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Tom Brady really wants Wes Welker – ‘a quarterback’s dream’ – back in 2013

12.06.12 at 6:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With all respect to David Dunn and Athletes First, there is NO better agent for Wes Welker than Tom Brady.

We heard Brady say after the team’s most recent win that the Patriots “couldn’t be in this situation” without Welker.

On Wednesday, Brady continued his not-so thinly veiled campaign to persuade the Patriots to keep Welker in New England after this season, when he is again a restricted free agent who could be franchised for approximately $12 million.

Welker is leading the league in receptions (92) and seventh in yards (1,064).  As if to be set up like a ball on the 18th at Pebble Beach, Brady was asked this week again if he marvels at Welker’s consistency on Sundays, about his ability to bring everything in, and his ability to get up after some of the big hits he takes.

Brady drove it 345 yards, with a draw right over the water, and put it right in the middle of the fairway.

“Well, it’€™s not only Sunday; it’€™s Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for him, too,” Brady began. “I think that’€™s the exceptional part: how he takes care of himself. Wes loves to play football. There’€™s nothing more important in Wes’€™s life than being a football player and thinking about football and making the big play and running the right route and getting open when it’€™s most important.

“That’s what quarterbacks dream about too: having receivers that do that. And Wes is everything you look for in his ability, not only when he catches the ball to be an important part of the play, but also on plays when other guys are supposed to get the ball, he busts his butt harder than anybody to make sure he’€™s doing his job to clear out on a certain route or to take some coverage with him so another guy can get the ball. I think that’€™s what makes Wes really special is his selflessness as a player. But the ball always seems to find a way to him.”

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Read More: Athletes First, David Dunn, New England Patriots, nfl

Jon Gruden on Patriots-Texans: ‘This game has all the makings of a shootout’

12.06.12 at 4:45 pm ET
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The folks at ESPN have whipped up a Q&A regarding Monday’s Patriots-Texans game with analyst Jon Gruden, who will call the contest with Mike Tirico. Here’s a sampling of some of the highlights:

What are your thoughts on this week’€™s Texans-Patriots game?
“You obviously have two of the most high-potent offenses in the NFL. You have two great defensive coaches. I’€™m excited about Tom Brady going up against Wade Phillips and the Houston Texans defense. The idea of seeing Matt Schaub and the balanced Texans offense going up against Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia and the Patriots makes me want to get to Foxborough tonight.”

What are keys to the game for both teams?
“For the Texans, they possess the ball almost 36 minutes a game with their running game and high-percentage pass offense. I think keeping Tom Brady off the field and doing what they do on offense ‘€“ protecting the ball, moving the ball and scoring points ‘€“ is the recipe for success for the Texans. For the Patriots, they’€™re going to have to rely on Tom Brady once again ‘€“ his ability to recognize, audible and attack. The Texans injuries in the secondary and at linebacker are going to make things difficult for Houston. This game has all the makings of a shootout.

“I also think how the Patriots offensive line can handle the fierce front of the Texans is going to be something to watch. Houston has the best inside pass-rush that I’€™ve seen with Antonio Smith, J.J. Watt and Jared Crick coming in as the third tackle. They’€™ve got some real energy and playmaking inside.”

What have you seen from quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Schaub this season?
“Tom Brady’€™s expertise and clutch playmaking, talent and work ethic has been well-documented where Matt Schaub’€™s probably hasn’€™t. Schaub has won 15 out of 16. What he’€™s done behind the scenes in Houston rivals what Tom Brady does in New England. These are two very intelligent, highly motivated CEOs of their teams. They unify their football teams and epitomize everything you want in a quarterback. I kind of put them on the same level in terms of preparation, leadership and dominating the game from the neck up.”

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Donte’ Stallworth on return to Patriots: ‘I have a lot of love for this organization’

12.05.12 at 11:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Call it foreshadowing.

Donte’ Stallworth was actually in Miami with friends on Sunday afternoon and decided to take in the Patriots-Dolphins game.

“I was actually there,” said Stallworth Wednesday. “I went, since I live in Miami, and I hadn’t been to any games in a while. I had some friends that were going. I usually like to watch games on television, you can see it better. But I decided to go since I hadn’t been to any games. Plus it was the Patriots playing, and I’ve got friends on both teams.”

As word spread that Julian Edelman injured his foot during the game, he figured he might get a call to return to New England for third time.

Stallworth got on a plane and flew up to New England on Monday, the same day the decision was made to place Edelman on season-ending injured reserve with a broken foot. was released in training camp, making this his third stint with the Patriots, after spending an entire season in New England in 2007.

“I think [the Patriots] knew what kind of shape I was in,” Stallworth said. “I made sure that I had been training hard throughout the whole season, just in case.”

But what was the specific appeal of coming back to New England?

“I have a lot of love for this organization, and just everything about the New England Patriots,” he said on Wednesday. “I have a lot of friends on this team. So, yeah, to say I was excited is probably an accurate assessment.

“We had a quarterback able to get us the ball and be able to work on our routes and stuff, full speed.”

Stallworth thought he had a good shot of making this team originally out of training camp before being cut on Aug. 27.

“Honestly, I mean, I was disappointed, but I’ve been in this league long enough to understand how it works,” Stallworth said. “It’s just like after a game. When you lose a game and you’re upset about it that night, but you come to the next game prepared. And that’s what I did, although, it took me a little more than a night. It took a few days. But after that I just tried to get back to where I live in Miami and get back with my trainer, and just continue to work and hope for an opportunity.”

And he’s back working for an opportunity with Bill Belichick once again.

“One of his favorite motto’s is just, ‘Do your job.’ And If I do my job, then I don’t have anything else to worry about after that,” Stallworth said.

Read More: donte stallworth, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, nfl

Easy to see what the pre-draft J.J. Watt fuss was about

12.05.12 at 6:19 pm ET
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Every year, certain prospects in the NFL draft appear to be perfect fits for the Patriots. In many cases, it turns out to be a whole lot of idealizing, and the player’s career indicates that perhaps the prospect was simply fool’s gold.

That has obviously not been the case for J.J. Watt. In the months leading up to the 2011 draft, the Wisconsin defensive end was viewed as just the type of lineman the Pats could use — given that to that point they were primarily a 3-4 team, Watt’s 6-foot-5 3/8, 290-pound frame was ideal, and he could get after the quarterback better than anyone on New England’s roster.

With other five-technique prospects (Marcell Dareus and Cameron Jordan) rated ahead of him in some circles, the possibility existed that the Patriots, who had the 17th pick in the draft, could get him by either standing pat or moving up a few spots.

While Watt seemed like a no-brainer X’s and O’s-wise for the Pats, perhaps the biggest concern with him involved the process of crossing the T’s and dotting the lower-case J’s. Watt had signed on with agent Tom Condon of CAA Sports, and the Patriots’ rocky dealings with Condon in the negotiations for Benjamin Watson‘s rookie contract have forced them to pick a grand total of zero Condon clients since Watson to this day [“We pretend there are 31 franchises in the NFL now and they pretend we don’€™t exist,” Condon once said.]

It was never learned whether the Patriots would have bent their no-Condon-clients-allowed rule for Watt (they eventually did this past offseason when Condon client Brandon Lloyd made his interest in the Patriots known), as the Texans scooped up Watt with the 11th overall pick. [As a side note, the Texans’ roster is filled with draft binkies over the years, from Connor Barwin, to Kareem Jackson, to Watt, to Brandon Harris to Whitney Mercilus]. The Pats stayed put at No. 17 and chose Colorado tackle Nate Solder.

A little less than two seasons into Watt’s career, it’s looking like 2011 should have been the year in which the Pats were aggressive and moved up in the first round, as they did twice in 2012. Watt has established himself as perhaps the best pass-rusher in the NFL and a game-changer regardless of whether he’s bringing the quarterback down.

Watt’s 15.5 sacks are second to only fellow 2011 draftee Aldon Smith‘s 17.5, but that isn’t even his most impressive statistic. The 23-year-old is sixth in the NFL with 15 passes defensed, and he’s doing that as a lineman (obviously, the five players ahead of him are defensive backs, as is every other player with 10 or more passes defensed). So not only do quarterbacks have to watch out for Watt sacking them, but they have to be sure the big lineman isn’t batting down their passes.

The Patriots eventually got their big defensive end in the 2012 draft with Chandler Jones, and the Syracuse product has appeared to be the real deal despite having missed the last three games with an ankle injury. As a matter of fact, some of Jones’ stats through the first nine games of his career are actually better than Watt’s 16-game totals in his rookie season. Jone’s six sacks thus far exceed Watt’s 5.5 from last year, and while Watt didn’t have any forced fumbles last season, Jones has forced three.

If Jones, who is far leaner than Watt at 260 pounds, progresses into anything like what the Texans’ have in Watt, the Patriots will undoubtedly have a young star on their hands. Until then, Pats fans who had their fingers cross for Watt leading up to the 2011 will continue to wonder what could have been in New England.

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Tom Brady is going to get a face-full of the Texans this week

12.05.12 at 3:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Even before he knew he might have to leave Foxboro for a day to be with his expecting wife, Tom Brady knew this wouldn’t be an easy week of practice. As a matter of fact, it’s likely to be quite annoying, and we’re not talking about crying babies.

With 6-foot-6 J.J. Watt waiting in the wings, Bill Belichick will be using all sorts of gimmicks in practice to mimic the length Brady will have to deal with, like using tennis rackets, brooms and who knows, maybe even lacrosse sticks, given Belichick affinity for the sport he starred in during college at Wesleyan.

“The way that he gets after the quarterback, stops the run. I think he does both of those things well, stopping the run, rushing the quarterback as well as defending the pass game with those passes batted down. He’s an impressive player as you can see on film with his agility, his quickness, his length, his instinctiveness in getting his hands up in the air and getting ready to jump and bat balls down. He’€™s a great player for that defense; they really rely on him.”

And it comes as no surprise that Watt and the Texans lead the NFL in balls batted down at the line of scrimmage. How do you prepare for that if you’re Tom Brady?

“It’€™s hard, it’€™s challenging,” Brady said Wednesday. “There are ways to work on it in practice with different guys. I know Coach Belichick likes to bring guys with racquetball paddles and stick those up in the air. I’m sure there will be a whole bunch of those there this week, which doesn’€™t always make me very happy, but that’€™s probably a good way to prepare for it. It’€™s like throwing over this wall: it’€™s hard. You’ve just got to try to find an area. We’€™ve played other big D-lines before, tall guys that are rangy and really instinctive. The Giants did a great job of that last year. This is another team that really challenges you to do that.”

Read More: houston texans, j.j. watt, New England Patriots, nfl

Who should Patriots fans root for this week?

12.05.12 at 12:22 pm ET
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With the postseason looming, the 9-3 Patriots are currently in a three-way tie with the Ravens and Broncos for the second spot in the AFC playoff picture. (New England actually holds the edge in a three-way tie because of its superior conference record.) Here’€™s a look at who some of their conference rivals are facing this week, and their respective chances — fundamentally, consider this a weekly clip-and-save chart of who you want to root for if you’€™re a Patriots fan.

Broncos at Raiders: Thursday at 8:20 p.m.
The Broncos have won seven straight, but are in the midst of one of the most forgiving second-half schedules in recent memory. (The combined record of their four remaining opponents is .375, with only one team above .500.) That stretch continues Thursday night when they visit an Oakland to face a 3-9 Raiders team that is once again playing out the string. Bottom line is that its unlikely New England will get much help in this one.

Ravens at Redskins: Sunday at 1 p.m.
Maybe the most palatable situation for Patriots fans — pulling for the Redskins, a team that just knocked off the Giants. Frankly, at the start of the year, this game probably didn’€™t figure to be all that compelling, particularly for New England football fans. But RG3 and the Redskins can do the Patriots a big favor of they can knock off Baltimore. While it’€™s likely that the Broncos will beat the Raiders, a Ravens’€™ loss would create a small amount of separation for New England heading into its Monday night game against the Texans.

Chargers at Steelers: Sunday at 1 p.m.
A Pittsburgh loss could effectively put the 7-5 Steelers out of the running for the No. 2 spot, but putting your faith in Philip Rivers isn’€™t necessarily the wise thing to do. (For the record, a West Coast team coming East and playing at 1 p.m. is rarely a recipe for success.) Pittsburgh is hoping to get Ben Roethlisberger back as soon as possible — Steelers’€™ fans can only take so many of these throws from Charlie Batch. San Diego could always pull an upset, but like the first game, it doesn’€™t appear the Patriots will get much help from their AFC West contemporaries in this one.

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2012 season

12.04.12 at 6:40 pm ET
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Through 12 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 73 penalties (tied for 22nd in the league) for a total of 624 yards (19th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
LB Jerod Mayo: five penalties (two defensive pass interference, unnecessary roughness, illegal contact, roughing the passer) 43 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: five penalties (two defensive holding, unnecessary roughness, roughing the passer, encroachment), 41 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: five penalties (three encroachment, defensive offsides, facemask), 35 yards
Team: five penalties (illegal formation, illegal shift, illegal block above the waist, defensive holding, 12 men on the field), 30 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: four penalties (two offensive holding, false start, offensive pass interference), 35 yards
CB Devin McCourty: three penalties (defensive holding, two defensive pass interference), 51 yards
OL Donald Thomas: three penalties (false start, two offensive holding), 25 yards
CB Alfonzo Dennard: three penalties (defensive holding, two unnecessary roughness), 21 yards
OT Sebastian Vollmer: three penalties (illegal formation, false start, offensive holding), 20 yards
TE Daniel Fells: three penalties (false start, offensive pass interference, offensive holding), 18 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: two penalties (defensive pass interference, defensive holding), 45 yards
QB Tom Brady: two penalties (two intentional grounding), 19 yards
CB Ras-I Dowling: two penalties (defensive pass interference, defensive holding), 19 yards
TE Aaron Hernandez: two penalties (offensive pass interference, false start), 15 yards
WR Julian Edelman: two penalties (false start, offensive pass interference), 15 yards
OT Nate Solder: two penalties (offensive holding, false start), 15 yards
ST Nate Ebner: two penalties (false start, offensive holding), 15 yards
ST Niko Koutouvides: two penalties (defensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 14 yards
DL Jermaine Cunningham: two penalties (encroachment, defensive holding), 10 yards
DE Chandler Jones: two penalties (encroachment, defensive offsides) 10 yards
RB Stevan Ridley: two penalties (false start, chop block), 5 yards
S Pat Chung: one penalty (defensive pass interference), 40 yards
S Steve Gregory: one penalty (personal foul), 15 yards
CB Aqib Talib: one penalty (defensive pass interference), 14 yards
WR Brandon Lloyd: one penalty (offensive pass interference), 10 yards
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: one penalty (defensive holding), 10 yards
C Ryan Wendell: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
S Tavon Wilson: one penalty (offensive holding’€“punt return team), 10 yards
LS Danny Aiken: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
G Logan Mankins: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
ST Matthew Slater: one penalty (offsides on free kick), 5 yards
DL Jake Bequette: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards
DE Rob Ninkovich: one penalty (encroachment) 3 yards

Most penalized by position:
Cornerback: 11 penalties for 145 yards
Linebacker: 11 penalties for 89 yards
Defensive line: 11 penalties for 63 yards
Offensive line: 10 penalties for 75 yards
Tight end: Nine penalties for 68 yards
Specialists (punter, kicker, long snapper, kick/punt units): Seven penalties for 49 yards
Team: Five penalties for 30 yards
Wide receiver: Three penalties for 25 yards
Safety: Two penalties for 55 yards
Quarterback: Two penalties for 19 yards
Running back: Two penalties for 5 yards

Most frequently called penalties:
False start: 11
Offensive holding: 10
Defensive holding: Nine
Encroachment: Eight
Defensive pass interference: Eight
Offensive pass interference: Five
Unnecessary roughness: Four
Defensive offsides: Three
Roughing the passer: Two
Illegal block above the waist: Two
Illegal formation: Two
Intentional grounding: Two
Personal foul: One
Illegal shift: One
Offsides on free kick: One
Facemask: One
Illegal contact: One
Chop block: One
12 men on the field: One

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