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Ty Law believes this Patriots secondary can be winners if they ignore the noise

08.18.12 at 11:10 am ET
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FOXBORO — Ty Law remembers his days with the Patriots like they were yesterday and he remembers one of the four principles of Bill Belichick.

Ignore the noise.

It’s one of Belichick’s credos that Law believes will be essential for this group of cornerbacks to reach the next level.

“Stay the course and keep working hard,” Law said Friday. “You can’t get caught up in all the negative press because those other guys on the other team get paid, too, so you’re going to get beat. So, you’re going to want to keep your face out of the papers, off the TV and reading what we’re all talking about.”

Last year, all anyone would talk about when they talked about Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington was how many times they were beaten in the secondary.

Law saw the same thing but he believes McCourty and Arrington have to prove they can block out all the negatives and focus on improving, something both have shown in this camp at times.

“That can really get to you and once you have a few of those mental lapses and you start thinking about it, your game is going to go to crap,” Law said. “The next thing you know, they’re going to be shipping you to another team. Just stay the course, stay on the film and work with your safeties. I think that’s one thing most defensive backs and cornerbacks don’t do, they don’t get together enough.

“I remember when I played, we got together and we went out and ate together, we watched film together. We’d go out to somebody’s house and we’d get a keg of beer and we drank a couple of beers and watched film. That’s what you do. It builds camaraderie. If you can trust somebody off the field, you can trust them on the field and that’s what we did. That’s how we were able to be successful.”

Today, Law is going out to eating establishments but with a completely different focus. He’s into the family atmosphere as he’s getting ready to open a trampoline-themed eatery in Warwick, R.I. He was in Foxboro on Friday promoting his new business and is hopeful soon to open a similar one in Massachusetts.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington

10 things we learned Friday from Patriots training camp

08.17.12 at 5:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots held their last public practice Friday, as fans got their last free look at the defending AFC champions as they prepare to host the Eagles Monday night.

Here are 10 things we learned as the Pats get ready for their second preseason game and Gillette Stadium gets ready for Bruce Springsteen:

ROLL CALL

The following players were in sweats for the Patriots: Jabar Gaffney, Stevan Ridley, Alfonzo Dennard, James Ihedigbo, Spencer Larsen, Tracy White, Markus Zusevics, Kyle Hix, Sebastian Vollmer, Daniel Fells and Myron Pryor.

The players not spotted at practice were: Tavon Wilson, Matt Kopa, Jake Ballard, Gerard Warren and Jonathan Fanene.

JEFF DEMPS ISN’T HERE (YET)

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio wouldn’t comment on any transactions, but word emerged out of Florida on Friday (Fox 13’s Kevin O’Donnell) that New England had signed silver medal-winning Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps. According to multiple reports, Demps was not in town Friday because he was signing his contract in Florida.

Demps, who played running back at the University of Florida, could also serve as a kick returner for New England. Having been timed in the 40-yard dash below a 4.20, the 5-foot-7 Demps should easily be the fastest player on the team, but speed doesn’t always lead to success. Just ask Chad Jackson or Bethel Johnson.

TY LAW PAYS A VISIT

Patriots legend Ty Law took in practice Friday, as he is in town thanks to an indoor trampoline facility he is opening up. The longtime Pats’ cornerback mostly checked out practice from outside the field, but could be seen on the field chatting with Tom Brady, among others.

WELKER LEAVES EARLY

Without any noticeable injury or any sign of being encumbered, receiver Wes Welker walked off the field, at 2:59 p.m., about an hour and a half into practice. To the naked eye, there didn’t appear to be anything worrying about.

JONES GIVES PUBLIC SOMETHING TO REMEMBER

The last play of open camp was something the fans on hand would certainly view as a highlight, as Chandler Jones — the same Chandler Jones who is supposed to be the answer to the Patriots’ pass rush blues — fielded a punt. Not only did he field the punt, but he did so cleanly. This led to gigantic cheers from both fans and every Patriots player on the field.

It turns out the players were cheering for good reason. At stake on the play was their time Friday night, and Jones catching the punt meant they got the night off.

UP-AND-DOWN DAY FOR LLOYD

While Jones catching the punt secured that he would be the newcomer that stole the show on Friday, free agent receiver Brandon Lloyd had a bit of an interesting day. The veteran receiver turned in some truly sensational catches — he made a one-handed grab in the back of the end zone (it would have been out of bounds, but still) on a pass from Brady and also beat Devin McCourty on a deep ball — but also had some down moments.

One of those came on a deep ball from Brady that Lloyd completely let go through his hands in the end zone. Lloyd was in double coverage (Josh Barrett and Ross Ventrone) on the play, but he was a step ahead of both defenders and saw the ball all the way into — make that through — his hands. Lloyd also dropped an easy pass from Brady that did not come against any defenders.

BRADY, LLOYD, GRONKOWSKI GET CLIQUEY

In a sign that they might not be spending too much time on the field Monday, Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Lloyd spent time on one of the two practice fields all by themselves, with Brady throwing passes to his weapons without the presence of any defenders.

Lloyd wasn’t the only culprit of some head-scratching drops on the day, and Gronkowski put himself among the other guilty parties while the three were working together. The tight end would either run a route unencumbered or deal with a blocking pad before breaking into his route, and he ended up with a pair of drops during the session. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Nate Ebner, Ty Law,

A closer look at what the addition of Jeff Demps means for Patriots

08.17.12 at 3:27 pm ET
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The addition of Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps could give a boost to the Patriots’€™ kick return position, an area that has been inconsistent for New England since Ellis Hobbs was traded to Philadelphia following the 2008 season.

That year Hobbs handled 45 of the 62 kickoff attempts and averaged 25.2 yards per return, third best in the NFL behind only Tennessee’€™s 25.4 and Seattle’€™s 25.3. In 2011, working with seven different returners, the Patriots were at 21.4 per return, 29th in the league.

It’€™s not just the stats. Since Hobbs left, the Patriots have tried several different full-timers at the spot, including Matthew Slater, Laurence Maroney, Julian Edelman, Kevin Faulk and Brandon Tate. (Tate gave them a jolt for the first half of the 2010 season, but fell off midway through the year.) Not having a consistent presence on kickoffs is a drawback, especially when you are shuffling multiple bodies through the position from game to game.

To that point, the Patriots have rotated a wide variety of players at the kick return spot throughout this year’€™s spring and summer practices, including Danny Woodhead (who handled 20 of the 46 kick returns for New England during the regular season) and Edelman (who returned 28 of the 38 punts last season for the Patriots). Wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth and running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen have also been worked in on occasion.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Thursday that last year’€™s numbers were sub-par, and there wasn’€™t much reason to be optimistic to this point, based on the preseason opener against the Saints.

‘€œWe didn’€™t return them very well in any conditions at any time [last year], and still haven’€™t based on the New Orleans game,’€ he said. ‘€œThat’€™s obviously an area that we can improve in, that we have worked hard in, but based on the results still need to do a lot more work on.’€

Into this mix comes Demps, who won a silver medal in this year’€™s Olympics. The 22-year-old, who checks in at 5-foot-9 and 181 pounds, had a standout career with the Gators, finishing with 2,470 career rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in four seasons. He didn’€™t participate in any of the spring pre-draft workouts because he was focused completely on track, and was undrafted.

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Chung on M&M: Tough preseason schedule ‘is the nature of the beast’

08.17.12 at 2:07 pm ET
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Patriots safety Patrick Chung joined Mut & Merloni on Friday morning to for his weekly appearance as New England prepares for its Monday night preseason game against the Eagles. To listen to the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The game against the Eagles starts a grueling stretch for the Patriots, who will play their final three preseason games over a span of 10 days. However, Chung said that the team was not thinking about how tough the schedule would be on their bodies.

‘€œIt is the nature of the beast,’€ Chung said. ‘€œThat is how our schedule came up. We just have to deal with it. It is just being mature about it and confident and just playing the game. We can’€™t really think about, ‘€˜Oh, we have that three-game stretch,’€™ or, ‘€˜We don’€™t get a break.’€™ We can’€™t think about that because then we have already lost. We have got to just take it as it comes and just ball it out.’€

One thing that will help the Patriots through the stretch is the tighter restrictions on fully padded practices. The team likely will have less wear and tear than it would have in this type of schedule thanks to the latest collective bargaining agreement’€™s limitations to padded practices.

However, while Chung said the fewer padded practices will help the team stay healthy, he also noted that those extra practices helped the team stay sharp.

‘€œIt is definitely easy on the body, but sometimes you need those padded practices,’€ Chung said. ‘€œPractice makes perfect. Practice should be the hardest thing so the game is just easy and it is just natural instincts of what you did in practice.’€

In both padded and non-padded practices, Chung has been playing alongside offseason acquisition Steve Gregory a lot this training camp and only had good things to say about the former Chargers safety.

‘€œI like Steven. He is smart,’€ Chung said. ‘€œHe came in and he is helping me, I’€™m helping me and he is smart. It’€™s looking good. ‘€¦ Right now we are just working to get better and get consistent so we can keep it going throughout the season.’€

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Read More: pat chung, Patriots, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson

10 things we learned Thursday from Patriots training camp

08.16.12 at 5:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€“ The penultimate day of 2012 Patriots training camp was a busy one for the team’s training staff as the team held its fourth straight day of full pads practice. Three players needed medical treatment on the sidelines while another fight (fairly minor) broke out. The team will hold their final two open practices of camp – and the season – on Friday from 1:30-4. The team likely will be off Saturday, the same day Bruce Springsteen plays Gillette Stadium. Camp will break as the team likely will have a walkthrough on Sunday before hosting the Eagles Monday night at Gillette.

ROLL CALL

The biggest news was the sight of Jabar Gaffney in sweats and a t-shirt. He injured his right leg on Wednesday and just watched from the sidelines.

With the roster still at 88 players, there were only 70 in full uniform as nine were in shorts and went through only conditioning exercises while seven were not spotted at all.

The seven players not seen Thursday were safeties James Ihedigbo and Malcolm Williams, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, tight end Jake Ballard and defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Jonathan Fanene.

In addition to Gaffney, nine other players were in shorts – Myron Pryor, fullback Eric Kettani Daniel Fells, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, linebacker Tracy White, fullback Spencer Larsen and offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Sebastian Vollmer.

Here are nine other things we learned from camp Thursday.

TEMPER, TEMPER

After watching a fight between Brandon Spikes and Nate Solder inside Gillette Stadium early in camp and then two more scraps days later, Bill Belichick warned his team that he had seen enough. The next time, he was going to put his foot down. On Thursday, that figurative foot landed squarely in the backside of Julian Edelman and linebacker Niko Koutouvides, both of whom were kicked out of practice after scuffling after Edelman fielded a punt.

BUMPS AND BRUISES

Aaron Hernandez, Stevan Ridley and rookie Tavon Wilson all suffered what appeared to be leg injuries during Thursday’s fourth straight day in full pads practice. Hernandez twice came up gimpy following pass routes, including a slant toward the end zone during 7-on-7 drills. Hernandez flexed his knee several times and stayed in practice. Ridley came out later during 11-on-11 drills after he ran the ball to the right side of the offensive line. He stayed on the field and got treatment on his right leg from trainer Jim Whalen on the sideline, several times balancing on his right leg in a strength test. Ridley, who stayed in uniform, did not return to practice. Rookie safety Tavon Wilson injured his lower left leg after going up with fellow safety Steve Gregory in double coverage on a pass intended for Hernandez, who made a leaping grab before falling to the turf. Wilson, who was in the area of Hernandez, limped off to the sideline under his own power and later had an ice pack taped to his left ankle. Wilson, Ridley and Hernandez all took part in team stretching at the end of practice before leaving the field for the day with the rest of the team.

MANKINS GETS MORE REPS

Logan Mankins had his most active day yet on the offensive line, taking part in over half of the 11-on-11 drills during hurry-up and huddle snaps. Perhaps most encouraging was his work during 1-on-1 drills against defensive linemen as he handled Brandon Deaderick. When Mankins needed a break, he was spelled at left guard by Nick McDonald in mid-drive during the hurry-up drills.

PLAY OF THE DAY

During 11-on-11 drills, Brady went play-action and threw deep over the middle to a streaking Aaron Hernandez, who put his hand up momentarily. By the time, Brady threw the ball, Hernandez was in double coverage but Hernandez went up and grabbed the ball away from safeties Tavon Wilson and Steve Gregory. What made the catch all the more impressive was the fact Hernandez came up gimpy just minutes earlier, shaking his right leg, after a TD catch on a tight end flare in 7-on-7 drills. Runner up: Donte’ Stallworth went all out and caught a pass from Ryan Mallett down the right sideline over safety Derrick Martin during receiver/corner 1-on-1 drills. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

Rob Gronkowski: ‘I feel like I’ve improved a lot’ since start of camp

08.16.12 at 5:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There was some question as to how offseason ankle surgery would affect tight end Rob Gronkowski, but after an uneven first couple of weeks, the big tight end appears to be feeling better. At least, that’s the assessment he gave after Thursday’s practice.

“Every day you’re going out there and you want to improve, (and) from beginning of camp to this day, I feel like I’ve improved a lot from where I started,” he said after practice on Thursday.

“It’s just great going out and competing versus everyone. Going out there every single day, you get the speed of the game down more, you get the chemistry down with the quarterbacks more. Just overall, you get better just being out there facing competition every day.”

Gronkowski, who was sidelined for three practices earlier this week — he was in a T-shirt and sweats running sprints while the rest of his teammates knocked heads — was anxious to get back into the rhythm of the offense.

“Obviously, there’s always a setback when you miss a couple. You never want to,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 thing, always, to get out there and practice and get your conditioning right and always have the chemistry with the offense.

“It’s just a little bit of everything,” he added. “You just always want to be out there with the team.”

It’s been an interesting camp for tight ends, as newcomers Daniel Fells and Visanthe Shiancoe have struggled to see the field. Meanwhile, Aaron Hernandez has dealt with his own share of bumps and bruises, while Alex Silvestro continues to make strides in his transition from defensive end to tight end.

All in all, Gronkowski says that they’ve done well as a group.

“We’re doing good. There’s always room to improve, every single aspect of the game — especially including myself, going out there and improving in all areas, from the passing game to the running game. Just try and get better every single day you’re out there. We have to keep on improving and do our own job out there all the time.”

And when it comes to Hernandez and his work this summer, Gronkowski said it’s been the same old, same old with the versatile pass-catcher, who has lined up all over the field throughout camp.

“You always see a lot from Aaron — he’s very versatile. He’s a great athlete who can play basically play anywhere they ask him to,” Gronkowski said. “It’s great playing with him. You learn so much from him quickness, from his burst, how he gets open. Just seeing the same old Aaron you have the last two years. Just a really good player.”

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Rob Gronkowski,

The competitive side of Wes Welker: ‘We’ll see how the defense holds up’

08.16.12 at 10:34 am ET
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FOXBORO — Wes Welker has heard just about enough about how much the defense is handing it to the offense in this camp.

On Monday, Welker was asked why the defense is doing so well in bottling him up during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills.

“They’re doing a great job of holding,” Welker said in his typical dead pan voice, before breaking into a smile and giving credit to the defense.

Then, on Wednesday, after two more days of the defense intercepting the quarterback and forcing coverage sacks, Welker was asked about the competition level of the defense.

“Obviously they’re doing a good job and it’€™s been a very competitive camp on both sides of the ball and that’€™s what we need,” Welker began. “That’s how we get better ‘€“ being competitive with each other and really going out there and battling with each other and trying to get better daily. And we’€™ll see. We’€™ll see on all fronts how the offense holds up, how the defense holds up, how the team holds up as a whole. All of that remains to be seen.”

Of course, Welker wants the Patriots defense to continue its great play in the regular season. And he made it clear that all three units need to be clicking if the Patriots are going to reach their goals this season.

Along with Aaron Hernandez, Welker has looked the best among the Patriots deep receiving corps this summer. One time during red zone drills on Wednesday, Tom Brady rolled out to his right, and threw incomplete to Welker in coverage and not to an open Brandon Lloyd.

Belichick explained part of that rationale Wednesday.

“Every interception in practice or every play that doesn’€™t get made in practice isn’€™t necessarily a bad play,” Belichick said. “I think we can all learn from those plays, provided that we do learn from them and then apply it in a similar situation the next time it comes up. But particularly at the quarterback position, there are some balls that you try to stick in there and you learn that you just can’€™t do that.

“There are other times, you learn that, ‘€˜Yeah, I can. There are times when this play is OK and it will work.’€™ Then there are other plays that you realize that you can’€™t do that. Sometimes that’€™s part of it. That’€™s true of all quarterbacks, I’€™m not singling anybody out. I would say every one that I’€™ve coached ‘€“ particularly one that I’€™ve coached here for a long time ‘€“ we talk about that all the time: You can always make the safe throw and just take the easy throw then that’€™s OK. But at some point, you’€™re going to have to do more than that and you better know what you can do and what you can’€™t do. Better to find out in practice then in the middle of the fourth quarter that, ‘€˜No, I can’€™t. I don’€™t want to be doing that.’€™ That’€™s not the time for it.”

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl
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