Hank Aaron‘s 715th home run in the Braves bullpen on April 8, 1974. On Monday morning, the former Atlanta pitcher and MLB pitching coach was in Foxboro to work with Patriots quarterback on a key fundamental to the position – good footwork.

Get your feet under you properly before you fling the ball.

House has worked with several NFL quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, Tim Tebow, Drew Brees, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, and Matt Cassel, with Palmer and Cassel having direct ties to USC, where House serves as a pitching coach for the Trojans.

After his big league career with the Braves and Mariners, House has also worked as a coach for the Astros, Padres, and Chiba Lotte Marines. He is an advisor with the American Sports Medicine Institute, and is the co-founder of the National Pitching Association. Through the NPA, he runs a series of camps and clinics for athletes, and markets a series of instructional videos for young baseball players. House has also written or co-written 19 instructional books on baseball, as well as an autobiography.

In 1998, the American Baseball Coaches Association presented House with a lifetime achievement award.

In addition to starting at Michigan State as a star quarterback, Brian Hoyer was quite the baseball pitcher when he was younger. Hoyer was a pitcher, infielder and outfielder at Cleveland (OH) St. Ignatius high school. In 2002, he was 8-1 with a 1.99 ERA as a sophomore. He was the winning pitcher in the 2002 Ohio Division I State Championship game allowing two earned runs in six innings.

“I think there’s some similarities but there’s also some things that are a little bit different,” Hoyer said Monday after his workout with House. “In football, you want to have a quicker release point. In baseball, there’s no one rushing down on you. There’s definitely some things that have helped in terms of stride, rotation, things like that. For me, it’s not something I need to go think about when I’m out there playing. We do the drills and I try to take it to the team drills but when there are guys coming after you, you have to be able to throw the ball and it’s not going to be perfect every time.

“I just met him today and it’s pretty interesting to hear a different take on things and implement it in your own game.”

Hoyer said the footwork drills are what really helped him out.

“Just as far as the stride and trying to keep your feet on the ground,” Hoyer said. “Pitchers, they get to throw off a mound and it gives them a little extra energy and you’re higher up and you’re throwing downwards and we’re throwing on a flat surface out here so you really have to make sure your feet are in the right position to throw.”

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Atlanta Braves, Brian Hoyer, Hank Aaron
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