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Tom House pitches in at Patriots camp

08.06.12 at 12:46 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom House is most famous for catching Hank Aaron‘s 715th home run in the Braves bullpen on April 8, 1974. On Monday morning, the former Atlanta pitcher and MLB pitching coach was in Foxboro to work with Patriots quarterback on a key fundamental to the position – good footwork.

Get your feet under you properly before you fling the ball.

House has worked with several NFL quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, Tim Tebow, Drew Brees, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, and Matt Cassel, with Palmer and Cassel having direct ties to USC, where House serves as a pitching coach for the Trojans.

After his big league career with the Braves and Mariners, House has also worked as a coach for the Astros, Padres, and Chiba Lotte Marines. He is an advisor with the American Sports Medicine Institute, and is the co-founder of the National Pitching Association. Through the NPA, he runs a series of camps and clinics for athletes, and markets a series of instructional videos for young baseball players. House has also written or co-written 19 instructional books on baseball, as well as an autobiography.

In 1998, the American Baseball Coaches Association presented House with a lifetime achievement award.

In addition to starting at Michigan State as a star quarterback, Brian Hoyer was quite the baseball pitcher when he was younger. Hoyer was a pitcher, infielder and outfielder at Cleveland (OH) St. Ignatius high school. In 2002, he was 8-1 with a 1.99 ERA as a sophomore. He was the winning pitcher in the 2002 Ohio Division I State Championship game allowing two earned runs in six innings.

“I think there’s some similarities but there’s also some things that are a little bit different,” Hoyer said Monday after his workout with House. “In football, you want to have a quicker release point. In baseball, there’s no one rushing down on you. There’s definitely some things that have helped in terms of stride, rotation, things like that. For me, it’s not something I need to go think about when I’m out there playing. We do the drills and I try to take it to the team drills but when there are guys coming after you, you have to be able to throw the ball and it’s not going to be perfect every time.

“I just met him today and it’s pretty interesting to hear a different take on things and implement it in your own game.”

Hoyer said the footwork drills are what really helped him out.

“Just as far as the stride and trying to keep your feet on the ground,” Hoyer said. “Pitchers, they get to throw off a mound and it gives them a little extra energy and you’re higher up and you’re throwing downwards and we’re throwing on a flat surface out here so you really have to make sure your feet are in the right position to throw.”

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Atlanta Braves, Brian Hoyer, Hank Aaron

Tom Brady: ‘We all have to be on the same page’

08.05.12 at 9:46 pm ET
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FOXBORO — While the rest of the world is preoccupied with the Olympics, Tom Brady is preoccupied with his job. He made that abundantly clear on Sunday.

It was obvious late in practice when he gave Aaron Hernandez a little talking to for not being on the same page when he looked to the tight end on a pass play in a two-minute drill.

“You know, guys are working hard, we’€™re just trying to get things right,” Brady said in explaining his urgent tone on the field. “We don’€™t have a lot of time ‘€“ we have a game here in three days. We all have to be on the same page and a lot of communication and it’€™s not always right out here, so we’€™re trying to get it right.

“You take six months off, so there’€™s quite about a bit of time between February and when we start. There’€™s a new group and you’€™re doing new things and the communication’€™s different ‘€“ that’€™s why we’€™re practicing. You get out here in this situation and it’€™s an important situation, we’€™re working on the two-minute and you can’€™t afford mistakes, you know all 11 of us have to be on the same page. That’€™s why we do the two-minute at the end of practice, because you’€™re tired, you’€™re drenched in sweat and that’€™s when your concentration needs to be at its best because that’€™s when the game is on the line.”

Now, with the Saints marching in following their Hall of Fame game against the Cardinals Sunday night in Canton, Brady and the Patriots can finally practice against another team besides themselves.

“We’€™ll see how it goes. I think we’€™ve done it before, so hopefully we can get a lot out of it. They’€™re [the Saints] a very good team. It’€™s fun to have a game week and we’€™ve been trying to string practices together. We’€™ve had some good ones, we’€™ve had some ones that haven’€™t been great and you try to learn from your mistakes and come back and not repeat them. So now you get to see a different set of defenses, opponents, matchups and personnel and we’€™re going to see where we’€™re at.”

More from Brady’s Q and A with reporters on Sunday evening outside Gillette Stadium.

Q: You’€™re 35 years old now. Vinny Testaverde came through when he was 42 and Doug Flutie was 43. Did these guys kind of inspire you when they still had that enthusiasm for football, they were in great shape and they were still able to be effective in their early 40s? Did that kind of inspire you and make you say, ‘€˜Hey I want to do that?’€™ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots, new orleans saints, Tom Brady

Ten Things We Learned Sunday at Patriots Training Camp

08.05.12 at 6:06 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Sunday’s training camp practice, which lasted just over two hours, was peppered with bright moments from young players along with frustrating mental lapses from reliable mainstays.

Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer were missing from the offensive line again. Meanwhile, defensive end Jonathan Fanene missed his fourth straight practice. Special teams maven Tracy White, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and fullback Spencer Larsen also were not seen on the practice field.

Tight end Daniel Fells, defensive linemen and Rob Brace and Myron Pyror, rookie cornerback Alfonzo Denard, and tackle Markus Zusevics joined their teammates, but were donning shorts.

Here are nine other things we learned from Day 9 of training camp:

HEAD AND SHOULDERS

Ras-I Dowling is making a case to start opposite Devin McCourty in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Saints. The second-year defensive back had a highlight-reel interception on a deep ball thrown by Brian Hoyer intended for the outreached arms of Aaron Hernandez toward the corner of the end zone.

Dowling was there stride for stride, and showed good balls skills on the play. His size (6-foot-1) may make it harder while dealing with shiftier wideouts (he had issues with Wes Welker during one-on-one drills), but it gives him leeway when defending taller wide outs and tight ends.

STRIKES AND GUTTERS, UPS AND DOWNS

The first-team offense had a scattered day. During 11-on-11 passing drills, Tom Brady overthrew Jabar Gaffney, who had beat Dowling on a go-route toward the back of the end zone. Brady also missed Brandon Lloyd, who had gained mild separation down the sideline on an deep out route. Later in the drill, Hernandez found a soft spot in the defense in between Mayo and Dowling, and Brady hit him for a touchdown.

Though, in the two-minute drill, the offense fell into a lull yet again. There appeared to be some miscommunication between Brady and Hernandez, and the quarterback spent a considerable amount of time going over the mishap with the tight end afterward.

LINE DANCING

With the uncertainty of Brian Watersplaying status heading into the upcoming season, Mankins and Vollmer both absent due to injury, and Robert Gallery announcing his retirement Saturday the offensive line saw various combinations throughout Sunday’s session. Dan Connolly and Donald Thomas were the biggest benefactors of the incessant shuffling. Connolly a great deal of time at right guard, and Thomas got plenty of reps at left guard.

WHAT’S THE CATCH?

As Chris Price noted last week: In Josh McDaniels‘€˜ last season as the offensive coordinator in New England, the Patriots targeted running backs 105 times and came away with 78 catches. But since then, the running backs’€™ impact in the passing game has lessened considerably: In 2009, it dipped slightly to 74 catches on 105 targets. In 2010, it was 61 catches on 86 targets, and last season, it was 37 catches on 58 targets.

During Sunday’s session, running backs worked with quarterback’s on passing drills, specifically going over wheel routes. This onus of the passing game out of the backfield was amplified during 11-on-11 drills, as Brady frequently dumped the ball off to Stevan Ridley. McDaniels may bring some of his two-back formations back to New England’s offensive scheme as well. Eric Kettani earned a healthy amount of reps as the lead full back throughout the practice.

WELCOME TO THE NFL, KID

The one-on-ones between skill position players were highlighted by Hernandez leaving linebacker Dont’a Hightower in the dust after swiftly juking by the rookie. Rob Ninkovich also had issues keeping up with Danny Woodhead.

BRANCHING OUT

Deion Branch suited up for practice, but he might as well have been in shorts and a t-shirt. The veteran wide receiver didn’t participate in drills. This may be nothing more than a veteran’s day off, but it should be noted since the Patriots didn’t practice on Saturday. Donte’ Stallworth got most of Branch’s reps along to go along with his kick returning duties.

MENTAL LAPSES

Both the offense and defense were flagged for 12-men on the field penalties by the coaching staff. Each unit was spared the penalty lap, but Lloyd and Thomas ran after each committed a false start penalty. Additionally, Brandon Deaderick ran a lap for a perceived offside penalty during one-on-one drills.

SOARING SILVESTRO

Alex Silvestro‘s conversion to a pass-catching tight end continuing to develop. At first it appeared he was just involved in jumbo formations, but the role in the offense seems to be expanding.  Silvestro was prominently involved in the second-team offense’s sets.

In fact, the former defensive lineman turned tight end even came down with a nice jump ball in traffic during 11-on-11 drills. Later, he caught a pass in stride up the seam from Hoyer. Maybe the coaching staff is just testing out different possibilities, or simply experimenting. Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to say Silvestro isn’t passing with flying colors.

NOT A GOOD DAY FOR THE MEN IN 74

Both Kyle Love and Darrion Weems — who each wear No. 74 — left the practice field with injuries. Love went to the ground for a few minutes during one-on-one drills after walking to the sidelines under his own power, he was examined further by the Patriots medical staff.  Weems left the field while walking gingerly.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp,

Bill Belichick ‘respects’ decision of Robert Gallery to retire and other Sunday nuggets

08.05.12 at 2:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave his first public comments since Friday’s fights at practice and Saturday’s retirement of 31-year-old offensive lineman Robert Gallery.

‘€œI’€™ve talked to Robert several times in the last few days,’€ Belichick said of Gallery, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. ‘€œHe made that decision. I respect it. He’€™s a good player, had a good career. I’€™m sorry it didn’€™t work out this year, but I understand it. He worked hard while he was here, did everything we asked him to do.’€

Meanwhile, Belichick said fullback Tony Fiammetta was placed on the exempt/left squad list for ‘€œpersonal reasons’€ while pointing to special teams and secondary experience for the signing of defensive back Derrick Martin on Saturday.

As for fullback Kareem Huggins, who was signed and released in the space of 19 hours, Belichick said, ‘€œobviously, just never really got off the ground there. Before we put him on the field, we didn’€™t feel like we could put him on the field.’€

Belichick was asked once again about another veteran offensive lineman – Brian Waters – who has been excused from camp. “No update” was once again his response.

Belichick said he expects the NFL replacement officials will arrive by Monday morning’s practice.

‘€œCan’€™t wait,’€ Belichick said of the officials, who will work with the Patriots and Saints this week while the regular officials negotiate for a new contract with the NFL.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Robert Gallery

What is at stake for Ryan Mallett?

08.05.12 at 1:38 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Sometimes a young quarterback gets a big break.

Sometimes scouts see something in preseason games that makes him stand out to another team in the market for a young gun. Sometimes a quarterback goes down unexpectedly and the back up steps in. That happened in 2001 when Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe. That happened in 2008 when Matt Cassel took over for Brady in the season opener.

It happened for Matt Flynn in 2010 when he took over against the Patriots on Monday night football for Aaron Rodgers, who was out with a concussion.

In the cases of Cassel and Flynn, opportunity meant lucrative contracts elsewhere. In the case of Brady, it meant a career that will end in multiple Super Bowl titles and a path to Canton.

What will Ryan Mallett – a 2011 third-round (74th overall) pick of the Patriots – do with his chance this August?

‘€œMore production on the field, smarter reads and protecting the ball,” said Mallett, quoting the Bill Belichick principles of running any offense.

Speaking of Belichick, listening to the Patriots coach on Sunday, it certainly sounded like the Arkansas product is going to get his chance to show what he can do in the four preseason games this month.

“He’s way ahead of where he was last year,” Belichick said.

After no minicamp in 2011 because of the lockout, Mallett made quite the impressive debut in the 2011 preseason opener, going 12-for-19 and a 162 yards and a touchdown in a 47-12 win over the Jaguars. He finished the preseason playing all four games but tapering off a bit, not finding the end zone while throwing one interception in his remaining three games. He was 36-for-63 for 357 yards and a 72 QB rating. He did not take a single regular season snap.

‘€œI think having a spring under my belt and going back to day one of how we do things is the kind of stuff that I missed last year from day one,” Mallett said. “So I was trying to play catch up [last year] and it’€™s hard to play catch up in this offense.’€

Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio hinted on Friday that Mallett has benefitted from a good start of camp with fellow QB backup Brian Hoyer.

“I think the quarterbacks, they’€™ve done some good things in camp,” Caserio said. “I think it’€™s been a pretty good competition. I know Bill alluded to this the other day, I think, the competition between Brian and Ryan has been pretty good. They’€™ve both had their share of good plays; they’€™ve both had their share of bad plays. I think the most important thing is to try to eliminate the number of bad plays or mental mistakes or whatever it may be. Like I said last week when I talked, when we get into the preseason they’€™ll have plenty of opportunity and we’€™ll see how they perform when we get into game situations.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, aaron rodgers, Matt Flynn, New England Patriots

A closer look at what Robert Gallery’s decision to retire means for the Patriots

08.04.12 at 7:22 pm ET
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Robert Gallery‘€™s decision to retire after eight seasons isn’€™t much of a surprise, particularly to those who watched him through the first week-plus of camp with New England.

In his brief tenure with the Patriots, the second overall pick in the 2004 draft (who was acquired by New England as a free agent on March 21) bounced back and forth between the first- and second-team offensive lines, and was mostly mediocre. Whether that was the fact that he was getting used to a new system, struggling to get acclimated to his new teammates or simply had nothing left in the tank, it was clear that he was having issues with the Patriots. Now, we know why — it just wasn’€™t there anymore.

To his credit, instead of mailing it in and trying to half-ass his way through a season for a paycheck (he signed a one-year deal with a base salary of $1 million, that included a $400,000 signing bonus, $300,000 roster bonus and $100,000 workout bonus), he did the right thing and decided to hang them up.

Even though the immense Gallery (6-foot-7, 320 pounds) brought some positional versatility to the field — he had played both guard and tackle over the course of his career — he was used exclusively at guard for the Patriots, who were clearly looking for someone to help bring some stability to the position while the situation involving incumbent guards Logan Mankins (who has been sidelined with a knee injury since the Super Bowl) and Brian Waters (not in camp) is resolved.

Going forward, those who stand to benefit the most from Gallery’€™s departure are fellow guards Donald Thomas (who appeared to be making very good progress as of late last week — it was Thomas who worked with the first team when Gallery was bumped down to the second unit), Ryan Wendell (who has bounced back and forth between backup guard and backup center) and Dan Connolly (who can play guard and center, but was playing guard almost exclusively through the first week of camp). All three will likely see a bump in playing time as a result of Gallery’€™s decision.

One player who also stands to benefit is Dan Koppen. Koppen figured to get some heat from Connolly, who can play center and has done well there in part-time action in the past. Now, it’€™s more likely that Connolly’€™s efforts will be concentrated on the guard position.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Robert Gallery,

Stevan Ridley taking lead in battle for starting running back role

08.03.12 at 8:28 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With the departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis to Cincinnati via free agency, the Patriots entered training camp with a group of young, largely unproven backs each looking to take the helm as the new feature back for the offense. But in the early showings of camp, it appears that second-year back Stevan Ridley is outpacing fellow sophomore Shane Vereen and presumptive third down back Danny Woodhead for the starting job.

The 23-year-old Ridley enters camp as the team’€™s top returning rusher after finishing his 2011 regular season with 87 carries for 441 yards and one score. However, the focal points of Ridley’€™s rookie season heading into camp remain his two fumbles he recorded late last year: one in the season finale against Buffalo and another in the Patriots playoff victory against Denver. It was the second fumble that effectively ended Ridley’€™s season, as he remained inactive for the rest of the Patriots’€™ post season run, apparently losing the coaching staff’€™s confidence to hold onto the ball

‘€œI’€™m not a coach. I’€™m just a player and I went out there and played the best I could,’€ Ridley said of his ball-handling after practice Friday. ‘€œUnfortunately, as a running back, you can never have the ball on the ground and that’€™s something that I know and that’€™s been since Pee Wee football.

‘€œI have to put that behind me and focus on what’€™s ahead of me. That’€™s the future and that’€™s me holding onto the football. So I’€™m just going to go out there every day and run hard, tuck the ball and keep it high and tight and be the best that I can so I don’€™t repeat any mistakes.’€

With his size, the 5-foot-11, 225 pound Ridley is the obvious candidate to handle the bulk of the running between the tackles, particularly as a short-yardage back, a role he’€™s ready to take up, but not as his sole identity in the offense. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots
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