|04.15.11 at 6:19 pm ET|
Drew Bledsoe ‘ one of three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame, along with Bill Parcells and Houston Antwine ‘ held a conference call with reporters on Friday afternoon. (Fans can vote now at Patriots.com.) Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are a few of the highlights:
What were your impressions of the Patriots organization when you were drafted and later when you left the organization in a better place a decade later?
‘My wife and I had a chance this last year to come back, and [we] hadn’t been back a lot to New England since. We had a chance to walk around the stadium and around Patriot Place and see The Hall there and see all that’s transpired since we left. I think we all probably recognize the state of the organization when I was drafted in ‘93. [It] was not an organization that had had a lot of success. But under the stewardship of Bill Parcells and moving on obviously to the ownership of the Kraft family, it’s really become one of if not the marquee franchise in the NFL. Certainly I’m very proud of whatever part I played in that rise to prominence of the organization. You know the comment I made to my wife the last time [we were there] was I really felt like during my time there the organization went from one place to a much better place and then from there, once I left, it’s continued to go onwards and upward. I’m certainly very proud to have been part of that resurgence of the Patriots and I also take some degree of pride in seeing where they’ve gone since I left. What the Kraft family has done with that organization and with the support of fans across the New England region, it’s pretty neat to see where it was and where it is now.’
Another finalist who is on the ballot with you is Bill Parcells. Can you talk about being under his guidance, not once, but twice?
‘I was a glutton for punishment. I went back for more. It was a petty rare thing when I was drafted to come to an organization that had not had much success but all of a sudden had a Super Bowl-winning coach on the sidelines. That was very fortuitous for me and for the organization to have a coach of his stature come in, even when there hadn’t been much success, but instantly there seemed to be a sense of optimism and Bill was certainly a part of that. Bill’s record is what it is. He’s a fantastic coach. He was great at rebuilding franchises. He did it numerous times. I’m proud to say I played for him.’
Is there anybody on the team that you still keep in touch with, including Tom Brady?
‘I keep in touch with Tommy every now and then, mostly via text message. We’ve talked a handful of times over the years. I’ve certainly been very proud to watch the way Tom has handled himself. Obviously he’s been one of the best players in the league for a number of years now on the field, but the way that he has continued to conduct himself with such a level of class, on and off the field, I’ve been proud to watch that. Success is one thing, but there is only so much you can control of that part. The part that you can control is how you handle yourself as a person, and watching Tommy’s success and the way that he has handled all of it has been great to watch. I keep in touch with a number of guys. I talked to Todd Rucci just yesterday. We keep in touch quite a bit. I stay in touch with Bruce Armstrong from time to time. I did touch base with Kevin Turner here just in the last couple of months. Hearing about and seeing what he’s been going through has been kind of a rough deal, seeing somebody who was a teammate and a great friend going through what he’s going through is a pretty difficult thing. But I’ve touched base with him a couple of times. And then, when we were back out there, I spent some time with [Scott] Zolak and Max Lane and some of those guys that I played with. But the guy I keep in touch with the most is Rucci. I touch base with a number of other guys from time to time, but it’s going to be fun to get back together with everybody, so hopefully we’ll get that done here soon. I keep in touch with Terry Glenn once in a while, too. Terry and I exchange text messages from time to time. I got to play with Terry twice.’
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|04.15.11 at 12:35 am ET|
With the NFL draft on the horizon, we’re going to look back at the Patriots’ best draft picks by round. We’ve already put the eighth through the second rounders in the spotlight. Now, we’ve got the best of the first round, a group with two Hall of Famers are two others who will almost surely get some consideration for Canton down the road. Vote for your favorite:
Mike Haynes: 1976, fifth overall. The Arizona State alum played in New England from 1976 until 1982 before ending up in Los Angeles with the Raiders, but while with the Patriots, he made his mark as one of the best young corners and return men in the game. A six-time Pro Bowler, he has 28 career picks (sixth in franchise history), including eight as a rookie. He was twice named an All-Pro, named to the Patriots All-Time Team in 2009 and was the second Patriots’ player in franchise history elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame ‘ he received the honor in 1997.
John Hannah: 1973, fourth overall. Accorded as the best offensive lineman in the history of the game, the Alabama product spent his entire 13-year career with the Patriots, and was the first player in franchise history inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Named to nine Pro Bowls, the guard helped power an offensive line that helped set an NFL record with 3,165 rushing yards in 1978 ‘ still an NFL record. Small wonder he was a 10-time All-Pro who was named to the Patriots All-Time Team in 2009.
Ty Law: 1995, 23rd overall. A five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, this corner out of Michigan was named to the Patriots’ All-Time Team in 2009 after a career where he set the franchise record for most career interceptions (36), including nine in 1998. In addition, he holds team records for most interception return yardage (583), most interceptions for a touchdown for a career (six) and in a season (two). He departed following the 2004 season, playing two seasons with the Jets, two with Kansas City and one with Denver, but his part as a three-time Super Bowl Champion while with New England will always endear him to Patriots’ fans. (His 11 career picks of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning probably don’t hurt either.)
Vince Wilfork: 2004, 21st overall. The three-time Pro Bowler, this Miami product has made his mark in New England as a leader, both on and off the field. His numbers aren’t especially overwhelming, but his ability to occupy two blockers on the nose and his versatility ‘ he kicked out to defensive end several times over the last year ‘ have made him an absolutely vital force along New England’s defensive line. A three-time team captain, he is perhaps the most respected voice in the Patriots’ locker room.
Just missing the cut: Devin McCourty (2010, 27th overall); Logan Mankins (2005, 32nd overall); Jerod Mayo (2008, 10th overall); Richard Seymour (2001, sixth overall); Willie McGinest (1994, fourth overall); Drew Bledsoe (1993, first overall); Ray Clayborn (1977, 16th overall); Stanley Morgan (1977, 25th overall); Pete Brock (1976, 12th overall); Tim Fox (1976, 21st overall); Russ Francis (1975, 16th overall); Sam Cunningham (1973, 11th overall); Jim Plunkett (1971, first overall).
|04.14.11 at 2:43 pm ET|
FOXBORO ‘ Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio spoke for roughly 45 minutes on Thursday at The Hall at Patriot Place about the pre-draft process, and how the New England braintrust approaches the draft. Here are some of the highlights:
‘¢On draft day, Caserio described things in the draft room as being ‘pretty tame’ for most of the time. ‘When you’re not picking, things are pretty quiet,’ he said. As for trades, most of them occur on draft night, with most discussions usually picking up between five and eight picks out: ‘There are [trade] possibilities examined the week before, but things don’t really manifest themselves until the draft,’ he said.
‘¢Where are things right now? Caserio said that most of the Pro Days have been completed to this point, with most of the players who will be drafted having worked out. He added that the time frame for the 30 allotted visits expires next Wednesday, April 20. However, you can work a player out until the day before the draft ‘ he recalled an instance a few years ago where he flew out to work out a player a day or two before the draft.
‘¢The private workouts are important for getting a handle on a prospect, but they can be invaluable for trying to figure out if a small school prospect, an injured player or a non-combine invitee might fit into your system. Caserio used wide receiver Julian Edelman and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer as examples of two guys the Patriots were able to get a much clearer picture of as a result of private workouts, as both were not invited to the combine. When it comes to private workouts, ‘We’re just trying to make sure we have the most accurate picture of the player possible.’ (Caserio added that when they were working out Edelman prior to the 2010 draft, they had multiple private workouts with him, including as a wide receiver, running back and return man.)
‘In the end, the goal is to have it right. Is it perfect? No. There are players where it hasn’t worked out,’ Caserio said. ‘[But] it’s a projection element. You are talking about the unknown.’
‘¢Caserio showed a fictional draft card, and explained what the intricate grading system that appears on the card, a series of numbers and letters that includes height, weight and Wonderlic score. In addition, the card reveals whether or not a prospect is considered ‘height deficient’ or ‘weight deficient.’ (Caserio was quick to let people know that a prospect being classified as ‘height deficient’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing ‘ he mentioned players like Kevin Faulk, Barry Sanders and Maurice Jones-Drew as players who were classified as such but have gone on to successful careers.)
‘¢As for how things might be different because of the lockout this year, Caserio said that their pre-draft process this year is no different than it’s been in year’s past. ‘Our approach this year is no different than in year’s past ‘ we’re looking for the player who can improve our football team the most and that’s what we’re focused on doing,’ he said. ‘We’re evaluating a player for his skill set based on the information that we’ve gathered, and we’ll just move forward from there. So our approach hasn’t changed much at all.’
‘¢When asked about the preconceived ideas some people have when it comes to the Patriots and the outside linebacker spot ‘ and if they have adjusted them somewhat ‘ Caserio replied: ‘I think you’re always looking at different things. In terms of the players and the types of players and the standards … the most important thing is finding good football players that can help our football team, whatever shape and form they come in. Danny Woodhead is the perfect example. I’d say he falls short in some of the ‘standards,’ but … that’s something we’re always evaluating across the positions, the different standards and where we are relative to the rest of the league. That position, there’s more teams that are looking for similar-type players, and in college, maybe the pool of players isn’t that big to begin with, so everybody’s looking at the same players and ultimately, you just have to make the decision on who you feel like is best for your team.’
|04.13.11 at 2:22 pm ET|
With the NFL draft on the horizon, we’re going to look back at the Patriots’ best draft picks by round. We’ve already put the eighth through the third rounders in the spotlight. Now, we’ve got the best of the second round, an intriguing list of four players who have nine Pro Bowl berths and one spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame among them, and all of whom had lengthy careers with the Patriots. Vote for your favorite:
Kevin Faulk: 1999: 46th overall. The running back hasn’t always put up the biggest numbers, but his durability (he’s the only current player on the roster who predates Bill Belichick as head coach) and his leadership have been large parts of the Patriots’ success over the last 10 years. Taken out of LSU, he’s worked as a return man and third-down/changeup back, and remains a valuable option in the passing game. A knee injury early in the 2011 season put his rest of his career in doubt, but Faulk has already put together an impressive resume, one with three Super Bowl rings.
Steve Nelson: 1974, 34th overall. Part of a collection of great linebackers in the 1970s and 80s, Nelson was a three-time Pro Bowler who recorded over 100 tackles nine times during his career and finished with 1,776 tackles, an average of 10.2 per game. For his efforts, the North Dakota State product was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1993, and had his No. 57 jersey retired.
Andre Tippett: 1982, 41st overall. A resume unmatched by just about anyone in the history of the franchise. A Pro Football Hall of Famer, the Iowa product was one of the best pass-rushers of his era ‘ he holds the team record with 100 career sacks, including 18.5 in 1984. In his 12 seasons with the Patriots, Tippett tied cornerback Michael Haynes’ team record for a defensive player by going to five consecutive Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1999, and elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
Julius Adams: 1971, 27th overall. This Texas Southern product played 16 seasons for the Patriots, and like Faulk, his numbers weren’t always overwhelming. But his durability and consistency made him an invaluable part of many Patriots teams throughout the 1970s and 80s. He led the team in sacks four times (including three straight seasons in the early 1970s). Named to the Patriots’ 50th anniversary team, he’s second in franchise history in games played (206).
Just missed the cut: Deion Branch (2002, 65th overall); Matt Light (2001, 48th overall); Lawyer Milloy: 1996: 36th overall; Ted Johnson (1995, 57th overall); Garin Veris (1985, 48th overall); Robert Weathers (1982, 40th overall); Bob Golic (1979, 52nd overall); Horace Ivory (1977, 44th overall); Don Hasselbeck (1979, 52nd overall).
|04.13.11 at 12:26 am ET|
Six thoughts on ESPN’s ‘Brady 6’ special that aired Tuesday evening:
1. Bolstered by exclusive interviews with five of the six quarterbacks (hence the name of the hourlong documentary) who were taken before Tom Brady in the 2000 draft (as well as Brady himself, his father, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick), it provided some real insight into Brady’s fire, his motivation and what really makes him great. He’s had a chip on his shoulder about his abilities since he was in high school, and has turned that intensity into a surefire ticket to the Hall of Fame. And the shot of him tearing up when it came to his draft day wait was fascinating television. We’ve always known that he’s leaned on his family for support over the years, but for him to mention his father and mother and what they did for him in that moment was especially telling.
2. No one is better at seizing an opportunity than Brady. The quarterback was stacked against the six guys who were taken in front of him, and many of them ‘ including Tee Martin and Spergon Wynn ‘ confessed in Tuesday’s show that they were not ready when they were called upon as young quarterbacks. In addition, few are more confident in their abilities. Not in a cocky way, but especially confident. There was the oft-told story of his first meeting with Kraft, but Brady’s college teammate Aaron Shea recalled how Brady told him before the fall of 2001 he was going to take Drew Bledsoe‘s job.
3. It was great to see the video of the 2000 Hall of Fame Game between the Patriots and 49ers. In a contest that was better known at the time as being the ‘Monday Night Football‘ debut of Dennis Miller, it was a game that served to illuminate the differences between Brady and Giovanni Carmazzi. Video from the game had Carmazzi scrambling to avoid sacks and generally looking unprepared. As for Brady, he looked smooth and relatively polished. The quotes from Belichick regarding that game were especially illuminating: ‘I think we walked out of that game feeling that we probably had taken the right guy.’
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|04.12.11 at 4:16 pm ET|
Despite the labor uncertainty, the NFL announced the 2011 preseason schedule on Tuesday, and the Patriots will host Jacksonville the weekend of Aug. 11-15 and the New York Giants on the weekend of Sept. 1-2. In addition, they will travel to face Tampa Bay on Aug. 20 and Detroit on Aug. 27, with the game against the Lions set to start at 8 p.m. and be broadcast nationally on CBS. (The dates and times for the rest of the games will be announced at a later date.)
Here are a few quick notes on the preseason slate:
‘¢ It wouldn’t be a Patriots’ preseason if the Giants weren’t involved. Someone in the NFL offices loves setting up this meeting every summer ‘ this will mark the seventh straight time and 10th time in 11 preseasons the Patriots will meet New York.
‘¢The most important preseason game of the four is always the third one, and this one will involve the Lions. The nationally-televised contest against Detroit will provide local football fans with the opportunity to see a pair of talented young players in quarterback Matthew Stafford and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh. In addition, considering the depth of the friendship between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Lions coach Jim Schwartz ‘ and the fact that New England held scrimmages with New Orleans and Atlanta in the days leading up to their preseason games last summer ‘ it’s not crazy to think the Patriots and Lions could meet for a series of scrimmages in the days leading up to this game.
‘¢The preseason opener is also the weekend of the Patriots’ annual alumni reunion. Starting in August of 2009, the summer after The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon opened, the Patriots began a new tradition of hosting their alumni at that opening game. This year will mark the third consecutive season that past Patriots will return to Foxborough to visit The Hall.
‘¢For the whole preseason schedule, click here.
|04.12.11 at 2:09 pm ET|
According to an ESPN report, the Patriots are hosting University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker for a two-day visit starting Tuesday. Locker, who passed for 2,265 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, is projected to go in the mid- to late first round of the draft later this month. The Patriots have the 17th and 28th overall picks.