|08.03.10 at 12:01 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Nothing happened on the Patriots’ practice field anywhere near as noteworthy as Tuesday’s news of Brett Favre retiring, so until the afternoon, football fans may want to focus on the Vikings for a few hours. The Patriots had a walkthrough, with players in shorts, T-shirts, and baseball caps. All drills were done at half-speed, but check back this afternoon for the full report on the afternoon session.
|08.03.10 at 11:54 am ET|
FOXBORO — Patriots special teams coach Scott O’Brien spoke to the media Tuesday morning prior to the first of two practices the team had scheduled. Entering his second season on the job, O’Brien comes into the 2010 campaign with a couple of additions to the return game in first-round pick Devin McCourty and a healthy Brandon Tate. The Patriots also have a new punter and undoubted fan favorite in Zoltan Mesko.
On the subject of improving the special teams, it was quite obvious where O’Brien’s priorities currently lie.
“I would say the overall return game, kickoff returner, but it’s like everything else. When you’ve done this for a long time, things constantly change. We change as coaches, schematics change, rules change, and you’re always trying to be sound of what you’re doing, but you always have to be able to break down segments, either schematically, by players, [or] whatever, to find out where you can improve on everything,” O’Brien said. “You can be the best in the National Football League, and you’re still always trying to improve. Looking at that, it’s a combination of we’re always breaking down, trying to get a better scheme, what are we seeing more now relative to the years before? How are we matching up personnel? How did the change in the rules last year with the wedge really affect us? That kind of thing.”
So, what will go into boosting a kick return game that finished 15th in the league last season with an average of 22.9 yards per return?
“Well, there’s two things. All the returners in this league, they’re all good. They’re only only as good as those other 10 guys (on the kick return unit). Are there exceptions to the rule? Sure there are,” O’Brien said. “You know, the explosive guys, the playmakers, but that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for that guy that not only has the physical skills, the eye control, the instincts of setting up blocks and that type of thing and the speeds that make explosive plays, but it’s the other guys that are giving him that opportunity to get started. There’s a combination, and young returners really grow.”
|08.03.10 at 11:16 am ET|
Profootballtalk.com founder Mike Florio joined the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to discuss the extremely competitive AFC East, why the Jets may not be as good as everyone is predicting, and why the Patriots need to sign Tom Brady.
Regarding the Jets, he explained, ”I just think that it’s going to be a very tall order for the New York Jets to be competitive this year. They welcomed the bull’s-eye that’s on their back, and I don’t know if that’s going to play that well.”
Following are highlights of the interview. To hear the full interview visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Where do you see the Jets finishing this season?
I think they’ll have a very difficult season. I just don’t know that they planned very well how this was going to play out. They finished strong last year, and were just kind of in the right place at the right time. They beat a Colts team that wasn’t trying to win, they beat the Bengals back-to-back, that pretty much everyone pretty much everyone figured out by the end of the season. They won in San Diego in the playoffs, who hasn’t done that? And now all of a sudden they’re a great team, and they go out and bring in a bunch of veteran players with big personalities who may or may not jell.
They have a guy in camp, or not in camp [Darrelle Revis], who wants more money. I just think that it’s going to be a very tall order for the New York Jets to be competitive this year. They welcomed the bulls-eye that’s on their back, and I don’t know if that’s going to play that well. They were a mediocre team in November last year and into December. I think there’s a good chance they don’t even make the playoffs.
What is the possibility of Aaron Shobel joining the Patriots?
It’s very confusing right now. And I think that haze of confusion is the overall atmosphere in Buffalo at this point. The general manager [of the Bills] Buddy Nix said they are not going to let him go, even though there was a report that the Bills were going to release him. They could be trying to trade him, it’s been a big subject over the offseason, will he or won’t he retire. The Texans are interested.
I think maybe what’s going on is that the Bills are trying to get some value, instead of just walking away and cutting him. If he retires then they still hold his rights. If they trade him then they get something for him. If they cut him, he becomes eligible at that point to sign with any other team. It looks like maybe they figured out that’s what he’s up to. And maybe he’s trying to pull a Brett Favre here, get out of Buffalo and go play for a contender. And that’s only going to happen if there’s a draft pick or a player who changes hands.
|08.02.10 at 9:45 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There was no Wes Welker on Monday night on the first Patriots appearance on their brand new Field Turf inside Gillette Stadium. But there was certainly plenty of Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss, much to the delight of the thousands of fans who turned out.
The two have become nearly attached at the hip on the practice field since the two started working together in the 2007 season. Monday night was no different and it was clear that their timing was still there.
Brady connected with Moss on a pair of touchdown passes in 11-on-11 two-minute drills. The first came on a patented curl route in the back of the end zone, with Brady zipping it over the middle. Brady also found Moss on a hitch and go to the right corner for six. That didn’t include a sweet 50-yard TD strike from Brady to Moss in a special five-on-five secondary drill for quarterbacks designed to make the quarterback read the secondary.
Brady also found Rob Gronkowski, who made a nice TD catch while Steve Gostkowski just missed on a 52-yard field goal but connected from inside 45 as the team worked on last-second, no timeout field goal situations.
Welker, who was taken off the PUP list on Sunday and returned to practice this weekend for the Patriots, was held out of full contact drills and scrimmage game situations, presumably as a precaution on the new turf. He was in full pads for the abbreviated practice on Monday morning.
Welker was one of 14 players on the roster not in attendance for the practice event for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents. In addition to Welker, holdout Logan Mankins, LB Derrick Burgess, the injured Gary Guyton, Nick Kaczur, Ty Warren, Ron Brace, Mike Wright, Matthew Slater, Jonathan Wilhite, Bret Lockett, Thomas Clayton, Terrance Johnson and Myron Pryor did not participate.
It was the team’s first formal practice inside the stadium since a brand new Field Turf was installed, designed to be softer and more like natural grass than its predecessor. Fans attending also got a glimpse of the brand new high definition video board in the South end zone, which ran for the entire 90 minutes of the practice.
One of the biggest cheers of the night was reserved for owner Robert Kraft, who hand-delivered a ball to a fan who was forced to give back a ball that was thrown into the stands by rookie Aaron Hernandez after the tight end made a TD catch in a drill.
Clearly punter Zoltan Mesko out of Michigan is developing a cult following among Pats fans. His name was chanted several times and he rewarded the masses with five consecutive booming punts of 50-plus yards. He also handled holding responsibilities flawlessly for Gostkowski.
|08.02.10 at 5:29 pm ET|
FOXBORO — During last year’s training camp, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was a ubiquitous presence on the field. Almost every day throughout camp, Caserio was on the field and interacting with the players — especially the wide receivers — as much as any one of the assistants coaches.
This year, it’s a different story — through the first week, Caserio has spent most of his time standing on the fringes of the practice field and only occasionally engaging a member of the support staff. Instead, it’s been de facto offensive coordinator Billy O’Brien and wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea hanging out with the receivers.
Caserio said that because he’s been on the sidelines this season during camp, it doesn’t necessarily mean that his role within the franchise has changed.
“That’s probably the biggest change, that I’m not on the field conducting the drills,” he said. “I’d say there’s some interaction. I think it’s just looking at it from a different perspective, but the things that you’re looking for I wouldn’t say are too drastically different. The biggest thing is kind of that you see more of a big picture instead of one position that you’re focused on when you’re working on a day-to-day basis with them.”
Caserio, who is entering his third full season as New England’s director of player personnel, said removing himself from the drills helps when it comes to developing an understanding of “the big picture.”
“Just like a player, I take the philosophy that the more you can learn [and] the more you can understand, the better off we’re all going to be,” Caserio said.
|08.02.10 at 4:23 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Clearly, everyone inside Gillette Stadium and within a stones throw of Patriot Place knows Robert Kraft is the boss.
But don’t ever confuse the Patriots owner with the late Yankee boss George Steinbrenner III.
For exhibit A, listen to Kraft’s response to a reporter’s question on Monday about his thoughts on the team he owns after watching practice earlier in the day.
“You want to get the coach [Bill Belichick] mad at me?” Kraft replied, we assume rhetorically. “I’ll tell ya, I love these tight ends, all three of them,” Kraft added. “Hopefully, that’ll make a big difference for us in the red zone and the running game but there are [also] so many [good] young players on defense.”
Kraft was showing some love for the part of the receiving corps, which has been overhauled – the tight ends. In addition to 32-year-old Alge Crumpler, rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have been added to the roster to give quarterback Tom Brady new weapons on offense.
Then Kraft looked ahead to the preseason, which amazingly enough is just 10 days away, with the opener on Aug. 12 at Gillette against the defending champion New Orleans Saints. That will be preceded by two days of practice against the Saints.
“I think a great test will be when New Orleans comes here next week,” Kraft continued. “We have the Super Bowl champions coming here. We’ll work with us for two days and then play them. That’ll be a real good test on where we’re at. Then I think going to Atlanta the next week, we hopefully have found a system that will help us get ready for that first game against Cincinnati here.
“Two years in a row we’ll be facing Terrell Owens. I hope our guys will be ready for it.”
Last year, the Patriots beat Owens and the Buffalo Bills, 25-24, in a miraculous opening night comeback in the Monday night season-opener at Gillette.
You can also count Kraft among those amazed with the return of wideout Wes Welker to the practice field just over seven months after a serious left knee injury that required reconstructive surgery. Kraft was on hand Monday morning for the first practice prior to Monday night’s scrimmage for season ticket holders inside Gillette Stadium.
“You see Welker out there today, he’s really unbelievable,” said Kraft, who related with the height of the 5-9 Welker. “For any guy our size, for all of America, what he represents is so special. His DNA is different because he can take those hits, do things other people just can’t do. And his attitude, what a great person. We’re so lucky to have him here.”
|08.02.10 at 3:12 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Say this for Congressman Barney Frank, he’s not afraid to be blunt and brutally honest.
As a Patriots fan and one of the leading lawmakers in Congress, he was asked his thoughts about the ongoing talks to re-sign star quarterback Tom Brady and what kind of input he would like to have.
“I hope he won’t be offended but I do think that part of income above $200,000 should go back to old rate,” Frank said. “My only role is the revenue. The more they make, the more we can produce.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, speaking after a press conference on solar power generation at Patriot Place in Foxboro, sounded another optimistic note that he believes the team can sign iconic quarterback Tom Brady to a long-term contract. Kraft walked off the practice field with Brady on Monday morning and was asked if he spoke to the quarterback about his birthday plans for Tuesday.
“It’s actually unbelievable,” Kraft said of his quarterback who turns 33 on Tuesday. “He came here when he was 22 and now he’s going to be 33. He’s a great cook. He has something very special planned. We look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with him right here in Foxboro.”
Congressman Frank, Kraft and a host of local energy dignitaries were on hand for the press conference outside CBS Scene as the Patriots were heralded for their work to turn Patriot Place into a massive employment center that now runs 30 percent of its power off a 525-kilowatt solar power system.
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