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Navy grants early release for Eric Kettani, clearing way for return to Patriots

04.25.12 at 6:53 pm ET
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The Navy announced Wednesday that it has approved a request for an early release from active duty from Eric Kettani so that the running back may return to his pursuit of an NFL career. The 24-year-old Kettani originally signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2009 before spending two seasons on active duty with the Navy.

Kettani returned to the Patriots last July for training camp and was on the practice squad for the first five weeks of the regular season before he was unexpectedly denied leave by the Navy, which forced New England to release him from the practice squad in early October. However, the 5-foot-11, 235-pound running back has been cleared by the Navy to resume his football career. Now he’ll likely join a crowded picture at fullback that includes newcomers Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta.

Read More: Eric Kettani, Spencer Larsen, Tony Fiammetta,

NFL Draft Top 10: Players with character concerns

04.25.12 at 5:11 pm ET
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If the Bill Belichick regime has emphasized any part of the NFL draft, it’s the idea that teams must evaluate a prospect’s character on and off the field just as closely as they need to monitor his physical tools and talents. Each year’s draft class provides plenty of potential draftees who have red flags that have little to do with their physical skills, whether it’s criminal charges or NCAA sanctions, not caring enough or lacking discipline. Here’s a look at the top 10 players in this year’s draft that teams will have to take a second look at when it comes down to their character.

1. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama Jenkins comes into the draft as this year’€™s winner of the unofficial ‘€œcharacter concern’€ trophy (which could have been awarded to current Patriot Ryan Mallett prior to last year’€™s draft) after being booted from Florida following multiple charges and being forced to transfer to Division 2 North Alabama for a season. The father of four children under the age of 4 with three different mothers, Jenkins has three drug arrests on his record from his time at Florida, although he hasn’€™t had a single incident since leaving the school. However, Jenkins did part ways with his agent, Creative Artists Agency’s Ben Dogra, earlier this month, which raised some eyebrows.

2. Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina – After failing to record a start during his final season at UNC, Paige-Moss’€™ declaration for the 2012 draft acted as a confirmation of sorts regarding speculation that he had been at odds with the team’€™s coaching staff for much of his career. The conflict was made public when he came out on Twitter following the team’€™s loss to Missouri in the 2012 Independence Bowl and called the coaches horrible, called out UNC fans and capped off the tweet with the hash tag ‘€œ#imout.’€ Before he even suited up for the Tar Heels, Paige-Moss was charged with assault after punching a fellow UNC commit before the start of the season. He also was suspended for the Tar Heels’ bowl game after pushing an NC State player following the team’€™s final regular-season game.

3. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon – Harris entered the draft after Oregon dismissed the junior cornerback for ‘€œviolating team rules’€ while already on indefinite suspension. Prior to the 2011 season, Harris was pulled over while driving 118 mph on the highway, leading to his suspension for the season opener. He was pulled over again in October and was charged with driving without a license, failing to wear a seat belt and not having proper insurance, leading to the indefinite suspension.

4. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska Just a week ago, Dennard didn’€™t have any major red flags, especially in terms of character concerns. However, after allegations that he punched a police officer early last Saturday morning, teams will be extremely tentative when looking at him on their boards. The timing is what makes the incident such a big issue, as teams won’€™t get much of a chance to look into it or talk to Dennard prior to draft day.

5. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State Once looked upon as a can’€™t-miss prospect, Burfict now has a reputation across the league as a can’€™t-take player. Though he had an extremely productive career for the Sun Devils and entered the draft as one of college football’€™s most-hyped prospects, his terrible attitude on and off the field has forced more than one team to take him off of the board. One of the biggest knocks against Burfict came from CBS Sports’€™ Bruce Feldman, who quoted a league scout as saying: ‘€œI wouldn’€™t touch him. He does have some talent, but he is so undisciplined on and off the field. The guy is completely out of control. There’€™s no way you could trust him. I can’€™t believe [ASU] didn’€™t cut him loose.’€

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Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Janoris Jenkins,

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says Pats will get Perry, Smith

04.25.12 at 3:50 pm ET
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With the first round of the draft now almost 24 hours away, NFL Network Mike Mayock has released his final mock draft, and he has the Patriots going after USC defensive end Nick Perry with the 27th overall pick and Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith at No. 31. For more on Perry, check our look at him as a “Potential Patriot” here. We’ve also got more on Smith here. For a complete look at how Mayock sees the first round breaking down, click HERE.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Harrison Smith, Mike Mayock, Nick Perry

Draft day memories: For Anthony Gonzalez, personal expectations ‘outweigh anything a draft selection can justify’

04.25.12 at 2:34 pm ET
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Andrew Luck will be the only one who really feels happy at the end of this year’s NFL draft. For the rest of the selections, their dreams will be realized, but at the same time, there will also be a twinge of disappointment.

“I think the only guy who’s really, really happy is the first pick. Everyone else probably thinks they should have gotten picked higher,” said Patriots wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, a first-round pick of the Colts in 2007 out of Ohio State.

Gonzalez, who was taken 32nd overall, was speaking partially tongue-in-cheek, but he said that draft day is all part of a roller-coaster of emotions for any college prospect.

“It’s an emotional day,” he said when asked about his own draft day experience. “At the end of the day, though, I think everyone would agree with this: you get picked and you’re just thrilled that it’s over. Finally, your dream has sort of come true.”

Gonzalez was taken as a first-round pick by the Colts a few months after Indianapolis won Super Bowl XLVI, and enjoyed two very good seasons with the Colts, catching 94 passes in his first two years in Indy. He’s struggled with injury the last three years, but says he’s never had issues with the expectations that are usually come with being a first-round pick.

“I have expectations for myself and goals and desires that are personal, but I think that far outweigh anything a draft selection can justify,” he said. “So that’s not really something I concern myself with. I concern myself with being successful and helping the New England Patriots win football games. That’s my goal. If that happens and people say i was a great draft pick, five-and-a-half years ago, great. If not, honestly, I don’t care that much.”

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, Anthony Gonzalez, draft day memories

Troy Brown, Bill Parcells and Fred Marion finalists for Patriots Hall of Fame

04.25.12 at 12:59 pm ET
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The Patriots revealed two new names among this year’€™s nominations for hall of fame consideration, as first-year eligible candidate Troy Brown and first-year nominee Fred Marion joined second-time finalist Bill Parcells as this year’€™s class of finalists, which were revealed Wednesday.

Fans can now vote at www.patriots.com until May 31. The final selection will be decided by the fans, and announced in early June. This year’€™s Patriots Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held on Saturday, Sept. 15, the day before the Patriots’€™ regular season home opener against Arizona.

Read More: Bill Parcells, Fred Marion, Troy Brown,

Latest ‘It Is What it Is’ podcast looks at QB play, with focus on Andrew Luck and RGIII

04.25.12 at 11:30 am ET
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In the latest edition of the “It Is What It Is” podcast, Christopher Price and former NFL quarterback Brian St. Pierre take a look at the quarterbacks who will be drafted this week, with a specific eye on Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Price and St. Pierre also examine the other quarterbacks in the draft, including Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden. St. Pierre also gives his take on the Patriots quarterbacks, including whether or not Brian Hoyer is a better prospect than Matt Cassel and what the endgame might be for Ryan Mallett. To listen, click HERE.

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NFL Draft Top 10: Low-profile New England college prospects

04.24.12 at 7:41 pm ET
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Spoiler alert for you area football fans: Boston College‘€™s Luke Kuechly and UConn’€™s Kendall Reyes are going to get drafted — early. Fortunately for New Englanders, there’€™s more than just those two prospects in this year’€™s draft class. Aside from Kuechly and Reyes, here’€™s a look at some of the other players from New England schools who could get their names called during this week’€™s NFL draft.

1. Emil Igwenagu, TE/FB, UMass – The two-time captain lined up all over the field for the Minutemen, showing off a wide array of skills on the field, but he did not really come off the charts at any one spot. Igwenagu worked out as a tight end when he attended the combine, attempting to show off enough athleticism to play the far-more-utilized position at the NFL level. Scouts look at him as a powerful, intriguing prospect who may struggle against more athletic NFL defenders. If NFL teams have plans for him, Igwenagu could come off the board at the beginning of Day 3 of the draft.

2. Donnie Fletcher, CB, Boston College Overshadowed by Kuechly as an NFL prospect, Fletcher projects well as a long cornerback who would fit into a zone-heavy coverage scheme. At a little above 6-foot and 199 pounds, he has great size and an ability to be physical with receivers and aggressive in coverage. Fletcher ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at the combine (0.01 seconds slower than top cornerback prospect Morris Claiborne) and could find a spot as a gunner on special teams. Look for him to come off the board at some point on Day 3.

3. Shawn Loiseau, LB, Merrimack As a physical specimen, Loiseau is somewhat lacking. While he has decent size for a linebacker, his combine numbers, fluidity and Division 2 pedigree are behind the pack. However, Loiseau’€™s stock is based on his reputation as a disruptive, tenacious defender with great instincts rather than his natural talents. Loiseau has gained a reputation as a player who constantly plays with a chip on his shoulder and shows solid pursuit and tackling skills into addition to a raw ability to fight off blocks. An intriguing prospect, Loiseau will likely get a look on Day 3 due to his on-the-field intensity and value as a special teamer.

4. Jeron McMillian, SS, Maine McMillian brings average size, but terrific speed and athleticism to the safety spot and comes into the draft with exceptional upside for a team willing to groom him as a player. McMillian disappointed at the combine with a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, but he blew scouts away at Maine’€™s pro day with a 4.35 40 time. Meanwhile, his 36.5-inch vertical leap ranked third at the combine. McMillian had a productive career for the Black Bears, showing great range and ability to come up and play the run, although his ball skills and ability to line up and man coverage need work. McMillian is a fringe prospect who could hear his name called in the last couple of rounds but certainly will end up on a team at some point.

5. Kashif Moore, WR, UConn The 5-foot-9 Moore is a compact but electric receiver who could have a lot of success at the slot receiver position. The two-time captain for the Huskies ran a 4.42-second 40 time at the combine, but is more effective in getting separation underneath than vertically. With his small frame, Moore is at a disadvantage when matched up against press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Look for him to line up inside, off the ball, where he can use his skills to his advantage. Moore is unlikely to get drafted but could hear his name called if a team like the Raiders or Eagles take a flier on a speedster slot receiver.

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Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Boston College, UCONN,
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