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Countdown to Patriots Camp: Quarterback

07.22.12 at 8:55 pm ET
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In the days leading up to the start of Patriots training camp, we’€™ll take a quick look at how each position shakes out. We start our previews with a breakdown of the quarterback position.

Roster: Tom Brady (in 2011, Brady was 401-for-611 for 64 percent, to go along with 5,235 passing yards, 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions), Brian Hoyer (1-for-1 for 22 yards), Ryan Mallett.

THREE THINGS WE KNOW

1. Barring injury, Brady will start every game, and take at least 95 percent of the possible snaps. Per Pro Football Focus, no other quarterback in the league took more snaps than Brady in 2011, and that should be the case again in 2012.

2. Even with Brady set to turn 35 before the start of the 2012 season, considering the wealth of talent he’€™s been surrounded with, he has to be on the short list when it comes to preseason picks for MVP.

3. The Patriots offense won’€™t look dramatically different under Josh McDaniels as opposed to Bill O’€™Brien. The change in offensive coordinators is a change, but it won’€™t make for a colossal difference. Let’€™s be honest: while OC’€™s have come and gone over the years, the ultimate decision maker is Brady: If you get open, he’€™ll throw you the ball.

THREE QUESTIONS

1. What’€™s the limit for Brady and the offense? The passing game won’€™t likely reach 2007 levels (50 touchdown passes, 69 percent completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 117, all career highs for Brady, all while averaging 41 points per game), but they might not be that far off. Brady has Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch and others at receiver, while Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez remain the best young tight end duo in the league.

2. Who backs up Brady? At this point, it’€™s Hoyer. Mallett is coming off what is essentially a rookie redshirt season, as he spent the year acclimating himself to life in the NFL. In the spring, he certainly showed improvement in some areas (particularly his footwork, a major offseason point of emphasis), but right now, Hoyer is still the No. 2.

3. Will this be Hoyer’€™s final year in New England? The Michigan State product will be a free agent after the 2012 season, and while he’€™s tough to read because he’€™s never taken a truly meaningful snap during the regular season, many NFL people believe he’€™s farther along at this stage of his career than Matt Cassel was. With that in mind — and taking into account the market for quarterbacks, as well as Brady’€™s desire to play until he’€™s 40 — it’€™s reasonable to think Hoyer will be elsewhere next season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brian Hoyer, Countdown to Camp, Ryan Mallett, Tom Brady

Gino Cappelletti retires as Patriots radio analyst

07.20.12 at 2:40 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Friday that Gino Cappelletti is retiring from the team’s radio broadcast team after 32 years as an analyst. Cappelletti turned 78 in March.

‘€œThere will never be another Gino Cappelletti,’€ Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a team statement. ‘€œIn our 52-year history, Gino served as a player, coach or color analyst for 45 of those seasons. I remember watching him play as an original Boston Patriot in 1960. He quickly became one of the biggest stars of the fledgling American Football League. He retired as the league’€™s all-time leading scorer and deserves special recognition, not just for being one of the pioneers of the AFL, but for creating the foundation on which our franchise was built.

“He has been a great ambassador for the Patriots over a career that spanned six decades. His legend has grown since he retired as a player, as generations of Patriots fans have grown up listening to him provide insight and analysis of many of the most memorable games in franchise history. While he may be stepping down as a broadcaster, he will always be a Patriots ambassador and will remain one of the most iconic figures in franchise history.’€

Added coach Bill Belichick: “Going back to his days as one of the all-time great players, Gino has been such a fixture, so it is hard imagining not working with him on a regular basis. I have been fortunate to enjoy Gino’s presence and share experiences that extend well beyond the game. Around the team, he wasn’t just a broadcaster but was — and remains — truly part of the team, respected by players and coaches for representing everything good about sports. Gino is a class act, one of the true gentlemen of the AFL and NFL and I am proud to have been associated with him every week of my career as Patriots head coach.”

Cappelletti, who was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1992, played 11 seasons with the Patriots from 1960-70. A receiver and kicker, he was the 1964 AFL MVP and a five-time All-Star. One of only three players to play in every AFL game in the league’s 10-year history, Cappelletti is the AFL’s all-time leader in points (1,100) and field goals (170). He ranks second on the Patriots’ all-time scoring list with 1,130 points. He’s also second in extra points (342), eighth in receiving yards (4,589) and ninth in receptions (292).

Cappelletti started broadcasting Patriots games in 1972 and stopped after the 1978 season so that he could serve as the team’s special teams coach for three years. He returned to the booth in 1988 and has been there ever since.

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Report: Dont’a Hightower’s contract worth $7.7M, with roughly $6.3M guaranteed

07.19.12 at 7:51 pm ET
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While there’s no information yet on his base salaries, information has started to leak out about the four-year contract that was signed by Patriots rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower. According to Aaron Wilson of scout.com, Hightower’s contract is worth $7.7 million, with nearly $6.3 million fully guaranteed.

By way of comparison, last year’s No. 25 pick — right tackle James Carpenter, taken by the Seahawks — signed a four-year, $7.641 million contract prior to the start of last season, a deal that contained $6.224 million guaranteed, including a $4.057 million signing bonus, per Rotoworld.

Read More: Dont'a Hightower,

Source: All Patriots rookies present and accounted for at Gillette Thursday morning

07.19.12 at 12:51 pm ET
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While the veterans still have a few more days of summer vacation, the Patriots rookies reported Thursday morning to the Gillette Stadium facility, and a source indicated that every one of New England’s rookie class was in attendance. (This morning, the Patriots tweeted out the photo to the right of some of the rookies at the training table.)

The rookies have traditionally reported a few days early as the team hopes to get them acclimated as fast as possible before the before the veterans arrive and full-squad camp begins next week.

Patriots officially announce signing of Dont’a Hightower

07.19.12 at 12:26 pm ET
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The Patriots officially announced the signing of first-round pick Dont’€™a Hightower on Thursday. Here’€™s the complete transcript of the release from the team:

The New England Patriots announced the signing of first-round draft choice LB Dont’€™a Hightower today. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Hightower, 22, was selected by the Patriots with the 25th pick overall in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-3 inch, 270-pound linebacker from Alabama was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik, Butkus and Lombardi Awards as well as a consensus All-American and a unanimous All-SEC first-team selection in 2011. Hightower started 42 of 44 games at Alabama and registered 234 total tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, seven passes defensed, one interception and one blocked field goal.

After starting in 12 of 14 games as a true freshman in 2008, Hightower was granted a medical redshirt year in 2009 after being limited to just four games due to injury. He started all 13 games in 2010 and again in 2011. Last season, he led the team with a career-high 85 total tackles.

Read More: Dont'a Hightower,

Herm Edwards gets the Patriots fired up for the 2012 season

07.18.12 at 10:47 am ET
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Former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards is giving each one of the 32 NFL teams a “pep talk” before the start of the season. Here’s his take on the Patriots, which was presented Wednesday morning on SportsCenter.

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Rob Gronkowski: I’d be ‘cool’ with a gay teammate

07.18.12 at 9:52 am ET
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Two Rob Gronkowski items from the last couple of days to get your day started:

1) In a quick Q&A at the ESPY’€™s a few days ago in Los Angeles, Gronkowski was approached by Outsports’€™ Cyd Zeigler, who asked him, ‘€œHow would you feel if one of your teammates on the Patriots came out of the closet this season?’€

‘€œIf that’€™s how they are, that’€™s how they are,’€ Gronkowski said. ‘€œI mean, we’€™re teammates so, as long as he’€™s being a good teammate and being respectful and everything, that’€™s cool.’€

The exchange was part of an interesting blog post Zeigler has about attitudes toward homosexuality in the NFL. It’€™s well worth a read.

2) Our old pal Ian Rapoport caught up with Bay State native and former NHL star Jeremy Roenick in Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament, and Roenick was effusive in his praise of the big Patriots tight end, saying that Gronk was ‘€œthe next best thing to Jesus Christ.’€

‘€œI’€™m a Patriots fan,’€ Roenick said. ‘€œI grew up in Boston. I’€™m a big Patriots fan, a big Wes Welker fan, a big Tom Brady fan. So, being from that area, the Gronk is the next best thing to Jesus Christ, in my opinion. (Laughs) So, That’€™s my team. Unfortunately, Indianapolis was my other team because Peyton Manning was very much a favorite of mine. And that just didn’€™t work well. Now he’€™s in Denver, but still a problem.’€

He’€™s also digs Wes Welker.

‘€œI like him because he’€™s a crazy son of a (gun),’€ Roenick added. ‘€œYou need to be to be his size and play the game the way he plays it. I just appreciate his mentality, appreciate his personality and the way he goes after it.’€

Read More: Rob Gronkowski,
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