|05.01.12 at 3:55 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Chad Ochocinco, head of the New England Welcome Wagon?
When new Patriots’ defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene signed a three-year deal with the Patriots in March — like any new employee — he went looking for some familiar faces at his new place of employment. That’s what led him to former Bengals teammate Ochocinco. The two were together for six seasons in Cincinnati, and it’s clear Fanene still has a soft spot for the wide receiver.
‘Ocho is a good guy, a good leader,’ the soft-spoken Fanene said Tuesday afternoon in a break between workouts at Gillette Stadium. ‘When I came into Cincinnati, he really took me under his arm and taught me the game out there.
‘I talked to him a little bit last week,’ Fanene added. ‘He’s just trying to put me on the game, let me know what’s going on out here. This is not Cincinnati. This is not a rookie-league team that you should play. This is real business now. I’m trying to get my two feet in and work.’
Was he surprised that Ochocinco struggled in his first season with the Patriots?
‘I’ll be honest — yeah. I really didn’t hear a lot of his name last year on any of the games,’ he said. ‘I believe there’s a reason why: He came in right in the middle of training camp and tried to learn the system, tried to get used to the culture out here. I believe he’s going to come back hard this year, do his job and do the best he can do to help the team.’
Fanene certainly has more of an opportunity to get to know his surroundings than Ochocinco did. The native of American Samoa signed a three-year deal with the Patriots in March. A 6-foot-4, 292-pounder out of Utah who has played seven seasons in the NFL (all with Cincinnati), the 30-year-old had his best season in 2009 when he started 10 games and finished with 36 tackles (18 solo) with six sacks and an interception.
Fanene said he ‘had a chance’ to make some other free agent visits, but he was ‘excited’ when he got the call from Bill Belichick and the Patriots in the first week of free agency.
‘There’s a lot of good things out here,’ he said. ‘There’s a winning franchise, first of all, and it’s a blessing to be here and to be a part of the Patriots. I told myself I just want to do the best I can do out here so we can win.
‘I guess they watched film on me, and I guess [they saw] what they need to build up the pressure or the pass rush up here,’ he added.
And in his first series of offseason workouts, it’s pretty much lived up to expectations. Fanene said there are a lot of differences between playing in New England and in Cincinnati.
‘I see guys focused more, not just in the workout, but everything we do out here is more like a team effort,’ he said. ‘Guys really welcomed me inside the locker room. It’s not about all of the talking, the media, TV stuff, but it’s more hardworking and just do your job.’
He does have some positional versatility along the defensive front, but isn’t worried about fitting into a scheme just yet.
‘Right now, we just started coaching sessions. I can give you more information about that when we get to OTAs and minicamp,’ he said. ‘But like I said, they see something on film that they like, so they brought me out here for a reason. I’m just going to do the best I can do out there.
‘Whatever they tell me [to do]. If they tell me to play nose, I’ll play nose, three-technique, six-, seven-, outside end, special teams. I’m doing it.’
Here are a few other highlights from the Q&A:
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|05.01.12 at 11:49 am ET|
On Tuesday, it was a coach — and a friend of Belichick’s — who had some interesting words regarding the New England coach. Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked about the urge to bend the rules while making an appearance on 98 Rock Radio in Baltimore. Here’s what he had to say:
“In the end everything is brought before the light of day when it’s all said and done. … So what happens is, even the thing in New England and the thing … No matter whether those things had any impact on whether they won their championships or not, they got asterisks now. It’s been stained. So to me it’s never worth it.
“You’ve got to figure out ways to use the rules to your advantage, you’ve got to figure out ways to make the most of everything, we’ve got new work rules here as far as what we can do and what we can’t do with our players, we’re going to make the most of it and what we’re finding is, man, in a way we can do things even better than we did before because these rules make us focus more on things we didn’t focus on before, and you’ve got to make them work for you. That’s what success is in the world – you’ve got to find a way to do things better than somebody else. But in the end, if you’re cheating, you’re going to get discredited. It’s just not worth it.”
|04.30.12 at 1:29 pm ET|
University of Kentucky wide receiver/quarterback Matt Roark will join the Patriots as an undrafted free agent, per the official Twitter feed of the Kentucky football program. A 6-foot-5, 214-pounder, Roark had 54 catches for 584 yards and a touchdown in four seasons with the Wildcats, including 36 receptions for 349 yards as a senior.
By the looks of things, Roark can do a little of everything: in addition to his work as a wide receiver, he’s spent a lot of time on special teams. (Going into his senior year, he blocked six kicks in his career, five extra points and a field goal.) In addition, when the Wildcats suffered a rash of injuries, he took snaps at quarterback this past season, and helped UK pull off the upset against Tennessee, 10-7.
One video of note on Roark: The win over Tennessee was so unlikely that the fans carried him off the field at the end of the game. That’s him wearing No. 3 in the middle of all the madness:
|04.30.12 at 12:22 pm ET|
Here’s a look at who will be representing each one of New England’s seven draft picks at the negotiating table:
Chandler Jones: The former Syracuse defensive end is repped by the agency of Lock, Metz, Malinovic and Panos, a group that had 13 athletes selected in the NFL draft, including three in the first round. Part of their team is former NFL offensive lineman Joe Panos, a veteran who some Patriots fans might remember as being in training camp in 2001 for a few days before ultimately deciding to retire.
Dont’a Hightower: Hightower, taken with the 25th overall pick, is represented by Pat Dye, Jr., of SportsTrust Advisors. SportsTrust had 10 clients selected in the draft, according to Darren Heitner of the Sports Agent Blog, but the Alabama linebacker was their only first-round pick.
Tavon Wilson: The Illinois defensive back lists Integrated Sports Management as his agency. ISM has repped a few former Patriots, including Shun White and Kyle Eckel.
Jake Bequette: The defensive lineman out of Arkansas is represented by Athletes First, a group that had 13 clients taken in the NFL draft, including four in the first round. Athletes First is an extremely well-known agency around New England, as they represent several current Patriots, including Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Zoltan Mesko, Ryan Mallett and Brian Waters.
Nate Ebner: As of right now, Ebner’s representation is not known. Ebner is a defensive back and former rugby star out of Ohio State.
Alfonzo Dennard: The cornerback out of Nebraska is also repped by Athletes First. If Waters does return and both Dennard and Bequette stick, that would make 10 players from Athletes First on the New England roster, far and away the largest number for any agency.
Jeremy Ebert: Ebert, a wide receiver from Northwestern, lists Priority Sports as his representation, a group that had 13 players taken in the draft this month, according to Heitner.
|04.30.12 at 12:53 am ET|
Chandler Jones talked about the crazy scene at home when he got the call from the Patriots letting him know that he was drafted. Now, courtesy of CitrusTV, we get a look at what happened when the phone rang. Patriots director of football/head coach administration Berj Najarian is the one who speaks with Jones first. Some great video:
|04.29.12 at 12:12 pm ET|
The NFL draft may be over, but there are a lot more transactions taking place this weekend as undrafted free agents become available for teams to pick up. Not many players from New England schools ending getting drafted this weekend, but there were a whole lot more signed as free agents later that night.
While some New England schools expected some of their players to sign with teams, other small schools like Endicott are surprising places for NFL teams to be looking for talent. Here’s the rundown of where players have been signed as of early Sunday morning, broken down by players per school.
FB/TE Emil Igwenagu — Eagles: The two-time team captain was the one Minuteman who was expected to be drafted this weekend. It turns out, though, that even though he received a combine invite, Igwenagu was too much of a tweener for a team to pick him up as a tight end or fullback. However, he gets a shot here with the Eagles.
OLB Tyler Holmes — Bears: The other two-time captain for the Minutemen, Holmes is a quick linebacker. Holmes was extremely productive for the Minutemen, recording over 100 tackles in three different seasons for the Minutemen and receiving many national FCS accolades.
G Josh Samuda — Dolphins: The 6-foot-3, 312 road grader started 11 games as a redshirt freshman at UMass and has remained a rock on the line since.
WR Julian Talley — Giants: The Giants sign another UMass receiver as an undrafted free agent, hoping he can emulate former undrafted UMass receiver Victor Cruz‘ breakout 2011 season. Talley was very productive during his final two seasons with the Minutemen and, while he doesn’t have Cruz’ speed, possesses more size and power as a receiver.
LS Travis Tripucka — Rams: Tripucka catches on with the Rams as a long snapper, hoping to have that skill set translate into an NFL career. Tripucka was also an exceptional defenseman for the UMass lacrosse program.
DE Kevin Eagan — Colts: This 6-foot-4, 274 pound defensive end from West Hartford, Conn. had an exceptional career for the Division III Gulls. Eagan, who led his team in tackles in all four seasons he played, recorded 104 tackles, 8.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and a whopping 23 tackles for loss as a senior, earning ECAC defensive player of the year honors for his second year in a row.
LS/TE Taylor Allen — Jaguars: Another Gull catches on with a team, this time a 6-foot-5, 250 pound long snapper from Westboro, Mass. While Allen will look to catch on as a special teams ace, he did pull in 35 catches for 482 yards and six touchdowns as a tight end last season.
WR Kashif Moore — Bengals: Another player expected to be drafted, Moore still has potential as a slot threat in the NFL. He lacks ideal size, but Moore still has the ability to line up off the ball and use his elite speed to separate underneath and vertically.
CB Gary Wilburn — Titans: The 5-foot-11 prospect moved into a key role on the Husky defense as a senior, but didn’t have much production, recording just one pass breakup and one deflection. However, the Titans apparently saw enough upside in Wilburn to sign him as a free agent.
CB Donnie Fletcher — Jets: Fletcher was another unexpected draft snub. The former Eagle showed off decent athletic ability at the combine and potential as a physical zone-coverage defender in the NFL. However, Fletcher, who remains the only former BC player other than Luke Kuechly, was picked up quickly after the draft and was likely a top free agent pickup of the Jets
|04.29.12 at 12:32 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have signed former wrestlers and lacrosse players. So when New England selected Ohio State safety Nate Ebner in the sixth round (197th overall) of the NFL draft on Saturday, it should come as no surprise. After all, before Ebner started playing football, he was considered one of the best teenage rugby players in America.
Of course, there are some connections between rugby and football. A few, anyway.
‘It compares in the fact that we hit each other and there’s a lot of running and some big dudes,’ Ebner said in a conference call with reporters on Saturday shortly after the Patriots picked him. ‘I don’t know that it compares a lot. I’d say just the speed of the game and the tackling are similar.
‘They’re very different sports. I guess the fact that when it’s time to come down and hit somebody as I’m running down on kickoff, I’d say that’s very similar to the time it comes down you’re in a rugby game and you have to hit someone. The tackling, I guess, is similar.’
Ebner joined the Buckeyes as a walk-on in 2009 after an impressive career as a rugby player — playing on the under-19 and under-20 U.S. national rugby teams, he was named MVP of those teams in the 2007 and 2008 world rugby tournaments, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
With the Buckeyes, he played sparingly on defense, but eventually landed a scholarship and became a key component of Ohio State’s special teams unit. He had 11 tackles as a senior, as well as a sack. He popped up on radar screens with an impressive Pro Day, where he ran a 4.55 40-yard dash, finished with 23 reps on the bench press, showed off a 39-inch vertical and impressed everyone with a 6.59 3-cone time.
‘Nate is a guy that is a big, fast safety that has been very productive in the kicking game,’ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. ‘[He’s a] relatively inexperienced player that we think has a lot of good football in front of him.
‘Of course, we have some good connections at Ohio State, people that have worked with him that obviously that played a part in it too, just in terms of his overall development and where we think he can be.’
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