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Patriots officially promote LB Ja’Gared Davis, sign Reggie Dunn to simulate T.Y. Hilton in practice

01.07.14 at 5:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Looking for every advantage possible heading into the their playoff game with the Colts Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots signed a speedy wide receiver to their practice squad to mirror the skill set of Colts speed merchant T.Y. Hilton.

Reggie Dunn, 25, was originally signed by Pittsburgh as a rookie free agent on April 7, 2013 out of Utah. The 5-foot9, 178-pounder was released by the Steelers after training camp and spent time on the practice squads of Green Bay, Cleveland and Miami this season. Dunn was a decorated kick returner during his collegiate career, returning five 100-yard kick returns for touchdowns, more than any other player in NCAA history.

Dunn takes the spot of linebacker Ja’€™Gared Davis on the practice squad as Davis was promoted Tuesday to the 53-man roster to take the spot of Brandon Spikes who was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Monday.

Davis, 23, was claimed off waivers by the Patriots on Aug. 28. The 6-foot, 238-pounder, was originally signed by the Houston Texans as a rookie free agent from Southern Methodist on May 10 and was released on Aug. 27. Davis was released by the Patriots on Aug. 31 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1. He was signed to the 53-man roster the day before the Patriots game at Cincinnati and played on special teams against the Bengals. He was released Oct. 7 and re-signed to the practice squad on Oct. 9.

Read More: Indianapolis Colts, Ja'Gared Davis, New England Patriots, nfl

Colts coach Chuck Pagano: Just made sense to sign ex-Patriots WR Deion Branch

01.07.14 at 3:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday that there was no ulterior motive when it came to signing former Patriots receiver Deion Branch.

In a conference call with the New England media, Pagano said that there were several factors in play when it came to adding Branch, including the fact that they had brought him in for a workout last month, he was local, and he has a track record of success.

“We had worked out Deion three or four weeks ago,” Pagano said of the 34-year-old Branch. “[General Manager] Ryan [Grigson] and his staff bring in guys every week to work out and have guys that you know about and give physicals to in case you have an injury here or there, and we were a little bit short at the wide receiver position, and we had worked out Deion.

“He came in and had a great workout for us, he was in shape, he’€™s local, he’€™s right in our backyard, so we knew about him and knew who he was from a physical standpoint. Again, every decision we make is based on two things: what’€™s best for the team and what helps us win, and we feel like we got a guy that’€™s a former Super Bowl MVP that’€™s played a lot of good football at a high level, so he can help us.”

It’s debatable how much impact Branch will have on Saturday night — he only has a handful of days to try and get up to speed in a new system. But Indy quarterback Andrew Luck said he was looking forward to connecting with Branch.

“€œI definitely will pick his brain,’€ Luck said in a conference call with the media. ‘”œHe’€™s going to be a great addition to our team. I haven’€™t had a chance to sit down yet. We’€™ve been rolling in and out of meetings.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise of Branch Tuesday.

“Deion had a great career here — I think he was here for seven years or north thereof,” Belichick said. “Very smart, professional player. Great leader. One of the top guys we’€™ve had here in terms of off the field work ethic, leadership, intelligence, preparation, all those things. He had some very productive seasons here. He’€™s a tremendous person. He’€™s had a great career.”

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

Read More: Andrew Luck, Bill Belichick, Chuck Pagano, Deion Branch

For Dont’a Hightower, ‘everything is finally coming back into play’

01.07.14 at 3:32 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Dont’a Hightower acknowledged Tuesday that he may have lost his focus earlier in the season, but the second-year linebacker is back to where he needs to be.

After the Patriots lost Jerod Mayo earlier in the year to a season-ending injury, Hightower’s role expanded, and he admitted he tried to do too much to try and make up for the losses in personnel.

“I’ve been there, done that — tried to do too much. It didn’t work for me,” he said Tuesday after practice. “[But I] fell back, and everything is finally coming back into play.”

The key is finding a balance between the Bill Belichick mantra of “Do your job,” and a natural inclination to try and overextend yourself in an attempt to become a playmaker.

Hightower said Tuesday that the solution is simple.

“Do your job. The big plays will come to you if you do your job,” he said. “I don’t need to make a tremendous catch — I just need to do my job. Everybody is lined up and everybody has the right communication, after that, the playmakers will make plays.”

As the Patriots continue their prep work for Saturday’s divisional playoff contest with the Colts, Hightower figures to play a sizable role for New England for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he’ll be asked to pick up a lot of the slack in the wake of the recent decision to place Brandon Spikes on season-ending injured reserve.

He says he’s ready.
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Read More: Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo,

Report: Pete Morelli will work as referee for Patriots-Colts playoff tilt

01.07.14 at 3:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Pete Morelli will work as lead official for Saturday’s divisional playoff contest between the Patriots and Colts at Gillette Stadium, according to FootballZebras.com.

This will mark Morelli’s second New England game of the year — he worked as the referee for the Patriots-Texans game back in November. Prior to that, his last New England games came in 2011, when he served as the lead official for a pair of games involving the Patriots ‘€” a Nov. 6 loss to the Giants in Foxboro, and a win over the Dolphins in the season opener in Miami.

Here’€™s a look at each lead official assigned to work Patriots games to this point in the 2013 season:

Sept. 9 vs. Buffalo: Walt Anderson
Sept. 12 vs. NY Jets: Carl Cheffers
Sept. 22 vs. Tampa Bay: Jeff Triplette
Sept. 29 vs. Atlanta: Walt Coleman
Oct. 6 vs. Cincinnati: Gene Steratore
Oct. 13 vs. New Orleans: Tony Corrente
Oct. 20 vs. NY Jets: Jerome Boger
Oct. 27 vs. Miami: Walt Anderson
Nov. 3 vs. Pittsburgh: Walt Coleman
Nov. 18 vs. Carolina: Clete Blakeman
Nov. 24 vs. Denver: Gene Steratore
Dec. 1 vs. Houston: Pete Morelli
Dec. 8 vs. Cleveland: Jerome Boger
Dec. 15 vs. Miami: Tony Corrente
Dec. 22 vs. Ravens: Ron Winter
Dec. 29 vs. Bills: Ed Hochuli

For more on Morelli’s work as a referee, check out his page at Pro Football Reference. For more information on this week’€™s assignments, click through to the always reliable Football Zebras.

Read More: Pete Morelli,

Bill Belichick on Adam Vinatieri: ‘A Hall of Fame kicker if there ever was one’

01.07.14 at 12:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The debate goes on every Saturday before the Super Bowl. Should kickers be considered for the Hall of Fame? Jan Stenerud is the only pure placekicker enshrined in Canton while Lou Groza and George Blanda made it with the help of their other positions. Groza was a dominating offensive tackle while Blanda was a quarterback.

Well, if the writers ask Bill Belichick, he has a gold standard for the position – Adam Vinatieri.

The Patriots coach was asked on a conference call with Indianapolis writers Tuesday if he is surprised the 41-year-old Vinatieri is performing so well so late in his career.

‘€œNot really. I think Adam, when he was here, trained very hard in the offseason, was one of our hardest workers,” Belichick said. “He worked out with all the other position players and he was never really looked at as a kicker in terms of his offseason program and what he did as far as training, that kind of thing. He was a very well-conditioned athlete. Mentally, he’€™s as tough and as consistent as they come. I can’€™t think of anybody, certainly no other kicker, that I’€™ve coached that I would put ahead of him in terms of mental toughness, concentration, focus, professionalism, all of those things.

“He just did his job as well as he could possibly do it every day that I was here. I was here in ‘€™96 when he came in as a rookie and then as the head coach when I came back. I have the utmost respect for Adam and the way he approaches his job, the way he does his job. It really seems like every year, you turn on the film and he’€™s making 50-yard field goals and kicking them right down the middle and doing the same things that he did 17, 18 years ago, however long it’€™s been since ‘€™96. He’€™s a great player and a Hall of Fame kicker if there ever was one.’€

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Read More: Adam Vinatieri, Bill Belichick, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots

Patriots practice Tuesday: Logan Mankins (ankle), Alfonzo Dennard (knee) return, Aaron Dobson (foot) not spotted

01.07.14 at 11:37 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots escaped the frigid temperatures outdoors and moved practice inside Dana Farber Field House Tuesday morning as they began on-field preparations for Andrew Luck and the Colts this Saturday night in an AFC divisional playoff at Gillette Stadium.

Logan Mankins, who injured his ankle in the season finale against the Bills on Dec. 29, was back on the practice field as was cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Mankins played in all 16 games this season while Dennard missed three games, including the season finale with a knee injury.

Rookie receiver Aaron Dobson, who re-injured his left foot in the Dec. 29 win over the Bills, was the only player not spotted.

A new receiver was on the field wearing No. 84. The player was later identified in the locker room as Reggie Dunn, the former Utah Utes speedster that set an NCAA record in 2012 by returning four kickoffs for touchdowns.

The Patriots were originally going to practice outside but moved practice indoors to the Dana Farber Field House due to the sub-zero wind chills in Foxboro.

A warming trend is expected to hit New England by Saturday, with an early forecast calling for the chance of rain and temperatures in the low-to-mid 40s for the 8:15 p.m. kickoff.

Read More: Indianapolis Colts, Logan Mankins, New England Patriots, nfl

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski reportedly set for Thursday surgery

01.07.14 at 10:33 am ET
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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will have surgery on his right knee Thursday, according to a report from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Gronkowski tore the ACL and MCL when he was hit by Browns safety T.J. Ward during a Week 14 game.

The procedure — the eighth surgery of Gronkowski’s career — will be performed by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

There has been speculation that Gronkowski might be able to return for the start of the 2014 season, but that’s unclear. In the past two years, Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson and Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III had similar surgeries in January and were able to return for the start of the following seasons.

Gronkowski, 24, missed the first six games of the season while recovering from offseason back surgery as well as an operation on his forearm. He then played six games, recording 37 receptions for 560 yards and four touchdowns.

Read More: Rob Gronkowski,

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