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Brandon Browner won’t be fined for hit on Ladarius Green

12.12.14 at 5:19 pm ET
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It won’t bring back Devin McCourty‘s negated pick-6 but Patriots fans will be happy to know that Brandon Browner won’t be fined for his hit on Ladarius Green that laid out the Chargers tight end before a national audience.

When the league handed out its fines, this week, Browner’s name was not on the list of those violating NFL safety guidelines.

With Green out cold at midfield, two flags came in late, penalizing Browner for unnecessary roughness for the shoulder blow to the chest that made contact with Green’s chin. The 15-yard penalty wiped out McCourty’s interception that was returned for a touchdown. Green left the game with a concussion.

The decision by the NFL doesn’t come as a complete surprise as NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino weighed in on the play told the NFL Network that Bill Leavy’s officiating crew didn’t get the interpretation wholly correct.

“€œI think the first problem [was that] we announced helmet-to-helmet and this is not a helmet-to-helmet hit,”€ Blandino said. “€œThat’€™s incorrect. When you watch the play, Browner actually does a good job trying to lead with the shoulder and get his head to the side. You can see his head is to the side and he does lead with the shoulder.
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Read More: Brandon Browner, LaDarius Green, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers

Patriots look for fans to make big play in Sunday toy drive for charity

12.12.14 at 5:06 pm ET
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Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Tis the season for giving.

Since starting 2-2, the Patriots have given their fans lots to cheer about, winning eight of nine and shooting to the top of the AFC once again. With a win on Sunday, the Patriots will give their fans something else: a sixth straight AFC East title.

Now, the Patriots are asking for fans to return the favor to help out the needy kids throughout the region they represent.

Prior to Sunday’s game against the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium, the team will be counting on arriving fans to support another important drive, the annual Holiday Toy Drive, benefitting New England children in need this holiday season.

Fans are encouraged to bring new and unwrapped toy donations to the collection bins outside the entry gates at Gillette Stadium or to the Patriots ProShop prior to the game. All who donate will receive a $5 voucher to the Patriots ProShop. All toys donated by fans will be delivered by Patriots players at upcoming holiday events. Toys will serve children ranging from newborn to 18 years old.

A few suggested items to donate are listed below:
· Action figures
· Art supplies including markers, washable paints, colored pencils and drawing pads
· Board games
· Books
· Building toys (blocks, etc.)
· Dolls
· Educational toys (science, math, reading)
· Footballs, soccer balls and assorted sporting goods
· Jewelry kits
· Musical toys
· School supplies
· Stuffed animals
· Toy cars and trucks
· Winter clothing ‘€“ gloves, hats, jackets and mittens

The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation’€™s Celebrate Volunteerism campaign encourages fans to personally go out into the community and make a difference by pledging volunteer hours. For more information about the Celebrate Volunteerism initiative, including resources and information about volunteering, the ‘€œPatriots Difference Maker’€ award and to join the Celebrate Volunteerism movement by pledging volunteer hours, visit www.patriots.com/community.

Read More: New England Patriots, New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, Toy Drive,

Dominique Easley (knee) ruled out Sunday, Rob Ninkovich, Dont’a Hightower among 9 questionable

12.12.14 at 4:53 pm ET
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Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

FOXBORO — Rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley will miss his third game of the season Sunday after being ruled out on Friday’s injury report released by the team. Easley has been dealing with a nagging knee injury.

Rob Ninkovich (heel) continues to headline the limited players, as this is the first time he’s appeared on the injury report this season. Chandler Jones (hip) and Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), who both missed Sunday’s game, were limited. Offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (ankle), who has missed the last three games, was also limited. Julian Edelman (thigh) was again limited, as has been the case in recent weeks.

Edelman, Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower are among those listed officially as questionable. Hightower missed last Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury while Jones has missed the last six with a hip issue.

The Patriots did get some good news as Danny Aiken, who suffered a concussion against the Lions on Nov. 23, was removed from the injury report altogether and is expected to play Sunday.

Here is Friday’s complete practice report:

Did not practice

DL Dominique Easley (knee) OUT

Limited participation

OL Dan Connolly (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
WR Julian Edelman (thigh) QUESTIONABLE
OL Cameron Fleming (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE
DE Chandler Jones (hip) QUESTIONABLE
WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE
DE Rob Ninkovich (heel) QUESTIONABLE
RB Shane Vereen (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
LB Chris White (ankle) QUESTIONABLE

Full participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle) PROBABLE

Read More: Dominique Easley, Dont'a Hightower, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

Adam Schefter on MFB: Patriots ’rounding into form’

12.12.14 at 12:42 pm ET
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Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB and talked about the Patriots’ prospects in the AFC as they head into the home stretch of the regular season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Schefter said it clear the Patriots are “the favorites in the AFC, for whatever’s that worth.”

“I think this team is rounding into form,” Schefter said. “It’s getting better. It’s adding parts like Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas and Alan Branch and LeGarrette Blount — guys that were essentially on the scrap heap that they’re pulling off, utilizing, making them shine in roles they did not have with other teams. it has enabled this team to get better. Chandler Jones come back at some point here, they should obviously benefit tremendously from that. I certainly would not pick them to lose a game from this point on.

“They’ve lost two straight games to the Miami Dolphins. Does anybody think that the Miami Dolphins are going to beat New England for a third straight time in Foxboro on Sunday? I don’t. I don’t. And so if this team just continues to take care of its business and do what it’s been doing, I don’t mean to sound like a coach, but good things will happen.”

Added Schefter: “Good luck to the team that has to come into New England and try win there in January when the winds are whipping and the fans are yelling and temperatures are dipping. That’s going to be a tough assignment to do — not that it can’t be done, because we’ve seen the Baltimore Ravens do it — but it’s going to be a tough assignment for somebody to come in there in January and beat a Patriot team that seems to be improving.”

Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon agreed to a reported two-year, $9 million extension Thursday. This raised some eyebrows because of how it might affect the team’s other linemen.

“It gives New England options,” Schefter said. “You’ve got a situation where Nate Solder‘s deal’s coming up, [Sebastian] Vollmer‘s in a situation. Interestingly enough, Vollmer and Solder have the same agent as Wes Welker and as Shane Vereen. I could be wrong here, but I don’t know if they’ve had any negotiations of any players and any deals since the Wes Welker experience. So these would be the first.

“Now, obviously you’d have to think both sides are going to be smart enough to put previous differences behind them and move forward and do what’s best for both. … But there is a history there. And it will be interesting to see if that history plays into these deals at all and impacts the negotiations on the clients that these two sides have dealt with before.”

Looking at the situation in New York with the Jets, Schefter said he expects owner Woody Johnson to clean house after the season, firing coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik.

“I don’t think that they’re related in any way,” Schefter said. “I don’t think Rex Ryan will be back in New York, I don’t think John Idzik will be back in New York. I think both will be released at the end of the season and I think the Jets will chart a new course and a new direction. That’s the direction it certainly sounds like the franchise is heading. They’ve got to make decisions and make things official, but based on everything I’ve heard, I would be surprised if either guy was back.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots. For more from Schefter, including his thoughts on Rob Gronkowski‘s kitten photos, Johnny Manziel and the Ray Rice situation, listen to the interview at the MFB audio on demand page.

Read More: adam schefter, John Idzik, Marcus Cannon, Rex Ryan

Dominique Easley (knee), Joe Vellano missing from Patriots practice

12.12.14 at 12:18 pm ET
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Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

FOXBORO — In a sign that he could miss Sunday’s game, rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley missed his third practice of the week Friday with a lingering knee injury. Easley has played through the knee issue for most of the season, serving as a backup in each of the last two games. Easley has missed just two of New England’s 13 games this season.

He is the only player to miss the entire week as the Patriots prepare to host the Dolphins Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Also missing was practice squad defensive lineman Joe Vellano.

The team worked out in sweats and shells in the brisk conditions, with a wind out of the north making it feel much colder than the temperature in the upper 30s. The only player wearing shorts in the biting cold was defensive lineman Chris Jones.

The team will conduct a walkthrough on Saturday before taking on the Miami Dolphins Sunday. The Patriots will clinch their sixth straight AFC East title with a win.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Chris Jones, Dominique Easley, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

Judge rules victim’s texts won’t be used as evidence in Aaron Hernandez case

12.12.14 at 11:28 am ET
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A judge in the Aaron Hernandez case ruled Friday that text messages sent by the victim on the night of his murder are inadmissible and will not be seen by a jury.

The prosecution said texts sent from Odin L. Lloyd to his sister on the night of his murder showed that he was fearful for his life. The defense team representing Hernandez, however, argued otherwise.

“On their face, these messages do not suggest fear,” said defense attorney James Sultan. “They do not suggest knowledge of impending death. They are totally innocuous on their face, but, of course, the government wants to put a much more sinister cast on them.”

In the end, Judge Susan E. Garsh decided the messages will not be used as evidence in the case, saying Hernandez did not see the texts or know about Lloyd’€™s alleged fearful feelings.

“The victim’€™s attitude of hostility toward a defendant, unknown to the defendant, is irrelevant and inadmissible,” Garsh said. “And even a statement of fear, even if known to the defendant, generally sheds no light on whether the defendant had a motive to kill him and is not admissible.”

The jury selection process for the murder trial is set to begin on Jan. 5.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez,

Bill Belichick on Marcus Cannon: ‘It’s always good to have him on the field’

12.12.14 at 11:00 am ET
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Marcus Cannon

Marcus Cannon

FOXBORO — The way Bill Belichick sees it, a two-year, $9 million extension for Marcus Cannon is money well earned. The Patriots coach made that much clear Friday morning, hours after the extension was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Cannon showed his biggest value in 2013 when Sebastian Vollmer went out with a broken leg against the Dolphins in October. He took over at right tackle and helped stabilize the offensive line.

“Last year, he had an opportunity to play a lot,” Belichick said of the 26-year-old offensive lineman out of Texas Christian. “I thought he played well. This year, he gives us a lot of depth at a key position. It’s always good to have him on the field.

“He works hard and is very athletic guy, tough.”

This year has been a bigger challenge for Cannon, who has struggled at times on the left side of the offensive line. He started the first three games at left guard, as the Patriots searched for a replacement for the traded Logan Mankins. But he seemed to find a more comfortable role in the tackle-eligible role when the Patriots went with their jumbo sets.

“Marcus works hard. He’s done a lot of different things for us. He’s improved a lot,” Belichick said.

Belichick would not specifically confirm the new deal for Cannon, focusing instead on the upcoming opponent this weekend at Gillette Stadium.

“I don’t really talk too much about contracts. Just right now worried about Miami,” Belichick said.

Cannon was due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season after signing his four-year, $2.338 million rookie contract with New England in July 2011.

Cannon’s deal gives the Patriots some tackle insurance on the offensive line as Nate Solder is facing an upcoming fifth-year option of $7.43 million. With Cameron Fleming having missed eight of the last nine games with finger and knee injuries, that role has fallen primarily to Cannon.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Marcus Cannon, Nate Solder, New England Patriots
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