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Former Patriot says Bill O’Brien could take a cue from Charlie Weis when it comes to making an easy transition to new job

01.06.12 at 5:14 pm ET
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The last time a Patriots’€™ offensive coordinator decided to take a college coaching job before the end of the season, the transition went about as well as could be expected.

Prior to New England’€™s appearance in Super Bowl XXXIX at the end of the 2004 season, former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis agreed to become the head coach at Notre Dame. Weis stayed on to finish out the season — as well as the playoffs — before officially departing for the Golden Dome.

‘€œIt was a hectic period, but all things considered I thought it went as smoothly as could be expected,’€ Weis said in a statement released on Friday regarding the transitional process he faced. ‘€I had a plan of prioritizing everything that went into getting the new staff and program up and running, but I also made it clear that compromising the job at the Patriots was never going to be an option. In the end, the results turned out pretty well.’€

According to reports, New England offensive coordinator Bill O’€™Brien will follow the same path, sticking around Foxboro until the end of the Patriots’€™ postseason run before shipping out to Happy Valley to become the new head coach of the Nittany Lions.

Former New England tight end Christian Fauria, who was part of that 2004 team, said that O’€™Brien could take a cue from the way Weis handled his transition. Fauria said that throughout that process, there was ‘€œnothing changed at all’€ when it came to Weis’€™ approach to preparation.

‘€œYou didn’€™t even realize he had another job,’€ Fauria recalled. ‘€œThings just went on, business as usual. That meant meeting times, film work, practice. Whatever. Every now and then, I would see him on the phone, but all in all, he did a really good job handling the situation. I didn’€™t even realize that he had another job.

‘€œI didn’€™t even realize how hard it was for him, because he never let on as to how stressed out he was,’€ Fauria added. ‘€œCharlie handled the transition process really well.’€

In some instances, NFL assistant coaches who have a team in the postseason have used that experience to find some leverage with recruits. When he left the New York Giants as an assistant coach to take over at Boston College, following the Giants’€™ Super Bowl win over the Bills, Tom Coughlin called recruits from the victorious locker room. In other cases, coaches have asked players to call and vouch for them to a possible recruit. But none of that went on with Weis.

‘€œHe never asked us to call recruits, he never asked us to speak on his behalf, he never asked us to vouch for him with a possible player. It was all about the Super Bowl and the Philadelphia Eagles,’€ Fauria said. ‘€œI know he talked about it at the Super Bowl with the media, but you never even heard him or saw him in a private moment talking on the phone before the Super Bowl.’€

Read More: Bill O'Brien, Charlie Weis, Christian Fauria, Tom Coughlin

Jerod Mayo on M&M: ‘We have to figure it out faster’ to avoid slow starts

01.06.12 at 2:38 pm ET
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Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo was on the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the upcoming AFC playoffs. While the Patriots have a bye week, Mayo and the defense have been preparing for their second-round game.

Mayo talked about the Patriots’ biggest problem of late, their slow starts, saying it was a mental issue the team needed to solve.

‘€œI don’€™t really know the reason for the slow starts, but we have to figure it out,’€ Mayo said. ‘€œIf you dig yourself a big hole in the playoffs it might be a little difficult to come back. But we showed the mental toughness to get it done and we’€™re happy to be where we’€™re at.’€

Added Mayo: ‘€œIt’€™s probably more mental. Just not going out and executing the game plan or not knowing what the offense is going to throw at you. Most of the time when we watch a lot of film on an opponent they do stuff completely different in a game, so, not making any excuse, but we have to figure it out faster.’€

Asked about Tom Brady having to carry an extra load with the defense struggling, Mayo said that overall he’s pleased with the results.

‘€œTom’€™s a great player, and at the end of the day as long as we win that’€™s the biggest thing,” he said. “At the end of the day it’€™s all about who has the most points, so our job is to go out there and try to stop the offense. If the score is 30-0 or 100-99, to us it doesn’€™t matter as long as we win.’€

Mayo wouldn’€™t say much about what the Patriots were doing during the bye week, but he did say it was a week for improvement rather than scheming for a potential opponent.

‘€œWe’€™ve been doing a lot of things to get the Patriots better,” he said. “That’€™s been the main focus of the week.”

Read More: Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,

Julian Edelman on Bill O’Brien: ‘Always happy to see a guy succeed and get opportunities’

01.06.12 at 1:40 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots locker room was a very quiet place on Friday as players scattered quickly for their bye weekend, most declining comment on the departure of Bill O’Brien as Penn State’s head coach, once the Patriots playoff run is over.

But Julian Edelman offered some perspective. It was Edelman who – in 2009 – came aboard as a wide receiver and kick return specialist at the same time O’Brien was promoted to offensive coordinator to replace Josh McDaniels.

“I don’t know if it’s true, yet,” Edelman said. “I know just about as much as you guys do. From what I was told, coach will be here.”

Told that owner Robert Kraft confirmed the departure after the playoffs, Edelman expanded upon what he’s observed of O’Brien’s personality.

“Regardless, you’re always happy to see a guy succeed and get opportunities,” Edelman said. “Coach is a very passionate guy, knows his stuff and you know he’s going to give it his all always and I love playing for him,” Edelman said. “Football is fun, you’re going to have fun, regardless of who you play for. He’s very charismatic and very emotional. He gets fired up when you get fired up. Billy-O is just a good guy.”

“It helps you,” Edelman said of the motivation factor from O’Brien. “But if you’re worrying about a coach firing you up, you probably shouldn’t be here.”

Edelman said he has no worries about a possible distraction next week.

“We’re still getting ready for the playoffs,” he said. “We didn’t change anything. We’re going to get back to work here soon, enjoy a couple of days off and rest.”

Edelman said Penn State fans and players shouldn’t worry about his qualifications.

“He knows his stuff,” Edelman said. “You love playing for him. You want to do well for him. That’s Coach O’Brien.”

Was O’Brien back on Friday from his Thursday interview at Happy Valley?

“You’re going to have to ask Coach Belichick on that one,” Edelman answered. “When guys go different directions, that just gives opportunities for other people. We’ll see.

“I know Coach as an offensive coordinator. He’s done great for us, he’s going to keep on doing well for us and I look forward to preparing with him the next week.”

Edelman also gave some clues as to what he’ll be doing this weekend.

“Definitely going to watch the games,” Edelman said of the Bengals-Texans on Saturday and the Steelers-Broncos on Sunday. “It’s always hard to say you’re going to be a football fan because when you’re watching, you’re breaking down, you’re watching your position group or you’re watching the opposite position group so at least I’ll be doing that and eating pizza or something.”

Watching both sides of the ball?

“All three sides, all three sides the whole game,” Edelman laughed, referring to the special teams.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Josh McDaniels, Julian Edelman

Vince Wilfork: ‘I’m not ready to stop this year’

01.06.12 at 10:31 am ET
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FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork has seen more action this year at nose tackle than any year since coming onto the scene in 2004.

According to Pro Football Focus, he played in 978 of his team’s 1,134 snaps, a remarkable 86 percent of his team’s snaps. In Washington on Dec. 11, when he recovered a fumble in the end zone for a TD for New England’s first score, he missed just one of 75 defensive snaps.

You would figure fatigue would set in eventually. Not for Vince, not this season.

“I never look at it,” Wilfork said this week. “I know I’€™ve played a lot this year, but I think everybody even guys that have played 20 plays or 100 plays less than me probably feel the same way as me. It’€™s just a long season when you’€™re talking meetings, you’€™re talking walkthroughs, you’€™re talking practice, and you’€™re talking more meetings and then you’€™re talking about games. There are a lot of weeks we’€™ve put into this season, definitely don’€™t want it to end soon. This week is a big week for us, so we have to [use] the time to actually get some rest and you know that’€™s a big, big step for us, I mean, that’€™s a big, big ‘€“ for myself and I’€™m pretty sure everyone in this locker room, coaches included.

“You get a chance to be just around your family and kick back your heels; don’€™t have to wake up too early. You know, just sleep in for once and your body knows when you need it. And I think this bye comes at a perfect time for us, but at the same time we have some work to do. While we’€™re here we’€™ll work, but when we do get our chance to get off our feet and get a chance to sit back and kick your legs up and watch some football over the weekend, take advantage of it. Guys have to take advantage of it because I’€™m planning on playing for a long time. I’€™m not ready to stop this year, not yet.”

Still, Wilfork is going to savor this weekend of rest, sitting back as the Bengals and Texans do battle on Saturday and the beat-up Steelers travel to Mile High to take on Tim Tebow and the Broncos on Sunday. The Patriots will be playing either the Bengals, Steelers or Broncos a week from Saturday night at Gillette.

“You know that’€™s one thing that we can do now. We have no control over who we play. One thing we do have control over is how we can prepare to better this football team, things that we can work on that can help us, the strengths that we have, continue to get better. It’€™ just things that the New England Patriots can do with each other that can make us a better football team. That’€™s one thing that we want to try and accomplish with this bye, so with that and being able to get healthy. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, houston texans, New England Patriots

The short list to replace Bill O’Brien as Patriots offensive coordinator

01.06.12 at 12:54 am ET
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With the news that Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’€™Brien will take the head coaching job at Penn State, here’€™s a list of some replacements who could be polishing their resumes for a shot at the job.

Josh McDaniels: Currently the offensive coordinator in St. Louis, he cut his teeth with the Patriots as an assistant from 2001 until 2005 before becoming the Patriots offensive coordinator in 2006. He was OC in New England for three seasons before taking the head coaching job in Denver and then moving on to become the offensive coordinator in St. Louis.

McDaniels is currently under contract with the Rams for another season, but there is change in the air in St. Louis. If a new coach comes in who isn’€™t necessarily found of McDaniels or wants to get his own OC, McDaniels could be shown the door and be available. (For more on his situation with the Rams, check out this story.) But even then, there’€™s no guarantee he’€™d return to New England — he’€™s also in the mix in Kansas City as someone who could be a head coach in waiting. (There’€™s certainly a greater possibility for him to eventually become a head coach with the Chiefs — presumably as an eventual successor to Romeo Crennel.)

Brian Ferentz: The son of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz (who worked with Bill Belichick in Cleveland), he started with the Patriots as a coaching assistant in 2008, moved to offensive coaching assistant the following year and became an offensive assistant in 2010. He was officially promoted to tight ends coach at the start of this season, and has helped youngsters Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez become two of the best young tight ends in the game. At 28, he is on the younger side, but age certainly didn’€™t prevent the Patriots from promoting McDaniels, who was calling offensive plays at age 28 as the quarterbacks coach. (McDaniels would get the official title of offensive coordinator when he turned 29.) If they feel he’€™s ready, the Patriots could do the same thing with Ferentz, giving him a year as the unofficial OC before bequeathing the official title on him in another year or two.
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Brian Ferentz, Chad O'Shea

Patriots Positional Playoff Preview: Wide receiver

01.05.12 at 1:55 pm ET
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With the Patriots off this weekend and the postseason ready to begin, we’€™ve got the Patriots Positional Playoff Preview, a weeklong, position-by-position look at the Patriots and how they look heading into the postseason. We’€™ve already broken down the running backs, quarterback and tight ends. Now, it’€™s the wide receivers.

Depth chart: Wes Welker (122 catches, 1,569 yards, nine touchdowns), Deion Branch (51 catches, 702 yards, five touchdowns), Chad Ochocinco (15 catches, 276 yards, one touchdown), Tiquan Underwood (3 catches, 30 yards), Julian Edelman (4 catches, 34 yards), Matthew Slater.

Overview: After beginning the season on a record pace, Welker dropped off a bit, but still had one of the best seasons of any receiver in NFL history and arguably the finest year of any slot receiver in the history of the league. He finished the season with 122 receptions, a total that is tied for the fourth-highest single-season total in NFL history. He led the league in yards after catch with 751. The 120-plus catch season was the second time in Welker’€™s career he has passed the 120-reception mark (123 in 2009 and 122 in 2011), joining Cris Carter (122 in 1995 and 122 in 1994 as the only players to have 120-plus receptions twice in career. In addition, Welker’€™s 1,569 receiving yards are the most in Patriots history, topping Randy Moss‘€™s previous mark of 1,493 receiving yards in 2007.

The Patriots offense is what drives this team. The passing game drives the offense. And the Tom Brady-to-Welker combination is the primary element of the passing game. While Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have emerged as viable threats, if Brady and Welker cannot connect on a regular basis, the New England offense will struggle. Conversely, if the two are in sync, there are few (if any) defenses in the league that can slow them down.

While he doesn’€™t have the wheels that he used to, Branch remains an absolutely dependable target for Brady in big situations, and while he’€™s seen fewer looks lately because of the increase in two-tight end sets for New England, he will almost certainly play a role in the postseason. After that, things drop off dramatically — Ochocinco has had his moments (his touchdown catch against the Broncos, his big play against the Jets), but those have been few and far between this year to expect him to be a reliable threat in the passing game in the postseason. Underwood has had a few looks, while Edelman and Slater have bounced back and forth between wide receiver and defensive back.

Going forward, when it comes to pass defense, three of the top four teams in the league (Pittsburgh, Houston and Baltimore) are possible playoff opponents for New England.

One opposing scouts take on the Patriots’€™ wide receivers heading into the postseason: ‘€œIf there has been a chink in the armor, it’€™s the lack of big, one-shot plays by the wide receivers. All are efficient at the lateral, short to intermediate routes and catch the ball in traffic. They also have some ability after the catch, but lack size and can be disrupted at the line of scrimmage. If delayed off the line and without a proven vertical threat, they could have some issues if they get behind against a team that can run the ball and limit New England’€™s possessions.’€

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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Chad Ochocinco, Cris Carter, Deion Branch

Bill Belichick: Marcus Cannon ‘great selection’ for Ed Block award

01.05.12 at 1:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO — One of the best ways to impress Patriots coach Bill Belichick is to show you can overcome adversity.

Marcus Cannon certainly fits the bill.

The Patriots rookie offensive lineman and cancer survivor was selected by his teammates as the recipient of the 2011 Ed Block Courage Award, as announced by the team on Thursday morning. The honor is voted on by teammates and bestowed annually upon the player who best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration. Cannon and award winners from the 31 other NFL teams will be honored at the 34th Annual Ed Block Courage Awards Banquet in Baltimore on March 13.

“Great selection,” Belichick said Thursday morning. “I had the privilege of working for a year with Ed and he is tremendous guy, real inspiration to all of us at the Colts.”

The Ed Block Courage Award is named after Ed Block, a long-time head trainer for the Baltimore Colts and a respected humanitarian dedicated to helping children. Recipients are often players who have overcome devastating injuries or tragedies in their personal lives to return to top-level competition in the NFL.

Belichick began his NFL career as an assistant on the 1975 Colts coaching staff.

“Marcus has gone through a lot this year,” Belichick added. “He’s certainly had to deal a lot more than a normal rookie would have to deal with, which is a big transition as it is, just coming into this league. And he dealt with a lot very maturely and unselfishly. He did what he had to do but at the same time he was always there for the team and was always doing what he could do to help the team, and he’s helped the team in a lot of ways. I’m proud that he’s on our team, what he’s accomplished and he certainly deserves to be recognized for it.”

Cannon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following his senior season at Texas Christian University just prior to the 2011 NFL Draft. He was selected by the Patriots in the fifth round (138th overall). After completing treatments, he began the season on the reserve/non-football injury list before being promoted to the active roster on Nov. 15.

Cannon made his NFL debut on Monday Night Football against Kansas City on Nov. 21, playing on the field goal and extra point units before entering the game at right tackle late in the fourth quarter. He played in a reserve role on special teams and at offensive tackle in the Patriots final seven games of the season, seeing significant time at right tackle against Miami on Dec. 24.

Cannon appeared in 49 games at Texas Christian, starting the final 36 contests that he appeared in ‘€“ 24 at right tackle during his sophomore and junior seasons and 12 at left tackle during his senior season. He did not allow a quarterback sack in 2009 or 2010, receiving First-Team All-Mountain West Conference honors in both years. He was named a Third-Team All-American by the NFL Draft Report and in 2010.

Officially formulated in 1986, the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that is sanctioned by the NFL and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS). The Foundation is committed to heightening awareness of the plight of abused children in cities throughout the league. Proceeds from the annual Courage Awards event benefit the Foundation’€™s Courage House National Support Network For Kids.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Ed Block, Ed Block Courage Award, Marcus Cannon
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