|05.30.12 at 12:29 pm ET|
‘I wish there was an easy answer,” Brady said of Welker, who recently signed his one-year franchise tender. “I always support Wes. None of those decisions are up to me, and these things end up working themselves out at some point. I don’t know how or when or who or why, but sometimes I get emotionally involved in those types of situations and it doesn’t work that well for me so I just try to support him as a friend.
“We’re all in this business, and it’s a tough business, and you always hope for the best. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I love Wes, I’d love to have him here for as long as I’m playing. But none of those things are really up to me.’
Regardless of what happens with Welker and the Patriots, it’s clear the quarterback and the wide receiver have formed a special bond in their five years as teammates in New England.
“We’re two people who spend a lot of time together,” said Brady, who was caught by paparazzi on a beach with the wide receiver after the Super Bowl loss to the Giants. “We know what each other is going through. A lot of times your girlfriends or your wives can’t really console because they don’t truly understand what we put in weekly to try to be at our best. They definitely see from the outside of what we have to do to prepare each week. But no one’s really inside of our building in Foxboro and sees the kind of pressure and scrutiny that all those players are out there to perform.
“You go through it and you talk through it and you support each other. Our team has always done a good job of that, every player on our team. Because I think we all do have a closeness about us that we’re concerned with how people are mourning a loss or mourning something that may be really important in somebody else’s life.
“My teammates are my best friends. That’s the way it’s always been, that’s the way it’s always going to be.”
|05.30.12 at 12:01 pm ET|
The Patriots had tight end Bo Scaife in for a workout, according to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com and the Carroll County Times. The 31-year-old Scaife is a 6-foot-3, 249-pounder who has played in the league for seven years, including six in Tennessee, posting a career-high 58 catches for 561 yards and two touchdowns with the Titans in 2008.
While the workout likely represents due diligence more than anything, the Patriots are continuing to round out their tight end group, at least throughout the offseason, as they were looking for extra bodies at last week’s OTA session (Rob Gronkowski and Daniel Fells did not practice). They had defensive end Alex Silvestro taking reps at tight end in that OTA practice, and signed undrafted free agent Nick Melillo on Tuesday.
|05.29.12 at 3:09 pm ET|
The Patriots’ decision to release veteran wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez is likely a sign that the injury problems that have dogged the 27-year-old the last three seasons are still an issue for the slot receiver.
Gonzalez, who signed with New England as a free agent on March 17, started his career with a bang in Indy, including 57 receptions for 664 yards and four touchdowns in 2008. But an absolutely awful run of injuries the last three seasons — including thumb, foot, knee, shoulder, hamstring, back and groin issues — limited him to 10 games the last three years with the Colts.
The the 6-foot, 193-pounder, who was very open and honest about his injury history when he spoke with media for the first time as a Patriot last month, was not present for the most recent OTA session that was open to the media.
The release of Gonzalez leaves New England with 11 receivers on the roster. At the slot position — an area where Gonzalez would have likely been able to provide some depth had he been able to stick — the Patriots have Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and rookie Jeremy Ebert. Deion Branch has also shown the positional versatility needed to play in the slot on occasion as well.
|05.29.12 at 12:32 pm ET|
Tom Brady has done a little acting here and there — he had a small part in the Farrelly Brothers movie “Stuck on You,” and got his shot on “Saturday Night Live.” Now, he gets a chance to stretch his comedic chops again with a spot for Funny or Die where he walks into a Dick’s Sporting Goods looking for some Under Armour gear. (Brady’s line of choice, natch.) In the process, a store employee mocks him for his non-existent Boston accent.
Anyway, check it out below and let us know what you think.
Is it funnier than “Tom Brady’s Falafel City” from “SNL” back in 2005?
|05.27.12 at 8:41 pm ET|
Imagine running three miles of a marathon, writing two pages of a 10-page presentation, or (even worse) your car breaking down 100 miles into cross-country trip. That’s the equivalent of what happened to Dan Koppen in last season’s regular-season opener against the Dolphins. The center, now entering his 10th season with the Patriots, broke his ankle, ending his season before it really began in Miami.
Perhaps more than any other sport, football implores as much on the field as it does off. The offseasons are rife with minicamps, organized team activities, and of course, training camp. And getting carted off the field after getting through the mental and physical grind of the summer was extremely disappointing for Koppen.
“It’s tough,” Koppen said of his experience rehabbing his ankle last season. “It makes you appreciate things a lot more, especially sitting around watching after putting everything in the offseason. It makes you have a better appreciation for your job and being around the guys.”
The Patriots didn’t miss a beat in Koppen’s absence, as Dan Connolly had a strong season, proving to be more than a capable stop-gap across the offensive line. Connolly’s performance, combined with Koppen’s unrestricted free agent status, made for some speculation regarding the Boston College product’s future in Foxboro. The Patriots and Koppen put any separation chatter to rest and quickly came to terms on a two-year deal reportedly worth up to $6 million.
“I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Koppen said. “Thank goodness it did work out. It’s probably a pain moving the whole family and getting all that stuff squared away. So it’s a good feeling. This is where I want to be.
“You get the opportunity to win,” Koppen said of the advantages of playing in New England. “It’s not an easy place to play. But if you do your job, are where you’re supposed to be, and just go out there and give everything you have, then they really can’t much ask for much more. And it’s all about winning.”
Before last season, Koppen had missed more than one game just once in his career — in 2005 when he missed six games because of a shoulder injury, ironically suffered against the Dolphins as well. As proven in the past, injuries do not preclude a starting job from changing hands with the Patriots. But Koppen is more than okay competing for his post under center. After watching his teammates advance to the Super Bowl last season, he seemed eager to earn his keep within the roster and stressed the importance of a diligent team attitude this summer in order to finish the job this time around.
“There’s always a competition,” Koppen said. “You approach every year like there’s always guys coming in trying to take your job. My approach this year is not going to any different then last year. No one’s job is safe on this team — maybe minus No. 12 — but you never know around here.
“If you’re going to stay still everyone around you is just going to get better,” he said. “All the 31 other teams right now, we’re all at the same point. It’s just how hard we work now that’s going to really determine how we do this year.”
|05.26.12 at 6:42 pm ET|
Here’s a look at which members of the Patriots draft have signed, as well as some details:
Chandler Jones: The defensive end out of Syracuse inked a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth year. However, there’s one wrinkle in the contract, per Pro Football Talk: Jones, who was picked 21st overall, doesn’t have the same deal that last year’s No. 21 got (Browns defensive lineman Phil Taylor) in that there’s no fourth-year roster bonus of $750,000. It’s an interesting part of the contract, one that could come into play in 2015.
Dont’a Hightower: Unsigned. The Alabama linebacker, taken with the 25th overall pick, is represented by Pat Dye, Jr., of SportsTrust Advisors. Around Foxboro, Dye is best known as the guy who took over representation for former first-round pick Ben Watson when talks over a rookie deal between the team and Watson’s old agent Tom Condon went south.
Tavon Wilson: The defensive back out of Illinois was the first to sign, agreeing to a four-year, $4.217 million contract that includes a $1.507 million signing bonus, according to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com. Wilson reports that the first two years of the deal, $390,000 and $581,722, are fully guaranteed, while the last two years, $773,444 and $965,166, aren’t fully guaranteed.
Jake Bequette: The second of the two unsigned picks. The defensive lineman out of Arkansas is represented by Athletes First, a group that had 13 clients taken in the NFL draft, including four in the first round. Athletes First is an extremely well-known agency around New England, as they represent several current Patriots, including Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Zoltan Mesko, Ryan Mallett and Brian Waters.
Nate Ebner: The defensive back/former rugby star has signed a four-year deal. Ebner appeared to be limited at rookie minicamp, and did not work out with the rest of his team at the most recent OTA session, stretching and jogging on the side with teammates Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Spikes.
Alfonzo Dennard: Dennard signed a four-year, $2.157 million contract that includes $57,848 signing bonus, according to a league source. The former Nebraska cornerback will have base salaries of $390,000, $480,000, $570,000 and $660,000.
Jeremy Ebert: The wide receiver out of Northwestern signed a four-year contract worth a total of $2.148 million, according to Wilson. Ebert was at rookie minicamp, but had to return to Northwestern until June to finish his degree, and he won’t be able to rejoin the Patriots until his senior class graduates.
|05.25.12 at 2:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After the Patriots’ OTA session ended on Thursday morning, veteran offensive lineman Dan Koppen talked about the importance of taking the right approach this summer and its translation to success during the regular season. Koppen’s sentiments were centered around understanding techniques, the system, and studying tendencies.
Given his vast improvement the past three seasons, players would be wise to take their a cue from Rob Ninkovich. Since arriving to Foxboro in 2009, Ninkovich has transformed his place in the NFL as a seldom used journeyman to a reliable mainstay on the Patriots defense.
Ninkovich has no plans of being relegated back to a player who only appeared in a total of eight games in his first three seasons with the Saints and Dolphins. He knows continuing to bolster facets of his game is how he’ll make more strides as a player in the young Patriots defense.
“Going into this year, I really want to improve overall on coverage and get more pressure on the quarterback,” Ninkovich said Thursday. “I feel like every year is a kind of a step, getting a little better and better. But that also comes with experience. Having last year helped me out a lot with all the experience I had.”
Last season Ninkovich improved his run defense, specifically setting the edge, and flashed a playmaking ability on a defense that sorely needed an injection of big plays. For instance, in a midseason battle in the Meadowlands, Ninkovich picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown, as the Patriots routed the Jets.
His role may change this season, however. The Patriots may be without the two players who led the team in sacks last season. Mark Anderson fled to Buffalo, signing with the Bills, and Andre Carter‘s pending recovery from a quadriceps injury suffered last year leaves his status up in the air.
Each defensive lineman had 10 sacks in 2011, but Ninkovich came into the league as a defensive end himself and has shown an ability to get after the quarterback during last year’s Super Bowl run. Ninkovich provided 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the Patriots thrashing of the Broncos in the Divisional Round, and added a half sack in New England’s Super Bowl loss to the Giants.
He won’t have to carry the load himself, of course. The Patriots drafted heavily on the defensive side of the ball, most notably the two first-round selections, Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Some players may view the picks as threatening, but Ninkovich relishes the opportunity to work with the rookies.
“It doesn’t hurt me at all,” Ninkovich said. “I’ve been through a lot in my NFL career. I look at it as a plus. The team is going to be a lot better.
“I’m excited,” he continued. “With younger guys coming in, you want to be able to be that older guy they go to for questions. This first year for rookies is a long year so as much advice as I can give them will help them out.”