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Brady: Chargers always ‘a good battle’

10.20.10 at 3:08 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady has had quite the history with the San Diego Chargers. His first career 300-yard passing game came in 2001 when the Patriots came from behind beat them in overtime, 29-26, in 2001. How much does Brady remember that game? How big of a challenge will it be to beat the Chargers in San Diego? Those questions and more were posed to Brady on Wednesday. Thanks to Patriots P.R., here were his answers.

Q: Considering all that has happened so far this season, how does the team find itself standing at 4-1?

TB: Well, I think we’re just trying to make improvements. I certainly don’t think that everything’s gone right for us. We’re working hard to make a lot of improvements. It’s still so early in the year, not even one-third the way through the season. There’s a lot of football left for us. We have to have a good week this week. We are playing a very talented team that plays very well at home. As Coach Belichick alluded to us this morning, they’ve been winning their games at home by four touchdowns or something like that. I have a lot of respect for them. We’ve played them a bunch. It’s tough to play out there. We haven’t always had a lot of success out there. So, it’s a long trip, but we have to have a good day today.

Q: How much talk will there be this week about the loss New England suffered in San Diego two years ago?

TB: Quite a bit, quite a bit. I think that certain teams play differently at home than they do on the road. They’re 2-0 at home and 0-4 on the road. We’re playing them at home, so I’m sure we’re going to get their best. The times we played out there like in ’06 was a battle, hard fought game that we ended up winning. We lost to them in ’08. They really beat us up pretty good. It’s going to be a good challenge. I think everyone’s looking forward to it. I think we want to play the good teams. We want to play them on the road. We played a good game on the road last time against Miami and we have to put another one together this week.

Q: Is play-action something this offense depends on to throw the ball downfield?

TB: You have short play actions, intermediate play actions, and deep play actions. It just depends. The great part about play-action passing is that it slows down the rush a little bit and you have some time to look down the field. A lot of teams – when you drop back to pass, it’s tough to get the ball down the field. They see you’re passing and those rushers pin their ears back and they really get after the passer. Our play actions were definitely good last week and they need to be good this week. That also means we need to run the ball. There are a lot of things we didn’t do well last week that we need to do this week.

Q: What have you been most impressed about with Danny Woodhead?

TB: Everything. I didn’t know much about him until we got him, but what a great surprise it’s been. His ability to run the ball probably is the, you know, when you see a guy of his stature, you don’t know what to expect, but he really makes guys miss. He’s been great in the passing game. He has a great attitude. I think that’s exactly what we’re looking for.

Q: The Ravens seemed to creep their safeties up on you last week. Is that something you expect more of going forward?

TB: I’m not sure I totally agree with that. If you bring guys up, you’re exposing something deep. If you play deep, you can’t cover everything on defense. You try to pick what, you know, I said earlier last week, when a team blitzes a lot, they’re worse in coverage. When they cover a lot, they’re worse in pass rush. It’s just about mixing and matching. So, with a game like this in San Diego, if the safeties are going to come down low and try to stop the run, you’ll have opportunities in the pass game. When they stay back, you have to be able to run the ball. It’s hard if they’re back and you don’t run it and it’s hard if they’re up and you throw it and you don’t complete it. That’s where you get into problems as an offense, where you can’t really take advantage of what they’re doing on defense. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, San Diego Chargers, Tom Brady

Belichick: ‘We’re all very impressed’ with Chargers

10.20.10 at 2:50 pm ET
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FOXBORO — What does Jerod Mayo have in common with some of the great linebackers Bill Belichick has ever coached? Despite being 2-4, what makes the San Diego Chargers formidable this weekend in Southern California? And what makes the Chargers seem like an AFC East rival? Belichick was asked those questions and more on Wednesday. Thanks to the great work of the Patriots P.R. staff, here were his answers.

BB: We’re all very impressed watching the Chargers here. This is really a really good football team. They’ve had a couple of really huge wins out there at home with Jacksonville and Arizona. I think you can really see what kind of talent and what kind of football team they have. I know they’ve been in this position the last few years – getting off to a little bit of a slow start. This is about where they hit stride and that is obviously a little bit concerning, based on their track record. I think when you watch this team you just see a lot of good football players. Pretty much everybody on the field offensively is dangerous; it doesn’t matter who gets the ball or where they get it, they are capable of making big plays. They can run it. They can throw it. They have a great variety of plays. Norv [Turner] does a terrific job with his play calling and formationing and all of that. [It’s] very difficult to defend. Defensively, [they are] solid, strong up front, tough to run against. They rush the passer [and] play good coverage. They’ve gotten a bunch of turnovers, interceptions, tipped balls, strips. They’re very aggressive on defense. They do a good job on all downs, all situations. They’re a big, physical team [of] guys that can run. They’re explosive in the kicking game. [Darren] Sproles is as good as anybody we’ll see all year. The punter – big punter – the guy can change field position fast. They play very well out there. They handled us the last time pretty easily. Hopefully we can be more competitive than we were two years ago out there. It wouldn’t take much, but it will be a big challenge.

Q: What is it that allows Jerod Mayo to kind of wade through blockers and see the backfield the way he does?

BB: I think that’s kind of just the reverse of being a running back: as a linebacker, you take your keys and you sort of see all those bodies in front of you and basically I think what you look for is some space, because that’s what the runner is looking for. You don’t want to end up where you already have people; you want to end up where there is space and that’s where the backs are looking to go. It’s not where the bodies are, but where they aren’t. It’s sort of the same thing. Defensively, you’re sort of reading the same thing that the running back is reading. Once the initial blocks and the initial contact kind of takes place and then starts to sort itself out or separate a little bit, then the defender is looking for kind of the same thing the running back is looking for from the other side of the line of scrimmage. Jerod has terrific instincts. He had those in college and I think that’s one of the impressive things about watching him at Tennessee – just the way he was able to sort plays out, find the ball, get over trash, get past guys that are around his feet or in the pile in the way and get past that to make the tackle. Of course he’s a strong tackler. I’ve talked, I’ve coached it a long time, coaching Harry [Carson] and Pepper [Johnson] and Carl [Banks] and those guys [and] in Cleveland, Mike Johnson, Clay Matthews, Marvin Jones, Mo Lewis. The more you talk to them, the more it’s hard for them to explain it. ‘What did you see on this play?’ ‘Well, I just saw it.’ ‘Why did you go there?’ ‘I just…it was there and I just felt it was the right thing to do.’ There’s just so much happening in front of you that it’s really hard to say, ‘It was this. It was that.’ But just put the whole picture together and they see something and that’s why they go there. It’s probably the same thing the back sees on the other side of the ball. ‘What exactly did you read?’ ‘I saw this, but in the end I saw a space to run and that’s where I went.’ That’s where the linebacker went to meet him. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl, Norv Turner

Ninkovich: Chargers are ‘going to be dangerous’

10.20.10 at 2:12 pm ET
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Rob Ninkovich discussed Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers and the improved Patriots defense in his session with the media at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday.

What are your thoughts on Antonio Gates? What does he bring to the San Diego offense?

Well, you know, he’s their number one receiver, and he’s got the most catches on the team, so he’s obviously one of [Philip] Rivers’ biggest targets, so if he plays we need to make sure that we get a hand on him and mess up his routes as best we can and get him out of his comfort zone.

For him to be as big and athletic as he is, how difficult is it to game plan around someone like him?

I mean, it’s kind of like the Jets, you know, with Keller. They’re the guys that can get up the field, and they have some good, they’ve got some good speed. So you just have to you know, you have to prepare for that and,  you’ve got to be ready, you know, every play. Where is he on the line, what kind of keys is he giving away that he’s, you know, going to maybe get up the field or just run. You know, so you’ve just got to make sure that we do a good job on stopping him and knowing where he’s at on the field.

Are you excited to get back out there on the practice field after the way you guys played and handled yourselves on Sunday?

Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s going to be fun. Every week I feel like our defense, you know, we’re still learning and getting better, so we’ve just got to keep continuing to improve.

Is there something about the Chargers that makes them play so much better at home than on the road?

Yeah, I mean, they’re a good team. You know, you can’t take that or anything from them. They have a great quarterback, they’ve got great receivers, they’ve got good running backs. So, you know, anytime you’re playing a team like that, you know, they’re going to be dangerous. So, home or away, they’re a good team, so we’ve got to make sure we go out there and do our job.

What are some of the challenges of facing a quarterback like Philip Rivers?

Well he’s got a great arm; he’s got a great deep ball. So, you know, we’ve got to make sure that he doesn’t use that to his advantage. But number one, we’ve got to try and take away his deep threats, so, you know, I think we’re going to try that this week; we’re going to try to stop that.

Brady to James Harrison: Please, retire

10.20.10 at 1:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO — If you think Tom Brady is going to pick up the phone and call James Harrison and plead with him not to retire because the game needs his passion, think again.

Told that the Steelers outside linebacker was seriously considering retirement because of his $75,000 fine handed out for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi on Sunday, Brady said he wouldn’t be saddened to see Harrison leave the game.

“I’d love for him to retire,” Brady joked. “If he retired, it would make me very happy.”

Brady and the Patriots do play in Pittsburgh on Sunday night, Nov. 14.

Then the conversation turned more serious about state of the NFL and it’s attempt to address the physical attrition that is taking place every Sunday, with more players ending up injured as the result of head shots.

“I have never really hit anybody and I don’t get hit too much in the head, so who knows? They make rules, we have to follow them,” Brady said.

Of course, Brady was asked about teammate Brandon Meriweather and his hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t see the play and I still haven’t seen the play,” Brady said. “It’s a dangerous game, it really is. I think we all signed up to this game knowing that it’s dangerous. I know Rodney Harrison did too, and I heard some of Rodney’s comments about the style of play. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt.

“That’s not why we play the game, but we also know that the physical nature of this sport is that people do get hurt. We all have gotten hurt, everybody in this locker room. I’ve had four, five surgeries. It’s just part of what you’re signing up for.”

So, do Meriweather’s actions cast the Patriots in an ugly light? According to Brady, Meriweather and other NFL defenders should be cut some slack, given the speed and nature of the violent game.

“I know Brandon. It’s like you get trained as a player and everyone is just trying to go out and make the play,” Brady said. “Sometimes, I guess, guys cross the line and sometimes guys are trying to do it within the rules that are set for us. It’s a very instinctive game out there.

“They’re going to enforce the rules however they see it. I think a lot of things, as players, we show up one week and they say ‘This is the way the rules are now.’ That’s the way it works for players so we learn to make adjustments with that. It’s not the first time they’ve changed a rule here during the season. It’s just what they do.”

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, James Harrison, NBC

Wilfork: ‘You’re going to have hits’

10.20.10 at 1:43 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork briefly spoke to the media Wednesday from his locker at Gillette Stadium. The defensive lineman talked about the change in NFL policy regarding hits to the head and what that will mean for the Patriots.

How does the change in policy about hits to the head affect you and the team?

“I don’t know, I think as a defensive player, we don’t try, you know, big hits that we make. I don’t think there’s anyone in this game that plays the game and tries to injure anyone, but sometimes really in the heat of the moment, a split second, you just try to make tackles. So it is what it is, you know? I mean, it may slow some people down, because you start looking at game pace now, you know, suspension. You’ll have to take a look at it. I mean, as a defensive player, that’s definitely something we’re going to probably do now is try to alter our game. So, it is what it is. We’ll move forward and when it comes up again, you know, hopefully it don’t, never come up again, but, you know, this is football. This is a collision sport. You’re going to have hits. Sometimes people don’t understand this is a violent sport. It is what it is man.”

Is it naïve to think that it’s all about tackling or big hits?

“I mean, getting the ball, that’s what it’s about. Sometimes as a defender you’ll be out of position, or you fall in a certain way, or whatever it may be. Like I said, it’s only a couple seconds, or a split second. Not even seconds. I mean, just the timing is so quick when things happen. Like I said, I don’t think there’s anybody in this league that plays this game that tries to injure people on every play. That’s not what it is, but you do want to be physical. You do want to help, you know, your team needs. And you want to get the ball out, or whatever it may be. You want to be in the situation like that to make plays. But like I said, we just got to find a way to do it the right way, because they’re obviously cracking down on it, and it’s going to get tougher, so we’ll see where it leads.”

Pats practice: Edelman, Page and Taylor missing

10.20.10 at 1:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Julian Edelman, Fred Taylor and Jarrad Page were all missing from the open portion of Patriots practice on Wednesday as the team began on-field preparations for the San Diego Chargers this Sunday in Southern California.

Edelman suffered a head injury in the second half of Sunday’s win over Baltimore while Page sustained a calf injury. Neither player returned. Taylor has missed the last two games since injuring a toe during the game against Buffalo on Sept. 26 at Gillette Stadium. The team practiced on the upper practice fields in sweats and shells.

Read More: Fred Taylor, Jarrad Page, Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

Video: Brandon Meriweather statement

10.20.10 at 12:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO– Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather spoke to the media Wednesday, a day after he was fined $50,000 by the NFL for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap. Meriweather struggled to keep his emotion in check as he issued a statement from his locker. He did not take any questions from the media on the subject.

Read More: Brandon Meriweather,
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