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Colts OC Pep Hamilton references ‘Spygate’ when asked about Patriots

01.09.14 at 11:14 pm ET
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Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton took a thinly-veiled dig at the Patriots on Thursday in advance of Saturday’s New England-Indy playoff game.

Hamilton, who served as an assistant under Herm Edwards when Edwards was head coach of the Jets from 2003 to 2005, was asked about what it was like facing the Patriots back then. With a smile, he made what some perceived to be a reference to the videotaping scandal that dogged New England in 2007 and led to a $500,000 fine for head coach Bill Belichick.

“I do know for a fact that it was always a 60-minute chess match,” he said with a grin. “It was ever-changing looks and disguises — and they always tend to find ways to figure out some of your signals.”

Hamilton then proceeded to go out of his way to praise Belichick, calling him one of the “greatest coaches in the history of the National Football League.”

‘€œIt’€™s truly an honor to have an opportunity to field a team and compete against the likes of Coach Belichick,’€ he added.

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

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Rob Gronkowski undergoes ACL surgery that Dr. James Andrews says ‘went very well’

01.09.14 at 10:24 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski took his first step Thursday toward a return to the playing field in 2014 with reconstructive surgery on his right ACL.

The procedure was performed by renown orthopedic surgery Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. On site with Gronkowski were his father Gordy Gronkowski and Gronkowski’s super agent Drew Rosenhaus, who tweeted after the procedure that Andrews said the surgery “went very well.”

Gronkowski tore his ACL and injured his MCL on Dec. 8 in a win over the Browns when T.J. Ward went low and took out his knees on a 21-yard seam route.

Gronkowski is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the 2014 regular season.

Later in the evening, after Gronkowski was in recovery, the tight end tweeted his thanks to all the well-wishes from fans.

Read More: Cleveland Browns, Gordy Gronkowski, Gronk, james andrews

Stephen Gostkowski is still waiting for that special Adam Vinatieri playoff ‘moment’

01.09.14 at 6:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’s no secret that kickers live in their own little world and usually only show themselves when the pressure is on.

Stephen Gostkowski gave a little insight to his world and what he might be thinking should Saturday night’s playoff game against the Colts come down to his right foot.

“I just go into a game trying to make a kick,” Gostkowski said. “The times that I’€™ve gotten into situations where it’€™s in the fourth quarter, it’€™s a kick that you know if you don’€™t make it, you’€™re not going to necessarily get another opportunity, I try to just treat it like any other kick. I’€™ve made kicks, I’€™ve missed kicks and I’€™m still here. I just try to take each kick one kick at a time.

“There could be a kick that I make in the first quarter and we could end up winning by three. So me just sitting there and worrying about a kick at the end of the game I feel like would do a disservice to the other kicks. Each game is different and each mentality is different. I remember my first couple years, you’€™re just waiting and waiting and waiting for that moment. But you have no control over it. All you can do I prepare yourself to be ready for that moment. We’€™ve had a lot of them this year and hopefully we can take the same approach and have the same success we’€™ve had if we get into that situation.

TV crews love to show kickers on the sidelines late in close games. What is thinking when the camera is on him and does he visualize the mental aspect of every kick while getting ready?

“Yeah, you do little things like I’€™ll watch a five minute cut-up of some big kicks that I’€™ve made to a song that I like,” he said. “Just like little visual things and then when I’€™m on the sideline I’€™ll sing that song and then in my head I see the ball going through the uprights.

“Sometimes there are days you don’€™t feel good or things haven’€™t been going well and you might have in your mind, ‘€˜Don’€™t miss this kick.’€™ But then when it’€™s going good, you go out there, ‘€˜I’€™m going to make it.’€™ It’€™s just that difference between confidence and cockiness, just going out there to make the kick instead of to not miss. Mentally to me that’€™s a big difference. I always just try to visualize myself doing well and not getting overexcited or too hyped up in the moment.

“Most of those guys are banging heads. I’€™m trying to like listen to Enya before the game to calm myself down. All I do is just try to ‘€“ the worst thing you can do in situations where, for me personally, where the situation gets bigger is get too excited. You have to try to slow your heart rate down, turn that nervousness and tightness into focus and if you just try to do that and do what you do on every other kick then most of the time you’€™ll be successful. That’€™s just the approach that I take.”

Gostkowski, who later clarified that he does not listen to nor sing Enya songs on the sideline – is yet to have that definitive moment that Adam Vinatieri enjoyed three times in the 2001 playoffs, including the game-winner in Super Bowl XXXVI. Vinatieri also won Super Bowl XXXVIII with a last-second field goal.

He will, of course, be going against Vinatieri on Saturday night in a matter of speaking as the Colts come calling to Gillette Stadium.

“Most kickers and punters and snappers are pretty cordial with each other throughout the year,” Gostkowski said Thursday when asked about his predecessor. “You kind of pull for each other when you’€™re not playing [against] each other kind of thing. Most guys have respect for each other because some guy who is knocking heads every play is not going to have as much respect for what we do as other guys that go through what we do on a day-to-day basis.

“You always have a fond respect for a guy that there’€™s only 31 other in the league. He’€™s the best of the best. As far as does it matter that he’€™s playing? It doesn’€™t matter. Unless he’€™s trying to come block the kick or he’€™s going to be back there returning it, it’€™s just another game.”

Does Gostkowski see himself lasting till he’s 41, like Vinatieri?

“I don’€™t know, man. I’€™m just trying to make it to the next game,” Gostkowski said. “Whatever I do is bonus. I had no idea I would even be in the NFL, let alone play eight years. A short-term goal is 10 [years]. This is all bonus. Here we focus on a day-to-day kind of thing. If I were to get the chance to do that, that would be great.

“The guys that have been good, like Gary Anderson, Morten Andersen, a lot of guys that kicked well into their later careers, John Carney. You hear stories about, I remember Junior Seau told me John Carney was the most in-shape guy he’€™s ever been around. I was like, ‘€˜No, get out of here.’€™ This is Junior Seau, one of the best linebackers of all-time, he said he’€™s a good buddy. You hear stories about Adam working out and being in shape,” Gostkowski said. “As long as he’€™s out there producing, there’€™s no reason. Age is just a number. If he feels good and it looks like he’€™s doing good then more power to him.”

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Read More: 2014 playoffs, Adam Vinatieri, Enya, Indianapolis Colts

No changes in Patriots injury report as WR Aaron Dobson (foot) remains only player sidelined

01.09.14 at 3:52 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots Thursday practice report was the same as it was the day before, with rookie receiver Aaron Dobson the only player absent from the session. Meanwhile, offensive lineman Logan Mankins, safety Devin McCourty, running back Shane Vereen and cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard were all among the limited.

Here is Thursday’s complete report:

Did Not Practice
WR Aaron Dobson (foot)

Limited Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
S Devin McCourty (concussion)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder)
LB Dane Fletcher (groin)
S Steve Gregory (finger/knee)
OL Logan Mankins (ankle)
OT Will Svitek (ankle)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip)
RB Shane Vereen (groin)

Full Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)

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Sporting News writer Vinnie Iyer joins M&M to explain ranking Tom Brady last among playoff QBs

01.09.14 at 1:53 pm ET
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Sporting News NFL writer Vinnie Iyer, in an interview with WEEI’s Mut & Merloni show to discuss his breakdown of the eight playoff quarterbacks that ranked Patriots signal-caller Tom Brady in last place, suggested that he meant no disrespect to the three-time Super Bowl winner. Instead, he characterized Brady’s last-place ranking as a reflection of the outstanding caliber of quarterbacks who are still in the playoffs.

“I don’t think you’ve seen kind of the confluence of this type of talent ever at this stage. … One vs. eight, there’s not that much difference in my mind,” said Iyer. “I think a good comparison [to Brady] here is [Chargers quarterback] Philip Rivers. When you look all time and most seasons, Brady is better than Philip Rivers. But Philip Rivers has had an exceptional season this year. A lot of people rated him just behind [Peyton] Manning in terms of the season he’s having in that offense. When you look at the weapons around, I think that plays into it a little bit. I think the Patriots as a playoff team that can go all the way will probably have to lean a little more on the run in order to do so. I just looked at the big picture of this right now and not in the past and what the accomplishments are because of course Brady’s going to be the top guy in terms of that. But it’s just shocking to me at how much talent is out there and how confident these young guys are that they can play with the vets at this point.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: sporting news, Tom Brady, vinnie iyer,

Devin McCourty on turnovers: ‘This game we have to try to force them’

01.09.14 at 12:17 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Pat Riley was fond of saying, ‘no rebounds, no rings’ back in his heyday with the Lakers.

Well, there’s a corollary in Foxboro for the Patriots.

No turnovers, no rings.

In the last four postseason losses, the Patriots have lost the turnover battle. In last year’s AFC championship, the Patriots committed three and created none, only forcing one fumble that the Ravens recovered.

In Super Bowl XLVI, they didn’t create a turnover, forcing two fumbles that the Giants recovered. They lost the game and the turnover battle, 1-0.

In Jan. 2011, the Patriots didn’t intercept Mark Sanchez while Tom Brady was picked off once. The Patriots forced three fumbles but couldn’t recover a single one.

In Jan. 2010, Brady was picked off three times and lost a fumble in a 33-14 loss to the Ravens in the first round.

“Yeah, I think in all of our games, if you look at the games we’€™ve lost, we probably weren’€™t too effective in taking the ball away,” Devin McCourty said. “It’€™s a goal of ours. We talk about them from OTAs, minicamp and continuing throughout the season, it’€™s very important for us to get turnovers. Our offense prides themselves on not trying to turn the ball over and if we get them the ball back that’€™s how we win games, that’€™s how we score points, have big plays.

“It’€™s key for us to make sure we go out there and try to force some turnovers. I think when you look at them throughout the season, they’€™ve done a good job of taking care of the ball. This game we have to try to force them.”

McCourty and the defense know that the turnover mindset has to be there Saturday night.

“I think so. I think it changes everything,” he added. “It goes without saying, we’€™re putting everything we have into this game. We know it’€™s going to be a tough game. Sixty minutes; we’€™re going to have play good throughout this whole game to try to get a win. We feel like if we put everything into this and we come out with a win, there will be a next week and we’€™ll re-group and get ready to put everything into that week. But right now at this point in the season, there’€™s no reason to save anything. There’€™s no tomorrow for us, that’€™s how we’€™re going to go out there and play.”

Andrew Luck, whom the Patriots intercepted three times in the 59-28 win in Nov. 2012, has lowered his interceptions in his second season. What has McCourty seen?

“I think, like all players, once you play another year in the league you get a full year under your belt, you see things,” McCourty said. “Not everything is the first time you have to see it. I think that’€™s what happened for him. He’€™s a quarterback, I’€™m sure he studies a lot of film. I think now it’€™s just a progression. He gets to see more things and things aren’€™t fooling him. He understands what’€™s going on in the game. I think it’€™s harder as a rookie you have so much to worry about. Each week you’€™re playing a different team that might be doing something different.

“I think once you get a full year under your belt, you’€™ve seen more defenses, you understand more of what you want to do as an offense. I think same thing with guys on our team, some of the young rookies, you see them start playing better at the end of the season I think because they have more experience, they’€™ve seen things and now it’€™s just their natural abilities going out there playing.”

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Devin McCourty, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots

Phil Simms: ‘Even the Bill Belichick haters in the media have given up’

01.09.14 at 11:39 am ET
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CBS analysts Phil Simms and Dan Dierdorf talked about Saturday’s divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Colts on a conference call earlier this week:

Dierdorf on the Patriots: “I don’€™t know if Bill Belichick has done a better job of coaching. And I’€™m not sure I’€™ve seen a player, through strength of will, put his teammates on his back quite the way Tom Brady has done. If you love anything about a team sport, you can’€™t look at the Patriots without a great deal of admiration.”

Simms on the Patriots: “Even the Bill Belichick haters in the media have given up. Why would you bet against the Patriots? How much more information do we have to know? It’€™s been there for many, many years. It’€™s an incredible job, but I don’€™t think any of us are surprised.”

Dierdorf on the Patriots: “Are they the most talented team in this playoff tournament? Absolutely not. But I think Phil said it best, ‘€˜Would you bet against them?’€™ Well, only with your money.”

Simms on the importance of a quarterback in the postseason: “I say this about organizations. It’€™s not always just the quarterback. You have to build your organization to support him. Have a plan and make it work. We are seeing that with most of these teams that are still in the playoffs I give organizations and coaches a lot of credit, they build these guys. These big-armed quarterbacks, we saw it last year and we are already seeing it this year. It’€™s a big deal in the NFL and people overlook that and keep looking for all these magical things. ‘€˜Oh, he’€™s just got IT,’€™ and, ‘€˜He’€™s a winner.’€™ I’€™m looking for a big guy who can physically get it done. And we are seeing that in the NFL right now.”

Dierdorf on passing the torch to Andrew Luck if he outperforms Tom Brady: “Regardless of what happens this weekend I don’€™t know about the passing of the torch. Are we looking at a bright, young star in Andrew Luck? Let me just say this, I can’€™t imagine if you polled all 32 teams and said, ‘€˜You have to start your franchise today with a quarterback. Who would it be?’€™ I’€™m hard pressed to imagine that even one of those 32 teams would choose someone other than Andrew Luck. That’€™s taking into consideration Tom Brady‘€™s age and Peyton Manning‘€™s age. But I don’€™t think there’€™s any question that Andrew Luck is the guy. He is the man in terms of where the quarterback position is headed for the next decade or so.”

Simms on passing the torch to Andrew Luck if he outperforms Tom Brady: “At the quarterback position, if you are looking for Andrew Luck I wouldn’€™t wait up because there aren’€™t going to be many of those guys coming out. He’€™s a unique talent. I watch all of their games. He is the strongest. Now this is saying something in my eyes because there are some strong quarterbacks, he is the strongest quarterback in the NFL.”

Read More: Dan Dierdorf, Phil Simms,

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