|05.02.12 at 9:20 pm ET|
Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued a statement Wednesday night in the wake of the death of former Patriots linebacker Junior Seau:
‘Every day, Junior Seau greeted his teammates and coaches with an energetic ‘Hey, Buddy!’ It was genuine, enthusiastic and backed by his radiant smile. For four seasons, after every game he played, he would always find me in the locker room just to give me a big hug and squeeze tighter than anyone I remember. It was one of the many things I enjoyed about him. He was passionate about football and always spoke with great conviction. He may have been one of the most charismatic Patriots player in franchise history. I loved listening to him when he addressed an audience. I will never forget presenting him with his AFC Championship ring at Seau’s Restaurant in San Diego before our game against the Chargers in 2008. It was a memorable moment shared by both Patriots and Chargers fans, who that day celebrated pregame together as Junior Seau fans. He was beloved in his hometown of San Diego and quickly became a fan favorite in New England. Today, the fans of the teams for which Junior played ‘ San Diego, Miami and New England ‘ lost more than a legendary football player. We lost our ‘Buddy.’ My thoughts and prayers are with his family and I extend my sincere condolences to his many friends and former teammates.’
|05.02.12 at 3:50 pm ET|
As a writer who has covered the Patriots over the last decade, it has become easy to instantly identify who players are as individuals by what they bring into the locker room. When he was in New England, Lonie Paxton, the gonzo long snapper with a sleeve of tattoos down his arm, had a fridge full of Red Bull. Tom Brady has pictures of his children. Logan Mankins has a pair of mud-stained hunting boots.
When it came to Junior Seau, he had a guitar (occasionally augmented with a ukulele), and could often be seen strumming away softly in the corner of the locker room. Seau’s guitar playing stuck out for several reasons, not the least of which is that it’s odd to see anyone doing anything quiet in an NFL locker room.
But Junior could pull it off. He was a unique spirit, and the Patriots — both the coaching staff and his teammates — regarded him as such, both on and off the field. After all, it took a special sort of individual to be the player who wore No. 55 immediately after Willie McGinest left. Seau not only wore the number (thanks in large part to his USC connection to McGinest), but also wore it with distinction. He also got Willie’s locker, a sign of respect that didn’t go unnoticed by teammates or the media.
Seau had a rare set of attributes. He was a physical freak, but he combined that with an unmatched zeal. (As strange as that sounds, it’s rare combination in the league.) I remember speaking with him over the course of a week in 2008 — when he had come back for another go-round with the Patriots — and coming away amazed. No one loves anything as much as Junior Seau loves football, I remember thinking.
‘I haven’t coached too many that are any more passionate than Junior is,’ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in October 2009 after the Patriots signed him for a third time.
Watching him at a podium that morning in the fall of 2009 when he returned, Seau was a preacher for the church of football. He was a relentless advocate for the game, and his press conference remains the stuff of legend. He handled it with the same fervor he always did — like someone caught up in the throes of a Red Bull binge. ‘One thing I know is that you can’t coach courage. You can’t,’ he thundered from the podium. ‘You give me an A, B gap, I’m going through there, until I break glass. I will go through the A and B gap until I break glass. And that’s what I do.’
As far as the physical, he did things that will never be seen again. Ever. How many 40-year-old linebackers do you see in the league? Who else could sign with the franchise on three different occasions, twice jumping in in the middle of the season? (He did it again in 2009.) The most memorable example I can recall of Seau’s remarkable physicality was when he had his arm snapped in half in a game against the Bears in November 2006. It would have sent players 10 years his younger reeling from the game, but he would come back the next year and play 16 games for a team that went 18-1 … at the age of 37.
Seau is almost certainly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and when people will speak of him, they’ll recall his tenacity, his spirit, his high motor and all-out intensity that people will talk of the most. But I have a hard time believing we’ll see another guitar-playing, 40-year-old linebacker who loved the game of football so fiercely ever again.
|05.01.12 at 4:15 pm ET|
Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi took to “SportsCenter” Tuesday morning to comment on the statements from Ravens coach John Harbaugh regarding possible violation of league rules.
‘You want to take a shot, go ahead and say it,’ Bruschi said. ‘When I look down at my hand and I see championship rings, I know how much work had to be put in to win those championships. I’m very set and secure with all of the victories that we had the work we put in.’
(Harbaugh has since issued a statement attempting to clarify his comments.)
|05.01.12 at 3:55 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Chad Ochocinco, head of the New England Welcome Wagon?
When new Patriots’ defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene signed a three-year deal with the Patriots in March — like any new employee — he went looking for some familiar faces at his new place of employment. That’s what led him to former Bengals teammate Ochocinco. The two were together for six seasons in Cincinnati, and it’s clear Fanene still has a soft spot for the wide receiver.
‘Ocho is a good guy, a good leader,’ the soft-spoken Fanene said Tuesday afternoon in a break between workouts at Gillette Stadium. ‘When I came into Cincinnati, he really took me under his arm and taught me the game out there.
‘I talked to him a little bit last week,’ Fanene added. ‘He’s just trying to put me on the game, let me know what’s going on out here. This is not Cincinnati. This is not a rookie-league team that you should play. This is real business now. I’m trying to get my two feet in and work.’
Was he surprised that Ochocinco struggled in his first season with the Patriots?
‘I’ll be honest — yeah. I really didn’t hear a lot of his name last year on any of the games,’ he said. ‘I believe there’s a reason why: He came in right in the middle of training camp and tried to learn the system, tried to get used to the culture out here. I believe he’s going to come back hard this year, do his job and do the best he can do to help the team.’
Fanene certainly has more of an opportunity to get to know his surroundings than Ochocinco did. The native of American Samoa signed a three-year deal with the Patriots in March. A 6-foot-4, 292-pounder out of Utah who has played seven seasons in the NFL (all with Cincinnati), the 30-year-old had his best season in 2009 when he started 10 games and finished with 36 tackles (18 solo) with six sacks and an interception.
Fanene said he ‘had a chance’ to make some other free agent visits, but he was ‘excited’ when he got the call from Bill Belichick and the Patriots in the first week of free agency.
‘There’s a lot of good things out here,’ he said. ‘There’s a winning franchise, first of all, and it’s a blessing to be here and to be a part of the Patriots. I told myself I just want to do the best I can do out here so we can win.
‘I guess they watched film on me, and I guess [they saw] what they need to build up the pressure or the pass rush up here,’ he added.
And in his first series of offseason workouts, it’s pretty much lived up to expectations. Fanene said there are a lot of differences between playing in New England and in Cincinnati.
‘I see guys focused more, not just in the workout, but everything we do out here is more like a team effort,’ he said. ‘Guys really welcomed me inside the locker room. It’s not about all of the talking, the media, TV stuff, but it’s more hardworking and just do your job.’
He does have some positional versatility along the defensive front, but isn’t worried about fitting into a scheme just yet.
‘Right now, we just started coaching sessions. I can give you more information about that when we get to OTAs and minicamp,’ he said. ‘But like I said, they see something on film that they like, so they brought me out here for a reason. I’m just going to do the best I can do out there.
‘Whatever they tell me [to do]. If they tell me to play nose, I’ll play nose, three-technique, six-, seven-, outside end, special teams. I’m doing it.’
Here are a few other highlights from the Q&A:
Read the rest of this entry »
|05.01.12 at 11:49 am ET|
On Tuesday, it was a coach — and a friend of Belichick’s — who had some interesting words regarding the New England coach. Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked about the urge to bend the rules while making an appearance on 98 Rock Radio in Baltimore. Here’s what he had to say:
“In the end everything is brought before the light of day when it’s all said and done. … So what happens is, even the thing in New England and the thing … No matter whether those things had any impact on whether they won their championships or not, they got asterisks now. It’s been stained. So to me it’s never worth it.
“You’ve got to figure out ways to use the rules to your advantage, you’ve got to figure out ways to make the most of everything, we’ve got new work rules here as far as what we can do and what we can’t do with our players, we’re going to make the most of it and what we’re finding is, man, in a way we can do things even better than we did before because these rules make us focus more on things we didn’t focus on before, and you’ve got to make them work for you. That’s what success is in the world – you’ve got to find a way to do things better than somebody else. But in the end, if you’re cheating, you’re going to get discredited. It’s just not worth it.”
|04.30.12 at 1:29 pm ET|
University of Kentucky wide receiver/quarterback Matt Roark will join the Patriots as an undrafted free agent, per the official Twitter feed of the Kentucky football program. A 6-foot-5, 214-pounder, Roark had 54 catches for 584 yards and a touchdown in four seasons with the Wildcats, including 36 receptions for 349 yards as a senior.
By the looks of things, Roark can do a little of everything: in addition to his work as a wide receiver, he’s spent a lot of time on special teams. (Going into his senior year, he blocked six kicks in his career, five extra points and a field goal.) In addition, when the Wildcats suffered a rash of injuries, he took snaps at quarterback this past season, and helped UK pull off the upset against Tennessee, 10-7.
One video of note on Roark: The win over Tennessee was so unlikely that the fans carried him off the field at the end of the game. That’s him wearing No. 3 in the middle of all the madness:
|04.30.12 at 12:22 pm ET|
Here’s a look at who will be representing each one of New England’s seven draft picks at the negotiating table:
Chandler Jones: The former Syracuse defensive end is repped by the agency of Lock, Metz, Malinovic and Panos, a group that had 13 athletes selected in the NFL draft, including three in the first round. Part of their team is former NFL offensive lineman Joe Panos, a veteran who some Patriots fans might remember as being in training camp in 2001 for a few days before ultimately deciding to retire.
Dont’a Hightower: Hightower, taken with the 25th overall pick, is represented by Pat Dye, Jr., of SportsTrust Advisors. SportsTrust had 10 clients selected in the draft, according to Darren Heitner of the Sports Agent Blog, but the Alabama linebacker was their only first-round pick.
Tavon Wilson: The Illinois defensive back lists Integrated Sports Management as his agency. ISM has repped a few former Patriots, including Shun White and Kyle Eckel.
Jake Bequette: The defensive lineman out of Arkansas is represented by Athletes First, a group that had 13 clients taken in the NFL draft, including four in the first round. Athletes First is an extremely well-known agency around New England, as they represent several current Patriots, including Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Zoltan Mesko, Ryan Mallett and Brian Waters.
Nate Ebner: As of right now, Ebner’s representation is not known. Ebner is a defensive back and former rugby star out of Ohio State.
Alfonzo Dennard: The cornerback out of Nebraska is also repped by Athletes First. If Waters does return and both Dennard and Bequette stick, that would make 10 players from Athletes First on the New England roster, far and away the largest number for any agency.
Jeremy Ebert: Ebert, a wide receiver from Northwestern, lists Priority Sports as his representation, a group that had 13 players taken in the draft this month, according to Heitner.