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Report: Jerod Mayo hit with fine for nailing the Bills

12.30.10 at 3:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO – Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo has been informed by the NFL he will be fined for at least one of the several huge hits he laid on the Bills during Sunday’s 34-3 rout of Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium, according to the Boston Herald.

Mayo told the paper that the league told him he’€™s been fined for at least one hit in game but wasn’€™t sure which one was deemed too violent or unnecessary.

Players typically received the formal notice of a fine and the amount on the following Friday after the game in question and Mayo had not received his as of Thursday morning. The Patriots leading tackler laid out Steve Johnson over the middle when he crashed into the receiver’s facemask with his own. Receiver David Nelson was also the victim of a Mayo hit, with some help on the play by safety Jarrad Page.

Read More: Buffalo Bills, David Nelson, Jarrad Page, Jerod Mayo

Rob Ninkovich certainly has fond memories of the Dolphins

12.30.10 at 2:38 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Things couldn’t have gone much better the last time Rob Ninkovich faced one of his former teams.

The linebacker recorded his first two career interceptions and helped the Patriots defense confuse and other confound Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne in a 41-14 romp at Dolphins Stadium on Oct. 4. He also sacked the quarterback once, defended two passes and hurried the quarterback on another snap.

“It’€™s always fun to play against a team that you’€™ve actually been on and you know the guys on the team,” Ninkovich said of playing his ex-mates. “Hopefully, I can repeat, have a repeat performance.”

Bill Belichick is fond of keeping his players focused on the job – and game – at hand. Ninkovich says this week’s regular-season finale is no different, even if that October breakout game did bolster his confidence.

“Well, it’€™s over with, so you can’€™t look back on what you’€™ve done,” he said. “It was one of those games where I knew I could do it [and] I knew I had that in me, so it was a confidence booster.”

But what Ninkovich, Patrick Chung, Brandon Tate and Kyle Arrington really showed that day was that these Patriots are capable of winning games in practically any manner possible.

“I think that’€™s one of the best things about the Patriots is it’€™s a performance-based evaluation of how good you are and if you can help the team out and do anything for the team, you’€™re going to have a chance to help the team,” Ninkovich said.

Ninkovich played at Joliet Junior College before playing at Purdue – where he caught a TD pass from Kyle Orton. Ninkovich was a star defensive end when he was drafted by the Saints in fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. After a successful 2006 rookie season, his first stint with the Saints ended before the 2007 season when he was carted off with a knee injury that forced him to miss the preseason. But he was picked up by the Dolphins and played for the team that won just one game. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Big Nickel: Wes Welker talks about Ed Block and Aaron Hernandez says he doesn’t have a Twitter account

12.30.10 at 1:45 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Here are the five most important things to know about the Patriots on Thursday:

1. Wide receiver Wes Welker was almost sheepish on Thursday morning when he was asked about what it meant to win the Ed Block Courage Award, an honor given to one player on each team who best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration. It’€™s an award voted on by the entire team.

‘€œI think it was kind of by default in a way just because of the circumstances ‘€” I was the only one who was really hurt this offseason,’€ Welker said on Thursday morning. ‘€œBut it’€™s definitely an honor to be in the same breath as him.’€

Welker tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in the 2009 regular-season finale in Houston, but had reconstructive surgery and returned from his injury ahead of expectations. He was back in the starting lineup at the start of the 2010 season, and he heads into Sunday’€™s regular-season finale with 86 receptions for 848 yards and seven touchdowns.

‘€œBeing able to come back from the offseason that I had and last season, the way it ended, it’€™s definitely an honor,’€ he added. ‘€œI’€™m definitely happy to have my name on the Ed Block Courage Award.’€

Welker was asked if there was any added satisfaction in being able to be back on the field on a regular basis so soon after suffering such a devastating injury.

‘€œI’€™d say I take a little bit of satisfaction out of it,’€ Welker said. ‘€œBut at the same time, I just want to get back out there with my teammates and get back out there and play ball, and go out there and do what I love to do. Being able to do that and get back as early as possible was a key thing for me. Just trying to keep it going the rest of the season.’€

2. Welker also touched on a variety of other topics in a Q&A with reporters than ran nearly seven minutes. (For how he feels about the possibility of playing this weekend, check out Mike Petraglia’€™s story here.)

What’€™s the most important thing for a young player to realize heading into the postseason? ‘€œI think the season really starts now and understanding that it’€™s been a long season and everything like that, but you have to stay on top of it and make sure you’€™re pushing through and understand what’€™s at stake and don’€™t let up and don’€™t get comfortable and every play and every game is so crucial and important, and you have to stay on top of that.’€

On Tom Brady almost serving as an offensive coordinator on the field: ‘€œHe definitely has a lot of input. At the end of the day, whatever Tom likes, that’€™s what we’€™re going to be doing. Whatever he’€™s comfortable with ‘€” I know our coaches do a great job of game-planning, and getting ready. From there, it’€™s really up to the players to go out there and run the plays and make sure you understand what coverages you’€™re going to see and getting ready for them. … He’€™s definitely the guy puling the trigger, so whatever he decides out there and whoever gets open, that’€™s who he’€™s going to get the ball to, and making sure we’€™re all in the right spots for him and let him make the reads from there.’€

How much does this team take on Bill Belichick‘€™s personality? ‘€œI think as much as it can. He does a great job of staying on top of us and making sure that we’€™re not getting head of ourselves or anything like that and making sure we’€™re focused on Miami this week and what a great team they are and to continue to go out there and play hard and get ready each and every game and each and every play and be ready for the Dolphins this week.’€

3. True to Belichick’€™s promise, the Patriots practiced outside on Thursday afternoon, working on the lower fields behind Gillette in sweats and shells. There were only three players missing from the start of the session ‘€” offensive lineman Dan Connolly and defensive linemen Ron Brace and Mike Wright.
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Pats practice: Mike Wright, Dan Connolly and Ron Brace only missing players

12.30.10 at 1:29 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots fielded a fairly healthy squad for the start of practice on Thursday outside Gillette Stadium. Only offensive lineman Dan Connolly and interior defensive linemen Ron Brace and Mike Wright were missing from practice on the lower practice field.

Connolly and Wright are both dealing with the effects of concussions while Brace is nursing an elbow injury.

The team worked out in sweats and shells in the full practice, after an extended walkthrough inside the Dana Farber Field House on Wednesday.

Read More: Dan Connolly, Miami Dolphins, Mike Wright, New England Patriots

Wes Welker doesn’t worry about a repeat of 2009 finale

12.30.10 at 12:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The question seemed to be an obvious one – why would Wes Welker or the Patriots take the chance of risking another season-ending injury to a key starter in a season finale that means nothing to their playoff position?

The short answer from Welker mirrored what Patriots players said Wednesday, keep momentum from a 13-2 season continuing into the playoffs.

“It’s very important,” Welker said. “Not playing for a week and taking that week off, it’s good for you but at the same time, you want to keep it going. So, definitely this week is key for us, to keep that momentum and stay on top of everything and be ready to play.”

But naturally, the antagonists will point to last January when Welker’s season ended suddenly in the heart of Texas.

“I say I’m here to play football and that’s what I get paid to do, and I love playing,” Welker said on Thursday in front of his locker, 362 days after an injury that some thought would threaten his career. “No matter what’s at stake or what the deal is, I want to play. I know people are probably thinking different about that but I don’t worry about other stuff.”

Sunday’s game will have no impact on the Patriots’ playoff position. They enter the game with a 13-2 record, having already sewn up the No. 1 seed in the upcoming AFC playoffs and home field advantage through to the Super Bowl.

No one has to remind Welker, the Patriots or their fans about what happened nearly 12 months ago to the day of this Sunday’s season finale against Miami. But that hasn’t stopped the media from asking all season long and it didn’t stop reporters from asking again on Thursday.

“This is the first time I’ve heard about since I don’t know, it’s been a long time,” Welker said with his typical good-natured smile. “Thanks for re-hashing this memory. But I’m just definitely excited to be back out there and excited about this week, and practicing, getting better and getting ready for Miami.”

For the record, it was Jan. 3, 2010 and Welker made a cut on a catch in the first half. Welker made an attempt to use his patented move to quickly get up field when his left knee gave on the very questionable grass turf of Reliant Stadium.

The Patriots were 10-5 heading into last year’s season finale in Houston and led, 27-13, early in the fourth quarter before the Texans scored 21 unanswered to walk away with a 34-27 victory.

He was unavailable for the playoff game against Baltimore, which the Patriots lost at home, 33-14. Welker had reconstructive surgery on his ACL and MCL shortly thereafter and came back to start this season without missing a game, earning him the team’s Ed Block Courage Award on Wednesday.

“Whatever Coach Belichick decides for me, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m always ready to play,” Welker said.

“For me, I’m going out there and I’m preparing for Miami and getting ready for them,” Welker said of the 7-8 Dolphins. “They’re a strong team that hasn’t given up on the season. We’re definitely coming out and we’re definitely coming out prepared to play.”

Read More: grass turf, houston texans, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick on Logan Mankins: ‘A smart guy who doesn’t make mistakes’

12.29.10 at 8:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Logan Mankins has never backed down – on the field or off of it.

If he feels he’s being disrespected by someone on the other side of the line of scrimmage or on the other side of the bargaining table, he’ll let you know about it, and then make sure you don’t forget it.

No one forgets last summer when – after apologizing to owner Robert Kraft – he arrived to camp in late August with his agent, reportedly set to sign a multi-year contract extension. But then Mankins was told the $55-60 million deal came with the stipulation that he issue another apology, this one publicly, for his comments about the integrity of the organization.

But that toughness also breeds respect, and a lot of it. The latest example came Tuesday night when he was selected to his third Pro Bowl, despite playing just half the season with the Patriots. When Mankins reported to the Patriots on Nov. 3, he was so prepared to play that Bill Belichick put him in the starting lineup four days later against the Cleveland Browns.

“He’€™s been outstanding on and off the field,” Belichick said of Mankins. “He brings a great attitude, work ethic, just superior toughness to the field, to our football team [and] that unit. [He'€™s] an outstanding performer. [He'€™s] a smart guy, doesn’€™t make any mistakes, plays hard [in the] run, pass and every down, snap to whistle, first play to the last play.”

Mankins said Wednesday he hasn’t been playing to prove a point about his contract. Whatever, the motivation, Belichick said Mankins looks as strong as ever.

“[He'€™s] a very consistent player, always has been. He’€™s certainly shown that this year,” Belichick said. “It doesn’€™t matter whether it’€™s a Friday practice or fourth quarter or first play of the game. He’€™s very, very consistent, and good ‘€“ very good.”

Which begged the question, why would the Patriots even take the chance of letting Mankins walk away and play somewhere else next season.

“Well, right now, it’€™s just everybody getting ready for Miami,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of other things we could talk about, but none of them really apply at this particular time.

Mankins was around back on Oct. 4 when the Patriots blew out the Dolphins in South Florida on Monday Night Football. But Dolphins coach Tony Sparano still fears Mankins’ presence in the Patriots offensive line.

“The Patriots offense has been a good offense even when Logan wasn’€™t out there but Logan Mankins is an outstanding player,” Sparano said. “He brings a physicalness to a group and he’€™s a smart player and is certainly, like I said just the physical presence that he bring to the group is tremendous and I think that’€™s probably what he’€™s known throughout the league for is his physical play and the fact that he’€™s a smart guy.

“You get him back into the lineup with [Dan] Koppen and [Matt] Light and that group of guys and it seems to me like the whole group is, has kind of settled down.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Logan Mankins, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

The Big Nickel: The Patriots want to play on Sunday, and the Dolphins think they’re going to see a lot of Tom Brady

12.29.10 at 6:51 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Wednesday:

1. Even if this Sunday’€™s game doesn’€™t necessarily mean anything in the standings, many of the Patriots’€™ starters want to play. At least that’€™s what they said when they met the media on Wednesday afternoon.

‘€œOh yeah, I want to play football,’€ said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. ‘€œEspecially this time of year, I think the more games you play ‘€¦ the more consistent you can be. That’€™s where I stand. I want to play every game I can, crunch time. I think anybody who loves the game would want to be playing right now and I’€™m one of [those] guys. There are a bunch of guys in this locker room that want to play and want to win, so hopefully we can continue that this week.’€

‘€œIt means something to us,’€ said offensive lineman Logan Mankins. ‘€œEvery Sunday that you go out there, you’€™re playing for your pride and your teammates. You don’€™t want to let the guys down beside you, so you’€™re still going to play hard. You don’€™t want to lose a game ever, I don’€™t think. So, that’€™s how we look at it: we’€™re going to go out and try to get better and try to play the best we can.’€

‘€œWe’€™re competing,’€ said cornerback Devin McCourty. ‘€œI think each week when we get ready for a game, our focus is to get better, learn about our opponent and then go out there and compete on Sunday.’€

2. As far as the Dolphins are concerned, they’€™re preparing for New England’€™s starters, particularly quarterback Tom Brady.

‘€œI would expect to see a great deal of him,’€ Miami coach Tony Sparano said Wednesday when asked about Brady. ‘€œFrom my end, I think that I’€™m sure the Patriots, they want to win their 14th football game, so I would expect that they’€™re going to go out there and do everything in their power to be able to do that. Most teams going into the playoffs the way they’€™re going into the playoffs want to be as hot as they can be.’€

‘€œWell, I think we’€™ll see the normal team, just because everybody on that team is a competitor, and I think [Patriots coach Bill Belichick] is really on their guys strong to finish the season strong and get that 14th win and have a good feeling going into the playoffs,’€ said Miami quarterback Chad Henne. ‘€œSo, my feeling is that they’€™ll play, and for us Miami Dolphins, we’€™re practicing that they’€™re going to play and play against us.’€
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Read More: Brandon Meriweather, Chad Henne, Dan Connolly, Devin McCourty
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