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Albert Haynesworth: Time for ‘the sleeping giant to awaken’

09.08.11 at 12:40 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Albert Haynesworth feels like he’s ready to go.

On Thursday morning, the Patriots defensive tackle said he’s prepared to play in New England’s regular-season opener Monday night against the Dolphins in Miami, saying he’s “feeling good” about where he is at this stage of the season, especially compared to where he was last year.

“Last year. I didn’t think I was going to play. I was on a lot of scout team,” he said. “Now, I’m in the system and I’m playing and practicing, and I think it’s time for me, the sleeping giant, to awaken and to go back out there on the field and play football again.”

“He is a giant. He is a giant,” said Shaun Ellis with a laugh when asked about his 6-foot-6, 335-pound teammate. “Albert’s a pro. Pro’s adapt to whatever they have to go through. I think he’ll be all right.”

The 30-year-old Haynesworth, who struggled the last two seasons with the Redskins, played in just one preseason, but he sees the chance to play for the Patriots as something that’s rejuvenated his career.

“For two years, I was kind of taken out of football a little bit,” he said. “Now, I’m back in it and I’m triuly enjoying the game again. I’m truly enjoying coming into practice or coming in to work every day. Just to be able to have a chance again to play and show what I can do is awesome.

“I’€™m feeling good. I talked to my coaches and they said, ‘€˜Since they day you got in here, you’€™ve been improving and getting better.’€™ I still have work to do to get where I want to be but it’€™s coming along great.’€

Haynesworth said the assimilation process has been made easier by having the opportunity to work with acquaintances like Ellis, Vince Wilfork and Andre Carter, three guys who he’s had the opportunity to play alongside before.

“It’s been amazing,” Haynesworth said. “I’ve played with Andre in D.C. for two years and actually Shaun in college and Vince at the Pro Bowl. But I never could have dreamed or imagined that we’d all be on the same team and be out there chasing the quarterback and looking to kill the quarterback.”

Haynesworth also said Thursday he likes the scheme and the environment more than he did when he was in Washington.

“It shows a difference … or it makes a huge difference when you can come in and feel good about coming in the door (instead) of walking in the door and looking behind your back and all that stuff and who you talk to. You can talk to anybody here,” he said. “If you ever go to work hating your job, you’re not going to perform at your best. But if you enjoy coming to work and if you enjoy being around the people that you work with, you give it your all.”

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis, Vince Wilfork

Aye, Aye captain: Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater and Logan Mankins among six Patriots captains

09.08.11 at 10:52 am ET
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FOXBORO — In a vote among players, Devin McCourty has earned a place as a captain on the 2011 Patriots in just his second NFL season, according to a report in the Boston Herald.

The players voted the second-year corner as one of six team captains and one of three on defense, joining Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. On the offensive side, Tom Brady and Logan Mankins were voted in as captains while Matthew Slater was voted as a special teams captain.

“I would also say I think we have a lot of good leadership on this team,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on Wednesday. “And regardless of who the captains are, I think the leadership will come from all the players who provide that, not just the captains.”

Joining McCourty as first-year captains are Mankins and Slater. Mankins is entering his seventh NFL season while Slater has established himself as one of the most-trusted on special teams, and is entering his fourth season in the league.

Mayo is in his second year as captain on defense in his fourth year in the league while Brady is the senior member of the captains group in his 12th NFL season, 10th straight as a team captain.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Logan Mankins, Matthew Slater

NFL Power Rankings: Week 1

09.08.11 at 7:38 am ET
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The start of the 2011 season begins Thursday night in Green Bay. A game hasn’t been played yet, but already history has been made. Peyton Manning‘s streak of 227 consecutive starts will come to an end. A shortened but chaotic offseason/preseason resulted in many familiar faces ending up in different uniforms.

Week 1 already promises to be unforgettable. The Packers, slotted No. 1 in the WEEI Power Rankings, will take on the fourth-ranked Saints in what very well could be a preview of the NFC championship game. The Ryan brothers, Rex and Rob, will start the season vying for victory against each other when the Jets host the Cowboys. And the Ravens (8) and Steelers (2) will face off in another AFC North battle.

Let the games begin. And be sure to check out the WEEI NFL Power Rankings every Tuesday.

1. (1) Packers (10-6) ‘€” The Packers enter the season as the favorites to win yet another Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack managed to raise the Vince Lombardi trophy last year despite putting 15 players on IR. This year, they get many of those players back. Jermichael Finley and the Packers offense will be a nightmare for teams to defend against.

2. (2) Steelers (12-4) ‘€” The Steelers have depth on both sides of the ball. They brought back the majority of starters that carried them to the Super Bowl last year. Everyone knows how good they are defensively. This year look for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense to play just as well.

3. (3) Patriots (14-2) ‘€” The Patriots defense must play better this season or it will be another disappointing year in New England. Tom Brady can’t be expected to do it all. The Pats D needs to improve in many key areas including rushing the passer, getting off the field on third-down and limiting the amount of yards given up through the air. Adding Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis could solve those problems and propel the Pats from a playoff team to a Super Bowl team.

4. (5) Saints (11-5) ‘€” The Saints enter the season in a great position to get back to the Super Bowl. The 09′ champs addressed their needs in the offseason by adding an array of talent on both offense and defense. Heisman winner Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles add depth and talent to a run game that hindered Drew Brees‘ performance last season. On defense, they added Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin to solidify the line.

5. (4) Eagles (10-6) ‘€” It’s all about keeping Michael Vick healthy. The Eagles have plenty of weapons offensively that should be used to keep Vick from taking a similar pounding in 2011 as he did last year. Andy Reid should give LeSean McCoy more touches and let him build off the tremendous season he had in 2010. Vick wore down last year; the Eagles need to keep him fresh if they want to accomplish what they think they’re capable of.

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Read More: NFL Power Rankings, Peyton Manning, Rex Ryan, Tom Brady

Check out Tom Brady’s new UGGs commercial

09.08.11 at 12:57 am ET
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Tom Brady signed on to become the face of UGGs last year, and now, they’ve dropped their first commercial involving the Patriots’ quarterback. It’s set to make its television debut at halftime of the Monday night game between the Patriots and Dolphins. Let us know what you think:

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Bill Belichick on Darius Butler: ‘Nobody is on a scholarship’

09.07.11 at 3:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The release on Wednesday morning of 2009 second-round pick Darius Butler came as a surprise to some.

But if you thought Bill Belichick and the Patriots would hold on to a player simply because of where they were drafted in a particular year, think again.

With Butler in mind, Belichick was asked if it stings more when you have to part with a player you drafted highly as opposed to parting with an undrafted free agent?

“We have a saying around here ‘€“ ‘€˜it doesn’€™t matter how you get here, it’€™s what you do here.’€™ I think that’€™s the way I think we should coach the team and I think that’€™s what the players expect,” Belichick said. “That goes for everybody.”

Butler looked a lot like Devin McCourty in 2009 when – as a rookie out of Connecticut – he had three interceptions, including returning one for touchdown. He also had 33 solo tackles in 14 games. But last year, his numbers dropped sharply as he had just 22 tackles and no interceptions in 15 games. And while showing glimpses in camp and four preseason games, his stock had clearly dropped.

“We made the decision we felt was best for the football team,” Belichick said. “[We] try to put together the most competitive team we can. Obviously there are players that aren’€™t on this team that are good players and they were good players for us and I’€™m sure they’€™ll play for somebody else. But we have to make the decisions we feel are best for our football team so that’€™s what we do.

“Nobody is on a scholarship ‘€“ everybody has to earn their keep,” Belichick said of the corner who was picked up off waivers by Carolina. “It’€™s a competitive situation ‘€“ I think that brings out the best in everybody. [It] brings out the best in guys that are established that they’€™re being pushed, it brings out the best from guys who aren’€™t established who know they have an opportunity. Competition is competition. That’€™s just basing on what the performance is ‘€“ all that is decided on the field.”

Speaking of another player not currently on the Patriots roster, Belichick was asked about the rumors floating out there that Randy Moss would “un-retire” and return to the Patriots if Belichick wanted him. Has he had any contact with Moss or entertained the thought of bringing him back at any point?

“I wouldn’€™t talk about any player that’€™s not on our football team,” Belichick said.

With Moss, the question might not be so much how he gets to Foxboro but if there’s a place for him at all. The answer is still “no” – for now.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Carolina Panthers, Connecticut Huskies, Darius Butler

Tom Brady: These Patriots still trying to figure out how to be great

09.07.11 at 2:37 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady won three Super Bowls in four years by the time he was 25.

It would be only natural to assume he thought he and the Patriots had figured out what it took to be great, year-in and year-out.

If it were only that easy. Brady reminded everyone on Wednesday, five days before the season opener, that he doesn’t even know yet what will make this team succeed in 2011 and whether it will respond to the challenge of getting back to the sport’s pinnacle.

“Well, there’€™s only one team every year that has a good season and we haven’€™t been that team in a long time. How this team takes to that challenge ‘€“ we’€™ll see, I don’€™t know,” Brady admitted. “This team has never been together in this current state with that opportunity, so how the other teams did and measured up ‘€” this is not those teams. This team will have its own identity and it’€™s all going to be based upon the work we put in ‘€“ the toughness that we play with, the way that we play under pressure. So yeah, I mean, it sucks to lose at the end of the year ‘€“ there’€™s no doubt about that. But we’€™ve got a great opportunity to be on this team with opportunities this year and we’€™ll see if we can take advantage of them.”

The team began the preseason outscoring the Jaguars and Buccaneers, 78-26 before coming back to earth with losses to the Lions and Giants. The first-team offense, led of course by No. 12, showed flashes of brilliance but stumbled a bit in the final two games, putting together just two TD drives, not including a one-yard TD run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis following a turnover against the Giants.

“I think we’€™ve been a little bit inconsistent over the course of the preseason and we’€™re trying to get a lot of things straightened out,” Brady said. “We’€™re trying to do the things that we’€™ve consistently done well, whether it’€™s in training camp, in practices or in games. We haven’€™t had a ton of practices, so that’€™s where the inconsistencies come up. That’€™s why we’€™re going out to work on these things.

“We’€™re a long way from figuring out where we’€™re going to be. I’€™m sure every week we’€™re going to improve and keep working hard at it, but we’€™ve only been together for five or six weeks. I’€™m sure [some] things are going to be good and [there’€™re] going to be things we need to correct. Hopefully we do enough to win.”

Brady, who is expected to be the captain of the offense once again, had a message for Chad Ochocinco, Shaun Ellis, Albert Haynesworth and everyone else who comes to New England in search of the brass [championship] ring.

“Look, it’€™s hard to win games,” Brady said. “You can’€™t come here and think, ‘€˜Oh just because now I’€™m on this team we’€™re going to [win]. Boy, it’€™s going to be easy.’€™ Everyone starts at the same point every year. Look, we’€™ve added new guys [and] other teams have added new guys. We have new coaches and some other teams have new coaches. We’€™re trying new things on offense [and] so are other teams, so like I said, how it all comes together, that’€™s why we’€™re playing the games.
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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, bill belchick, Chad Ochocinco, Miami Dolphins

New cornerback Antwaun Molden in a rush to pick up Patriots defense

09.07.11 at 2:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’€™s been a busy week for cornerback Antwaun Molden.

Last Wednesday, the Patriots claimed Molden off waivers from Houston, and he was on a plane to New England that night. He landed shortly after midnight on Sept. 1, and less than 18 hours later, he was on the field for the Patriots playing significant snaps at cornerback in the preseason finale against the Giants.

‘€œIt was a crazy experience — I’€™ve never experienced anything like it,’€ the 26-year-old Molden said. ‘€œThat’€™s my first time being on waivers. But at the end of the day, it was a blessing. I was prepared. I was in shape. Again, it was definitely a blessing for me in that I still had a chance to come out here and compete. Especially being picked off the waiver wire that quick.’€

‘€œHe’€™s a big corner,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said after the game, when asked what the Patriots liked in Molden. ‘€œHe’€™s an athletic guy who can run, and he plays in the kicking game.’€

A veteran of three NFL seasons with Houston, he originally joined the Texans as a third round (79th overall) pick out of Eastern Kentucky in 2008. Molden has played in 31 NFL games, mainly on special teams, and struggled with injuries over the course of his career with Houston. He has registered 26 special teams, including 19 special teams as a rookie in 2008.

Over the last two weeks, the New England secondary has been a constantly fluid situation — on Tuesday, the Patriots cut cornerback Darius Butler, and now, Molden is likely competing with rookie Ras-I Dowling for the role of backup corner. (He could get his chance sooner rather than later if the strain that Kyle Arrington suffered in the preseason finale is serious at all.)

The 6-foot-1, 198-pounder, who will wear No. 27, spent cutdown weekend watching film and trying to pick up as much of the New England defense as possible.

‘€œYeah, most definitely — anytime you come in behind like that, it’€™s definitely a rush to get up to speed, to get acclimated to the system,’€ he said. ‘€œJust handling each and every bit of information that I get, I’€™m just taking my time and trying to study it so nothing does come at me as a surprise. That’€™s the biggest challenge.’€

Read More: Antuwan Molden, Bill Belichick, Darius Butler, Kyle Arrington
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