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Reports: Patriots cut Lewis

09.03.10 at 1:46 pm ET
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Multiple outlets are reporting the Patriots have released defensive lineman Damione Lewis. The 32-year-old Lewis. who was picked up by the Patriots as a free agent on April 2, is a 6-foot-2, 301-pounder who was a first round pick of the Rams in 2001. He spent five seasons with St. Louis (2001-2005) and another four with Carolina before signing a one-year deal with New England this past offseason.

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Stephen Neal on D&H: Moving on without Logan Mankins

09.03.10 at 12:12 pm ET
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Stephen Neal

Stephen Neal

Patriots lineman Stephen Neal joined the Dale & Holley show Friday. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley show audio on demand page.

Neal was asked about fellow lineman Logan Mankins, who remains at home in California embroiled in a contract dispute. “You’re definitely missing a Pro Bowl player, a tough guy and just a great guy to be around,” Neal said. “But we can’t really focus on that right now. Whoever’s here, [let's] all strap it up and go out together.”

Neal said he’s been impressed by tight end Alge Crumpler, who is in his first season with the Patriots after nine years in the league. “He’s a great addition to this football team,” Neal said. “We have a couple of young tight ends. … He’s giving them great words of insiration and really getting them on track. I think he’s going to be a great leader on this team, helping the young tight ends come along.”

Neal and guest co-host Troy Brown told the story of Neal’s first training camp in 2001, when the former collegiate wrestling standout barricaded himself in his dorm room at Bryant College as veterans including Willie McGinest and Bobby Hamilton tried in vain to break in and haze him with a rookie haircut. At about 2 a.m., after the players threatened to steal his playbook, Neal let them in, winning a measure of respect for his apparent feat of strength. “They broke my door handle,” Neal recalled. “So, I had to get the nightstand and put that up against the door. But all they could see in the mirror was my arm holding the door, so they thought I was [holding them off] with one hand.”

Prior to Thursday’s game against the Giants, Neal had a race with Tom Brady while the two were doing conditioning drills. “Tom got me,” Neal admitted, adding, “I figured it would be better for him to win.”

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Which Patriots will crack the top 100?

09.03.10 at 12:07 pm ET
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Friday night at 10 p.m., the NFL Network will air the first of  a 10-part series counting down the top 100 players in the league’s history. You know it’ll be good, NFL Films is always the absolute standard for this kind of stuff.

Here’s a guess as to which former and current Patriots will land on the list …

Tom Brady

It’ll be interesting to see how the active players are ranked. A case could be made for Peyton Manning and Brett Favre over Brady, am I missing any other current players (at any position) who might slip ahead? Ray Lewis, I guess. But I think Manning will the only active player ranked ahead of Brady, and not by much.

Where will he rank?

20th, and fourth among QBs (behind Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas and Manning).

John Hannah

It strikes me that the image of Hannah has faded pretty dramatically over the last couple of decades in Boston. Probably a combination of the position he played and what has happened with the Patriots since Belichick and Brady got rolling. But there is no shame in thinking that Hannah — and not Brady — is still the greatest player in franchise history. Ten All-Pro Teams, a member of both the 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Team, and voted the top guard on the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. Think about it: How many players in Boston sports annals can seriously be considered the very best in history at the position they played? Larry Bird and Bill Russell, sure. Bobby Orr. Ted Williams. Brady. Hannah is right there with them, but his name just doesn’t hold near the same weight in Boston sports circles.

Where will he rank?

26th, and second among OL (behind Anthony Munoz).

Randy Moss

Hard to compare the stats of a WR today to those of 30 (or even 20) years ago, but Moss’ career numbers are so good that it’s impossible to doubt his rightful place among the all-timers. He’s second all-time in TD catches, fourth all-time in total TDs, sixth in receiving yards and 10th in receptions. He’s not going to catch Jerry Rice (208 TDs) but there is a chance that when Moss retires he will rank second all-time in total TDs scored (he has 149, four behind LaDainian Tomlinson and 26 behind Emmitt Smith). Just a TD machine, really, as we’ve seen in New England. Ozzie Newsome is a Hall of Fame tight end, caught over 650 passes in his 13-year career. He retired with 47 TD catches, or just one more than Moss has caught in his three seasons with the Patriots.

Where will he rank?

32nd, and fourth among WR (behind Rice, Don Hutson and Lance Alworth).

Junior Seau

OK, what he did to get on the list wasn’t accomplished while wearing a Patriots uniform, but we’ll allow it. There was always a small crowd that felt Junior was a little overrated — and I think playing for six or seven years past his prime combined with the multiple retirements has hurt his legacy — but this was a game-changing defender in the 1990s. Easy first-ballot Hall of Famer with seven All-Pro selections and a Defensive Player of the Year Award to his name.

Where will he rank?

68th, and eighth among LB (behind Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Ray Lewis, Mike Singletary, Ray Nitschke and Sam Huff).

Curtis Martin

Never the best running back in football during his career, but never outside of the top four or five, either. Martin’s worst season as a full-time starter was probably 2002, when all he did was rush for nearly 1,100 yards and catch 49 passes. Curtis Martin was as consistent a productive back as the game as ever seen. Never got close to 2,000 yards in a season, but put up so many 1,200-1,300 yard years that he now ranks fourth all-time in yards rushing. Here’s the rest of the top four, to give you an idea of the company he keeps.

Emmitt Smith

Walter Payton

Barry Sanders

I’m not saying he’s the fourth-best back in NFL history, but he’s somewhere in the top dozen. Still think it’s a shame he wasn’t in New England for the Super Bowls, he would have fit in perfectly with those teams, and was still a top RB until 2004 (led the league in rushing for the only time).

Where will he rank?

98th, and 12th among RB (behind Brown, Payton, Smith, Sanders, Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Tomlinson, Red Grange and Marshall Faulk.)

Also considered

Ben Coates

Mike Haynes

Rodney Harrison

Andre Tippett

Nick Buoniconti

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Nuggetpalooza’s Pats schedule preview: Indianapolis

09.03.10 at 10:15 am ET
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nuggetpalooza-small8The Patriots play Indianapolis on Nov. 21 at 4:15 p.m. in Foxboro.

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What The Colts Did Well Last Season:

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* – Efficient Third Down Offense: The Colts converted a league best 49% of their third down tries last season.  They were also the league’s best at converting 3rd downs in the red zone, going 24-39 (61.5%):

61.5% – Indianapolis Colts
57.1% – Miami Dolphins
52.2% – Arizona Cardinals

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* – Lots Of Extremely Long Scoring Drives: Indy scored 7 different times on drives of 90+ yards last season.  The 49ers and Raiders each had zero such scoring drives.  Also, 39% of their scoring drives were 80+ yards (26 of 66), the highest percentage in the league:

39% – Indianapolis Colts
37% – Detroit Lions
35% – Tennessee Titans

I can’t tell whether this is related or not, but the Colts were the only team in the league that did not ALLOW a scoring drive of 90+ yards in 2009.

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* – Stopped 4th Down Tries: Opponents converted just 6 of 19 (32%) on 4th down last season, the 2nd best percentage in the league.  I recall one in particular.

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* – Forced Opponents Into Short Passes: Only 22% of passing yards against the Colts last season came on plays of 20 yards or more, the lowest percentage in the NFL:

22% – Indianapolis Colts
30% – San Diego Chargers
30% – Chicago Bears

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* – Kept Receivers In Front Of Them: The Colts allowed only 2 receptions with 21 or more YAC (yards after catch) last season, by far the fewest in the league:

2 – Indianapolis Colts
6 – Buffalo Bills
8 – Five teams tied

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* – Avoided Penalties: The Colts were penalized only 546 yards last season, 2nd fewest in the league (Jacksonville, 542).

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* – Converted Once In The Red Zone: Indianapolis averaged 5.30 points per red zone trip in 2009, the 2nd highest average in the NFL:

5.48 – Arizona Cardinals
5.30 – Indianapolis Colts
5.11 – Miami Dolphins

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Jerod Mayo on D&C: Brandon Spikes needs to ‘get over it’

09.03.10 at 10:04 am ET
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Jerod Mayo

Jerod Mayo

Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo joined the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to talk about Thursday’s preseason loss to the Giants and the season outlook as the regular-season opener approaches. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Mayo said the critics of this Patriots defense only serve to inspire the players. “You definitely have to use it as motivation,” Mayo said. “I try not to get into all the media and the callers and stuff like that. At the same time, you still hear the things. You use it as motivation. They said the same thing last year. They kind of bashed our defense. But we still ended up fifth in scoring defense in the league. Even though we had a couple of bad games — you take away a couple of those bad games last year, we would have been up pretty close to the top. At the same time, we have to go out every week and prove the doubters wrong.”

Mayo said one the keys for the defense is to get more pressure on the quarterback. “I think we need to get to the quarterback a little bit more. Put a little more pressure on the quarterback, don’t give him as much time to make all his reads back there,” Mayo said. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job as far as stopping the inside run, even though the ball’s bounced out a couple of times. That’s another thing we need to improve on, the outside. Overall, I think we’re pretty confident in this scheme and ready for Week 1.”

Mayo talked about what it’s like being a leader of the defense at such a young age. “It’s a little awkward going into your third year being a leader,” he admitted. “At the same time, I welcome the challenge. A lot of the guys look up to me as far as communication the field, as far as going out there and getting everybody on the right page. It’s something I enjoy doing. It’s not a problem at all. We still have some good players on the team. We still have some good leaders on the team that have been here longer than I have. Vince Wilfork‘s been here for a long time. We just want to go out and do our job and get it done.”

Fellow linebacker Brandon Spikes made headlines this week when his sex video made its way across the Internet. May discussed how the rookie is dealing with the notoriety. “He came to me, as a matter of fact, before it all came out and talked to me about it and asked me what he should do,” Mayo said. “I told him, ‘Just handle it like a professional. You’re not in college anymore. You’re in the NFL. You have to handle these things and take it in stride and get over it. This week we’re playing the Cincinnati Bengals. That has to be the only thing on your mind going into the game.’ ”

Added Mayo: “He definitely was embarrassed about it. He had a whole lot of remorse as far as the whole situation went. But at the end of the day, you can’t take it back. Hopefully, he’ll get over it and be ready to play.

“It is a lesson. In this day and age, technology is all over the place. There’s always a camera phone, there’s always a camera or whatever. You have to be careful with things. You never know what’s going to happen. Just conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times, especially in the public eye, and you’ll be fine.”

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Postgame notes from Patriots-Giants

09.03.10 at 3:00 am ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are a few postgame notes from Thursday’s preseason finale between the Patriots and Giants:

•The New England first offense and defensive units started the game and played through the majority of the first quarter which accounted for two series each.

•For the fourth straight week first-round pick CB Devin McCourty and second-round pick LB Brandon Spikes started on defense.

•RB Thomas Clayton’s 55-yard kickoff return in the first quarter is the Patriots fourth return of 50 or more yards in the 2010 preseason. Rookie CB Devin McCourty had a 52 yard return and a 50 yard return in the first preseason game vs. New Orleans (8/12).WR Brandon Tate opened the St. Louis game (8/26) with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

•QB Tom Brady started and played the entire first quarter, finishing 4-of-8 for 51 yards with one touchdown and one interception. On his first drive of the game, he led the Patriots on an 8-play, 45-yard drive that was culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass to TE Rob Gronkowski.
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Belichick on his defense: ‘We’ll find out soon enough’

09.02.10 at 11:16 pm ET
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Beyond discovering that Bill Belichick thinks the world of tight end Alge Crumpler, what do we know about what the field boss of the Patriots thinks about his team just over a week from the opener against Cincinnati at Gillette Stadium?

Well, first of all, he believes his young team is also a well-conditioned team.

“We had our ups and downs,” Belichick said of his team’s 2-2 preseason. “I think the team has worked hard, real hard and is in good condition and I think we’ll be ready to go.”

The Patriots opened the preseason with a pair of wins over New Orleans and Atlanta, both of whom they scrimmaged just days before in the hot summer sun of Foxboro and suburban Atlanta.

Then they finished with late-game losses to St. Louis and the New York Giants, the latter of which came at the New Meadowlands Stadium, a venue they will re-visit on Sept. 19 against the stars of “Hard Knocks.”

“It was a good, competitive game tonight,” Belichick said of the 20-17 setback on Thursday. “We ran out defensive linemen there. It’s on to Cincinnati now.”

Then there’s the defense. Thursday was a true test run of what you might expect once the bullets turn live on Sept. 12.

There’s reason to be seeking shelter.

The Pats gave up an opening drive TD to Eli Manning, who needed just over four minutes to march 86 yards in nine plays, capped off with a 13-yard crossing route to a wide open Kevin Boss. Forget the third unit giving up the 60-yard game-winner to Duke Calhoun.

What really has to concern the Patriots is that Ahmad Bradshaw and Manning did what they wanted on the ground and through the air against a first-unit defense. Yes, the Patriots weren’t showing any complexity in their schemes. But they also weren’t showing great ability to tackle or cover either.

“Everything concerns you,” Belichick said. “Everything is really a question mark. We’ll find out where we stand soon enough.”

One player Belichick certainly would not seem to be concerned about is field general Tom Brady. On his first possession of the game, Brady led the team on a well-orchestrated opening drive after the Giants scored, finding Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown for the third time in two weeks. The red zone woes of 2009 seem to have been addressed for now.

“Nice to see us move the ball, a lot better than it was last week,” Belichick said. “I thought the backs ran hard.”

Ah, the much-ballyhooed running game. Will Laurence Maroney, who had 32 yards on nine carries, be part of it? Is Fred Taylor ready? Will the Patriots go running back by committee?

“I think everyone has something to offer. I think we’ll try to do what’s best for team and gives us best chance to win that game, we’ll do,” is all Belichick would let on.

Another highlight was the play of Darnell Jenkins. The speedy second-year player out of Miami may have earned his way back onto the 53-man roster after Saturday’s 4 p.m. cuts with five catches for 93 yards and a 66-yarder from Brian Hoyer that he took to the house.

“He’s had an exciting preseason,” Belichick said. “He’s competitive with the ball in his hands. He made some big plays.”

But apparently the player that impressed Belichick the most is Crumpler, the 6-foot-2 tight end in his 10th NFL season.

“He’s been great, so professional in every way,” Belichick said. “His mental toughness, focus, he’s been awesome. Been good for all of us.”

Now, if Crumpler’s attitude can just carry over to the defense, these 2010 Patriots may really be in business.

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