|02.05.11 at 8:03 pm ET|
Cornerback Deion Sanders and running back Marshall Faulk led a class of seven new inductees into the NFL Hall of Fame. Those two first-time eligible players were joined in this year’s class by tight end Shannon Sharpe, defensive end Richard Dent, linebackers Les Richter and Chris Hanburger and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol.
Former Patriots and Jets running back Curtis Martin, a finalist for this year’s Hall of Fame class, was not selected for entry into Canton. He reportedly made the cut from 15 to 10, but did not make the next round of cuts from 10 to five Hall of Fame inductees.
Sanders, who recorded 53 interceptions in his 14-year career, is regarded as one of the best — if not the best — cover corners of all time. He also proved a dynamic kick and punt returner and occasional wide receiver during his career with the Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins and Ravens.
Faulk, the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1994, Offensive Player of the Year from 1999-2001 and league MVP in 2000, was an impact rusher and receiver, finishing his career with over 12,000 rushing yards and more than 6,000 receiving yards. In 1999, he became the second running back ever to go over 1,000 rushing and receiving yards, and he recorded a then-NFL record 26 touchdowns in 2000.
Martin, who started his career with three straight seasons of more than 1,000 yards rushing with the Patriots before jumping to the Jets as a free agent after the 1997 season, had 14,101 rushing yards in 11 seasons, the fourth most yards on the ground in NFL history.
|02.05.11 at 10:52 am ET|
The Patriots lost cornerback Leigh Bodden before the season started, depriving the Pats of their most experienced player at the position. Bodden told reporters in Dallas that he expects to make a full recovery from a tear in his rotator cuff.
“I have the most confidence in the world; I’m going to have my best season next year,” Bodden told reporters of his recovery. “I’m rehabbing it good, I’m lifting on it. It’s been five months. … “If I was playing in the Super Bowl and had to play, I would play … I feel great. It’s strong. I’ve been lifting on it, not too much heavy weights, but the stability is good.”
The 29-year-old, who entered the season projected as the Patriots’ top cover corner, said that he suffered the injury on his second play during an Aug. 26 preseason game against the Rams. He tried to play through it, and lamented that he likely made the injury worse, resulting in his season-ending surgery in September.
|02.04.11 at 8:16 pm ET|
There’s no shame, however. At least McCourty got a vote ‘ in fact, McCourty, who finished the season with seven interceptions, was the only defensive rookie other than Suh to receive a single tally ‘ in fact the defensive back got two. Meanwhile, Suh nabbed 48 of the 50 votes, becoming the first Lion to grab the honor since Al Baker in 1978.
As for McCourty, he started all 16 games for the Patriots and finished the season with 82 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles and 17 passes defensed. He tied for second in the NFL and led all rookies with seven interceptions on the season, recording four of them over three consecutive games (Weeks 11-13). The seven interceptions by a Patriots rookie are second only to the eight by Mike Haynes in 1976. In addition, he was named second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.
‘Devin’s really been a consistent player for us all year, from the first rookie minicamp after the draft to all through the season,’ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said late in the 2010 season. ‘In the spring, spring workouts, training camp, preseason, he’s really the same guy every day ‘ very alert, attentive, very professional. You wouldn’t know he’s a rookie. He acts and prepares like he’s been doing it for five or six years.
‘He’s very attentive. He understands a lot of little things. When you give him a coaching point, he understands that it doesn’t apply to everything (and) it may only apply to one particular situation or one little thing. But when that comes up again, he’s usually on it. He’s made a lot of improvement.’
|02.04.11 at 5:57 pm ET|
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in an interview with the Big Show from the site of the Super Bowl in Dallas, acknowledged his surprise that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell voiced displeasure with the handling of New England coach Bill Belichick‘s apology for stealing signals in 2007. Rather than detail his own feelings on the conversation, however, Kraft expressed his exhaustion with the subject before respectfully but firmly declining to discuss it.
“I must tell you, this is three and a half years later,” said Kraft. “I can’t speak for why other people do things or don’t do things. I can just tell you that I’m tired of the whole subject, and it’s something I’m not going to discuss with anyone, to be honest.”
Asked a follow-up about whether he ever was asked to talk with Goodell after Belichick issued a written apology and declined to take questions from the media, Kraft said, “I’m done talking about the subject.”
As for more immediate concerns, Kraft said that “there’s still an ache” that resulted from the Patriots getting ousted by the Jets in the divisional round of the playoffs.
“I just wish we were playing in this game. That was our plan. Being down here, seeing this great stadium,” said Kraft. “There’s still an ache. We had a great season, but unfortunately we just didn’t finish it off.
“We’ve had four previous situations where we went to the bye. Each of the times we had it, we went to the Super Bowl,” he added. “It was a great locker room, great group of guys, good blend of veterans and young players.”
Among other topics:
–He emphasized that the Patriots are well-positioned going forward thanks to their wealth of draft picks, including three of the first 33 picks in the draft as well as five of the top 75 selections.
–Regarding the Pats‘ top selection (No. 17 overall, obtained from the Raiders in exchange for Richard Seymour at the start of the 2009 season), Kraft said that the Patriots pushed to acquire Oakland’s 2011 first-rounder (rather than a pick in an earlier year) because they were hopeful that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement would be in place that would have a reasonable pay scale for early first-round picks. Read the rest of this entry »
|02.04.11 at 4:24 pm ET|
WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Weight: 255 pounds
Achievements: 2010: Second-team Walter Camp All-American and third-team AP All-American. Ayers was one of five Butkus Award finalists, finishing third. A Lott IMPACT Trophy quarterfinalist and a Phil Steele Mid-Season All-American. Ayers was on the Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award and Rotary Lombardi Award pre-season watch lists. All-Pac-10 first team by the league’s coaches.
What he brings: One of the best and most versatile defensive players in the nation, Ayers is considered among the top athletic defensive players available in the draft. He made the transition from being the No. 1 defensive end prospect on the West coast coming out of high school to strongside outside linebacker. He played both up as a linebacker and down as a defensive end in college. He made the transition to OLB after redshirting in 2007. Ayers only started three of 12 games as redshirt freshman. He was named honorable mention All Pac-10 with 40 tackles and five tackles for loss, including four sacks.
In 2008, Ayers had a breakout sophomore campaign — 55 tackles and consistent demonstrations of big-play ability with 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, four interceptions (two for touchdowns) and two forced fumbles (returning one for a TD). All of the big plays drew the attention of NFL scouts, most of whom believe he is the most athletic and versatile defenders in the draft and that he has a huge upside.
Where the Patriots could get him: No. 17, 28 or in the second round.
|02.04.11 at 3:52 pm ET|
Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said Friday sounded an optimistic note about the uncertain labor situation on Friday, saying ‘a deal can get done in the next week.’
In an interview with the NFL Network, Kraft made it very clear who he believed was holding up a potential deal between the owners and the players.
‘In my opinion, we could get a deal done in the next week if business people sat down on both sides and we tried to get the lawyers in the background,’ Kraft said. ‘You just had a situation where we were sued that we didn’t get enough money from the networks. I know as chair of the Broadcast Committee, I’ve worked with our committee and the Commissioner, and we generated revenue at a very serious time in our country.
‘We were just sued that we didn’t do a good enough job, so the players wind up paying $15 million in legal fees for something that is nonsensical. We have to stop this legal maneuvering and get business negotiations going on. If we do, I’m confident we can close a deal.’
|02.04.11 at 3:00 pm ET|
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in remarks to reporters in Dallas, suggested that the Patriots were missing “a good game plan” in their season-ending loss to the Jets in the division round of the playoffs. He also expressed frustration with the interception that QB Tom Brady threw on a screen pass that killed the momentum of the first Patriots drive, as well as other areas in which his team failed to execute against its divisional rival.
“I don’t know, a good game plan,’ Kraft told reporters in response to a question about what the Patriots were missing that day. “I mean, you have to hand it to the Jets. They came in and they did a good job. And actually, if you think about it, we drove down the field those first two drives. Tommy was unbelievable. He had (11) games without an interception and then threw that lazy interception. They go down and they miss the field goal and then we come drive right down again, and we throw one in the end zone and it gets dropped, we get three points.
“We get the fake punt, which we hadn’t done all year, and it gets bobbled. It was wide open, by the way, if we had executed. Matthew Slater tries to down a ball at the 1 (but could not). We didn’t get the breaks and the Jets did a great job. We’re very sad, I’ll tell you.”
Kraft also weighed in on other subjects. Among them:
–He described Logan Mankins as one of the best players on the team, and said that New England would make a push to re-sign him.
“I just personally want to say, I hope he’s with us for a long-term and we’re going to try to do whatever we have to do to make sure that happens,’ Kraft told reporters.
–He noted that the Pats, including this year’s first- and second-round picks, will have had the opportunity to take 12 players at that stage of the draft from 2009-11, something that Kraft feels will position the team well for the future.
–Amidst the snow storm that has hammered Dallas, Kraft opined that perhaps it would be appropriate for New England to host a Super Bowl.
Kraft will be joining the Big Show at 5 pm on Friday.
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