|05.04.13 at 8:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When it comes to the Patriots, there are several brotherly connections that reach throughout the NFL. Defensive end Chandler Jones has a brother (Arthur) who plays for the Ravens, while tight end Rob Gronkowski has seen brothers Chris and Dan also reach the NFL, with the latter spending a few weeks with the Patriots in 2011.
Into this picture comes the McDonald Brothers: Nick has been with the Patriots the last two seasons after breaking into the NFL as a part of the Packers in 2010, while his brother Chris was picked up last week as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State.
When Chris was signed by the Patriots, his brother gave him a call.
“He just told me to work hard and do what I have to do. It’s about me,” he said Saturday during a break in the action at rookie minicamp. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be with my brother, but this time is my time. And I have to do what I have to do.”
The brothers have engaged in an amazing journey just to get to this point. As teenagers, they were adopted by separate families. Chris said Saturday he considers his brother an inspiration, but at the same time, he understands the reality of the situation that’s in front of him.
“My brother being in the NFL is not going to help me stay in the NFL,” he said. “I have to do whatever it takes for myself.”
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|05.04.13 at 1:34 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s clear that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
When he got the call from the Patriots about coming to Foxboro as an undrafted free agent, defensive back Stephon Morris said he got some advice from current Penn State coach — and former New England offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien — about what to expect with the Patriots.
“Coach O’Brien pretty much, before I came out here, just told me to keep my nose clean, keep my head down and stay off social network sites,” Morris said Saturday morning during a break between workouts at Gillette Stadium during rookie minicamp.
Morris — who has Tweeted five times from his personal account after being picked up by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent last weekend — is a 5-foot-8, 196-pound cornerback, one of 28 players who are taking part in rookie minicamp this weekend at Gillette.
Morris played in 49 games and made 24 starts for Penn State over the course of his collegiate career. He finished with 148 tackles, one pick and 13 passes defensed, which helped him capture an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection as a senior in 2012. Stats aside, he does figure to have a little better idea in terms of what to expect from Bill Belichick than some of the other rookies because of his experience with O’Brien, who took over the troubled Penn State program last year after spending five years in New England.
“You can pretty much see the way coach O’Brien ran things is the same way that coach Belichick runs it. His time with the Patriots definitely rubbed off on him,” Morris said. “[But I have] got a lot of catching up to do especially to the veteran guys who have already been here. The main thing for me is to get on board and learn the New England way, which is kind of the same way that Bill O’Brien had brought into Penn State.”
While Morris wasn’t all that expansive about his time at Penn State — when he was asked how O’Brien changed the program after he took over, he answered with, “To be honest, I’m not supposed to answer a question like that” — he understands that he and the rest of the rookies face a big challenge going forward.
“It’s pretty much a job now,” he said. “You have to be in your playbook from sunup to sundown. The coaches pretty much tell you how it is — there’s no more babysitting. It’s not like you’re on scholarship where you can pretty much stay on the team. It’s a job. You can get fired any day. You can get fined. The workouts … everything is just different. It’s just time consuming, but this is why we play the game since I was six years old for. I’m ready for it.”
|05.03.13 at 10:02 pm ET|
Patriots coach Bill Belichick kicked off rookie camp Friday in Foxboro by welcoming a group of first-year players he called “attentive and eager” as they went through their collective NFL baptism.
“We’re looking forward to getting out on the field over the next three days and working with a lot of new guys, new faces,” Belichick said Friday. “Obviously, we have a lot of information to give them in every area, not just football, but the whole transition in becoming a professional athlete and in most cases for these guys, relocating to a part of the country they’re not too familiar with. We have a lot of ground to cover but I think it’s a group that so far seems attentive and eager.
“Like a lot of groups at this time of year, this group of guys is a similar group to many that we’ve had in the past. We’ll take it day by day and one step at a time with a lot of ground to cover, and hopefully we can catch them up as soon as possible so they can compete with some of the other guys that are on our team as we move into the spring and eventually get ready for training camp.”
Here are some other highlights from the Q&A with the media:
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|05.03.13 at 7:24 pm ET|
The relationship between Bill Belichick and Greg Schiano continues to deepen.
The coaches of the Patriots and Buccaneers — who have already
demonstrated that they are total football BFF’s — have apparently decided to bring together the New England and Tampa Bay coaching staffs next week in Foxboro to talk about football matters. According to Don Banks of SI.com, the staffs will get together to review coaching topics and techniques.
This comes in the wake of the Patriots’ decision to draft three players (and add one undrafted free agent) from Schiano’s former program at Rutgers late last month. In addition, Belichick and Schiano have become fairly frequent trade partners over the last year-plus, and Belichick’s son Stephen played for Schiano while he was a member of the Rutgers football program.
The get-together between the coaching staffs won’t be first time the two teams have worked together: Belichick took the Patriots down to Tampa Bay prior to their preseason game against the Bucs in 2012 to take part in joint practices, and the two sides are expected to do the same this summer in advance of a preseason contest between the two teams.
|05.03.13 at 11:07 am ET|
The Patriots announced the signing 19 rookie free agents Friday, including another defensive back from Rutgers.
After drafting Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon (as well as linebacker Steve Beauharnais) last week, the Pats inked Scarlet Knights cornerback Brandon Jones to compete for a spot in a secondary that already includes Rutgers alumnus Devin McCourty. Jones, who stands 6-foot-1, recorded a team-high five interceptions last season and was a standout special teams player.
Other undrafted players signed by the Pats are: punter Ryan Allen (Louisiana Tech), fullback Ben Bartholomew (Tennessee), defensive lineman Dewayne Cherrington (Mississippi State), safety Kanorris Davis (Troy), offensive lineman Elvis Fisher (Missouri), tight end Brandon Ford (Clemson), defensive lineman Cory Grissom (South Florida), running back Quentin Hines (Akron), offensive lineman Josh Kline (Kent State), offensive lineman Chris McDonald (Michigan State), wide receiver T.J. Moe (Missouri), cornerback Stephon Morris (Penn State), linebacker Ian Sluss (Portland State), offensive lineman Matt Stankiewitch (Penn State), tight end Zach Sudfeld (Nevada), wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (Cincinnati), defensive lineman Joe Vellano (Maryland) and long snapper Mike Zupancic (Eastern Michigan).
Following are bios on the players from the Patriots media relations staff.
Allen, 23, began his career at Oregon State before transferring to Louisiana Tech. The 6-2, 215-pounder was named the Ray Guy Award-winner in 2011 and 2012, becoming the first player to claim the award in back-to-back seasons.
Bartholomew, 23, played in 31 games with 13 starts during his career at Tennessee. The 6-2, 252-pounder also participated in shot put for the Tennessee track and field team.
Cherrington, 22, began his college career at Holmes (Miss.) Community College where he was a two-way standout before walking on at Mississippi State. The 6-3, 335-pounder earned a scholarship in his final year in 2012.
|05.02.13 at 9:33 pm ET|
Patriots guard Logan Mankins was revealed as the first player on the NFL Network’s “Top 100″ Thursday night, coming in at No. 82.
The first-round pick of the Patriots in 2005, the Fresno State product was named to an All-Pro team in each of the past three seasons and five Pro Bowls during his career.
It marks the third consecutive season he’s made the list — he was at No. 39 in 2011 and No. 64 last year. The list is compiled by a players’ vote.
|05.02.13 at 6:32 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For an NFL youngster, the transition between the first and second season can be even tougher than the jump from college to the pros for several reasons, including the fact that the league now has a full year of tape on you. The moves you used to surprise people as a rookie don’t work any more, and it’s on you to make the adjustments to take your game to another level.
For Chandler Jones, those adjustments are multifaceted. For one, in the wake of his 2012 season, he wanted to improve his upper body strength. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive end out of Syracuse is a long, lean pass rusher, but wanted to bulk up to try and gain an advantage on opposing tackles.
“I’m still working on it — it’s a long process,” said Jones, the Syracuse product had 10 quarterback hits and six sacks as a rookie with the Patriots in 2012. “You can’t just wake up and just get bigger and stronger. [Strength] coach Harold [Nash] and [assistant strength] coach Moses [Cabrera] do a great job at strength and conditioning, so I’m excited.”
He’s also managed to do some boxing as part of his offseason workouts. He was initially set on training with his brother, MMA fighter Jonny “Bones” Jones, but a toe injury to Jonny may have set that make a bit.
“His toe was pretty bad, I don’t know if you guys saw it — his toe kind of broke out of the skin,” Chandler said of the gruesome injury his brother recently endured. “Actually I didn’t go down and train with him, but I did do some boxing and MMA right up over in Providence with [teammate] Brandon Deaderick. It was great training, very great training.”
It hasn’t been all work this offseason for Jones. He said Thursday he took about five weeks off to relax and recharge after a long rookie year.
“I was talking about that the other day,” he said. “Someone asked me ‘How was the offseason?’ There really isn’t an offseason. Even though you try to unplug from the game and get your mind off of it, you’re always thinking about what you could’ve done on that play or in that game. Physically, yeah, there’s definitely a resting factor, but you know mentally, you’re always thinking about football. That’s your job.”
When it comes to off-field stuff, Jones — who met second-round pick Jamie Collins for the first time on Thursday, just before the rookie was presented with his jersey in a ceremony alongside owner Robert Kraft — is excited to get his second year started for several reasons, not the least of which is that he’ll have a chance to show his chops as a leader.
“Being a rookie, especially being a first-round draft pick, you don’t want to make any mistakes. You’re nervous about going into every drill,” he said when asked about the offseason workouts, which are ongoing at Gillette Stadium. “Now going into my second year in the NFL, I kind of try to lead, be the first one at every drill, and just try to be a leader and that’s what my biggest focus is, taking the game more seriously.”
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