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Nine New England prospects invited to NFL combine

02.11.14 at 6:30 am ET
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With the combine fast approaching — one of our favorite offseason events on the NFL calendar — the NFL released the complete list of invitees. Mixed in with the group of the must-see national prospects like Johnny Manziel are plenty of New England prospects. Here are the nine local players who were invited to Indy for the proceedings later this month:

Boston College: running back Andre Williams, linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, offensive tackle Matt Patchan, defensive end Kasim Edebali, defensive end Kaleb Ramsey.

UConn: defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, outside linebacker Yawin Smallwood.

UMass: tight end Rob Blanchflower.

Maine: cornerback Kendall James.

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Bill Belichick releases statement on Michael Sam

02.10.14 at 6:09 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick issued the following statement Monday on Michael Sam:

“€œWe evaluate all the players, including Michael Sam, based on the totality of who they are and who can best contribute to our team and organization, regardless of the matters being discussed today. They all have strengths, they all have weaknesses and no two human beings are identical. Our scouting staff has performed extensive work on Michael, both this season and going back throughout his career. That work will continue through the draft process this spring.”
Read More: Bill Belichick, Michael Sam,

Four thoughts on Michael Sam and whether or not he’d fit with Patriots

02.10.14 at 4:41 pm ET
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Four thoughts on Michael Sam from a Patriots perspective:

1. The Patriots have always been all about football. That much was clear this past season, as they had to deal with several potential distractions but a strong culture of leadership in the locker room helped keep the roster focused. On the surface, it would appear New England would be better prepared to deal with the increased media presence and scrutiny that would come with having Sam on their roster than some other teams. (CNN carried Bill Belichick‘s press conference live after Tim Tebow was signed by the Patriots.) There’s also the matter of having a steady and consistent coaching staff and front office that would be able to deal with any sort of locker room issues — and questions from players — that would arise because of Sam’s presence. You also would need a coaching staff, front office and ownership group that would be on the same page when it came to making the move, a group that’s consistent in its approach and tone. That would certainly appear to be the case in New England. (Just ask owner Robert Kraft.) On the surface, other teams that stand out in this regard include (but are not limited to) Pittsburgh, Seattle, San Francisco and Green Bay.

2. From a pure football perspective, Sam is an intriguing prospect. At 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, he’s an undersized edge rusher who some have compared favorably to Elvis Dumervil. While he’s shown an ability to get after the quarterback over the last year-plus while he was at Missouri, history tells us that the Patriots prefer their edge rushers to be longer and leaner — think Chandler Jones and Willie McGinest as opposed to Dumervil or James Harrison. That being said, if he goes to the combine and shows an ability to play in space (that is to say, flash the sort of ability needed to make a transition from college defensive end to outside linebacker at the NFL level) that changes things. At that spot, he would need to be able to display versatility, which would include dropping into coverage as well as rushing the passer. If he can do that, he will increase in value when it comes to the Patriots. Two other things worth noting when it comes to evaluating Sam as a potential Patriot: One, if he’s able to show special teams value, that would likely increase the possibility of him being drafted by New England. And two, if he could show flexibility needed to become an inside linebacker, that could work.)

3. When it comes to approaching the draft, the Patriots have single picks in the first, second, third and fourth rounds. They don’t have a fifth-round pick (dealt to Philly as part of the Isaac Sopoaga trade), but have two sixths and one in the seventh. That’s seven choices, plus any possible compensatory picks. From a practical perspective, the Patriots have a handful of areas they would like to address in this draft — most notably, tight end and the interior of their defensive line. There’s also the possibility of them adding depth at wide receiver and in the secondary. While Sam is technically listed as a lineman, he’s likely too undersized to be considered an interior lineman. Instead, he’d be a defensive end/outside linebacker (Belichick has called them end-of-the-line players), and would be in a fight for playing time behind Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones — a group that currently includes Jake Bequette, Michael Buchanan and Andre Carter, although Carter is a free agent. It’s a fairly deep spot for New England, and one that could be addressed in free agency.

4. When it comes to New England’s assessment of Sam, the combine interview likely will play a huge role. Presumably, that will be the first opportunity for several members of the Patriots coaching staff and front office to get a chance to sit down with Sam. In the past, Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio has said the combine interview is a large part of the process and can be a determining factor in whether or not they target a prospect in the draft.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Michael Sam, Nick Caserio, Robert Kraft

Robert Kraft: Patriots would welcome gay player

02.10.14 at 3:49 pm ET
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Robert Kraft said Monday he would welcome an openly gay player on the Patriots roster, saying it was “about winning.”

Echoing statements he made last May when he was asked about Jason Collins, the New England owner said in an interview with the Boston Herald that “if they can help us win, and they’€™re about team first, then I’€™m happy to have him here.”

“We’€™re about winning,”€ Kraft said when asked about draft prospect Michael Sam, who announced Sunday night that he is gay. “And anyone who can come in here and help us win, I personally don’€™t care what their ethnic background is, their racial background, the gender preference. If they can help us win, and they’€™re about team first, then I’€™m happy to have him here.”

Kraft said he had not spoken with coach Bill Belichick about Sam, but the coach knows where the owner stands on the issue of gay players.

“He knows that I would encourage him if [Sam] can help us win,”€ Kraft said. “€œHe and I have discussed this in the past. Anyone who can help us win.

“€œIf a player were gay and came into this locker room, it would be the most supportive system,”€ he said. “€œHe’€™d gain strength by being in here. And it wouldn’€™t be divisive and he’€™d make friends for life and they could help him win.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Jason Collins, Michael Sam, Robert Kraft

Poll: Should Patriots draft Michael Sam?

02.10.14 at 8:16 am ET
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Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, announced Sunday that he is gay.

Sam is projected to go in the third round in May’s NFL draft, although there is concern that his coming out could affect his status. There has never been an active NFL player who has acknowledged his homosexuality.

Assuming Sam is available to the Patriots, do you think they should draft him?

Should the Patriots draft Michael Sam?

  • Yes, they are equipped to handle this situation (76%, 774 Votes)
  • No, this is a distraction they do not need (24%, 248 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,022

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NFL draft prospect Michael Sam says he is gay

02.09.14 at 8:47 pm ET
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Former Missouri defensive end and current NFL draft prospect Michael Sam said Sunday in interviews with ESPN and The New York Times that he is gay.

“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” Sam said. “€œI just want to own my truth.”

The reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Sam is well-regarded as a potential draft prospect, having finished the 2013 season with 11.5 sacks. He is projected to be an early-round draft choice. If he is drafted, he could become the first active openly gay NFL player — former players Esera Tuaolo and Kwame Harris came out after their careers were done.

Sam told the Times that the Missouri program has supported him.

“Some people actually just couldn’€™t believe I was actually gay,” Sam said. “But I never had a problem with my teammates. Some of my coaches were worried, but there was never an issue. Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was. I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who’€™s a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay.

“I was so proud of myself and I just didn’€™t care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, ‘€˜Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay; is that true?’€™ I would have said yes. I guess they don’€™t want to ask a 6-3, 260-pound defensive lineman if he was gay or not.”

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage,” the NFL said in a statement. “Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

For more NFL news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Recapping our free agent snapshot series

02.09.14 at 4:39 pm ET
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Here’s our complete list of free agent possibilities for the Patriots we’ve profiled so far with links to each post, complete with a snapshot as to how each might fit in Foxboro. (We’ll add to this in the upcoming week.)

Defensive lineman Michael Bennett
Defensive lineman Michael Johnson
Cornerback Brent Grimes
Defensive lineman Arthur Jones

Tight end Dennis Pitta
Wide receiver Eric Decker
Wide receiver Jacoby Jones
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin

Read More: Anquan Boldin, Arthur Jones, Brent Grimes, Dennis Pitta
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