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Rodney Harrison: Tom Brady ‘should be able to play for another 10 or 15 years because of the rule changes’

09.02.14 at 1:46 pm ET
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NBC Sports analyst Rodney Harrison joined Middays with MFB on Tuesday and said he believes Tom Brady can indeed play another 10 years due in part to the more stringent NFL rules. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Brady has stated in the past that he wants to play as long as possible — well into his 40s — and he maintained that approach during his appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning. Harrison, Brady’s former teammate, doesn’t doubt the quarterback.

“Tom Brady is probably talking about him playing until he’s 45, 50 years old because of the rule changes,” Harrison said. “The cornerbacks and the safeties, they can’t hit you when you come across the middle, they can’t jam you at the line of scrimmage. So he should be able to play for another 10 or 15 years because of the rule changes.”

Continued Harrison: “If you watch the preseason, you saw how these officials, if you’re breathing on a guy heavy, they’re throwing a flag. They don’t even give you the benefit of the doubt. They don’t even give you consideration. If you’re close to a guy, if you just stare at him too long, they’re throwing flags all over the place.

“Now, this league was changing because of all the additions of Russell Wilson and [Robert Griffin III] and all these mobile quarterbacks like Andrew Luck. Statues that are in the pocket like Brady and [Peyton] Manning and Joe Flacco, why wouldn’t they play — if they have a good offensive line to protect them, why wouldn’t they play another 10 years? Because once you grab a guy it’s a penalty. So I don’t see why they can’t be productive for another 8-10 years, especially the way Tom takes care of his body.”

After three weeks of frequent flags, the Patriots’ final preseason game was not a foul-fest. However, Harrison said he doesn’t believe that’s a sign that the officials will let up once the regular season gets underway.

“The officials came out and the point of emphasis was the illegal contact and the grabbing and holding of the players. I think they’re going to enforce it,” Harrison said. “I think the first half of the season, I think that’s going to be a point of emphasis. I think they’re going to stick with it. The NFL has already come out and said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to back down. We expect the officials, we’re going to hold them accountable to do the same thing. If it’s a grab, we don’t care how many penalties it is in the first quarter, in the first half, call it.’ So I expect a renewed focus on this and I think it’s something that’s going to continue.”

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Read More: Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski, Rodney Harrison, Tom Brady

Bill Belichick on Rob Gronkowski’s playing status: ‘We’ll have to make decision that’s best for team’

09.02.14 at 1:02 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski pronounced himself ready to play on Monday, but in a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick sounded hesitant when it came to giving a thumbs up on the playing status of the tight end.

“I’m glad that Rob’s optimistic about his situation,” Belichick said. “We’ll go through the week of practice and take a look at everything, everybody, and see where everybody’s at and try to do what we feel like is best for the team.

“With all due respect to Rob — I’m glad he feels the way he does — but, in the end, we’ll have to make the decision we feel like is best for the team and we’ll do that as we go through the week.”

Gronkowski said he was “super excited” Monday, and proclaimed himself “good to go.”

“€œJust seeing my teammates grind all week,” he added. “Go back out there with them, get in the huddle, break the huddle with them. It’€™s going to be an honor to be out there with my teammates. Super pumped, super excited and just preparing for the game.

“€œI feel mentally and physically ready, for sure. No doubt about it.”

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels also commented on Gronkowski’s status Tuesday, saying the tight end has been a part of practices all along.

“Rob has been practicing, and we’€™ve been doing some different things, building our offensive system and packages as we go throughout the course of the year. He’€™s been a part of that,” McDaniels said of Gronkowski. “Whatever we can or are available to use him to do — however big, small, whatever the decision is at the end of the week — and he’€™ll be ready to do it. Going in there, we’€™re going to do what we think is the right thing to do to win the game this week and worry about going forward next week.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski,

Chandler Jones on MFB: Dolphins OL Branden Albert ‘will be a very good test’ in opener

09.02.14 at 12:10 pm ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

Defensive end Chandler Jones checked in with the Middays with MFB show on Tuesday, as the Patriots start planning for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Dolphins won the teams’ last meeting, a 24-20 decision in Miami last Dec. 15. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns in that game.

Jones, who led the Patriots with 11 1/2 sacks last season, is wary of Tannehill’s ability to improvise and pick up yards on scrambles.

“Ryan Tannehill — very, very athletic quarterback,” Jones said. “He’s a guy that can beat you with his arm or can beat you on the ground with his legs. It’s our job — well, it’s my job as a defensive lineman, me and Rob [Ninkovich] as well, just to contain him. He’s very versatile, he can make big plays, and it’s our job to contain him. He can definitely get out of the pocket. He definitely can.”

Jones should see plenty of new Dolphins offensive lineman Branden Albert, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason after six years with the Chiefs.

‘”Branden Albert is a great player,” Jones said of the 6-foot-5, 316-pounder who was a Pro Bowler last season. “This is his first year there over in Miami. He’s a very big individual. The thing that really impresses me is his footwork for his size, for his height, he’s a big guy, he’s even taller than me. And I’m tall myself. But his footwork is very, very good. He’s very trained to not bite on certain moves and certain things of that nature. It will be a very good test and I’m excited to go against him. I really am.”

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Read More: Branden Albert, chandler jones, Ryan Tannehill, Tom Brady

Julian Edelman on MFB: ‘We’re thinking about Miami, the team that we have now’

09.02.14 at 11:24 am ET
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Patriots receiver Julian Edelman stopped by for a visit with the Middays with MFB crew on Tuesday to preview Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Dolphins in Miami. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Patriots made two big moves since Thursday’s final preseason game, trading offensive lineman Logan Mankins and backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, leaving rookie Jimmy Garoppolo to serve as Tom Brady‘s backup.

“With the whole Mankins situation that happened last week, like I said last week, I love the guy as a teammate, but as Tom said, we’re moving on,” Edelman said. “We’re thinking about Miami, the team that we have now. It is a business. A lot of these kind of crazy things go down.

“As far as Jimmy Garoppolo, his job is to back up Tom Brady. He has to worry about what he has to do, I have to worry about what I have to do, because if that if that situation were ever to come … you prepare for what you have to do as an individual to make everything comfortable for anyone who comes in. That’s along with a tackle, another receiver, the kicker, whatever. Injuries are a part of the game. Whenever something like that goes down, you’ve just got to be prepared to kind of do your job.”

Rob Gronkowski also made news when he announced Monday that he’s ready to play Sunday.

“That’s Gronk being Gronk, maybe. That’s his situation,” Edelman said. “I didn’t even see the clippings or anything. … He’s been in there practicing, working hard. But like we keep on preaching around here, you kind of worry about what you have to do. If he plays, that’s awesome, because that’s a huge weapon, probably the best tight end in the National Football League, in my opinion. But if he doesn’t, you have to worry about what you have to do, and go out and do your job.”

The Dolphins made a move to improve their defensive backfield in the offseason, signing controversial veteran Cortland Finnegan, someone Edelman expects to see a lot of on Sunday. Edelman called the oft-fined Finnegan “a feisty, instinctive vet player who’s played a lot of games in this league.”

“He’s a competitor,” Edelman said. “He’s played a lot of games, like I said. He’s been known to maybe get in there and compete in the full length of the play, but we all do here.”

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Read More: Cortland Finnegan, Jimmy Garoppolo, Julian Edelman, Logan Mankins

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I dealt with whatever feelings I had last week, but I’ve moved on’ regarding trade of Logan Mankins

09.02.14 at 7:45 am ET
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Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning as the Patriots prepare for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Dolphins in Miami. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots finished a 2-2 preseason with Thursday’s 16-13 loss to the Giants. Since then, the team traded stalwart offensive lineman Logan Mankins and backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. According to a report, Brady was very upset upon learning that Mankins was sent to the Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 draft pick.

“I haven’t really spoken to anybody about it,” Brady said. “I have my own personal feelings that obviously are very personal to me. Whatever those are, I just want our team to be the best it can be for this year. I love Logan, Logan was a great friend of mine. Nobody stood for Patriot football more than him. But he’s moved on. I hope he’s happy. We’ll keep in touch.

“We’ve got a game to win. I can’t really think too much about what happened in the past. Like I said, yeah, I dealt with whatever feelings I had last week, but I’ve moved on. I’ve got to move on, because that’s what this team expects me to do. With Miami coming in, the only thought on my mind is how I can be the best quarterback against them and how I can can try to go out there and lead my teammates and be a great example and be a great motivator and bring the enthusiasm and energy for the team. Because without that then we have less opportunity to win. And you guys know me, I like winning.”

Brady has been through this before, losing close friends in the final days and weeks before the season begins, but he said the business aspect of football is no easier to handle as a seasoned veteran.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I’m a very person-to-person type of person. I am a very emotional person. I don’t think those things have ever gotten easier for me. And I don’t think they ever will. But you’ve got to come to grips with it also, and learn to deal with things in a mature way.

“We as players, the business side of things, we’re there to play, we aren’t there to run businesses. We’re there to enjoy the camaraderie with our teammates, enjoy the playing experience with our teammates. We play for one another, and you deal with whatever comes up and then you move forward. I think that’s part of the sport. Being that it’s happened, I know it’s going to happen next year, too, I know it’s going to happen the year after that, the year after that — for as long as you continue playing here you’re going to be dealing with this.

“But now we’ve got a chance to move forward, to move forward with the start of the year. And you’ve got to bring the best attitude you can when it matters to the most, which is now.”

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Read More: Logan Mankins, Ryan Mallett, Tim Wright, Tom Brady

Joe Philbin: Dolphins ‘fully prepared’ for prospect of facing Rob Gronkowski

09.02.14 at 7:00 am ET
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When they were told Rob Gronkowski announced that he was good to go for Sunday’s regular-season opener, the Dolphins were hardly surprised.

“Well, we were fully prepared,” said coach Joe Philbin when asked about Gronkowski’s proclamation. “We saw he’€™s on the 53-man roster, so you have to be prepared for every combination.”

The Dolphins have struggled defensively against tight ends over the last few seasons, but those have been more of the Jimmy Graham types who are tight ends in name only. Instead, they’ve managed to do a pretty good job containing the bigger and bulkier tight ends like Gronkowski. In six career games against Miami, Gronkowski averaged four catches, 56 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game, some of his lowest per game averages against a regular opponent. (In his last two games against Miami, Gronkowski had only only four catches.)

While Miami hasn’t found a way to stop him completely, it has been able to slow him down.

“€œAny of the big tight ends you face, guys of that caliber [who] can create mismatches in man-to-man, body up against smaller defensive backs or even small linebackers, [that’s] an issue,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Monday. “[Gronkowski has] also been a big target for them in the red zone, so if he plays and how much he plays — we don’€™t know how much that will be — that’€™s not going to change what we do.

“We’€™ve got to defend their entire group. That’€™s a big enough chore as it is, so we’€™ve assumed that he would be playing. That’€™s kind of how we’€™ve been proceeding since the spring when we found out this was going to be the opener.’€

“He’s an excellent player,” Philbin added. “He’s been a very, very productive player throughout his career. We’ll have a good plan in place, but he’s certainly an important part of their offense, and a productive part of it. We’ll be ready for him, for sure.”

Read More: Joe Philbin, Kevin Coyle, Rob Gronkowski,

5 things you have to know about Dolphins

09.01.14 at 9:35 pm ET
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Ryan Tannehill will lead the Dolphins against the Patriots in the regular season opener. (Getty Images)

Ryan Tannehill will lead the Dolphins against the Patriots in the regular-season opener. (Getty Images)

Here are five things you have to know about the Dolphins, who are looking to break the Patriots’ 10-game winning streak when it comes to regular-season openers Sunday in South Florida.

1. They are going to look to push the pace offensively.

Miami imported former Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor to serve as its new OC, and in an attempt to give the offense a jolt, he’s expected to bring a little Chip Kelly-style flair to the proceedings. That means faster football, and given the fact that the Patriots will be entering into what’s expected to be sweltering South Florida heat, the Dolphins will try and use a quicker tempo to their advantage. For what it’€™s worth, Miami has been a little quicker than the average NFL team over the last two years under Joe Philbin. Measured using situation-neutral offensive pace — a formula from Football Outsiders that eliminates things like two-minute drills and late-game clock-killing situations to get a truer idea of the offense’€™s intentions when it comes to offensive pace — the 2012 Dolphins were ninth overall at one play every 29.23 seconds, and last year, on average, they ran one play every 30.08 seconds, 14th quickest in the NFL. Of course, it’€™s debatable how effective the uptempo style will be. But it’€™s important to remember that Lazor played a sizable role in the growth and development of Nick Foles in Philly’€™s fast scheme last year, as Foles went from backup quarterback to SI cover boy in the span of a few months and the Eagles went from worst (4-12 and last in the NFC East) to first (10-6 and a division title) under Kelly. It’s clear Miami is hoping that Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins offense can respond the same way in 2014.

2. They are all-in at wide receiver.

The Dolphins have really gone above and beyond when it comes to giving Ryan Tannehill enough options. With the cap hit for Mike Wallace ballooning to $17.25 million this year, the Dolphins are spending a whopping $29.6 million on their 2014 wide receivers’€”by far the most in the league, according to a June study by CBS Sports. Wallace, Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews and Brandon Gibson are joined by rookie Jarvis Landry to form a relatively deep group of wide receivers, one that will serve as a nice challenge for a revamped New England secondary at the start of the season. (Some believe Lazor will try and use Wallace in much the same manner the Eagles did with DeSean Jackson, which is an intriguing concept.)

3. The interior of their offensive line is vulnerable.

The Dolphins have struggled with their offensive line dating back to last year — from a pure football perspective, the Incognito-Martin imbroglio simply shone a light on things. Miami allowed a league-high 58 sacks of Tannehill last season, 10 more than the second-place finish (Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was sacked 48 times) and tied for 10th most all-time in a single season. (For some perspective, Houston’s David Carr was sacked an astounding 76 times in 2002, the all-time mark.) Here’s a highlight reel of all 58 sacks, a sequence that lasts almost 10 minutes.

In all, Tannehill has been sacked 93 times in his first two years in the league. (We haven’t even mentioned the fact that the Miami running game was 26th in the league last season — a sizable portion of the blame for those numbers can also be attributed to the offensive line.) And so it was no surprise the Dolphins made offensive line a priority this offseason. They stabilized their left tackle spot with the addition of Branden Albert, while they used their first round pick on Ja’Wuan James, who appears to be the Week 1 right tackle for Miami. But things are still very rough along the interior, as center Mike Pouncey continues to work his way back from offseason hip surgery (Samson Satele will get the start in his place), while guard play has been questionable at best over the course of the summer. Bottom line? If you want to attack this offense, your best bet appears to be up the gut.

4. Their pass rush will test the New England offensive line early.

Left defensive end Cameron Wake (8.5 sacks last year) and right defensive end Olivier Vernon (11.5 sacks last year) combine to form a very nice set of bookends, and are likely the top priority when it comes to pass protection for the Patriots. (Per Football Outsiders, Wake notched at least 20 hurries and 20 quarterback knockdowns for the fourth year in a row.) While the Dolphins are very good off the edge, it would ostensibly be a strength-on-strength matchup against right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and left tackle Nate Solder. Miami could have an edge if it finds a way to get pressure up the middle, as the interior of New England’s offensive line has some personnel questions, particularly if Marcus Cannon is utilized more as a backup swing tackle than one of the two available guard spots. But many of the questions people have had about the overall fitness of the Patriots offensive line will be answered against a pretty good front seven in the opener.

5. They are ready for Rob Gronkowski … if the big tight end does play.

The Dolphins hardly sounded shocked at the proclamation from Gronkowski that he was good to go for Week 1. Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was asked about Gronkowski’s statement that he was going to play, and he responded with a simple, ‘€œWe assumed that he might.’€ In Gronkowski’s career, the Patriots are 6-0 against Miami when he’s in the lineup, but for what it’s worth, the Dolphins have actually done a pretty fair job at containing Gronkowski over the years: In six career games against Miami, he’s averaged four catches, 56 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game, some of his lowest per game averages against a regular opponent. (In his last two games against Miami, Gronkowski had only only four catches.) It remains to be seen if Gronkowski actually plays, and if he does, how many snaps he’ll take. (His overall football fitness remains in question, and Bill Belichick has said on numerous occasions that you just can run around a track a few times and be ready to play.) But history tells us that the Dolphins have found a way to not stop him completely, but at least slow him down to a point where he not the runaway offensive force he’s been against most teams when he’s been healthy. “He’s an excellent player,” Philbin said Monday when asked about Gronkowski. “He’s been a very, very productive player throughout his career. We’ll have a good plan in place, but he’s certainly an important part of their offense, and a productive part of it. We’ll be ready for him, for sure.”

Read More: Brandon Gibson, Brian Hartline, Cameron Wake, Joe Philbin
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