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Vince Wilfork calls Nick Mangold ‘probably best center’ in NFL

10.18.12 at 4:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The newfound trend of throwing rose petals in feel-good Patriots-Jets rivalry continued Thursday as Patriots All-Pro nose tackle Vince Wilfork called perennial Jets Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold the best in the game.

“He’s probably the best, probably the best center, I believe,” Wilfork said of Mangold, a three-time All-Pro. “I’ve been saying this ever since the guy’s been a rookie. He’s been pretty steady for them. And it hasn’t changed.”

Not only is the 28-year-old Mangold a force as part of the protection scheme for Jets, Wilfork reminded everyone Thursday of just how much of New York’s offense goes through the center, who is in his seventh season out of Ohio State.

“Everything it seems like goes through him: the run game, he calls the plays on the line slides, he’s the guy in charge,” Wilfork said. “That’s how it should be, because that’s their bread and butter. When they need a play, if they’re running the ball, it always seems to end up behind 74 [Mangold’s number]. He’s a big-time player for them, I give him all the respect in the world facing him numerous times.”

Mangold did not practice again on Thursday as he is nursing an ankle injury. Wilfork wouldn’t mind if he didn’t play Sunday but he fully expects Mangold to be snapping the ball to Mark Sanchez.

“That’s one of the guys, I’m sure he’ll be ready to go, no matter what is being said or what his injury may be,” Wilfork said. “Trust me, I’m pretty sure he’ll be there.”

To Wilfork’s point, Mangold missed two games last year with an ankle injury but returned just in time for Wilfork and the Patriots on Oct. 9, a game won by New England, 30-21.

“Trust me, I don’t mind,” Wilfork said. “I think everybody will be pretty healthy for this game. You don’t want to miss these types of games. If I was on the same side or on the opposite side of this man, I would want to play. Division game, for the lead in the division, there’s a lot riding on this game on both sides. If you’re healthy enough to play, you have to expect everyone.

“He’s one the players that you wish you could have a guy like that, 11 guys like that on the field with you at all times because he just means so much to that team.”

Read More: New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl, Nick Mangold

Marquice Cole looking forward to catching up with old friend Mark Sanchez

10.18.12 at 1:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When it comes to diagnosing Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, one guy in the New England locker room who would know him better than any Patriots defensive back is Marquice Cole.

Cole, who played the last three seasons with the Jets before signing with New England in the offseason, developed a great friendship with the quarterback when the two were teammates in New York.

‘€œMark, [we were] more than just teammates, we’€™re friends,’€ Cole said before practice on Thursday. ‘€œI still keep in touch with him. I try not to bother him during the season because you know how the season goes and everything, but yeah, we’€™re still great friends.

‘€œThe way he is is how you see him. He’€™s a fun-loving guy. There are no secrets about him. He’€™s just a regular person.’€

‘€œ’€˜Quice is the man. He’€™s just an energetic guy,’€ Sanchez said. ‘€œReally played great for us on special teams, on defense, but he’€™s one of the best teammates you could ever ask for, so I know they’€™ve got a great player and a guy that can fit in anywhere.

‘€œ[He’€™s] one of those guys you never want to see leave your building, but sometimes that stuff happens. It’€™s too bad, but I love him as a player and even more as a person. It will be cool to see him, but we’€™ve got to try to win and put the friendship aside for a little bit.’€

Sanchez has faced his share of pressure in New York, particularly as he has stumbled over the last year-plus. But Cole is confident his friend will find his footing sooner rather than later.

‘€œHe’€™s a professional, so he knows what he’€™s doing,’€ Cole said. ‘€œHe knows how to handle what he needs to handle. Everybody in the NFL has pressure on them every day. He knows what he’€™s doing.

‘€œHe goes out there and competes — that’€™s all you can ask of anybody.’€

As for Cole — who has become one of New England’€™s core special teamers — he relishes the chance to be able to catch up with some of his old friends in green and white before and after the game on Sunday.

‘€œIt’€™ll be fun, going against the guys I played with for years in practice and stuff. It’€™ll be fun. It’€™ll be a competitive game,’€ he said.

However, as the latest player to cross over in the Patriots-Jets rivalry, Cole said that as far as he’€™s concerned, this week is just another game.

‘€œI know it’€™s a rivalry and everything, but you want to go out and win every game. It’€™s not like this game will be different than any other game. It’€™s a game where you want to go out and compete,’€ he said. ‘€œBoth sides want to win. It’€™s not any different than any other game.’€

Read More: Mark Sanchez, Marquice Cole,

Aaron Hernandez feared the worst but is ‘healed and better now’

10.18.12 at 1:47 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Aaron Hernandez was in a light-hearted mood on Thursday. Maybe it was because he knew he wouldn’t have to go through a strenuous practice, as the tight end was among five Patriots not spotted at the beginning of practice in shells.

He was smiling and joking with reporters, as he spoke in front of his locker for the final four minutes of player media availability in the Patriots locker room.

That’s news since it marked his first public comments since injuring his right ankle on Sept. 16 against the Cardinals.

When he wasn’t kidding around about the next time he’ll speak, he was admitting he initially feared the ankle was broken when Julian Edelman and a Cardinals defender fell on him while he was engaged in a block. As he was lying on the ground, he was hoping that he didn’t break the ankle, an injury that would’ve knocked him out for the season.

“Broke,” Hernandez said Thursday when asked what was going through his mind at first. “But it healed and I’m better now.”

Hernadez returned on Sunday in Seattle, catching six passes on nine targets by Tom Brady. He gained 30 yards, including a 1-yard TD in the second quarter.

“It’s all about confidence and I got more practice time in and gained some more confidence in cutting off the ankle, because I cut a lot,” Hernandez said. “It made me [feel] ready and feel comfortable to go out and play a game. When you’re out there on the field, you kind of forget about everything and just hope for the best. Once I caught that first pass, I got back in the game and wanted to catch the ball some more.

“I felt pretty good. It felt good to be out there and help the team. I came out healthy and hopefully I’ll come out healthy this week.”

Hernandez said he’s not worried about a recurrence of the same injury later in the season.

“You get nervous at times but it’s feeling great so there’s nothing to worry about [anymore],” he said. “If it gets hurt, it’s the man above. So, I guess I’ll be all right.”

Hernandez said the hardest part was watching the games while Bill Belichick and the staff sent him home to heal.

“I wasn’t really on the sidelines, I was at home,” he said. “But obviously, it was tough, especially when you live to play football, been doing it your whole life. You want to play, help the team. That’s why I came back.

“Maybe I was a step slower but I felt pretty good and look forward to getting better. I know we have a great training staff and I know they’re going to work hard to get us back, especially under Bill’s supervision.”

After chatting with reporters, Hernandez said thanks and quipped, “Have a nice day guys. See you guys in five weeks.”

That last bit may or may not have been a joke.

Read More: Aaron Hernadez, Arizona Cardinals, Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

10.17.12 at 10:59 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Six weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

RB Stevan Ridley:
124 (118 rushes, 6 catches). 13 negative runs.
RB Danny Woodhead: 50 (40 rushes, 10 catches). 2 negative runs.
WR Wes Welker: 48 (0 rushes, 48 catches). 1 negative reception.
RB Brandon Bolden: 45 (43 rushes, 2 catches). 7 negative runs.
WR Brandon Lloyd: 34 (0 rushes, 34 catches).
TE Rob Gronkowski: 29 (0 rushes, 29 catches).
TE Aaron Hernandez: 13 (1 rush, 12 catches). 1 negative reception
WR Julian Edelman: 12 (2 rushes, 10 catches). 1 negative reception, 1 negative run.
QB Tom Brady: 10 (10 rushes, 0 catches.) 13 sacks and 5 kneel downs.
WR Deion Branch: 4 (0 rushes, 4 catches)
RB Shane Vereen: 3 (2 rush, 1 catch)
TE Daniel Fells: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
TE Kellen Winslow: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TOTAL: 376 touches (216 rushes, 160 catches): 26 negative plays, plus 13 sacks.

By position
Running back: 222 touches (203 rushes, 19 catches). 22 negative runs.
Tight end: 46 touches (1 rush, 45 catches). 1 negative reception.
Wide receiver: 98 touches (2 rushes, 96 catches). 2 negative receptions, 1 negative run.
Quarterback: 10 touches (10 rushes, 0 catches)

By way of comparison, here’s a breakdown of how things look for the Patriots through six games last season.

Read More: offensive opportunities,

Bill Belichick: Jets ability to present in-game adjustments provides big challenge

10.17.12 at 7:12 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When it comes to game-planning for the Jets, Bill Belichick said Wednesday the biggest challenge for the Patriots will be to match New York’€™s ability to make adjustments on the fly. Those adjustments aren’€™t just from series to series or half to half, but from drive to drive.

‘€œAs it always is with the Jets, the in-game adjustments will be important to see what the matchups are,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œThey do a good job with their different personnel groups and formations. A lot of things that you work on this week that they ran against Indianapolis or Houston or San Francisco, you’€™re not going to see. You’€™re going to see something that’€™s a little different based on what they think you’€™re going to do.

‘€œThe problem with the Jets is they give you a lot of variety, and in-game adjustments are going to be important and preparation going into the game is going to be important,’€ he added. ‘€œWe know we’€™re going to have to adjust, they’€™re not just going to lay it out there and say, ‘€˜OK, here it is, here’€™s where we’€™re at.’€™ They just don’€™t do that.’€

Belichick added that the Jets often try and build off what might look like a traditional scheme you saw them run previously — but then bring a whole new twist.

‘€œRex [Ryan] always does a good job of that,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œHe does a good job of putting in a couple new things that complement each other so you see him do one thing and then you get that same look again and they’€™ll have something else off it. So, now they have two or three things off that that you really haven’€™t seen or practiced before.’€

Here are a few other highlights from his Q&A with the media on Wednesday:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan,

Report: Jeff Triplette will work as referee for Sunday’s Patriots-Jets game

10.17.12 at 5:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Jeff Triplette is scheduled to work Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Jets, according to our friends at This will be Triplette’s fourth game this season — his last assignment had him working as part of a crew for the Monday night game in San Diego between the Broncos and Chargers.

A retired Army Reserve colonel, Triplette has worked one Patriots game since the start of the 2010 season — a 34-27 New England win over the Redskins in Washington, D.C. last December. (In that one, Triplette’s crew flagged the Patriots on four occasions for 47 penalty yards.) Interestingly, prior to that, his previous experience with the Patriots was a Nov. 22, 2009 contest between New England and New York in Foxboro. (The Patriots won that one, 31-14.)

For more on Triplette’s work as an official. check out his page at Pro Football Reference.

Read More: Jeff Triplette,

Rex Ryan admits Bill Belichick ‘is going to win [coaching] battle’

10.17.12 at 4:29 pm ET
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Before telling New England reporters that he thinks the Patriots defense doesn’t get credit it deserves, Rex Ryan was extending the olive branch in full to Bill Belichick on Wednesday in Florham Park, N.J.

At his regular Wednesday briefing with the New York media, Ryan called the Patriots coach the best in the business. Not only that, but he thinks Belichick can out-coach him.

“When I look at him, I see him as the best coach in the league. I’ve said that from the day I took the job. Again, he’s going to get my best. If it’€™s just between Belichick in me, he’€™s going to win that battle,” said Ryan, who is 3-4 all-time against Belichick, including the win in the 2010 playoffs. “I recognize that, but it’€™s not going to be by lack of effort on my part. He’s going to get everything I’ve got.

“Like I’ve said before many times, maybe he struggles one day, he’s sick, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll get him. Maybe I’m crazy but I look at it like you want to compete against the very best. I have dreams about what I want to achieve and I want to achieve against the very best. That’s where I want to get one day.”

Ryan then referenced comments he made in the summer about being the best defensive coach in the league, adding that it was not a general statement and not a shot across the bow at Belichick.

“I don’€™t think I’€™m the best head coach in the league,” Ryan said. “I think he is. I was truthful about that.”

Ryan – in years past – has always said he thinks his team is as good as the Patriots and is not afraid of New England, going as far as the infamous “I didn’t [take Jets job] to kiss Belichick’s rings” quote when he took over the Jets job.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl
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