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Vince Wilfork remains the go-to guy on Patriots’ defensive line

08.01.12 at 7:45 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As he enters his ninth season in New England, Vince Wilfork is far and away the longest-tenured current Patriots defensive lineman. On a line that’s seen consistent turnover in recent years, it’s a good thing for Pats fans that Wilfork has remained a familiar face.

Since Wilfork was drafted in 2004, the Pats have seen the likes of Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green, Mike Wright and Mark Anderson, among others, depart. They’ve filled holes with guys who have already come and gone, and they prepare for the 2012 season with newcomers Jonathan Fanene and draft picks Chandler Jones and Jake Bequette.

Add a new defensive line coach in Patrick Graham (formerly the linebackers coach) and there’s been plenty of change on the defensive line.

“I don’t think the leadership has changed,” Wilfork said prior to Wednesday night’s practice. “I just think I’m being more vocal in the meeting rooms, helping out Patrick Graham, a couple of things he may have questions about. I think we do a real good job of helping one another. Guys that have been [here] for a couple of years are being forced into more and more of a leader. ‘€¦ I think that we just keep getting better.”

When Wilfork arrived as a first-round pick, he jumped onto a line that had top picks in Seymour and Warren as well as a veteran nose-tackle to learn from in Keith Traylor, among others.

“You get attached to some people,” he said. “I remember coming in and I had Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green, Ty Warren next to me and [ linebackers Mike] Vrabel and Willie McGinest. Over the years, things change. People come in and out. I’ve been around for long enough to understand how this thing goes. If they need my help, I’m always here.

“But it’s tough because you get attached to people and you get a chance to know people off the field and not just on the field. Families and stuff like that. For people to move on, it can be heartbreaking at times, but at the same time, those things always happen at this level. You have to get used to it real quick.”

New England’s defense finished 12th in the league with 303.2 yards allowed per game. Jones, selected with the 21st overall pick out of Syracuse, figures to give the Patriots the young pass-rusher its been missing, and if he or Bequette (10 sacks as a senior) have any questions along the way, they can ask the man in the middle.

“I can play with anybody,” Wilfork said. “That’s just the trust I have in those guys to learn what they have to learn. If they have a question, they can always ask me because I’ve been around this for a little bit. I’m not saying I know everything, but I’ve been around for a while and kind of know what to expect. I think we all do a real good job with helping one another.”

Asked how the new guys have looked, Wilfork really proved that he’s been a Patriot for a long time by giving the quintessential Patriot answer.

“It’s too early,” Wilfork said. “Everybody’s working hard. That’s the only thing I can say. We won’t know until the first game of the season, and our goal is to get better each day. At this time, it is tough because you’re getting back into the swing of things and learning new stuff and get new people and have to learn how to play with one another and trust one another. Right now, it’s just a learning curve for all of us right now. Hopefully, once the season kicks off, everybody will be on the same level. That’s what we need to be successful as a defense.”

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Highlight’s from Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media on Wednesday

08.01.12 at 7:22 pm ET
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Here are some of the highlights from Bill Belichick‘s Q&A with the media on Wednesday afternoon:

Is it really the dog days right now, now that you’€™re a week in?
“I think so. I think that’€™s something all of us need to go through ‘€“ players, coaches ‘€“ just grind through it and mentally just be ready to get up and go every day [and] start all over again. Try to get a good night’€™s rest and have a good day each day. That’€™s part of team building and working through it when you’€™re tired [and] you don’€™t feel good. It’€™s a long season. This is one of the many challenges we’€™ll face.”

What challenges exist for guys you drafted to play on the edge to make that transition from college?
“It’€™s a big transition for those players if they’€™re in coverage. They go from being essentially a 4-3 end to a 3-4 outside linebacker and going into coverage. That’€™s a huge transition because that’€™s something that they’€™re not used to doing. If they’€™re going from a defensive end to a defensive end then it’€™s just going into the National Football League. You’€™re playing against bigger players with a little bit of different scheme, but you’€™re just playing against a lot better players than you played against in college at the same position.”

Has the way the game is played now with the short passing game and the ball coming out so quickly changed the defensive end position or is it in the midst of a transformation because you have to get different kind of play out of that spot?
“I think the game is kind of ever-changing. It’€™s not the same now as it was five years ago. It wasn’€™t the same five years ago as it was five years before that. You can just keep right on going back. I don’€™t know about that. There is a lot of, you watch any college game, there has to be 12 to 15 tear screens in every game. You can’€™t throw it much quicker than that. There’€™s a lot of option football so obviously that’€™s a lot different for the end guys in college, playing the option ‘€“ quarterback pitch, dive, however they’€™re playing it or some combination of those things. Obviously college teams have to work on that a lot because they see it from certain offenses ‘€˜X’€™ number of times a year depending on what conference they’€™re playing in. That part of it is different because for the most part we don’€™t have to worry about that.”

How has it been working with Carl Banks?
“It was good to see Carl, yeah. He was here yesterday and on into today. We go back a long ways together ‘€“ Giants, Cleveland. I’€™ve kept in touch with him through the years. It’€™s good to see Carl.”

What are some things that you hope an athlete like that coming back, whether it’€™s Troy Brown or Carl Banks, that he can teach the guys on the team now?
“Carl has a long relationship with myself and Pepper [Johnson]. Guys he’€™s talked to or whatever, but it’€™s a two day visit.”

During mini-camp you talked about Bobby Carpenter and all the things he’€™s done in his career. We’€™ve seen him do a lot of different things in camp. How has he picked things up? It looks like you’€™re using him a lot of different ways.
“I think Bobby picks up things well. He’€™s a smart guy with, as we talked about, a lot of experience doing those things. I’€™m sure most of the things we’€™ve asked him to do he’€™s done before. Maybe it was called differently or the terminology was different but in terms of the techniques and being able to apply what he’€™s learned or what he’€™s done somewhere else to what we’€™re asking him to do, I’€™m sure that they’€™re fairly closely related. He adjusts easily. I don’€™t think that’€™s going to be a problem with him.”

Can you comment on Julian Edelman‘€™s camp and gauge how well he’€™s done?
“Again, we’€™re still pretty early into camp but Julian is in good condition. I thought he had a productive spring. He’€™s got good versatility for us, both in the return game, offensively and on some of the other special teams units as well. He does a number of different things. He’€™s a tough, competitive, dependable guy that has some versatility. We’€™ll see how all that plays out this year but those are certainly some of his strengths.”

Being in the stadium tonight, do you ever marvel at the fact that this is a franchise that had trouble drawing 20,000 fans for a regular season game ‘€“
“And now we get it for practice? Yeah. Of course, it’€™s like that in a number of places in the league too. The sport has exploded; pro football has exploded. But yeah, the transformation here from 1960 when the club was established; old Schaefer Stadium. [I] probably feel it more on game day, to tell you the truth.”

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Bobby Carpenter looking to craft a new stage of his career with the Patriots

08.01.12 at 1:43 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bobby Carpenter has likely had a serious case of déjà vu for the last week or so.

The son of the former Giants fullback can look around and spot a former Giants defensive coordinator (Bill Belichick), as well as two former New York linebackers (Pepper Johnson — currently a Patriots’€™ coach — and Carl Banks, who was visiting New England’€™s practice on Tuesday afternoon).

The chance to be coached by someone like Johnson, who started his career with the Giants the year after his father left New York, is an honor for the former Ohio State product.

‘€œPepper is a terrific coach — he knows his stuff and he’€™s a high intensity guy who relates well to players,’€ Carpenter said of Johnson. ‘€œFrom playing for 12 or 13 years in the NFL at such a high level, he obviously garners the respect of his players with anything he says. So you’€™re going to listen to him, he’€™s been there, he’€™s been in the fights, he knows what it’€™s all about and you’€™ve just got to take advantage of that.’€

Carpenter has struggled to find a spot in the NFL. A first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2006, he’€™s played for three different teams, with his best season coming in 2009 with Dallas where he played in 16 games (starting two) and finished with 46 tackles (37 solo) and two sacks.

But the 29-year-old is looking for a fresh start in New England, and has already taken to the program — he was one of 10 players recently recognized for his performance and improvements in the offseason program. (He gets a sweet parking space right next to the facility as a result.)

The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder brings some positional versatility with him to Foxboro, as he’€™s played inside linebacker in the 3-4 base defense and outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme over the course of his career, and has also served as a special teamer.

‘€œI think anytime you can play multiple positions you’€™re going to help yourself,’€ Carpenter said. ‘€œThey put a premium on that here, they try to work guys around, so hopefully that’€™s something they think I can still do and hopefully I can still do it. You’€™ll have to ask them.’€

To that end, Carpenter has been placed in multiple spots through the first week of camp, and has seen a few snaps at inside linebacker next to Jerod Mayo.

‘€œMayo’€™s a good player,’€ Carpenter said. ‘€œI’€™ve enjoyed working with him and he’€™s been extremely beneficial to me, helping me get a grasp on stuff. From afar I’€™ve always admired his game, but you know he’€™s a very intelligent player and I’€™ve picked up a lot of stuff from him. [He’€™s] a highly competitive guy and I look forward to playing with him.’€

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Bobby Carpenter,

Great Scott: Versatile defender could help boost Patriots pass rush in 2012

07.31.12 at 11:48 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick loves his versatile defenders. And so when he had a chance to take a flier on Trevor Scott, he jumped.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Scott has played a multitude of positions over the course of his four-year career in the NFL (all four with Oakland) including defensive end and outside linebacker — with his hand down and standing up — which was one of the reasons he was on the Patriots’€™ radar when he came out of the University of Buffalo in 2008.

‘€œA lot of times he was on the line, sometimes in a three-point stance, sometimes in a two-point stance — but he also did play off the line in linebacker roles,’€ Belichick said of Scott, who signed as a free agent in March. ‘€œWe saw him do a lot of different things, in addition to the kicking game. He has some versatility, he’€™s young and he’€™s worked hard.

‘€œHe had a real good offseason for us in terms of our offseason program; he was one of our award winners there. He’€™s getting acclimated, but again, [there’€™s] a long way to go. There are certainly a lot of things that we do that either he needs to work on or that he hasn’€™t done at Oakland or whatever it is. But he’€™s a hard working kid and he’€™s making progress.’€

For his part, the 27-year-old Scott wasn’€™t surprised that he was on Belichick’€™s radar.

‘€œHe knows everybody’€™s history,’€ Scott shrugged after Tuesday’€™s practice. ‘€œHe’€™s Bill Belichick.’€
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Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Andre Carter, Bill Belichick, Mark Anderson

Brandon Spikes returns to the field with his usual energy

07.31.12 at 5:40 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes saw his first real action of camp on Tuesday, getting involved in 11-on-11 drills and bringing his usual high level of intensity to the field.

Spikes, who underwent an offseason procedure on his knee, had been on the shelf throughout the spring sessions, and had seen only limited time on the field to this point in training camp, instead mostly working off to the side. But on Tuesday, he was able to jump in on 11-on-11s and take part from his inside linebacker spot in New England’€™s 3-4.

‘€œIt was just good to get back,’€ he said, speaking to the media after practice with his helmet still on. ‘€œIt’€™s been a long offseason, and I’€™m just happy to be out there running around again.

‘€œIt’€™s kind of frustrating watching from the sidelines. To be able to get out there and get a little contact, it feels good,’€ he added. ‘€œI’€™m just working to try and get out there full time. Whatever they ask me to do, I try and do it at 100 percent.

‘€œI’€™m just working to get better. I can’€™t really out a percentage on [how I feel]. It’€™s day to day.’€

Spikes, who is entering his third season with the Patriots out of Florida, has been banged up through his first two years in the NFL. He played 12 games as a rookie in 2010, and eight in 2011 because of a strained MCL in his right knee. But when he’€™s been healthy, he’€™s played a major role in the success of the New England defense, working primarily as a first- and second-down linebacker and finishing the year with 47 tackles (32 solo).

Going into the 2012 season, Spikes feels confident about the state of the Patriots’€™ linebacking corps.

‘€œIt’€™s just great,’€ he said. ‘€œA lot of guys can do different things. Our thing is that we are only as strong as our weakest link. We have to be on the same page and come out and get better as a whole unit. We should be fine.’€

That includes the rookies like defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’€™a Hightower.

‘€œThey’€™re just relentless to the ball,’€ Spikes said. ‘€œA lot of guys, you can tell they’€™re hard workers. They play hard — that’€™s one thing I respect. I’€™m a passionate player. As long as they can keep getting better throughout camp, that’€™s fine with me.’€

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Brandon Spikes,

Ten things we learned from Day 5 of Patriots training camp

07.31.12 at 5:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After the first day off of training camp on Monday, the Patriots were back at it in full pads on Tuesday afternoon in a two-hour session outside Gillette Stadium. The skies were mostly overcast, keeping it very comfortable on the field and not too hot or muggy.


In the offensive and defensive linemen battles, the star attraction was rookie Chandler Jones. The first-round pick out of Syracuse had an impressive showing, beating Nate Solder down low and using his leverage and quickness to get around him early on, the first of two wins for him on the line. Later, Solder got a bit of revenge with a shoulder jab that kept Jones at bay. It was a good day for the defensive line, as they won a majority of the battles, including Vince Wilfork getting the better of Dan Connolly and Brandon Deaderick getting the best of Donald Thomas.


The big hit of the day was a two-pronged attack, a high-low job delivered by safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory on Stevan Ridley about 10 yards down field after Ridley caught a screen pass in the left flat and started making his way up the left sideline. He was met there quickly by Chung (high) and Gregory (low).


For the fifth straight day, Matthew Slater and James Ihedigbo both wore red non-contact jerseys. Once again, however, the two participated in every drill.

As has been the case for the entire training camp, Brian Waters and Jake Ballard were not present Sunday. Tracy White, who left the field with an unknown injury on Saturday, missed his second straight practice on Tuesday.

Myron Pryor, Nate Ebner, Nick McDonald, Markus Zusevics, Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, Jeremy Ebert, Daniel Fells and Alfonzo Dennard were all in shorts and T-shirts. They all rode bikes at the beginning of practice and went through agility exercises on the lower practice field while the team worked out on the upper practice field.


In a recurring theme, Tom Brady and Brandon Lloyd hooked up on a pretty fade pass down the left sideline while 11-on-11 drills were being conducted at the other end.

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Read More: 2012 Training Camp, chandler jones, New England Patriots, nfl

Checking the attendance report for the first four days of Patriots camp

07.30.12 at 4:23 pm ET
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The Patriots got the day off on Monday, a chance to heal up any bumps and bruises they’ve sustained over the first four days of camp. Overall, throughout the first few days, attendance has been pretty good. Here’s a quick rundown of what attendance has looked like for the first four days, a stretch where the team has had four practices with two days in pads and two days in shorts and shells:

Four absences
Left guard Logan Mankins: The All-Pro continues to work his way through offseason knee surgery after suffering an injury in the Super Bowl.

Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer: Vollmer continues to deal with a balky back, something he’s had issues with on and off since college. Both Vollmer and Mankins have been at practices in T-shirts and shorts.

Right guard Brian Waters: Absent.

Tight end Daniel Fells: Fells continues to work his way back from a leg injury. Fells’ sightings around the facility throughout the spring and summer were apparently few and far between.

Tight end Jake Ballard: The former Giant had offseason knee surgery, and is not expected to play at all this season.

Defensive lineman Myron Pryor: Unknown. Pryor was placed on season-ending injured reserve early last September because of a shoulder injury. We saw him for the first time on Sunday in a T-shirt and shorts.

Safety Nate Ebner: While he’€™s been out there with his new teammates, Ebner hasn’t gotten on the field this summer.

Offensive lineman Nick McDonald: McDonald hasn’t seen the field this summer, but like Ebner, has been a regular part of the crew that has been working out off to the side throughout practice, mostly on the ellipticals.

Tackle Marcus Zusevics: The undrafted offensive lineman out of Iowa injured his pec while lifting at the combine this year, and wasn’t in pads for the spring sessions, but he has been on the field in T-shirt and shorts.

Wide receiver Jeremy Ebert: Depending on the report, Ebert is dealing with either a leg or hamstring injury, one he suffered earlier this offseason. He’€™s also been a regular at practice, but he hasn’€™t been involved in drills or in pads.

Two absences
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard: The rookie corner has been dogged by a hamstring issue he suffered early in camp.

One absence
Linebacker Tracy White: White walked off the field with a trainer toward the end of Sunday’€™s practice and did not return.

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