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Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty finishes second in NFL DROY voting to Suh

02.04.11 at 8:16 pm ET
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Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty finished a distant second to Detroit defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh in the voting for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting on Friday.

There’€™s no shame, however. At least McCourty got a vote ‘€” in fact, McCourty, who finished the season with seven interceptions, was the only defensive rookie other than Suh to receive a single tally ‘€” in fact the defensive back got two. Meanwhile, Suh nabbed 48 of the 50 votes, becoming the first Lion to grab the honor since Al Baker in 1978.

As for McCourty, he started all 16 games for the Patriots and finished the season with 82 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles and 17 passes defensed. He tied for second in the NFL and led all rookies with seven interceptions on the season, recording four of them over three consecutive games (Weeks 11-13). The seven interceptions by a Patriots rookie are second only to the eight by Mike Haynes in 1976. In addition, he was named second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.

‘€œDevin’€™s really been a consistent player for us all year, from the first rookie minicamp after the draft to all through the season,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said late in the 2010 season. ‘€œIn the spring, spring workouts, training camp, preseason, he’€™s really the same guy every day ‘€” very alert, attentive, very professional. You wouldn’€™t know he’€™s a rookie. He acts and prepares like he’€™s been doing it for five or six years.

‘€œHe’€™s very attentive. He understands a lot of little things. When you give him a coaching point, he understands that it doesn’€™t apply to everything (and) it may only apply to one particular situation or one little thing. But when that comes up again, he’€™s usually on it. He’€™s made a lot of improvement.’€

Read More: Al Baker, Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Mike Haynes

Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Belichick/Goodell: ‘Tired of the whole subject’

02.04.11 at 5:57 pm ET
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in an interview with the Big Show from the site of the Super Bowl in Dallas, acknowledged his surprise that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell voiced displeasure with the handling of New England coach Bill Belichick‘s apology for stealing signals in 2007. Rather than detail his own feelings on the conversation, however, Kraft expressed his exhaustion with the subject before respectfully but firmly declining to discuss it.

“I must tell you, this is three and a half years later,” said Kraft. “I can’€™t speak for why other people do things or don’€™t do things. I can just tell you that I’€™m tired of the whole subject, and it’€™s something I’€™m not going to discuss with anyone, to be honest.”

Asked a follow-up about whether he ever was asked to talk with Goodell after Belichick issued a written apology and declined to take questions from the media, Kraft said, “I’€™m done talking about the subject.”

As for more immediate concerns, Kraft said that “there’s still an ache” that resulted from the Patriots getting ousted by the Jets in the divisional round of the playoffs.

“I just wish we were playing in this game. That was our plan. Being down here, seeing this great stadium,” said Kraft. “There’€™s still an ache. We had a great season, but unfortunately we just didn’€™t finish it off.

“We’€™ve had four previous situations where we went to the bye. Each of the times we had it, we went to the Super Bowl,” he added. “It was a great locker room, great group of guys, good blend of veterans and young players.”

Among other topics:

–He emphasized that the Patriots are well-positioned going forward thanks to their wealth of draft picks, including three of the first 33 picks in the draft as well as five of the top 75 selections.

–Regarding the Pats‘ top selection (No. 17 overall, obtained from the Raiders in exchange for Richard Seymour at the start of the 2009 season), Kraft said that the Patriots pushed to acquire Oakland’s 2011 first-rounder (rather than a pick in an earlier year) because they were hopeful that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement would be in place that would have a reasonable pay scale for early first-round picks. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Logan Mankins, New York Jets, Richard Seymour

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: UCLA OLB Akeem Ayers

02.04.11 at 4:24 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.

Akeem Ayers

Position: Outside Linebacker

School: UCLA

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 255 pounds

Achievements: 2010: Second-team Walter Camp All-American and third-team AP All-American. Ayers was one of five Butkus Award finalists, finishing third. A Lott IMPACT Trophy quarterfinalist and a Phil Steele Mid-Season All-American. Ayers was on the Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award and Rotary Lombardi Award pre-season watch lists. All-Pac-10 first team by the league’s coaches.

What he brings: One of the best and most versatile defensive players in the nation, Ayers is considered among the top athletic defensive players available in the draft. He made the transition from being the No. 1 defensive end prospect on the West coast coming out of high school to strongside outside linebacker. He played both up as a linebacker and down as a defensive end in college. He made the transition to OLB after redshirting in 2007. Ayers only started three of 12 games as redshirt freshman. He was named honorable mention All Pac-10 with 40 tackles and five tackles for loss, including four sacks.

In 2008, Ayers had a breakout sophomore campaign — 55 tackles and consistent demonstrations of big-play ability with 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, four interceptions (two for touchdowns) and two forced fumbles (returning one for a TD). All of the big plays drew the attention of NFL scouts, most of whom believe he is the most athletic and versatile defenders in the draft and that he has a huge upside.

Where the Patriots could get him: No.  17, 28 or in the second round.

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Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Akeem Ayers, New England Patriots, nfl

Robert Kraft: A deal between owners and players can be done in next week

02.04.11 at 3:52 pm ET
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Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said Friday sounded an optimistic note about the uncertain labor situation on Friday, saying ‘€œa deal can get done in the next week.’€

In an interview with the NFL Network, Kraft made it very clear who he believed was holding up a potential deal between the owners and the players.

‘€œIn my opinion, we could get a deal done in the next week if business people sat down on both sides and we tried to get the lawyers in the background,’€ Kraft said. ‘€œYou just had a situation where we were sued that we didn’€™t get enough money from the networks. I know as chair of the Broadcast Committee, I’€™ve worked with our committee and the Commissioner, and we generated revenue at a very serious time in our country.

‘€œWe were just sued that we didn’€™t do a good enough job, so the players wind up paying $15 million in legal fees for something that is nonsensical. We have to stop this legal maneuvering and get business negotiations going on. If we do, I’€™m confident we can close a deal.’€

Read More: Patriots, Robert Kraft,

Robert Kraft: Patriots were missing ‘good game plan’ against Jets

02.04.11 at 3:00 pm ET
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in remarks to reporters in Dallas, suggested that the Patriots were missing “a good game plan” in their season-ending loss to the Jets in the division round of the playoffs. He also expressed frustration with the interception that QB Tom Brady threw on a screen pass that killed the momentum of the first Patriots drive, as well as other areas in which his team failed to execute against its divisional rival.

“I don’€™t know, a good game plan,’€ Kraft told reporters in response to a question about what the Patriots were missing that day. “I mean, you have to hand it to the Jets. They came in and they did a good job. And actually, if you think about it, we drove down the field those first two drives. Tommy was unbelievable. He had (11) games without an interception and then threw that lazy interception. They go down and they miss the field goal and then we come drive right down again, and we throw one in the end zone and it gets dropped, we get three points.

“We get the fake punt, which we hadn’€™t done all year, and it gets bobbled. It was wide open, by the way, if we had executed. Matthew Slater tries to down a ball at the 1 (but could not). We didn’€™t get the breaks and the Jets did a great job. We’€™re very sad, I’€™ll tell you.”

Kraft also weighed in on other subjects. Among them:

–He described Logan Mankins as one of the best players on the team, and said that New England would make a push to re-sign him.

“I just personally want to say, I hope he’€™s with us for a long-term and we’€™re going to try to do whatever we have to do to make sure that happens,’€ Kraft told reporters.

–He noted that the Pats, including this year’s first- and second-round picks, will have had the opportunity to take 12 players at that stage of the draft from 2009-11, something that Kraft feels will position the team well for the future.

–Amidst the snow storm that has hammered Dallas, Kraft opined that perhaps it would be appropriate for New England to host a Super Bowl.

Kraft will be joining the Big Show at 5 pm on Friday.

Peter King on D&H: Roger Goodell never went back to Bill Belichick for explanation

02.04.11 at 2:45 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports NFL reporter Peter King joined the Dale & Holley show Friday morning to talk about the Super Bowl. (Listen to the interview at the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.) King also discussed some interesting comments that were in a profile piece he did this week on Roger Goodell, in which the commissioner talked about how disappointed and “deceived” he felt following Bill Belichick‘s stonewalling of the press after the Patriots’ Spygate punishment.

King was asked why Goodell did not go back to Belichick and tell him his performance before the media was not what the commissioner expected.

Said King: “I asked him, I said, ‘Did you go back to him and did you ever contact him about it?’ And he said, ‘No.” And I think his whole thing was, at that point ‘€” and I’m interpreting here ‘€” his whole thing was at that point, the wounds are wide and the wounds are ugly. To exacerbate the wounds at this point is not something I want to do.

“Now, I’ve heard from a lot of people, including a bunch of people in the media down here: Why is Goodell bringing this up now? I said, well, because this is Goodell’s life and career, and I’m cross-examining him on this stuff. ‘€¦ Obviously, I’m going to ask him in depth about the toughest decision he had to make in his professional career ‘€” Mike Vick and Spygate and [Ben] Roethlisberger and things like that.

“So, the short answer is I don’t know. But I did ask him if he went back and attempted to get Belichick to do it. And he said, ‘No.’ ”

King was asked if he was surprised that Goodell answered the Belichick question candidly and did not simply say, “We’ve moved on.”

Said King: “One of the reasons why I think he didn’t, and this is just my opinion: At the start of this story, I basically emphasized to him and the other people in the league office when I wanted to do this story that this couldn’t be sort of a press conference story. It can’t be a story that, in essence, he answers questions just very officially without any real depth and without any real color.

“At the end of it, I called him last Thursday and I said to him, ‘You know, I just wanted to thank you. I wanted to give you my appreciation for doing what you said you were going to do, in opening up about some things in your life.’ And he said to me, ‘Well, Peter, you know why I did it?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And he goes, ‘Because you told me if I did this that I wouldn’t have to do it again for the next 20 years.’ And he sort of laughed.

“Because in the beginning I said, ‘Look, I want to do this right. I want to do the ultimate Goodell profile. In some ways ‘€” and I told him this ‘€” when I wrote about Bill Belichick after the Patriots won their second Super Bowl, I said, ‘I wanted to do a story that if this is the last story that’s ever done about you in Sports Illustrated, I want it to be done right. I want to have a good part of your life in there, a good part of your background. And so, it was sort of the same way here. And again, he could have chosen to answer any question any way he wanted to answer it. But it struck me when he said what he said about Belichick that he’s been thinking it for a long time.”

King said he hopes people go beyond the headlines and read the article, which includes other interesting and original comments from Goodell and those affected by him. Said King: “I understand those [comments about Belichick and Roethlisberger] are two headlines that came out of what I reported this week. And I don’t fight that. I’m not upset with it in any way, shape or form. [But] I would be very disappointed if people didn’t take the time to read the story.”

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, Peter King, roger goodell

Uncertainty around franchise tag could create confusion for Logan Mankins and Patriots

02.04.11 at 12:25 am ET
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The fact that the NFL and the National Football League Players Association are disagreeing about the state of the franchise tag throws another wrinkle into the already complicated situation between the Patriots and Pro Bowl offensive lineman Logan Manikins.

Last week, a league spokesman indicated the franchise tags would remain status quo ‘€” that is, starting Feb. 10 and running until Feb. 24, clubs could continue to place the tag on players whose contracts are expiring, even if there is no new collective bargaining agreement in place. But on Thursday, the NFLPA indicated that if there is no new agreement in place between now and the day the old CBA expires ‘€” March 3 ‘€” such tags would be meaningless.

‘€œOur position is that you can franchise anyone you want, by whatever date you want, but if there is no CBA, the franchise tags will be meaningless,’€ NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith told reporters.

‘€œThe current CBA provides that ‘each club shall be permitted to designate one of its players who would otherwise be an Unrestricted Free Agent [or Restricted Free Agent] as a Franchise Player each season during the term of this Agreement,”€ Smith wrote in a memo to player agents, obtained by ProFootballTalk.com. ‘€œThe 2011 season is not a ‘season during the term of this Agreement’ so the NFL has no valid basis for claiming the right to franchise players in 2011.’€

In response, league spokesman Greg Aiello said via e-mail to The Associated Press: ‘€œWe are still operating under the current agreement. … Franchise tags are always made before the start of the next league year. This is consistent with past seasons.’€

In its current form, the franchise tag allows each team to prevent one of its players from becoming an unrestricted free agent by offering him a one-year contract that’s worth 120 percent of his salary from the season before, or the average of the five highest-paid players at his position, whichever is greater.

However, the players association isn’€™t thrilled about what the tag has become ‘€” in many ways they see it as a way to prevent players from reaching a big payday ‘€” and while it isn’€™t considered chief among the differences between the two sides, it has been a point of contention between the players and the owners in the past.

Mankins and the Patriots aren’€™t the only team facing uncertainty around the franchise tag, as several big-name players across the league are facing an uncertain future because of the franchise tag situation. Philadelphia’€™s Michael Vick, Indy’€™s Peyton Manning, Pittsburgh’€™s Lamarr Woodley and Baltimore’€™s Haloti Ngata are all candidates to be franchised under the old system, but could theoretically hit the open market if the tag is eliminated.
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Read More: Adam Vinatieri, Al Davis, De Maurice Smith, Frank Bauer
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