|08.11.10 at 2:53 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There was plenty of jewelry to be shown off on Tuesday night when Patriots owner Robert Kraft sat down with Saints owner Tom Benson.
Kraft’s Pats won Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX while Benson’s Saints are the defending NFL champs having conquered the league in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami.
“You can be very proud of what you’ve done down there in New Orleans,” Kraft told Benson.
Then Kraft shared a little bit more of his dinner talk with Benson.
“I was trying to pick his brain to learn how to sell automobiles and run banks and build a Super Bowl team in this decade,” Kraft said. “So it was very good. He said he hoped we could both play each other again this year, and there’s only one way that can happen, and that would be in your neighboring state of Texas. I hope he’s prescient.”
Super Bowl XLV will be at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX on Feb. 6, 2011.
As for the here and now, Kraft said Wednesday he is liking a lot of what he is seeing in camp so far this summer.
“This is great. Seeing the crowd here,” Kraft raved. “I know it was great for our guys to go up against another great team here. It tested our offense, defense and special teams to go against the Super Bowl champs. We got a lot more out of this practice than we would have if we had not done something like this, and I hope it’s something we continue over the next few years.”
After two days of practices against each other and scrimmages, the Patriots and Saints kick-off the preseason on Thursday night at Gillette with the game scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, On the eve of his induction to the Patriots Hall of Fame, Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham was again recognized for his work beyond the gridiron on Wednesday. Kraft recalled a dinner at his Brookline home in 2009 when John Hannah paid tribute to Cunningham as a man who opened up football to African Americans in the deep south of Alabama.
“What will always stick out to me about him was what he did for integration in the South,” Kraft said. “At our 50th anniversary ceremony, it was very poignant and he hadn’t been back here since he left and we had a party in our backyard and John Hannah and he are there and John Hannah said, ‘Sam Cunningham did more for integration than Dr. Martin Luther King in that area’ because when Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant brought him into the locker room after they had been beaten by USC and said, ‘This is what a real football player is.’ That made it appropriate for all people of color in that neighborhood to start playing football.”
WEEI.com’s Christopher Price has more on what Cunningham can offer Laurence Maroney besides just his Patriots No. 39.
Hannah was an All-American at Alabama under Bear Bryant while Sam Cunningham ran for USC in the years immediately following O.J. Simpson. Cunningham was elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame on June 14 and will be inducted as part of ceremonies prior to Thursday’s game with the New Orleans Saints.
|08.11.10 at 12:41 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When the Patriots selected Devin McCourty with the 27th overall pick of April’s NFL draft, one of the first questions that sprung up across the minds of New England fans everywhere was just how long it would be before Terrence Wheatley was sent packing.
A second-round pick back in 2008, Wheatley never emerged as a top cornerback in either of his first two seasons in the NFL, but not necessarily due to ability. The Colorado product battled injuries as a rookie and after healing from problems with his wrist, dressed for just five games last season in totaling two tackles.
Wheatley isn’t the most physical guy, but he has the quickness that would suggest he would be an interesting option for teams should he get cut by the Pats.
Yet as the chatter continues that Wheatley, like Jonathan Wilhite, could be destined to be a castoff, the now third-year man has played well in training camp and has certainly shown a side to him that hid from onlookers in years past. For starters, he’s looked good in coverage and made a nice reading Drew Brees Tuesday and picking off a pass intended for receiver Courtney Roby.
|08.11.10 at 12:35 pm ET|
The Patriots just announced they have re-signed running back Thomas Clayton and released guard Darnell Stapleton. Here’s the complete text of the announcement:
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|08.11.10 at 12:31 pm ET|
FOXBORO — According to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, wide receiver Wes Welker remains a game-day decision for the preseason opener against the Saints Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
“We’ll see how it goes yesterday and today and make a decision on that,” Belichick said during his Wednesday morning press conference prior to the third of three joint practices with the Saints. “I don’t know. I’m not saying he will. I’m not saying he won’t. We’ll evaluate it and see.”
Welker, who suffered a left knee injury in last year’s regular-season finale, has been rehabbing throughout the spring and summer in an attempt to return to the field. He says sometimes he feels himself getting better, and some days, not so much.
“Some days I do and some days I don’t,” he said. “I think as long as I’m out here and am able to make those same movements, it helps in the long run.”
|08.11.10 at 12:14 pm ET|
FOXBORO — With any luck, Drew Brees might know what Tom Brady will get in his new contract before he leaves town late Thursday night.
Brees hinted on Tuesday that he would watch closely the negotiations between Brady and the Patriots because of the potential impact on his own new deal.
And, in between talking about his optimistic feelings for the upcoming season and his thoughts on Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham heading into the Patriots Hall of Fame this week, Patriots owner Robert Kraft apparently hinted he and star quarterback Tom Brady could be close to a long-term deal.
“We’re cookin,” is all Kraft would say when asked about the progress in negotiations between the team and the two-time Super Bowl MVP.
But upon further review, Kraft was referring in general to practice and the upcoming season and NOT to specific progress being made in talks.
Brady, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and the Saints signal-caller and reigning Super Bowl MVP are all in talks for a new contract, with all three hoping to finalize a deal before a new collective bargaining agreement is reached between the players and the NFL.
The Saints are in town for a second day of practice with the Patriots prior to the two teams opening the preseason against each other on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
|08.11.10 at 11:59 am ET|
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript of today’s Q&A between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the media:
BB: I appreciate everybody coming out early this morning. It’s been a good couple days for us here. Looking forward to today. It’s just more situation work with the Saints. I thought yesterday’s practice was probably one of the most productive practices I think I’ve been a part of in my career. [It was] good work [and] certainly a good tempo. We saw a lot of things from the Saints that we haven’t seen working against ourselves. They’re obviously very good. They do a lot of things well, so there were a lot of things that we were able to evaluate and also adjust to. We can walk through them, we can talk through them, but it’s different when a good team does them and hurts you with them and you have to make those changes. That part of it was great. Sean [Payton] and Gregg [Williams] and his whole staff do a terrific job with their team. It was just really good work for us all the way around and I think our players responded well to it. We’ll do a little more of that today and then kind of pull things together tonight, talk about managing the game, playing time, and so forth. But right now we’re just really trying to get another quality practice in this morning and fine tune things tonight. But [there's] no better preparation for a game than working against the team you’re going to play. We’ve seen a lot in the two practices yesterday. We’ll see a lot more today. It’s been a great learning experience for our football team, not just the players but our staff as well.
(on 2010 Patriots Hall of Fame Inductee Sam Cunningham)
Sam Cunningham – I think the [Patriots Hall of Fame] induction ceremony is tomorrow. Just a quick word on that – [He is] kind of a guy that played at a time where a lot of people don’t really probably right now appreciate what fullbacks were in the 70s and early 80s. [They were] guys that not only blocked, but ran the ball, caught it and really never came off the field. There wasn’t a lot of substitution back in those days and Russ Francis and Cunningham and guy like that, they were on the field all the time, not just on first down or third down or those kind of specialty players. He was a big ball carrier, a hard guy to tackle, a very good runner, a good blocker, caught the ball well, very good in short-yardage and goal line. He just had an outstanding career professionally after his great career in college. [He was] a very tough guy to defend – the kind of player that, like I said, you don’t really see too much anymore – the Franco Harrises, the Sam Cunninghams, the guys that were fullbacks, but also had an element of tailback in them just on a bigger frame. Congratulations to him and certainly our team has a lot of respect for what he’s done for this franchise in his career.
I think that’s really about all the updates I’ve got. Looking forward to going out there and getting a good day of situation work in with the Saints this morning.
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|08.11.10 at 11:07 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots and Saints just wrapped up a joint practice session that lasted roughly an hour and 45 minutes. The teams seemed to be working at about three-quarters speed for many of the drills, but that didn’t prevent things from getting heated between the squads from time to time. Here’s the complete rundown on what happened Wednesday morning.
- Defensive back Bret Lockett, defensive end Ty Warren, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur, and outside linebacker Derrick Burgess were not in attendance. Mankins continues his holdout while Burgess is believed to be retiring. Guard Darnell Stapleton has been released and back in the fold is running back Thomas Clayton.
- Receivers Matthew Slater and Torry Holt, cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Terrence Johnson, linebacker Gary Guyton, and defensive tackle Ron Brace made up the group of Patriots players practicing in either shorts or sweats.
- A couple of notes on the defensive backs. First off, second-year safety Patrick Chung made a nice play in tipping a pass over the middle. Terrence Wheatley got taken advantage of when Saints receiver Mondez Billings snagged a ball that was tossed with just enough touch by Drew Brees to keep it out of the corner’s reach. Even so, Wheatley has looked good thus far in camp and doesn’t seem to be the likely cut victim that many thought he’d be when the team drafted Devin McCourty.
The former second-round pick noted that he’s not worrying about his roster spot when asked after practice. Given the plethora of defensive backs the Pats have on the roster, it’s definitely a tough position to try to contribute in, but overall Wheatley’s camp would suggest he’d be a tough guy to axe.
- Speaking of Pats corners, Randall Gay, who once held the occupation, was also made to look rather foolish. With about one square foot to make a catch from a pressured Tom Brady, Patriots receiver Wes Welker made a leaping catch in the corner of the end zone on Gay.
“He was out of bounds,” Gay said in defense of the play after practice. “That wasn’t even a catch.”
- Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, Taylor Price, and Darnell Jenkins fielded punts from Saints punter Thomas Morstead, so look for some of those guys to handle return duties in Thursday night’s pre-season opener.
- Brandon Spikes is no longer alone in the “covering Alge Crumpler is harder than it looks” club. Jonathan Vilma struggled in keeping up with the big tight end and it showed when Brian Hoyer hit Crumpler in the end zone on a route in which he was untouched.
- Saints running back Lynell Hamilton went down with a right knee injury on a play and remained on the field for a few moments. He was helped off by trainers and is expected to receive further evaluation today.
- Wheatley was awfully aggressive in punt returns. First, he was seen shoving back and forth with Saints corner Leigh Torrence. Just a couple plays later, he was all over Billings, the receiver who had embarrassed him earlier in the practice.
- Patriots safety Sergio Brown and Saints receiver Adrian Arrington also got into it earlier in the practice. Jonathan Wilhite was also an aggressor in intersquad scuffles.
- Nobody can move like Malcolm Jenkins. The safety for the Saints sprung up during stretches and danced by himself for a good 16 measures of the hip hop that was playing over the PA system. Saints players and fans from both teams (there were quite a few from New Orleans) cheered on Jenkins as an early fan favorite.
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