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Why working with Bill Parcells gives Mike Zimmer valuable insight against Bill Belichick

09.11.14 at 2:12 pm ET
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Mike Zimmer will be looking to hold down Tom Brady and the Patriots offense once again on Sunday. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Mike Zimmer will be looking to hold down Tom Brady and the Patriots offense once again on Sunday. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

As one of the most respected defensive minds in the NFL, Mike Zimmer knows a good offense when he sees one.

And in New England, the Vikings new head coach sees an offense that put up 20 points in a half against a good Miami Dolphins defense before running out of gas and forgetting to protect its quarterback in the second half last Sunday.

Zimmer sees Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the backfield, Julian Edelman with speed on the edge and Rob Gronkowski in between, running seam routes or wreaking havoc in the red zone.

Oh yeah, he also sees Tom Brady.

“New England is a tough team to pressure,” Zimmer said. “Brady does a great job of getting the ball out, they do a good job in protection of knowing who to block, their backs do a great job in protection. They’€™ve got the screens that they use so often and the receivers [Julian Edelman] and Gronkowski, they know where to get to on the [reads] and hots. They do a great job.

“You know it’€™s never an easy thing, I know [Miami] played better in the second half, but the first half, New England did a good job. In the second half, [Miami] just made some plays. Against New England you have to make some plays from time to time in order to get them off the field. You have to be good on third downs.”

Zimmer worked with Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle when they were in Cincinnati together, with Zimmer working as the D.C. and Coyle in charge of the defensive backs.

“I don’€™t know exactly what Miami was trying to do defensively, I know obviously Kevin Coyle is a very good friend of mine but we have not talked about the game,” Zimmer said. “We kind of know each other’€™s systems well. It’€™s hard for me to know exactly what Miami was doing.”

Zimmer is not new to the Patriots, or their way of thinking. Before taking over as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator in 2008, Zimmer worked for someone pretty familiar with Bill Belichick. Zimmer was Bill Parcells‘ defensive coordinator in Dallas between 2003 and ’06. Zimmer installed a 3-4 look that Parcells preferred, despite Zimmer having never worked with it.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Cincinnati Bengals, Mike Zimmer

Perfect attendance for Patriots active roster at Thursday practice

09.11.14 at 12:02 pm ET
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When it comes to their 53-man roster, the Patriots had perfect attendance at practice again Thursday, according to reports. The only player not present for the start of the session was practice squadder Kelcy Quarles.

The workout was held in shorts, sweats and shells on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. The Patriots continue preparations for Sunday’s contest in Minnesota against the Vikings.

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Shane Vereen on having balanced offense: ‘You have to execute in all areas’

09.11.14 at 7:00 am ET
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FOXBORO — The key to any NFL offense is being balanced.

In the Patriots’€™ 33-20 loss to the Dolphins, in which they were outscored 23-0 in the second half, the offense was anything but balanced.

Entering the fourth quarter, trailing just 23-20, the offense ran just three designed running plays. This after rushing for 61 yards in the first half and then running seven total rushing plays in the second half.

“You have to have execution in the run game, the pass game, the screen game, play action — everything needs to execute well,” running back Shane Vereen said. “€œIf not, then you become unbalanced and start getting away from one thing that’€™s maybe not working, as well and going to things that work, but you just have to execute in all areas.”

Vereen had a productive first game of the season as he finished with seven carries for 36 yards and a touchdown to lead the team and then caught five passes out of the backfield for 35 yards.

Some pointed to the number of different players seeing time on the offensive line and a few playing multiple positions as a possible reason why the offense and particularly the offensive line struggled — but Vereen was quick to shut that point down.

“It adds another level of complexity to the offense, but we’€™ve all been doing this since spring,” he said. “Personnel groups are nothing to do us or this offense. That’€™s no excuse for anything that’€™s going on right now.”

For the first time since 2003, the Patriots lost their season-opener, but the team is not even thinking about that. The Pats already have put Sunday’€™s loss behind them and are focused on the Vikings and the remainder of the season.

“We have a lot of football left,” said Vereen. “It’€™s just one week and you can never dwell on one week, especially the first week. We still have 15 games left to go and that’€™s what our focus is on now.”

On Sunday the Patriots will be looking to avoid going 0-2 for the first time since 2001, and Bill Belichick has only lost back-to-back road games twice in his career in New England. That streak is largely due in part to the team’s preparation leading up to each game and the ability to put the past in the past.

“You have to get to work,” Vereen said. “€œYou have to practice hard this week, have a good game plan, go in there and execute on Sunday.”

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NFL announces ex-FBI chief will lead probe into league’s handling of Rice case

09.10.14 at 11:27 pm ET
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The NFL announced Wednesday night that former FBI director Robert Mueller will lead an independent investigation into the league’€™s handling of the Ray Rice case.

According to the NFL, Mueller’s investigation will be overseen by owners John Mara of the Giants and Art Rooney of the Steelers, and the final report will be made public. Commissioner Roger Goodell has pledged that Mueller will have the full cooperation of NFL personnel and access to all NFL records.

The announcement of the probe came less than 24 hours after a law enforcement official told The Associated Press  that he sent a tape of Rice striking his then-fiancee at a casino to an NFL executive in April. That report runs contrary to statements from Goodell, who said no one at the league had seen the tape prior to Monday, when it went viral online via TMZ.

Mueller served as director of the FBI for 12 years (2001-13). He currently works as an attorney in Washington, D.C.

The NFL has launched several similar independent investigations in recent years, including the bullying scandal last year involving the Dolphins

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Read More: Art Rooney, John Mara, ray rice, roger goodell

Robert Kraft’s longstanding friendship with Roger Goodell could be tested

09.10.14 at 10:35 pm ET
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Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell have forged a tight bond over the last decade. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Robert Kraft (right) and Roger Goodell (center) have forged a tight bond over the last decade. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

While the future of the embattled NFL commissioner is in doubt, over the years there’s no question as to where he’s stood with Patriots ownership.

Since Roger Goodell first assumed the job in August 2006, he’s always had a staunch ally in Patriots owner Robert Kraft. In the days after Goodell took the position, Kraft called Goodell’s ascension from NFL intern to commissioner “pretty special.”

“He is ready for this job,” Kraft told USA Today. “It’s nice to know, you give 25 years to an organization, you’re trained hard, you work hard and you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about things, and your dream comes true, sort of like me buying the Patriots. Roger becoming commissioner is pretty special.”

Despite the fact that Goodell popped Bill Belichick with a $500,000 fine and the Patriots $250,000 and a draft pick in the wake of the Spygate scandal just over a year later, Kraft and Goodell have never publicly been at odds. In fact, according to some accounts, with a possible labor stoppage looming, Kraft was one of the driving forces in awarding Goodell a new contract after four years on the job.

“We’re going into a major negotiation. It will be very difficult probably in many ways and we want to have someone who has his own views, who’s going to have to make some hard decisions that maybe some of us won’t like,” Kraft told The Associated Press in a 2010 telephone interview.

“But in the end, I think we’re confident that he and his team will do what’s for the best long-term interest of the league,” added the Patriots owner. “Having stability in our management team is critical.”

The nice words have been returned in kind on several occasions over the last few years. In a joint appearance at UMass-Lowell commencement in 2010 when the commissioner received an honorary degree, Goodell was effusive in his praise of Kraft.

“Robert Kraft has given this area and this region a lot to cheer for,” Goodell said, while adding he considered Kraft a “friend and mentor.”

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Dan Connolly, Nate Solder vow better effort in protecting Tom Brady

09.10.14 at 8:58 pm ET
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Dan Connolly is focused on leading the Patriots offensive line to a better performance. (Mike Petraglia/

Dan Connolly is focused on leading the Patriots offensive line to a better performance. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — There’s a time-tested expression in the NFL that the film don’t lie.

This week, every Patriots offensive lineman had to sit through meetings early in the week and take a look at what happened in Miami and figure out why it was open season on Tom Brady last Sunday.

Teams that take a look at that film are going to think that they can pin their ears back and get to Brady. It’s up to veterans like Nate Solder and Dan Connolly to bring the unit together and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“I think that’s a goal a lot of times when teams play us,” newly appointed captain Dan Connolly said Wednesday. “It’s up to us to make sure we firm up the pocket and protect the quarterback. We just have to put the last game behind us.”

“Man, we’re working on everything,” Solder added. “We didn’t feel real happy with anything we did last game so we went back to our fundamentals and are working on everything. It’s a lot of basic stuff. It’s a lot of stuff that we know how to do and can improve.

“There is a process of developing your own skills, no matter who you’re playing against. But as the week goes, you have to hone in on your skills for a particular opponent. It’s a combination because (the Dolphins) are very good players and that made it tough on us when we didn’t use the proper techniques.”

In a game that featured musical chairs along the line, Connolly was the only lineman to play two positions, as he alternated from starting center to left guard.

“I was the guy moving. I do my job in both spots and just focus on that,” Connolly said.

The biggest difference at right guard and center?

“I don’t have to snap the ball,” Connolly said of playing right guard. “I’m looking at the same thing the center is looking at. The center is a little more vocal, making sure everybody is on the same page but as a whole, we all need to know what’s going on, see where the linebackers are and kind of anticipate where pressures are coming and ultimately, just block the front.

Connolly, when at center, is calling out protections along the line and is the man responsible for bringing together the likes of Solder, Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey, Cameron Fleming, Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork and Sebastian Vollmer

“There’s definitely a chemistry involved but I think we do a good job here of rotating guys through and building a chemistry with multiple groups, and not just playing with five guys in practice and throw somebody else in there and it’s confusion,” Connolly said. “We play with different guys so I think we’re ready when other guys come into the game.

“You never know when you’re going to lose a guy so guys always have to be ready.”

Read More: Dan Connolly, minnesota vikings, Nate Solder, New England Patriots

Matt Cassel recalls his time in New England, what he learned from Tom Brady

09.10.14 at 8:00 pm ET
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Matt Casell will face the Patriots for the first time on Sunday. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Matt Casell will face the Patriots for the first time on Sunday. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It’€™s been six years since Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel was a member of the Patriots, but that doesn’€™t mean he still doesn’€™t refer back to his time in New England.

“I think I constantly refer back to some of the things that I learned in New England and throughout my career,” Cassel said on a conference call Wednesday. “It was a great stepping stone, and it also gave me time to mature as a player and as a quarterback. I got to learn from one of the best in the game to ever play the game in Tom [Brady], and he was such a great mentor to me. Not only that, but the way that they prepared, the attitude they had, the way they went about their business –€“ I really carried that to every place that I’€™ve gone.”

Cassel’€™s 2008 season with New England was what put him on the map as Brady went down in Week 1 with a torn ACL and Cassel stepped in, despite not starting a game since high school and led the Patriots to an 11-6 record. The performance received attention throughout the league and Cassel along with linebacker Mike Vrabel were traded to the Chiefs in Feb. of 2009.

“€œA tremendous amount of confidence, obviously,” Cassel said of the 2008 season. “€œI think that everybody was skeptical –€“ probably even to a point myself — when I first got the nod and got the opportunity because I hadn’€™t started a game since high school. But at the same time, I knew through my preparation and also working diligently throughout the course of the week and also over the years that I had the ability to do it. Then it was just a process of getting out there and getting the game time action.”

After starting for two seasons with the Chiefs, Cassel was delegated to a back up role for the next two seasons. In 2013 he moved up north to Minnesota and started in seven games. He’€™s kept that starting job for 2014 despite Minnesota taking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with the No. 32 overall pick in this year’€™s draft.

Sunday, the Vikings will host the Patriots in their home opener and Cassel will face his former team for the first time. The quarterback will be reunited with his former mentor and someone he now views as a good friend in Brady.

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Read More: Matt Cassel, Tom Brady,
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