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Several Patriots garner PFW, PFWA honors

01.17.11 at 7:38 pm ET
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The Patriots season ended Sunday evening, but they should be busy now that the NFL award season is underway. Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers of America named its 2010 award winners, all-pro and all-rookie teams on Monday, and there were several Patriots represented. Quarterback Tom Brady was voted the league MVP by the PFW and PFWA, and was also named all-NFL. Meanwhile, coach Bill Belichick was named NFL coach of the year. In addition, linebacker Jerod Mayo was named to the all-NFL team, and tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Devin McCourty and punter Zoltan Mesko were named to the publication’s all-rookie team.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski

Rob Ninkovich says he injured the LCL in left knee, but it won’t require surgery

01.17.11 at 3:43 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Patriots outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich sounded an optimistic note about the injury he suffered in the playoff loss to the Jets. The Purdue product, who came off the field in the second half and did not return after injuring his left knee, indicated that it was an LCL injury that would ultimately not require surgery.

“[It's] not going to be anything major. It didn’t touch the ACL. That’s all that I care about, really,” said Ninkovich, who will stay in Massachusetts to undergo rehab.

Ninkovich suffered a more serious injury to his right knee injury earlier in his career, and was just thankful this one isn’t as bad as the old one.

“I’ve already had a nine-month on the right so I didn’t want a nine-month on the left,” he said. “That’s really all I worried about, was the major one. It was just the lateral, so it’ll heal in six weeks.”

Ninkovich, had 58 tackles, four sacks, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions, nine quarterback hits and three passes defensed this season. He also had 11 special teams tackles.

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The Big Nickel: Patriots still in shock over loss as rookies discuss playoffs and team faces looming labor questions

01.17.11 at 3:20 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things to know about the Patriots on Monday:

1. Patrick Chung (whose appearance was covered here by colleague Mike Petraglia) was one of several players who took time out from packing up their lockers to reflect on the end of the season. It was a group that included wide receiver Deion Branch, tight end Rob Gronkowski and cornerback Devin McCourty, as well as linebackers Rob Ninkovich and Tully Banta-Cain.

Chung’€™s admission that he was the one who botched the fake punt was the big news of the day, as the safety, who was working as the up man for punter Zoltan Mesko, said ‘€œblame me’€ for what happened.

‘€œOf course, there are regrets,’€ Chung said. ‘€œThat’€™s part of the game. That’€™s all on me, not Bill, not [special teams coach Scott O'€™Brien], none of them. I take full responsibility. I just saw a look we have. That’€™s how it goes. Make the call and it didn’€™t work out for us. Leave [Patriots coach] Bill [Belichick] alone, leave Scotty alone. I take responsibility, blame me.

‘€œThere’€™s no if. There’€™s no if. I didn’€™t catch it. That’€™s part of the game. That’€™s part of the game. Some things happen, you have to bounce back from it. That play is over now and it didn’€™t work out for us. I take full responsibility. No one else.’€

Meanwhile, 12 hours after the loss to the Jets, the rest of the locker room was still dealing with the aftermath of the defeat.

‘€œWe obviously are all in shock. We weren’€™t expecting this to happen. It was one of those things where all you can do is just reflect and hope you do better going forward,’€ said Banta-Cain. ‘€œWe had gained some momentum from the regular season going into the playoffs, and it kind of felt like we had some good steam behind that momentum, and for it to come to a screeching halt, no one was expecting that.’€

‘€œI think everybody has different thought process on how the season was going and how it ended,’€ said Branch. ‘€œBut I think it all comes down to the fact that it ended the way we didn’€™t want it to end. I think that’€™s the biggest thing. We can all put our own spin on it, but it just didn’€™t end the way we wanted it to end.’€

2. Belichick and the Patriots are now in a curious spot ‘€” the uncertain labor situation involving the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has the league facing murky future. Belichick does have some history in this area, having worked an assistant coach when work stoppages altered the 1982 and 1987 schedules, and he knows enough to know that as a coach, he has very little control over the situation.

‘€œIt’€™s different, but similar to two other situations I was involved in in ‘€˜82 and ‘€˜87. It’€™s the same type of thing,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œI’€™d say if you are in the business long enough, that’€™s part of it. It’€™s uncertain in that situation. I’€™m certain it will get resolved in time … whenever that is, at some point. In the meantime, you do what you can do. Those things are all out of my control as a coach. I don’€™t deal with any of that. Whenever it’€™s resolved, it’€™s resolved. In the meantime, we’€™ll do the best that we can with the opportunities and the information that we have.
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Read More: Adalius Thomas, Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch

Bill Belichick breaks down where it broke down

01.17.11 at 3:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There are three things that Patriots are wondering the day after the second-most stunning loss in franchise history.

What was Patrick Chung thinking calling an audible to the fake-punt call late in the first half?

Where was the defense as the Patriots allowed Mark Sanchez to march up and down the field in the final three quarters, throw three touchdowns and allow a critical 58-yard fourth-quarter completion to Jerricho Cotchery?

And where was the urgency on offense in the fourth quarter as the Patriots trailed by 10 points?

Bill Belichick was asked about all three Monday and his answers varied from direct to read-between-the-lines. First, what were the Jets doing to take the Patriots offense out of their rhythm?

“I’€™d say it’€™s a combination of things,” Belichick said. “There were a couple of times where they had a scheme where we really didn’€™t have it picked up. There were other times where we had it picked up, [but] either a route wasn’€™t open or we didn’€™t do a good job of getting open on the route or the protection broke down ‘€“ it was a physical breakdown ‘€“ things like that. It was a combination of things.”

As for the fourth-quarter strategy of running the ball against their dime package – the Jets’ six-cornerback package – trailing by 10 points, Belichick said the most urgent matter was getting points, not necessarily a touchdown.

“Well, I hope to score,” he said. “That’€™s what I’€™d hope for. I’€™d hope to score. There are five minutes to go in the game ‘€“ over five minutes to go in the game ‘€“ we were stopped on the fourth-and-13, but if we score on that drive, it’€™s a one-score game with five minutes to go in the game. It’€™s not the position you want to be in, but it’€™s not a bad position to be in. Without the score, now you’€™re down by two scores with five minutes to go ‘€“ now that’€™s a problem.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl

Patrick Chung: ‘I take full responsibility, blame me’ for botched fake punt

01.17.11 at 2:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patrick Chung stood in front of his locker on Monday and accepted full blame for the botched fake-punt call near the end of the first half that led to a Jets touchdown and 14-3 halftime deficit. Chung said head coach Bill Belichick and special teams coach Scott O’Brien should not be faulted for the call on 4th-and-4 at the Patriots 38.

“Of course, there are regrets,” Chung said. “That’s part of the game. That’s all on me, not Bill, not Scotty-O, none of them. I take full responsibility. I just saw a look we have. That’s how it goes. Make the call and it didn’t work out for us. Leave Bill alone, leave Scotty-O alone. I take responsibility, blame me.

“There’s no if. There’s no if. I didn’t catch it. That’s part of the game. That’s part of the game. Some things happen, you have to bounce back from it. That play is over now and it didn’t work out for us. I take full responsibility. No one else.”

Read More: botched fake punt, fake punt, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Vince Wilfork on D&H: ‘We picked the wrong time to play the way we played’

01.17.11 at 12:46 pm ET
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Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork stopped by to chat with Dale & Holley from Gillette Stadium on Monday afternoon as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday. Wilfork said the Jets “didn’t do anything we didn’t prepare for,” making Sunday’s 28-21 loss that much more frustrating. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Wilfork, who did not speak to the media Sunday night because he was afraid he would have said something he would later regret, tried to accentuate the positive.

“All year, we’ve grown as a team,” he said. “To end like this is kind of heartbreaking. But at the same time, you can go look back and reflect on this season and say it was a very successful season. People never gave us a chance at the beginning of the year. To go 14-2 and see a lot of young guys grow into professionals, it says a lot to this organization and this team.

“With the loss to the Jets, we hate that we lost that ballgame. We picked the wrong time to play the way we played.”

Asked about the Jets’ trash-talking, Wilfork said: “We can’t sit back and criticize any of the things they said, because they performed. They won the football game. As bad as that sounds, it is what it is. What they said, you have to roll with it.”

Asked if he was tempted to respond to some of the Jets’ comments last week, Wilfork said: “Of course. That’s the one thing. We sit back. We’re not about talking in the media and doing all that. But at some point, it gets aggravating. Where we come from, most of the guys, you’re a punk. You let anybody talk to you in any kind of way. It is very tempting at times. It is very tempting. But you have to be the bigger man in those situations.”

Wilfork said he didn’t think Bill Belichick‘s benching of Wes Welker for the opening series was a big deal, but he would not have handled it the same way. “I didn’t hear about that until the end of the game,” he said. “That was something Bill and Wes went through. Me, personally, I don’t know, I don’t know. That’s the head man making a point about what we represent. I wouldn’t have done it. That’s just me. Biggest game of the year so far, and probably one of your biggest players not being on the field. That’s just me. Everybody has their opinion. That’s my opinion. I wouldn’t have done it.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, playoffs, Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker

Bill Belichick is sure the NFL labor situation will ‘get resolved in time’

01.17.11 at 11:10 am ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick and the Patriots now have to wait for a new collective bargaining agreement to be worked out before moving forward with several veteran players such as Logan Mankins and Matt Light. The Patriots coach admitted that this off-season is a little different simply because they will have to wait to see what the rules and guidelines are for signing players, both their own and free agents.

“So, rather than try and get too far ahead of ourselves on things like that with our current players, we’ll wait and give that some time and see exactly what are the rules of the off-season, if there is no collective bargaining agreement,” Belichick said.

The current collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association expires March 3, with no new deal on the horizon. If the two sides don’t reach agreement before then, the players will not be allowed to attend team-related training activities.

“We’ll wait and see what happens,” added Belichick. “For right now, I’d say the draft is the one thing pretty much cemented in the future. We all know what the situation is on that. It’s different but similar to two other situations I was involved in, in ’82 and ’87, it’s the same type of thing. If you’re in the business long enough, that’s part of it. It’s uncertain in that situation. Eventually, I’m sure it’ll get resolved in time, whenever that is, at some point.”

The last two labor impasses that resulted in games lost occurred in the nine-game season of 1982 and the 15-game slate in 1987, which included three games of replacement players.

“I would say that certainly between now and whenever it is, the beginning of March, we’ll know more at the beginning of March than we know today,” Belichick said. “It might not be much more, it might be a lot more, I don’t know. We’ll know more so at least until that point, it’s still some degree of speculation.”

Players will have exit physicals on Monday and a team meeting with Belichick. The Patriots coach said he will then take the next several days evaluating where the team is now and how to move forward.

“In the meantime, you do what you can do,” Belichick said. “Those things are out of my control as a coach. I don’t have anything to do with any of that, so whenever it’s resolved, it’s resolved. In the meantime, we’ll do the best we can with the opportunities or information we have. When those things become defined, we’ll deal with those definitions, whatever they happen to be.

“I would say that certainly between now and whenever it is, the beginning of March, we’ll know more at the beginning of March than we know today. It might not be much more, it might be a lot more, I don’t know. We’ll know more so at least until that point, it’s still some degree of speculation.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl, NFL labor
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