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Rob Ninkovich gets contract extension from Patriots

09.16.11 at 9:41 am ET
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Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich has signed a two-year, $4 million extension with New England. The 6-foot-2, 255-pound linebacker started 10 of 16 games last season, totaling 61 tackles, with four quarterback sacks and two interceptions. The 27-year-old, in his sixth season in the league, has become an integral part of the Patriots defense at the outside linebacker spot — he played 42 of the 77 defensive snaps in the regular-season opener Monday against the Dolphins.

The news was first reported by Brian McIntyre of Macs Football Blog.

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Devin McCourty on D&C: ‘Whatever message [Tom Brady] sends to the fans, I’m behind it 100 percent’

09.16.11 at 9:00 am ET
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Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday as he prepares for Sunday’s game against the Chargers. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Tom Brady started a controversy this week when he implied that Patriots fans should start drinking early Sunday in preparation for the 4:15 start, as he wants the fans to be loud and rowdy.

Said McCourty: “Whatever Tom says, whatever message he sends to the fans, I’m behind it 100 percent. ‘€¦ Whatever Tom says, I’m with it.”

The Chargers arrive with a potent offense, led by quarterback Philip Rivers.

“Out of all the quarterbacks we play, he’s definitely the top quarterback in this league,” McCourty said. “So, you have to be prepared for Philip, because he’s going to make every throw on the field, and he’s going to be accurate with that throw. So, you have to always be in great position if you want to even get close to making a play.”

McCourty likely will have the assignment of defending Vincent Jackson Sunday, six days after drawing a tough matchup against Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall. “I’m kind of expecting that same battle,” McCourty said. “Week by week, it doesn’t get any easier.”

Veteran tight end Antonio Gates also will provide the Patriots with a challenge.

“He’s been getting open for years in this league,” McCourty said. “No matter how you break it down, he finds a way to get open against defenses. That will be the key, to just stay on him, stay tight to him no matter what. Because he finds a way to get open no matter if you double-team, single-team, he gets open.”

Read More: Antonio Gates, Brandon Marshall, Devin McCourty, Philip Rivers

Randy Moss on return to Gillette: ‘No, I’m done’

09.16.11 at 8:15 am ET
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There has been speculation lately that Randy Moss has been hoping for a return to the Patriots, despite his recent decision to retire. The controversial receiver has spoken fondly about his former coach and teammates since his departure from Foxboro a year ago.

Moss was back in the area Thursday, playing a round of golf at Bungay Brook Golf Club in Bellingham, when Dennis & Callahan producer Ian Meropol and WAAF morning show co-host Lyndon Byers caught up with him in the parking lot.

Meropol asked: “Any chance we’ll see you in Gillette, Randy?” Replied Moss: “No, I’m done.”

Added Moss: “I’m just here golfing, minding my business.”

To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

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Drew Bledsoe is ‘humbled’ to be entering the Patriots Hall of Fame

09.15.11 at 5:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After trying on his Patriots Hall of Fame jacket (46 XXL) for the first time, Drew Bledsoe took a trip down memory lane on Thursday, two days before he becomes the first Patriots’ Super Bowl-winning player to enter the franchise’s hall of fame.

He gave it up for Tom Brady‘s 517 yards, the Robert Kraft family and even the old Foxboro Stadium. He actually liked it! Bledsoe will be inducted into the Patriots hall of fame on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. It’s free and open to the public.

What are your favorite Bledsoe memories?

Here are his two:

“Coming back in in that AFC Championship game against the Steelers,” Bledsoe said of his relief appearance of the injured Tom Brady in the Jan. 2002 game that preceded their epic Super Bowl win over the Rams. “That was a poignant moment for me for a lot of reasons. The magnitude of the game, having not been able to play for quite a while and being able to get back on the field for that game. That one stands out.”

Then there’s the greatest Patriots’ passing game before last Monday night. It was Nov. 1994 when the Patriots found themselves trailing the Vikings, 20-3, and standing just 3-6 on the season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Drew Bledsoe, Hall at Patriot Place, New England Patriots, nfl

Devin McCourty and the Patriots are bracing for a super-charged Philip Rivers

09.15.11 at 4:22 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Devin McCourty figures it won’t be easy on Sunday.

He knows Philip Rivers and the Chargers no doubt will remember the last time he saw McCourty and the Patriots.

It was Oct. 24, 2010 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. It was the site of McCourty’s first career interception, a pick of a Rivers pass in the second quarter of New England’s 23-20 win.

That day the Chargers were without a full-strength Antonio Gates, as their all-world tight end was nursing a bad case of turf toe. Still, he caught four balls for 50 yards and touchdown. Vincent Jackson was unavailable because of a contract hold-out. And Malcom Floyd was out with a hamstring injury.

But still the Chargers – behind Rivers – were able to mount a furious comeback from a 20-3 Patriots’ advantage. The Chargers had a chance to tie from 45 yards and appeared to do so but Kris Brown‘s field goal was negated by a false start.

Instead, Brown’s 50-yarder bounced off the right upright and the Patriots escaped.

‘€œYou’€™ve got to just compete,’€ McCourty. ‘€œThis week, with Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd both being the receivers, they’€™re guys that can get vertical down the field as well. So we’€™ve got our hands full again. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Antonio Gates, Devin McCourty, Malcom Floyd, New England Patriots

Aaron Hernandez knows he’s a beast, and he loves it

09.15.11 at 11:02 am ET
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FOXBORO — Aaron Hernandez knows he’s unique in the NFL. And he doesn’t mind embracing everything that comes with being a 6-foot-1 tight end who weighs 245 pounds and can serve as a primary target for Tom Brady and also block big defensive ends when the need arises.

Monday night’s aerial performance might have been the best example of how Hernandez can open things up for the Patriots offense to put up “Madden-NFL” numbers.

He caught 10 balls for 103 yards, including a 1-yard TD pass in the 38-24 shootout in Miami. He constantly found open spaces in the soft underbelly of an overmatch Miami defense, that many times looked like they had no idea what was coming next.

That was all part of the grand plan according to Hernandez and coach Bill Belichick. It’s something that they plan on continuing this Sunday against the Chargers.

“Tom is definitely going to find the mismatch. When he gets to the line of scrimmage, and he sees the biggest mismatch, you know he’s coming,” Hernandez said.

“I think that’€™s the nature of any offense,” Belichick added. “You can’€™t move your five linemen, you can’€™t move the quarterback, you usually have a running back in the backfield so the players you move are your receivers or your tight ends and we’€™ve always done that. Both Aaron and Rob are versatile players, they can do some different things, they have different skills and they’€™re smart. You can move them around and give them different assignments and they’€™re able to handle that.”

The Patriots are facing a Chargers defense that led the NFL in 2010 but just lost a big, big piece when stud defensive end Luis Castillo went down Sunday with a broken leg in their win over Minnesota and is likely done for the season. Hernandez would have likely drawn several assignments on Castillo but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have welcomed the challenge.

“I definitely consider myself a tight end,” Hernandez said. “I’m 240 pounds. Not many receivers are 240. Not because people say I’m a receiver [and] I can’t block a 300-pound D-end but there’s not that many athletic tight ends in the league that are receiving tight ends that do block 300-pound D-ends. They just do the blocking jobs and the assignments that the coaches put before them.”

Belichick certainly considers blocking the defensive end part of any great tight end’s responsibility.

“That’€™s part of the nature of the tight end position I think,” Belichick said. “Whether you’€™re talking about [Antonio] Gates or [Anthony] Fasano or whoever we play next, that’€™s what most teams do. It is part of the formation, in a lot of cases, you set your defensive front based on a tight end’€™s location, you set your secondary rotation based on the tight end’€™s location so maneuvering those guys around, putting them in different positions, having them do different things, that’€™s what creates problems for the defense. I think all teams do that to some degree.

Do teams treat Hernandez as a tight end when they’€™re setting their defense?

“You have to ask them how they treat him, I don’€™t know,” Belichick said. “It depends on who we have on the field, who they have on the field, who else is in there but you’€™d have to talk to other teams about how they treat him, I don’€™t know the answer to that question.”

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Anthony Fasano, Antonio Gates, Madden

VOTE: Were Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison too tough on Chad Ochocinco?

09.14.11 at 11:44 pm ET
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Former Patriots Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison both hammered Chad Ochocinco this week, with Bruschi saying that Ochocinco needs to stop being in awe of Tom Brady and get in his playbook, while Harrison said Ochocinco’s numbers thus far are unacceptable. Do you think they were too harsh on Ochocinco? Tell us what you think.

Were Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison too hard on Chad Ochocinco?

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