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Sunday NFL Notes: Which recent Patriots have best chance at getting call to Canton?

08.03.14 at 6:00 am ET
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1. With this year’€™s Hall of Fame induction ceremony taking place this weekend, it’€™s time to take our annual shot at predicting the Hall chances for a handful of Patriots’€™ greats over the last decade-plus. In no particular order, here are 11 Patriots of relatively recent vintage, and our take on whether or not they belong in Canton.

a) Robert Kraft: Over the last 20 years, the owner has become one of the most powerful men in professional football, helping to expand the brand while presiding over one of the most successful teams in the game. His work bringing the two sides together during the recent lockout won respect in all corners of the NFL world, and could be just the sort of thing to put him over the top.

b) Bill Belichick: Three Super Bowl rings and a likely landing spot in the Top 5 of the all-time list for wins as a head coach should be enough to earn him a jacket.

c) Tom Brady: Not sure there’€™s a voter out there who wouldn’€™t make him a first ballot entry when he decides to call it a career.

d) Adam Vinatieri: When he does decide to retire, he should be one of two pure kickers to make it to Canton. Belichick certainly thinks he belongs in the Hall.

e) Vince Wilfork: From this viewpoint, he’€™s probably right on the cusp, but the conversation around defensive tackles would likely have to change to allow him a Hall pass.

f) Wes Welker: Another guy who is right there, and could spark some good debate. It’€™s a question we’€™ve chewed over before — from this viewpoint, if he can win a ring and finish with another 150 or so catches, he’€™s put himself square into the discussion when you stack him against some of the other receivers who have made it.

g) Ty Law: Law was unquestionably one of the best in the game when he played for the Patriots from 1995 to 2004, but could fall just short when compared to some of the other cornerbacks of the era. He’s 24th on the all-time interceptions list with 53 (tied with Deion Sanders), and while he will get points in the eyes of voters for his three Super Bowl rings and two All-Pro appearances, he was never in the conversation as the best in the game over an extended stretch. A good debate — for what it’s worth, you could certainly say that if Aeneas Williams gets in, Law at least deserves a look.

h) Randy Moss: He didn’€™t leave town on the best of terms, but Moss certainly deserves to be in the Hall. While he probably won’€™t be remembered as a Patriot — and some won’€™t be crazy about the idea of Moss getting into Canton — his numbers render the argument almost fruitless. His 156 receiving touchdowns are second only to Jerry Rice‘€™s 197, his 15,292 yards are third behind Rice’€™s 22,895 and Terrell Owens‘€™ 15,934, and his 982 career catches are 10th on the all-time list. (When it came to Moss, you could make an argument that if he had hitched his wagon to a singular great quarterback for the bulk of his career instead of bouncing from team to team, he could have had a legitimate shot at catching Rice’€™s records.)

i) Logan Mankins: This season will mark the 10th in the league for Mankins, who has been as steady as any offensive lineman over the course of the last decade, but he probably needs another three to five great seasons — as well as at least one Super Bowl ring — to be considered Hall worthy, and even then, he’€™d probably need someone in the room pushing for him as an advocate, much like Ron Borges pushed for the induction of Andre Tippett years ago. One thing that does work in his favor is that the Hall has started to recognize truly great offensive line play as of late, with the recent induction of Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden.

j) Rodney Harrison: Harrison is a great debate — he didn’€™t have a great reputation before he signed with New England before 2003, but carved out a nice niche as an absolutely vital part of the Patriots secondary, and went on to win a pair of Super Bowls. He was the only safety to record at least 30 sacks and 30 interceptions, and is only one of 12 players in league history to finish with 20 sacks and 20 picks in his career. The Hall of Fame can be a bit squirrelly when it comes to deciding which safeties are worthy, and while Harrison’€™s bust for HGH in 2007 works against him. he will be part of a good debate. Again, like Law, he’€™ll probably need a strong advocate to work on his behalf if he’€™s interested in making it.

k) Rob Gronkowski: If he stays healthy and maintains the same averages he’€™s posted over his first four years in the league, he would have 565 career catches, 8,138 receiving yards and 105 career touchdowns in 10 seasons. By way of comparison, Hall of Famers Shannon Sharpe finished his career with 815 receptions, 10,060 yards and 62 touchdowns, while Kellen Winslow had 541 catches, 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns. If he ends up in that neighborhood with at least one Super Bowl ring, that should be enough to put him in the conversation.

2. The news that Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson inked a five-year, $70 million deal (with $48 million guaranteed) to stick with Arizona this week figures to have an effect on how the Patriots deal with Darrelle Revis after this season. Peterson, Seattle’€™s Richard Sherman (four years, $56 million, $40 million guaranteed) and Cleveland’€™s Joe Haden (five years, $68.5 million, $23 million guaranteed) have all created a new salary ceiling for the NFL’€™s best cornerbacks, one that could create some sort of framework for Revis and New England at the end of the season. Given the fact that Revis is a few years older than the group that recently netted new deals, his deal could be a little smaller than the $12 million annually in guaranteed money, but the market for elite cornerbacks in their twenties is probably now somewhere between $8 million and $12 million annually in average guaranteed money.

Despite the fact that Revis has had a very good camp, there are still some things to be determined over the course of the year that will ultimately impact his new deal next offseason: Is he completely healthy after the 2012 knee injury? Can he still perform at an elite level? And how will his personal experience with the Patriots this season shape his attitude toward the organization going forward? But a preliminary framework — a deal with an average of roughly $10 million guaranteed money annually might be a palatable alternative for both sides — certainly appears to now be in place for both sides going forward.

3. Not sure what this means in the overall scheme of things, but when it comes to the idea of focus, it’€™s worth passing along: As Peterson and Sherman got into (what seemed to be a good-natured) Twitter fight over the course of the last week regarding Peterson’€™s new deal and their overall worth, there was no Twitter chatter from Revis. In fact, once considered a prolific Tweeter — and someone who got into a beef of his own on Twitter with Sherman back in 2013 — Revis has been largely absent from any offseason back-and-forth. He’€™s Tweeted just 10 times since June 1, including one on July 31 where he congratulated “mentor [and] longtime friend Ty Law” on being inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Sherman has kept up a non-stop barrage of chatter, Tweeting 19 times alone since the Seahawks opened camp on July 25. This would seem to be a pretty good indication that Revis is on the Patriots program.

4. The recent run of injuries suffered by some of last year’€™s playoff teams — and the relatively healthy outlook for the Patriots — really drives home the point that New England has been very lucky in recent years when it comes to avoiding health problems over the course of training camp and into the preseason. Word came down Saturday that San Francisco defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is out for the year with a torn bicep — that’s on the heels of running backs Kendall Hunter (ACL, expected to be out for the year) and LaMichael James (elbow, out up to a month) going down with injuries. (That doesn’€™t begin to take into account the fact that wide receiver Michael Crabtree is out for the next couple of weeks because of a hamstring issue.) In addition, the Colts lost two potential starters for the year to injury when running back Vick Ballard and offensive lineman Donald Thomas went down, while the Giants lost running back David Wilson for an undetermined period of time because of a neck injury. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have also struggled with injury, as tight end Anthony McCoy went down with an Achilles issue and defensive tackle Jesse Williams was carted off the field recently with a knee problem.

While the Patriots have had their share of players who are coming off injury and slowly being re-integrated back into action — as well as some players who have missed some time — they have yet to sustain a serious injury that was thought to be season-ending. That includes the sideline collision involving rookie running back Roy Finch and special teamer Kanorris Davis at Friday’€™s in-stadium workout. After Finch gathered in a pass from Ryan Mallett, he spun and raced up the sidelines, only to be pushed out of bounced. Along the way, he collided with some players along the sideline, including Davis. Both Davis and Finch stayed down for an extended stretch, and while Davis later got up and continued with practice, Finch left for the locker room shortly after that. According to the Boston Herald, Finch’€™s injury is not believed to be serious, but the rookie will certainly be one to watch over the next week or so heading into the preseason opener against the Redskins.

5. In that same vein, here’€™s a look at who has compiled the most absences over the course of the first eight training camp practices. (It’€™s important to remember that in some cases, players like Tyler Gaffney and Greg Orton have been shuffled on and off the active roster since the start of camp — that’€™s one of the reasons why they don’€™t have more official absences than the ones we have listed here.)
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Patriots release WR Cole Stanford

08.02.14 at 5:25 pm ET
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The Patriots released wide receiver Cole Stanford on Saturday.

Stanford was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent from Cal Poly on July 27. Stanford, 23, originally played linebacker and converted to offense after his freshman season at Cal Poly. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder rushed 54 times for 314 yards with one touchdown and caught 43 passes for 891 yards and eight touchdowns over 42 games during his college career.

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Rodney Harrison brings the attitude: Darrelle Revis is ‘best cornerback on the planet’

08.02.14 at 1:00 am ET
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FOXBORO — Rodney Harrison has never been one to hold back. Friday night certainly was no different as he told some out-of-school stories minutes after Ty Law was formally inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in at Patriot Place.

Then, just like his playing days, the Sunday Night Football analyst began to drop the hammer.

Harrison said he loves the fact that the cornerbacks are playing an aggressive brand of physical football, especially at the line of scrimmage.

“That’s perfect,” he began. “You’re supposed to hate those receivers. Every time, you’re supposed choke them to death, get them at the line of scrimmages. It think that’s what I think Darrelle Revis will bring. Whether he’s an outspoken guy, lead by example. He’s going to choke you at the line of scrimmage. He can play left, he can play right. All this talk about Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, who’s the best cornerback? The best cornerback on the planet is right here in New England, and he will prove it this year.”

Then Harrison laid into the defensive backs of the last several seasons and blamed them for the Patriots falling short of a fourth Super Bowl title.

“The last how many years since I’ve been retired, six years, I’ve been very disappointed, quite frankly,” Harrison said. “I take pride in this Patriot team and what Bill Belichick believes in. To see the type of guys that were on that stage and not have that same type of production, it hurt my heart to have to criticize this secondary on Sunday night. It hurt my heart.

“But at the same time, there has to be a certain level of accountability. You get to the point where you realize that, yes, it’s nice to score points on offense but you need defense and you need guys that aren’t afraid to jam guys and play man-to-man coverage and hit you in the mouth, and I think that’s what Browner and Revis gives you.

“It’s attitude. It’s about being excited about playing football. You have an opportunity to play for the greatest organization on the planet. How can you not come out here and get it done? It’s not good enough to win a playoff game, it’s not good enough to make it to the AFC championship game. It’s time to win a Super Bowl, and everybody has to be held accountable.”

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Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on Ty Law, Rodney Harrison and Patriots attitude

08.01.14 at 11:50 pm ET
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FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price size up former Patriots Ty Law and Rodney Harrison, their Patriots’ attitude and how it might work with Darrelle Revis as the Patriots held an in-stadium training camp practice Friday night at Gillette Stadium.

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Darrelle Revis not in ‘competition’ with Tom Brady in camp

08.01.14 at 11:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Darrelle Revis didn’t get a chance to continue his mastery of Tom Brady Friday night at the in-stadium training camp practice for fans. It was a night for Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo to get most of the reps while the starters focused primarily on individual drills and up-tempo walk-throughs.

Still, Revis smiled and laughed when asked about the significance so far of his outstanding play in camp against Brady, including a pick-six on Thursday.

“I’€™ll tell you what, it’€™s not because I’m his teammate ‘€“ I played against him a number of years when I was in New York ‘€“ he’€™s one of the best to ever play,” Revis said. “You can see it even in practice by going against him every day. He’€™s a hard worker and he brings the best out of you. It’€™s awesome, man.

“Going back and forth ‘€“ I’m not going to call it a competition. We’€™re teammates, we’€™re just trying to get each other better and we’€™re trying to work hard together. Sometimes he gets a play. It goes back and forth. The good thing about it is it’€™s great competition and the only thing we can do is look at it as getting each other better and just going out there and working hard.”

Revis won’t have to worry about picking off Brady next week as he and his defensive teammates will be going up against RGIII and the new-look Jay Gruden-led Redskins in Richmond, Va. starting early Monday morning.

“We’€™ve been doing that all camp, it’€™s nothing new,” Revis said of going against a different team. “We’€™re just going against another team, getting ready for them and getting prepared, just [going] out there and [doing] our jobs.”

Revis was also humbled to be called the “greatest cornerback on the plantet” by Rodney Harrison, who added that Revis is going to prove that this season with the Patriots.

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Bill Belichick welcomes back an ‘awesome’ group of DBs, looks forward to ‘competitive’ camp continuing

08.01.14 at 11:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The way Bill Belichick spoke after Friday night’s in-stadium practice, he was half-tempted to ask Ty Law, Rodney Harrison, Otis Smith and Lawyer Milloy to suit up and join his current Patriot team on the field.

Certainly, that foursome has the competitive desire and attitude if not the youth and talent left to go out for one more practice. That’s why Belichick spent a good portion of the practice over the sideline chatting up all four, including Milloy, whom he infamously jettisoned before the 2003 opener in Buffalo.

All four were in town together of course to pay tribute to Law, who became the latest Patriot inducted into the team’s hall of fame Friday night.

“It was a good group here tonight, it really was,” Belichick said. “It was awesome to see those guys. It’€™s a pretty good secondary standing over there with Ty and Otis at the corner, Rodney and Lawyer at safety and then we’€™ve got Troy Brown could be our nickel back. That was an awesome group of guys, plus a bunch of other ones but that’€™s an awesome group of guys.

“So deserving for Ty. He was a great player here and I had the opportunity to coach Ty when I coached the secondary in ‘€™96 and really met with him every day, coached him every day. He and Lawyer are special players to come back. Ty played great obviously when I was head coach in those championship years. It’€™s good see him and well deserved for his recognition. He’€™s truly one of the great Patriot players and a champion.”

They’€™re obviously done but can they provide leadership just by example from what they did as past Patriots?

“Well, I think we’€™re all proud of the tradition of this team in the past ‘€“ the coaches, the players, all of us that were involved with it,” Belichick said. “I think that’€™s always something you want to be proud of and sustain but it’€™s really up to this team to be this team. We’€™ll see what we can do.”

Belichick said rookie running back and punt returner Roy Finch will be evaluated after having to leave practice midway through after suffering an apparent lower body injury. The Boston Herald reports that the injury was a knee but is not believed to be serious.

The Patriots will have a players’ day off on Saturday before traveling to Richmond, Va. on Sunday. The Patriots will practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday against the Redskins before opening their preseason next Thursday night at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. against the Redskins.

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Friday night practice notes: Backup QBs in spotlight

08.01.14 at 8:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots wrapped up their annual in-stadium practice session Friday evening on front of a sizable crowd Foxboro residents, season ticketholders and those who ended up sticking around after the Ty Law Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The workout ran for roughly 90 minutes, and was held in full pads — it was the eighth camp session of the summer for the Patriots, the sixth one in full pads, and the final workout before the team heads for Richmond and joint practices with the Redskins next week in the days leading up to the preseason opener.

Here are a few quick notes:

— The following players were not in pads with the rest of their teammates for the session: wide receiver Aaron Dobson, defensive back Jemea Thomas, running back Tyler Gaffney, linebacker Cameron Gordon, linebacker Deontae Skinner, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, offensive lineman Chris Martin, defensive lineman Dominique Easley and wide receiver Jeremy Gallon.

— A large part of the evening session was given over to the backup quarterbacks, with Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo getting the bulk of the work. Maybe it was just because the news broke earlier in the day the Patriots had kicked the tires on veteran quarterback Brady Quinn, but it was interesting to see Tom Brady‘s two backups get so much work in what really amounted to a high-profile practice session.

— In 7-on-7s near the start of the workouts, Garoppolo got the majority of reps, and was up and down. Malcolm Butler had a nice pass breakup on a ball from Garoppolo meant for Derrick Johnson. On the next play,. he failed to connect with D.J. Williams. On the third attempt, he made a nice connection on a comeback route along the sidelines for his pal Brian Tyms, and followed that up with a sharp looking pass to Roy Finch.

— In 11-on-11s midway through practice, Finch caught a nice little dump off from Mallett, but went crashing out of bounds, careening into a handful of players. He collided with Davis on the sidelines, and both of them stayed down for a stretch. Davis was eventually helped to his feet, but Finch stayed down for an extended stretch before being helped to his feet, and then, leaving for the locker room. In the same series of 11-on-11s, Logan Ryan picked off Mallett, and the backup quarterback also overthrew Johnson.

— In the next 11-on-11 session — after a brief break for kick return an kick coverage work — Mallett looked efficient working the backup offense down the field, making a good connection with Wilson Van Hooser. (It was interesting to see rookie tackle Cameron Fleming working as right tackle with what appeared to be the No. 2 unit.) Garoppolo followed that up with an uneven performance — on one play, the pocket broke down and he scrambled away before overthrowing Asa Watson. Garoppolo ended the session by overthrowing running back Stephen Houston. After that, it was mostly handoffs. An uneven performance for the backup QBs, and Garoppolo in particular.

— No contact in the 11-on-11s for Rob Gronkowski, but he continues to look good in his routes, running and cutting and not looking constricted in the drill work.

— As has been the case since he returned to the field, Matthew Slater was running with the wide receivers in the drills. In year’s past — if memory serves — Slater has also spent time working out with the defensive backs as well. In that same vein, fullback James Develin continues to work with the tight ends as opposed to the rest of the backs.

— When it comes to Slater, he and Kanorris Davis were probably the two hardest working guys on the field through the first part of the session. Under the guidance of special teams coach Scotty O’Brien, the two were running sideline-to-sideline, looking like they were working on gunning/coverage work. Davis is an intriguing prospect — he spent some time on the active roster and the practice squad over the last year plus, and distinguished himself as someone who isn’t afraid to throw his body around with near reckless abandoned. (Fans may remember Brandon McGowan with the same approach a few years ago — Davis has the same sort of playing style.)

Travis Hawkins, Josh Boyce and Slater appeared to get the majority of work in kick return drills. Hawkins, who returned kicks as a collegian at Delaware, displayed a nice field awareness, and didn’t appear overwhelmed by the spotlight. If he’s able to continue on the same track that he’s been on over the course of the summer, he could figure into the mix as a possible backup kick returner.

— It appeared that Bill Belichick spent the majority of the session on the sidelines talking with Law and Rodney Harrison.

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